NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Teacher Evaluation Reforms in New York

April 27, 2015

Since 2009, more than 40 states have rewritten their teacher evaluation policies. Many schools struggled to implement them because school systems have neglected to manage classroom instruction for decades. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo re-ignited the controversy by including a second round of teacher evaluation reforms in his budget this year.

Under the new law in New York, the length of the probationary period will be lengthened from three to four years and no teacher rated "ineffective" in their fourth year would be able to earn tenure. Such a standard would have a number of advantages:

  • It reminds principals that a promotion decision involves a choice between two teachers - the probationary teacher and an anonymous novice.
  • It would be a self-adjusting standard: If classroom observation scores become inflated or if the quality of those willing to enter teaching were to decline (or rise), the threshold for tenure would adjust accordingly.
  • By relying on the scores given by external observers, the tenure decision would no longer be at the sole discretion of the local principal.

Also, rather than focusing solely on a teacher\'s performance during the most recent academic year, the teacher evaluation system should allow tenured teachers to accumulate a longer-term track record of excellence. It frees up teachers with a strong track record to separate their own interests from those of their weakest colleagues as well as recognizes the importance of talent and accumulated skill.

The new law also allows teachers to submit videos to an external observer in lieu of in-person classroom observations. Giving teachers control of a camera, the opportunity to watch themselves teach, and allowing them to discuss their videos with external observers, peers and supervisors will provide a more effective mirror than any observer\'s written notes.

Source: Thomas J. Kane, "The next phase of teacher evaluation reform: It\'s up to you, New York, New York!", Brookings, April 23, 2015.


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