Questionable contract?

If you want to volunteer for our Citizens Contract Oversight Committee, or have a tip to share, please email us at

Friday, December 5, 2014

Students in 58 schools being given new surveys for teacher evaluation; check out if your child is due to get one, as you have the right to opt out!

Since last spring, I have served on a CPAC committee consulting with DOE on their Tripod student survey, which was given on a trial basis in 134 schools in grades 3-12 last year, after Commissioner King had assigned it to the city to be used for the Advance teacher evaluation system.

 I had and continue to have grave doubts as to the quality and utility of the Tripod survey for the purpose of teacher evaluation, as well as its $5.5 million cost -- not to mention the appropriateness of giving such surveys to children as young as eight years old.  The DOE officials whom we were working with last year had assured us that we would meet again over the summer, and have input  as to whether the Tripod survey would be used again this year.

Yet when we finally met again right before Thanksgiving, after much prodding from the parents on the committee, the officials who had previously been in charge of Tripod had now left the Department and there are now new ones in charge of this initiative.  These new officials told us that  it was too late to put out an RFP for an alternative survey, and that the Tripod would be given to all ALL students in grades 3-12 in ALL NYC public schools this spring, except for 58 schools in which students are going to be asked to take one of three alternative surveys this December and January.

The DOE officials also said they are negotiating to bring the egregious price of the Tripod down.  (The Tripod survey was developed by Dr. Ron Ferguson of Harvard, before being sold to Cambridge Education LLC, and is the favorite survey of the Gates Foundation, used in their controversial MET teacher evaluation studies.)  When we asked if there was any evaluation of the utility of the Tripod survey last year, DOE officials responded that teachers said it took too long to complete, and DOE has asked Cambridge to pare it down; but that no other analysis had yet been completed.  Private funds are being used for the three alternative surveys being given in December and January.

Parents are going to be allowed to see these new surveys in advance, and opt out of their children taking them, as is their right under the federal law called the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment.  A list of the 58 schools in which these three alternative surveys are being given this winter is below.

Here is the form letter schools are supposed to send to parents about the surveys, letting them know the survey is voluntary and how they can check it out in advance, and here is the opt out form, which all parents should be sure to sign and hand in to their children's teachers if they want to opt out of the survey. 

In the actual letter there is supposed to be an online link parents can go to to see the survey in advance, as well as letting them know they can check out a copy at the school office. If you are a parent at one of the 58 schools listed below, and are not given this link, please let us know at or if you have any other questions, concerns or observations after taking  a look at these surveys.

 Here is more information from Eric Ashton, Executive Director for School Performance of the DOE:

Thanks for writing and thanks for attending our session and providing feedback about the Advance student survey. I’ve attached the list of schools that volunteered for our fall pilot. The list indicates which school was assigned which survey. As I mentioned at our meeting, due to the limited budget of private funds we have to use for this we assigned the surveys in order of price where vendors with lower prices were assigned more schools.

More information about the surveys we are trying in this round can be found here:

I’ve also attached the informational letter that the pilot schools were asked to distribute. In addition to the opt-out methods we discussed at our meeting, we also decided to ask the pilot schools to distribute a paper opt-out form which is also attached.

If there is anything else, please let me know. Thanks! -Eric

Eric Ashton

New York City Department of Education

(347) 601-4525

No comments: