Sunday, July 31, 2011

Maggie Moroff on how parents need a voice in teacher evaluation

Several months ago, Class Size Matters sponsored an online petition to the Governor and the Regents, asking that public school parents be appointed to their 57-member taskforce on teacher evaluation, which had not a single parent on it.  They ignored us, and instead came up with a new unfair and unreliable system, based 40% on standardized test scores, and that will lead to even more high-stakes testing.  Check out the letter from Maggie Moroff of Advocates for Children below, and let's work together to make sure that parents are not let completely out in the cold when it comes to evaluating their children's teachers. 

New York State is changing the way teachers are evaluated. If things happen on schedule, teachers of grades 4 – 8 ELA and math will be evaluated under the new system beginning this fall, and it will be rolled out to all teachers by the 2012-2013 school year. Importantly, the state law requires the agreement of the teachers union before the new system takes effect.
Once in place, the new evaluation system will affect how teachers are trained, promoted, paid, given tenure, and fired.  It will affect who teaches our children, and it could impact how our children are taught.
Under the new system, 40% of teacher evaluations will be based on student outcomes, as measured by performance on statewide standardized tests and by other methods of assessing student progress chosen or developed by local school districts. The remaining 60% of teacher evaluations will be based on locally determined measurements of how teachers prepare, plan, and conduct lessons, develop their own skills, and create learning environments for their students. For more information about the new evaluation system, see Advocates for Children of New York’s (AFC) fact sheet.
This past spring, staff at AFC talked to fourteen focus groups – comprised of students with disabilities and English Language Learners, their parents, and teachers – about what makes a good teacher. We discussed a number of methods of teacher evaluation, including the use of standardized tests, classroom observation, review of portfolios of student work, and surveys of students, parents, and the teachers themselves.
We heard loud and clear that parents want a voice in evaluation – for themselves, and for their children as well. Parents are eager to complete surveys on their interactions with teachers and also to collaborate in the development of those surveys. Parents also want at least a part of the evaluations of teachers – and principals, too – to be based on their ability to work with parents and diverse communities. One parent told us, “If [the principal] doesn’t care what the parents say, it is as if they don’t exist. But they do exist; that is why our children are there.”
In addition, our focus group participants worried that standardized tests are not always the best measures of what students – particularly those with disabilities and English Language Learners – know and learn. The new evaluation system, so heavily reliant on standardized tests, may act as a disincentive for new teachers to work with these populations. One parent of a child on the autism spectrum asked, “When the principal asks the teachers who will take [my son] into their classroom, who will raise their hand?”
Do you share these parents’ concerns? AFC is now developing recommendations for the New York City Department of Education as it moves forward to change evaluation of our teachers and principals. We want to hear from more of you! If you’d like to add your voice, call (212) 822-9523 or email
It is not too late for parents and students to affect the development of the new evaluation system. Although its basic framework is set by State law, the details are a work in progress.
- Maggie Moroff, Special Education Policy Coordinator, Advocates for Children of New York


Anonymous said...

The more we count test scores for teacher and student evaluation the more we make test prep our most important subject. This will be a disaster for our children as they will be ill prepared for anything but to take tests!
What makes a good teacher is teachers,administrators,parents and children all cooperating to provide the best education possible.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - I agree and I would add that we also invite system-wide cheating. With the weakening of tenure protection, teachers will be more afraid than ever to blow the whistle on cheaters. Our poorest kids will be hurt the most because of these kinds of wrong-headed policy decisions.