Thursday, April 30, 2015

Annual Professional Performance Review


Observations of teacher practice, measures of student growth tied to standardized testing, and locally selected measures of student growth currently play a role in the teacher evaluation system in place in New York State. With the passage of Governor Cuomo's recent budget, and the education "reforms" tied to it, a new teacher evaluation system is on the horizon. The proposed changes make an already horrendous evaluation system even worse. We move to a system in which 50% of a teacher's overall evaluation is based on student performance on standardized tests. As I understand it, in grades 3-8 these would be the much contested Common Core assessments, and at the remaining grade levels the tests would be either created by NYSED, or selected from tests provided by vendors on the NYSED approved list. The other 50% of a teacher's evaluation would be based on two, possibly three observations. One observation would be completed by the teacher's administrator and the other by an independent evaluator from outside the building in which the teacher teaches. With the high-stakes involved it is critical for all of us to question the methodology proposed by the Governor.

Let me make something very clear at the outset; I believe in an Annual Professional Performance Review. I really do. I believe that professionals must reflect on their practices, and evaluate areas of both weakness and strength. Teachers should set goals for professional learning and growth. Sadly, the narrow and punitive evaluation system proposed does not encourage, nor support what we know about professional learning, growth or best practice.

"Value Added Measures"

The use of Value Added Measures (VAM) is highly suspect. A teacher's VAM can change significantly from year to year, and rarely, if ever have to do with an increase or decrease in the competence of the teacher. Value Added Measures assume that student learning is measured well by the given test, and that the teacher alone influences student performance on the test. I am not opposed to using student growth as a component of a teacher's evaluation, but to base a child's growth solely on a standardized test is utterly ridiculous.


Evidence based observations are critical to improving the education system. They provide opportunities for the teacher and their administrator to have meaningful conversations about teacher practice, student learning, and the dynamic relationships that exist in the classroom. These observations give us the opportunity to reflect on the learning of all stakeholders, particularly when a number of observations (formal, informal or a combination) are used to collect data. Using a rubric such as the Danielson rubric, can help focus these conversations, and assist a teacher in setting professional learning goals. But when vital performance characteristics are translated into a numerical score, the result can lead to invalid inferences regarding a teacher's overall performance. It remains unclear how the use of outside evaluators, with no connection to the teacher or the students, will impact this process. It is hard to imagine that there will be opportunities for the outside evaluators to conduct pre and post conferences (as they are an unfunded mandate), thus neglecting the major benefits of evidence based observations.

In Conclusion

Annual Professional Performance Reviews are indeed important for professional growth. An effective annual review of professional practice should include measures of student growth, and evidence based observations. However they should also include things such as an educator's commitment to professional growth, their dedication to their students, their involvement and connection with their school community, reflections from students and families, and this is just a start. In short, a review of annual performance should encompass and reflect all of what a teacher does each day. The present, and proposed system is far too narrow, and unbalanced. I fear that it will lead to greater numbers of teachers teaching to the test, and ignoring the wider range of skills that are so greatly needed. Our children deserve better.

Links to resources that you may find useful in further researching this topic:

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