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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Evaluating Teachers With Test Scores Banned In NY

Empire State Becomes 1st In Nation To Eliminate Practice, Paving Way For Easier Tenure
Bloomberg Suffers 2nd Devastating Defeat In A Week

Marcia Kramer, CBS News
(picture of Mayor Michael Bloomberg is at right)

NEW YORK (CBS) ― First it was congestion pricing, now there has been another big defeat for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. A bill making it easier for city teachers to get tenure was approved over the mayor's strenuous objections.

As CBS 2 HD has learned, New York is now the first state in the nation to ban the use of test scores in evaluating teachers.

Teachers will no longer be granted or denied tenure based on student test scores, something that has the NYC schools chancellor very concerned.

"I just think it's a mistake and it's putting the special interests ahead of our children," Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said.

Klein and his boss, Bloomberg, are furious over the state Legislature's action – the second time in a week Albany has thwarted NYC.

"It's a bill that's really designed to protect people who are not qualified and, frankly, before you make a lifetime commitment tenure should be earned. It shouldn't be assumed as it has for too long in this city."

But education experts, including teachers' union president Randi Weingarten, say evaluating teachers just on test scores is patently unfair and statistically inaccurate.

"There is no magic wand way of isolating the effects of individual teacher-on-student test scores," Weingarten said. "There's no way of doing it statistically."

Weingarten also worries that evaluating teachers solely on test scores will scare them away from accepting assignments to teach special education students or others with learning problems.

"How are we going to get the best and the brightest teachers to work with our most challenging students?" Weingarten said.

Parents agree, saying there are lots of factors that affect teaching.

"Class size does matter," said parent advocate Leonie Haimson. "Test scores alone do not tell you how affective and competent a teacher is. The problem with this administration is they can't be trusted to look at all those other factors at the same time."

The Legislature said it would revisit the issue in two years and it also established a commission to study the use of test scores in evaluating teacher performance.

Teachers in NYC's public schools now gain tenure on the first day of their fourth year of teaching. Officially, a "review" process ensures some degree of quality control. However, 99 percent of teachers who stick it out for three years win lifetime tenure, according to the NYC Department of Education.

Currently, tenure is awarded with little or no consideration given to the individual teacher's success or failure in the classroom.

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