Chancellor Walcott on Teacher Evals

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dennis Walcott, New York City Schools Chancellor, and David Weiner, NYC Department of Education deputy chancellor for Talent, Labor and Innovation, discuss the new teacher evaluation program and answers listeners' questions.



David Weiner and Dennis Walcott

Comments [44]

Veronica from M

Cities just want to give up on education ....let some one else have a crack at it...sad

Oct. 24 2013 10:19 PM

A smile on my face during the day masks a lot. it is there because it would be unacceptable for my students to see my despair and exhaustion. I save the occasional tear burst for the car on the drive home. I spend more time than a first grade teacher should have to spend on lesson plans and data collection. There is no time for the kids to play and create. I am constantly being reminded about my impending evaluation and the expectation for additional PD hours and even when I am doing all that is required, I am reminded that I should also be doing x or y. Nothing is ever good enough, every single thing is analyzed and scrutinized for any possible improvement, and while the feedback is immediate and constant and thankfully, usually more positive than negative, it is always tempered with a "Just make sure that next time you..." I am highly educated and I possess a great deal of common sense and everything I know about developmentally appropriate practice tells me that what we are doing to these children is wrong! For sure, there are bad apples in the system but I am not one of them, and I am taking a beating for their incompetence. I'm tired, physically and mentally. If I could afford not to work, I would leave the profession tomorrow.

Oct. 20 2013 12:26 PM
Dan Lupkin from Brooklyn

Almost 10 years in the NYC public schools, and I have NEVER seen educators more demoralized. Walcott has a lot of nerve.

Oct. 20 2013 11:53 AM
Beth from Bronx

Mr. Walcott has absolutely no idea what teachers in NYC face on a daily basis. The morale is lower than I've ever seen it before, and I include myself in that. We are using horrendous programs, antiquated systems and ideas, have no support with the issues that plague inner city neighborhoods, and are over assessing and understimulating these children while not addressing their true needs. Forcing ridiculous assessments on them does not prove anything, and making them take the assessments BEOFORE they're taught the subject matter to prove that the program worked and they've learned (how? another assessment after the module, of course) is tantamount to child abuse. How would you like to take a test in a language you're unfamiliar with, or in a subject you don't know? Are you there when kids break down, sobbing? I had one child dig a pencil so hard into her skin that it broke the surface during an assessment. I object to what this man is foisting on our kids, both as an educator and as a parent. I object to the culture of misery he's insistent upon.

Oct. 20 2013 10:55 AM
Sophia from NY

He claimed to be joking but Mr. Walcott's opening comment about why the teacher is calling at 11:00 says a lot about the culture of fear that teachers work in. He also mentioned that teaching is now more effective than it's been. That is a fallacy that is being shoved down people's throats in order to defend what's going on. We have K classes in city schools with nearly 30 children who don't get to play, to color, to sing, to dance, to be creative, learn how to socialize, learn self-control, or problem-solve. Their work is purely academic, formal and rigid. They get tested and assessed continuously. Just wait a few years and we'll see how little these children actually know and are able to do.
I'd also like to know what assistance the special education teachers are receiving in order to teach the common core to their disabled kids. And I'd like to know why some teachers are being forced to teach grade level math to students who are a year or two behind at the same time they are being told hey need to individualize instruction. The teachers are being squeezed and blamed.
The creators of this system are taking no responsibility for it. What proof is there that they are right or have any real knowledge of what they are doing? What is the name of the scientific research that proves that what is happening has real value?

Oct. 20 2013 08:15 AM
Katie Lapham from Brooklyn

Chancellor Walcott's tone remains arrogant and condescending, from joking about teachers calling in during school hours to admonishing educators for "politicizing" the new teacher evaluation plan.

Likewise, the chancellor continues to appear out of touch with the realities of NYC schools. For example, Walcott claimed that schools have choice and that a "wide variety" of measures exist to satisfy the 20% local measurement of student learning (MOSL) component of the new teacher evaluation plan. His implication that this has been a democratic process is a sham, not to mention insulting to teachers and administrators who know better.

In contrast, the ailing middle school teacher from Brooklyn spoke the truth about what's happening in our schools. Walcott and David Weiner responded to her criticism of a NYC DOE Performance Assessment by claiming that teachers were involved in creating these tests. After administering the 1st grade ELA Performance Assessment, I find this wholly unbelievable. No teacher I know finds them to be of any value.

This is not politicizing the issue, Chancellor Walcott. We object to these performance assessments because, in our professional opinion, they are NOT educationally sound, nor is their administration and scoring a wise use of time and money. We know our students best and would much rather be teaching meaningfully, addressing the individual needs of all of our students.

The chancellor talked at length about improving teacher quality, but who is holding Tweed accountable? I propose he spend time each month teaching singlehandedly in an overcrowded Title I classroom. Better yet, have him administer these assessments.

Oct. 19 2013 05:41 PM

The DOE makes rules for evaluating teachers that it doesn't follow! Tenured teachers are supposed to have at least one formal observation a year by an administrator . How is it then allowed that a principal puts a disciplinary letter into a teachers file, never observes him and gives an unsatisfactory rating for the year? And this gets upheld at an appeal for the rating? I am a veteran teacher with a satisfactory record and no previous letters. How is this allowed? Morale is at its lowest!!!

Oct. 18 2013 09:19 PM
Josh from The Corrupt Hell That is NYC

Thank God this Bloomberg brown noser will be unemployed in a few months.
Don't be fooled by this nonsense; this was all about breaking the Teachers' Union.
My Principal admitted to the faculty that she cut her classes in my subject in high school, and she was supposed to observe me in my class?
Bloomberg used corporate tactics to drive all the older teachers out of the system, and wants to turn the teaching profession into a revolving door of transient workers who won't get benefits.
As usual, Brian let these smooth-talking liars get away with their failure after twelve years of driving great,experienced teachers out of their profession.

Oct. 18 2013 04:37 AM
Teresa from New York

So, did we mention that we did a pilot? And we started this 3 years ago. Oh, and we did a pilot.

Oh my goodness. Nothing but blah, blah, blah. So many layers of DOE nonsense. Really sad.

Oct. 17 2013 09:51 PM

I am a 5th grade student. My name is Manuel Childers Garcia. Last year my fourth grade teacher was so extremely frustrated! I was being taught a new Core Curriculum that nobody knew. We were tested on it and the results were used to evaluate our school. This is unfair to the teachers who needed more time to learn the Curriculum. What example of leadership are you setting for the students?

Oct. 17 2013 08:35 PM

Yes, teachers are pulled from classrooms to grade these tests, and/or they spend time grading that they would prefer (and should!) spend planning lessons, communicating with parents, running extra-currciular activities... all the things that make a school a great place to be. Teachers are choosing between doing our "real" job - that is, engaging in actions to help, support, and encourage our students - and doing the job that the city, state, and federal government has mandated to us - test, test, TEST.

Oct. 17 2013 06:56 PM

I share VJ's sentiment. Class size is an issue, but only if the teacher doesn't have any help. My mother went to school during the 1950s and her class at PS 32 in Brooklyn had FIFTY kids in it (I kid you not; my mom still has her class picture). However the teacher had an assistant.

I was a strong standardized test taker in NYC public high school. But it proved to be worthless and I found that out the hard way in college. My very first semester there was a disaster (1 F, 2 Ds and 2 Cs) as I realized I wasn't prepared. It was in college that I really learned and understood how to think and write. Interestingly, most of my fellow university mates came from public schools around the country and they seemed to be prepared. The most prepared were the private school alums and public school alums that came from the Chicago suburbs where there is no school choice.

Oct. 17 2013 02:17 PM

"Aside from making a few consultants and test-makers really rich, what is being accomplished here and how can you prove it?"

That's exactly what's being accomplished... enriching the education industry, especially the reformers. Its generated millions of dollars in profits for these people and their ilk.

Oct. 17 2013 12:13 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

The best school and teachers, brand new buildings, books, can not overcome a students poor home and community (poor not in money but in support, encouragement and values).

Weed out incompetent teachers and end the lies from the UFT which frames its demands for more money as a way of helping students, but is in fact a transparent ploy for bigger paychecks.

Oct. 17 2013 11:42 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

May I share some further experiences with that I've had with "ex-teachers" as a recruiter aside from my merely personal professional reaction formed by in person and telephone interviews?

I would say that I saw and contacted between 30-50 ex teachers in my time as a recruiter. This is how they performed on the web tests I PAID to administer before I just started deleting them on receipt:

Basic Arithmetic Formulas: Failed (less than 50% right)

Editing: Failed (missed more than 50% of the grammar/spelling mistakes in a document)

MS Word: Failed (unbelievable!)

MS Excel: Failed

MS Access: Failed

MS Powerpoint: Failed.

You can't even TEMP in this city with those skills. No wonder teachers are so burned out. They are out of their minds, out of their depth and think that because their kids parents kiss their buts for grades they are martyrs to some evil system that devalues their non-contributions. Good riddance! This may be the one part of Bloomberg's legacy I can get behind. The plane has already crashed into the mountain, anything is better than the status quo.

Oct. 17 2013 11:36 AM
VJ from NYC

Why isn't there a parallel, vigorous movement by Walcott's administration to reduce class size, so that there is an honest chance for a teacher to actually succeed by being able to provide individual attention to his or her students? Without such a movement, it is hard for me to believe that so-called "Teacher Evaluation" is nothing but an attempt to place the blame of a failing system on those with the least amount of power and influence over it. This is a veiled-attempt at cost-savings, because when the evaluations come back negative, those teachers can be fired and the next set of cannon fodder can be hired at a much lower cost.

I am a graduate of the NYC public school system, having attended K through 12. I graduated from Stuyvesant High School, where I received a decent education. However, I did not learn how to think critically until I got to a private liberal arts college where I sat in classrooms with a maximum of 15 students, and an average of 12 students. I was perpetually amazed at how much more prepared for college my fellow students were who had come from private high schools where they were used to such a small class size.

Learning happens when there is a real working relationship between a student and teacher, not when a student sits in an overcrowded classroom. Let's have an honest effort towards change, not a blame-game.

Oct. 17 2013 11:32 AM
emma frank from new york city

Both my parents, maternal grandparents and husband are teachers. What these evaluations and evaluators fail to see and measure is the art of teaching that is in the intrinsic details of day to day instruction and connection between teachers and children.
The parents of our school have decided a school wide opt out for the K/1 testing, outlined in the blog post included below, is necessary, and in place. I encourage others opposed to this testing trend to just say no. Reason clearly is not working here.

Oct. 17 2013 11:31 AM
RS from District 3 from District 3

We love our middle school and its hardworking teachers. What these changes mean for us (we learned this week) is that we're losing 3 hours of student instruction every month - this week the PA was asked to choose whether to schedule SIX extra half-days this year or (alternatively) to lose two of the three weekday mornings when early-morning support is available for students needing extra help from their teachers.

As a NYC public school parent (and alum), I understand the need to evaluate teachers effectively, but I wish the effort could be funded without taking time away from the students. It seems to me this problem could be solved by paying teachers for the extra time.

Oct. 17 2013 11:20 AM
Shakira Syed from New Jersey

As a literacy specialist, I'm still a teacher, and although I'm not an administrator or a supervisor, I work very closely with the administration. Because of this dual role, I have the bird's eye view of seeing both sides of the fence. I understand exactly why the administration is putting in place all of what they are; as well, I understand the amount of work expected of the teachers is outright ridiculous. More and more each year, I see teachers burnt out by October.

There is no way around it, all of these new practices have to be in place in order to ensure the success of each student. But something bigger and better has to be done for the teachers to avoid turnover rates as well as teachers being burnt out-not just early on in the year, but early on in their careers.

Morale is a huge part. I'd begin by adding more teachers in each classroom and or grade to share the amount of responsibilities as well as PAYING THEM MUCH MORE. The amount of work they have, and the importance of their roles dignifies a huge pay raise for each teacher.

Oct. 17 2013 11:18 AM
Mike from Brooklyn.

I've never heard such B.S. in my life, and I'm in the Advertising world.

Oct. 17 2013 11:17 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ ivan obregon from nyc

Comparing teachers to "lawyers, doctors, and other professionals" HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I used to be a recruiter and I've seen PLENTY of "ex-teacher" resume's come across my desk. They were all, almost 100%, awful candidates I couldn't place in a mop job. Sub-par in every category and with ZERO skills outside of their degree in day care. So many, many times during a telephone interview I would be asking myself how could this person be entrusted with teaching a child anything, even rote memorization when they mispronounce simple words and speak in halting incomplete sentences. In the words of Bill Murray:

"Well Janene, someone with your qualifications would have no trouble finding a top-flight job in either the food service or housekeeping industries..."

Oct. 17 2013 11:15 AM
Nick from UWS

I notice that useless authoritarian workload for teachers has increased 1000%, but paychecks not at all. That shows you where money is flowing in this situation.

Oct. 17 2013 11:12 AM
Beatrice from Brooklyn

Are schools making parents aware of all of these additional assessments? Children are already completely stressed about about the state tests, will this add to their anxiety?

Oct. 17 2013 11:10 AM

As a person with teachers for both parents, I haven't heard so much BS in my life.

Oct. 17 2013 11:08 AM
Nick from UWS

Teachers and students alike are being destroyed by this absurd wanking driven by backroom testing contractor contracts, and all sorts of other money driven bullshit.

Oct. 17 2013 11:06 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Another simple change is to require teachers to have a bachelors degree in the subjects they teach. A degree in "Education" is a joke. One teacher I know who teaches middle school can't even figure out her % of the tip without her "smart" phone. There are plenty of grads with liberal arts degrees looking for jobs who would make terrific teachers if they could take a 6 month education "crash course" and take up teaching like a job, which it is, not some self entitled, self aggrandizing "calling".

Oct. 17 2013 11:05 AM
mike from nyc

"Teaching Coaches" = OVERPAID DOE brownosers getting paid way too much to tell you what you already know. Things you've already done a million times.

"Professional Development"= Boring useless theory.

I have 2 MA degrees in education and they are meaningless the only thing that counts is time spent with your students and working with them as INDIVIDUALS.

These assements and BS do nothing to improve teaching they merely pile bs on top of bs and take us away from our students.

I quit teaching and will never come back even after winning awards and spending 10 years of my life doing it. These buffoons are taking it the wrong direction

Oct. 17 2013 11:02 AM
Nick from UWS

Did you ever hear so much bureaucratic masturbation in your life?

Oct. 17 2013 11:02 AM
William from Brooklyn

I work at Brooklyn College, and my job involves preparing teachers. Most of our M.A. students are full-time teachers. My wife is an elementary school teacher. I have been talking to a lot of people of the last two months about the new evaluation system, and the stories of frustrated teachers, breaking down in tears, discouraged, and considering changing professions because of the new evaluation system, are uniform across the board. Everyone I have spoken to agrees the new evaluation system is insanity and it has been instituted irresponsibly. Many think it is only intended to get rid of people, weaken the union, strengthen charter schools, and basically sabotage public education. What is truly amazing is that the chancellor and his deputy can sit in front of the microphones and make something so wrong-headed and haphazardly instituted sound reasonable and responsible. Newspeak lives!

Oct. 17 2013 11:02 AM
ivan obregon from nyc

This is all standardized nonsense calling itself reform. There's no change on incorporating a CONTENT- core curriculum, smaller class size, and the fact that most teachers still leave within 5 years due to the petty politics of the administration, the exhausting paperwork and certification requirements, and the neurotic intrusiveness of the classroom. Do we do videotape lawyers, doctors, and other professionals, demand a detailed and analytical report justifying everything you aim to do for every hour of work everyday, and still blame them for exams not even based on what's actually possible to get through at any given school or given neighborhood? The best advice for anyone who wants to be a teacher: Go somewhere else besides the byzantine nyc system, advice teachers very quickly see the value of once they're in this sham that passes as 'reform" or "progress" or "results".

Oct. 17 2013 11:01 AM
Amy from Manhattan

"Rubric"? "Normed"? What do these mean in the educational system? Obviously not what they mean in ordinary English--please provide translations for people not familiar w/their specialized meanings. (Brian, you're usually really good at this!)

Oct. 17 2013 11:00 AM

Oh Please.... "Talent Coaches" = RIDICULOUSLY OVERPAID losers telling you things you've already done a million times.

These guys are a joke. The DOE is awful. I taught 10 yrs, won teacher of the year, wouldn't set foot in a school ever again. Its the worst job in the world due to these overpaid suits who keep piling endless crap on your geard with no regard to what is really important -- knowing your students as individuals. This is so much more BS so they can keep their jobs and look good while ruining the day-to-day for good teachers.

I QUIT and wold never come back. Nothing against teacher eval but these guys just keep piling bs on top of bs,

screw al these people -- better off driving a taxi, its far more rewarding.

And Danielson? Most overpaid bs in the world. Thesw kids are struggling with the ABC's in 11 grade they cant possibly attain those standards -- just look at the abysmal test scores.

Oct. 17 2013 10:58 AM
Nick from UWS

Yeah, the classic statement of a useless Bloombergian bureacrat..."we're moving from a simple system to a new.." Yeah, let's mire the whole school system in hopelessly complex red tape nonsense like the IRS. For Christ's sake, there are only 3 things that are important in school..reading, writing, arithmetic...EVERYTHING else follows from that. ALL the people I know that were educated in the "old simple system" are better educated than the kids I see today. Remove EVERYTHING from the classroom except paper, pencil, and the kids' brains, and stop all this bullshit.

Oct. 17 2013 10:58 AM
Patricia from Bronx

These men who are not currently teaching are not at all connected to the REALITY of how their "new" system works and the practical affects it has on teacher and students. Nice theory but REALITY is very different and clearly they don't want to hear about the reality.

Oct. 17 2013 10:56 AM
Public School Volunteer Mom from Brooklyn

We have a leadership problem, not a teacher problem in this city.

My question:

Why aren't these evaluations taking place in the context of professional development? Why would we have principals conduct the evaluations of teachers rather than coaches? Why not have video footage be discussed within professional development workshops? Of course principals should be observing teachers-- but not to rate them, instead to support them and to demonstrate teaching strategies in person in real classroom situations! By making principals silent observers rather than partners in the classroom, the evaluations do little to support our children. We also miss an opportunity for collaborative learning AMONG teachers-- a misuse of the time intensive exercise of discussing video footage, for one thing. We produce "highly effective" teachers-- through a CONTEXT of professional development not assessment evaluations by principals.

As they stand, evaluations reflect the skewed power dynamics of many schools. The evaluations become about the whether the teacher is "in" with the admin rather than how to strategize around the difficulties in running classes with 30+ students. And for some schools, there will be NO highly effective teachers regardless of whether the teachers hold Harvard degrees and are at school late into the evenings following the curriculum, doing their preps and calling parents: the percentage of the evaluation dedicated to test scores will make it impossible.

Although the framework seems to have substance over time (rather than observable in 15 mins of an evaluation), it is not a helpful evaluation tool for teachers unless the observations are directly connected to professional development and changing structural issues such as class size and lack of sufficient special ed supports. Instead, much like the standardized tests they are being used to "rate" and ultimately it seems to punish.

Now teachers are caught up in meeting after meeting (of their own prep time!) that discuss the minutia of teacher "assessment" tools instead of the nuances of their students' learning and challenges. How does this affect our children? Teachers' moral is below zero. Imagine how teachers with little to no prep then must turn to our children to help them to learn with joy and rigor.

Oct. 17 2013 10:55 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

That poor poor teacher! It sounds like the city wants actual "Teachers" instead of glorified day care workers! Time to start looking for another job I guess... urban public schools in this country stink. It's soft racism perpetrated against the majority minority populations they serve. Anything that moves out teachers that "can't cut it" is a good thing. Next on the list is year round school. Nobody in Brooklyn is "getting in the harvest".

Oct. 17 2013 10:55 AM
Amy from Brooklyn

My friend is a foreign language teacher in a high school in Harlem. She recently told me that part of her evaluation comes from her students' test scores on their English language tests--a subject covered by another teacher. Huh?

Oct. 17 2013 10:54 AM

The Chancellor starting off with a joke about how teachers might be derelict in their duties by listening to the radio during the workday may not have been the most respectful way for him to start an interview about teachers already feeling already overwhelmed and disrespected.

Oct. 17 2013 10:53 AM
Debbra Stanton from Upper West Side, Manhattan

For many years studies have shown (see Sir Ken Robinson's book for one example)that arts in schools means higher achieving and happier kids. How can it be that in a city such as ours, where people travel miles to see the great works of art in the world rent own museums, to Broadway shows, to hear the Metroploitan Opera, or watch ballet at the ABT, to listen to talented jazz musicians - that art is so incredibly lacking in our public schools? And what music and art exists is at such a low level s as to be close to useless OR in schools where fundraising is high, parents must pay for programs such as musicians from Manhattan School of Music to come in, or Ballroom Dancing, Or Studio in theSchool for once a week for 6 weeks? An investment in theArts In Schools is a necessity, not an after school extra. We need school bands, orchestras, glee clubs, art classes, drams embedded in the curriculum...not as a after thought. Test scores will rise. Children will have an outlet for their creativity, a much undervalued attribute I the NewYork City School. Why not have an Arts budget for each s school? I've watched 4 luxury high rises go up in my Upper West Side neighborhood over the past few years, where apartments go for millions. How can there be money and tax breaks for builders and no money for our children to have Arts in their schools?

Oct. 17 2013 10:00 AM
Dave from Washington Heights

This trend towards more standardized and high stakes testing (for both students and teachers/schools) is being advocated by "education reformers". The argument is that it all this testing will improve the performance and raise standards.

Here's what I find troubling: first of all, this solution or reform doesn't seem to be practiced in any of the countries that are beating us on these international measures of academic performance. So why are we resorting to it when it seems unproven and so controversial?

And second: when I look up where some of the leading "ed. reformers" (Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, etc...) are sending their children it usually turns out to be small private schools that don't engage in any of these tech-based, test-based methods.

So what's the deal? Aside from making a few consultants and test-makers really rich, what is being accomplished here and how can you prove it?

Oct. 17 2013 09:14 AM
Tina from Manhattan

Who are grading these tests? Is more class time being lost when the teacher has to leave the classroom to grade tests?

Is the cost of all this coming out of our meager school budgets? (We are running out of fundraising ideas...)

I got an email this morning from yet another for profit pre-k that does "kindergarden prep" - no comment!

What are we doing to our children?

Thank you.

Oct. 17 2013 08:22 AM
West Side Parent from Manhattan, West Side

My child took the spring tests. He is not in the public school system anymore; my youngest is. I cannot access ARIS--his scores, his attendance, or any of his other records. The data is being used to evaluate teachers and it is being uploaded to inBloom, but it is not available to parents who move away or go to independent schools.

Access should be allowed for six months so we can print out our own reports, and advance notice should have been given to parents leaving the public school system. How can I access the data? Whom do I contact? I have been to my son's former school and they have been of huge help, but the administration there is not able to access the data either.

And now, new local baseline tests are being given this fall and parents are being told they cannot see the results or the content of the tests. AGAIN, our children are taking tests which are being used to evaluate teachers but then parents are not allowed access to the data our children provide. Parents deserve more information from the DOE.

Oct. 17 2013 08:09 AM
Ann Kjellberg from Lower Manhattan

Question for Walcott: Can you explain the round of testing the kids had 3 weeks ago? Families received no explanation. Was it only for teacher evaluation? To whom was it administered? How was it developed and how did it differ from the other tests they receive? Are you concerned about the number of instructional hours (not to mention prep hours) devoted to testing in the school year? I believe my daughter had four tests spread over four days; sprung by surprise, interrupting curriculum.

Oct. 17 2013 07:58 AM
Nathan from Bronx

How can teachers be fairly evaluated, when they haven't gotten all their teaching books and materials yet? Many of the materials arrived late in September or early in October, but some have yet to arrive. Teachers are scrambling to catch up with the programs, starting from a month or more behind.

Accountability begins at the top. Without effective management, the people who we want to hold accountable "in the trenches" cannot do their best, and their evaluations will suffer needlessly. Let's get effective management in place! Then we can truly start looking at the effectiveness of our teachers, on solid ground.



Oct. 17 2013 06:39 AM

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