Chancellor Fields Questions from Teachers on New Evaluations

Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 11:37 AM

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said he sympathized with an "exhausted" teacher but called it a "transformative moment" for the New York City schools and he was confident the changes would leave the system stronger and more effective.

On WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, Walcott fielded a question from a high school English teacher about the new Common Core learning standards. She said her lesson plans are "ridiculously detailed" and include things such as how long each classroom activity takes, the use of academic vocabulary and differentiation of instruction.

"I love my school," she said. "But I am exhausted."

Walcott said the implementation of both Common Core and the new teacher evaluations made the 2013-14 school year unique, and challenging.

"I truly empathize with what the teacher had to say," said Walcott. "This is something brand-new."

Walcott reminded listeners that the new four-tier system for rating teachers replaces one that had been in place for more than 80 years, and rated teachers only as either satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

Walcott was accompanied by Deputy Chancellor David Weiner who explained that the evaluation system had been piloted in select schools  over the past three years. When a teacher asked about whether there is an "uneven playing field" in evaluating teachers who work with special needs students, Weiner said there should be no negative impact.

In the pilot program, he said, the percentage of teachers rated effective and highly effective "was the same whether teaching A.P. class at Stuyvesant or teaching a nonverbal class of six students in a District 75 [special education] school."

Walcott also took several questions on the disappearance of Avonte Oquendo, the 14-year-old boy with autism who walked out of his special needs school almost two weeks ago and hasn't been seen since. Avonte attends the Riverview School in Long Island City, a new building that also houses a general education high school.

When asked if the school system is taking a second look at security issues in these shared buildings, in response to some concerns about identifying special needs students, Walcott defended co-locations and called this "one of very, very unfortunate case" that is under investigation and that should not "indict the entire system."

Walcott was also asked about the school's own location at a busy and confusing intersection of the Pulaski Bridge, a Long Island Rail Road yard, the East River, the Queens Midtown Tunnel and several construction sites. He said he visited the site last Friday, and noted that it is a "brand-new building" in a "very nice location." He repeated that the police department and the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City schools are both looking into the case.

"We'll leave it up to the investigators to determine, but my heart and prayers go out to the family, not just as chancellor but I'm a father and grandfather."


Comments [1]

J.S. from Brooklyn, NY

What a bunch of garbage especially from a lackey of a Chancellor who knows nothing about education. The much maligned system that he goes on and on about produced over the years many many top graduates who went on to such tghing as developing a vaccine against polio and becoming a Supreme Court justice just to name two.

This myth that teachers have not been rigorously evaluated over the years, at least in most of the high schools is a total myth. Once upon a time before Bloomberg began destroying the high schools, every high school department was supervised by a licensed administrator in that subject area. A math supervisor went in and observed a math teacher. That supervisor was in a position to make concrete suggestions, and by and large did, regarding pedagogy specific to math and even more importantly making sure the subject matter being taught is correct and grade level appropriate. This has been lost with these new boutique high schools which lack subject area specialists and are often led by pseudo Principals who know nothing about supervision and even if they do, are not totally versed in all fields that might be taught in a secondary school.

In addition, it is a farce to base part of a teacher's evaluation on test results of students in other subject areas when standardized tests in those areas do not exist. Physical education teachers are being evaluated on students' reading scores? Please. It makes absolutely no sense. And then we have a know nothing State Education Commissioner imposing a system where 4th grade3 students opinions are part of an evaluation.

Danielson herself has often made the point that her purpose in developing her system was never meant to evaluate teachers the way it is being done by the clowns running the NYC DOE and the State Education Department. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Oct. 17 2013 06:51 PM

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