New evaluation system, same story?

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Only a few months ago, New York City schools were living with a state firewall that blocked the linking of student data with individual teachers. With the firewall now lifted and a new state law on teacher evaluation passed in May, the city is moving fast on its long pent-up plans to identify effective and not-so-effective teachers.

New York City will be the first in the state to put a new evaluation process into practice, next year piloting the system in about a third of the city's 34 "persistently lowest achieving" schools. In these pilot schools, teachers will be annually rated on one of four scores, of which 40 percent will be derived from student achievement measures, including standardized tests where available. Teachers (even the tenured ones) who are rated at the bottom for two consecutive evaluations will face removal through what's being called "an expedited hearing process."

A dismissal process that used to take several years (or forever) is now theoretically supposed to take about two months. However, while the new state law says that the hearing process must be completed within 60 days of a pre-hearing conference, this is really no different from what was on the books during the rubber room years. Whether the process can be expedited or not is all in the implementation. But we have no doubt Joel Klein is serious about trying to enforce the two-month limit.

His biggest obstacle may be the shortage of arbitrators, meaning there's still a good chance that teachers may stay on the pay roll for months waiting for a hearing to be scheduled, doing menial administrative tasks in schools on a salary intended for teachers.