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Performance bonuses, test-based teacher evaluation controversial in NYC

Posts on pay-for-performance plans have been popping up on the internet, but how does the debate relate to New York schools?

Here in the city, Chancellor Klein piloted a privately-funded pay-for-performance plan last year, which rewarded schools with up to $3,000 per teacher for improved student performance, with distribution of the funds handled at the school level. United Federation of Teachers (UFT) president Randi Weingarten wrote in defense of the program, saying it “gives school-based educators a voice” by making participation voluntary for schools and allowing a committee at each school to distribute the funds. While most of the schools offered the program signed up for it, other teachers raised concerns that the money would be distributed unfairly within schools and that the money would be better spent on reforms like class-size reduction.

Meanwhile, the NY Times discovered the city secretly testing ways to evaluate teachers using test scores. This January, CitySue, a UFT employee, shared her experience as a representative on the DOE’s panel trying to create such a program. She reported that the panel was willing to evaluate a teacher using scores from as few as three out of the dozens or hundreds of children a teacher might see daily.

Concerns about linking teachers to test scores for evaluation purposes continue. Jonathan Halabi, a teacher who programs class assignments for his school, long suspected that the DOE was trying to link teachers to individual students in order to make tenure and pay decisions. He believes that problems with the high school scheduling software at the start of school this year occurred because of this attempted change to the program, not because of server overload, as the DOE claimed.

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