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Special ed teachers need 'tweaked' evaluations, advocates say

Advocates are worried that the city’s new evaluation system could penalize teachers of students with special needs.

The nonprofit organization Advocates for Children of New York recently released a fact sheet calling on parents to ask how the new system, which will be piloted in more schools next year, will affect those teachers.

Sixty percent of the new evaluations is based on subjective measures like principal observations, and the other 40 percent is based on student test scores. AFC’s concern is that teachers who work with high-needs students will be at a disadvantage because they likely won’t see the gains in test scores that other teachers will.

That will make it more difficult to earn a high evaluation score, lowering the incentive for teachers to take on students with disabilities and English Language Learners.

“Teachers are basically going to be looking at lower test scores, and lower evaluations because they’re so heavily reliant on test scores,” said Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator for AFC. “We’re worried that they will be teaching more to the test in those classes.”

Moroff said that it is important for special education teachers to take part in the same evaluation reforms as other teachers. Still, the AFC wants to see the city do some “careful tweaking” of its preferred evaluation rubric, Charlotte Danielson’s “Framework for Teaching,” for teachers of students with special needs.

Those changes would include parent surveys and other measures of communication skills in the teacher observation component, and put less emphasis on value-added test scores.

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