Facebook Twitter

In reversal, number of U-rated teachers inched down last year

For the first time in seven years, fewer teachers were rated “unsatisfactory” in 2012, according to numbers released today by the Department of Education.

During the 2011-2012 school year, principals handed out unsatisfactory ratings to 2,006 teachers, setting them along a path that could lead to termination. The total makes up 2.6 percent of all teachers and is 11 fewer than the 2010-2011 school year.

The decline represents just a 0.5 percent change, but it follows a six-year period of steady escalation. Last year’s total was 16 percent higher than in 2010, which had a 17 percent higher rate than in 2009.

The decrease is slight but in some ways significant. For years, the city has used U-ratings and delays of tenure decisions as tools to push its weaker teachers out of the classroom. But after the city announced last month that the tenure rate held steady, both upward trends have now stagnated.

This year’s total is still more than twice as many as in the 2005-2006 school year, when 981 teachers received unsatisfactory ratings.

The binary unsatisfactory/satisfactory rating system has long been considered an ineffective way for principals to evaluate the performance of teachers in their schools. To solve that problem, the city and the United Federation of Teachers are in talks to create a new evaluation system that would include a rubric with more variables to measure, including formal and informal observations, student growth and school survey data. The system would allow principals to measure teachers based on four different ratings: Ineffective, Developing, Effective, and Highly Effective.

The city and the union has until January of 2013 to reach a deal on the evaluation system or risk losing millions in state aid.

In a statement, Chancellor Dennis Walcott used the release as a chance to press the case for the new evaluations.

“These results are further proof that we need a better teacher evaluation system in order to differentiate between the best teachers and those who could benefit from further development,” Walcott said.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew did not immediately provide a comment.

U-rated teachers were more than four times more likely to leave the school system after receiving their ratings this year than teachers who were rated satisfactory. A total of 341 U-rated teachers — versus 80 S-rated teachers — have left the system this year.

More than three-quarters of teachers who received unsatisfactory ratings were tenured, according to the data. And 542 teachers received a second U-rating in a row, an increase of 6 percent.

A number that has stayed consistent through years is the leading cause that principals cited for giving out U-ratings. For at least a third straight year, more than 40 percent of U-ratings were attributed to poor instructional quality and student care. The second-leading cause was attendance problems, which made up 15 percent of U-rated teachers.