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Still no word from city on final details of teacher evaluation plan

The city submitted its proposal for a key piece of teacher evaluation this week — a list of ways to measure students’ learning that aren’t standardized tests. But one month before schools need to finalize their plans for evaluating teachers, it’s still unclear what the alternative measures will look like.

If approved by State Education Commissioner John King, the list of alternative assessment options is what principals and teachers will have to choose from by Sept. 9, the first day of school, when teacher evaluation plans must be finalized.

The alternative assessments’ measure of how much a teacher helps students learn represents 20 percent of each teacher’s evaluation. The measures are one of the details that weren’t finalized back in June, when State Education Commissioner John King imposed a system on the city.

King gave the city Department of Education two months to come up with the list of choices for the measures, which can include both assessments the city develops on its on and third-party assessments developed by outside vendors.

On June 21, the city published a guide for the committees who will devise teacher evaluation plans at each school. The guide said the list of alternative measures would be finalized by today, but a Department of Education spokesman declined to share the list, saying the city is still waiting for King’s approval.

A department official working on the evaluations, Joanna Cannon, said that the submission was “almost identical” to options provided in slideshow presentation to committees at elementary, middle and high schools.

One set of options draws from performance assessments by third-party vendors, including some that city schools already use to track students’ learning gains. The guide mentions a list of options, including Scantron’s Performance Series assessments, which are administered on a computer, graded in real time, and adjust difficulty for the remainder of the task. Others include Discovery, a math assessment, Degrees of Reading Power, and, for high school, Advanced Placement tests.

Another option mentioned in the presentation is the district’s own performance assessments, which officials began creating nearly three years ago as a collaboration between teachers and the Stanford Center for Assessment Learning and Equity.

The assessments involve tasks, such as essays, that students will complete at the beginning and end of the school year. Students’ improvement on the tasks, which are set to a common set of rubrics, will count toward a teacher’s score on his evaluation.

But teachers and officials who have helped designed the assessments said the process of building them is challenging.

“They’re hard to create,” David Weiner, the deputy chancellor in charge of teacher quality, said in June. “We’re still working on them now to find out if they’re valid, if they’re reliable.”

At the time, Weiner said he hoped the performance assessments would be completed for all grades in English and math, but was less certain about other core subject.

According to the options presented to evaluation committees later in the month, performance assessments for all elementary school grades except third still need to be developed. The city also said it intended to develop assessments for non-core subjects, including physical education, health, arts and foreign languages.

King’s evaluation decision called on the city to also use the assessments for the state component of student growth for teachers of subjects without state tests. For instance, an assessment would be used in place of standardized state tests to measure student learning for a sixth-grade science teacher’s evaluation.

Principals said this week that they planned to wait until they receive a final list of options before meeting with their evaluation committees to make a choice. Once the options are approved, schools have until Sept. 9, the first day of school, to make a selection.

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