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Tisch: Top city schools could be exempt from new teacher evaluation system

More than 100 top-ranked New York City schools could be exempt from a prescriptive teacher evaluation system approved by state lawmakers earlier this week, according to the official charged with finalizing the new system.

The schools, which include both elite screened schools and popular zoned schools, are on a statewide list that Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch told Chalkbeat may make them be eligible for a waiver because of their students’ high performance. Of 354 schools that earned the distinction last August, 103 are in New York City.

Tisch cautioned that she is still not sure how much flexibility she has under the new law, which charges the state education department and Board of Regents with filling in the details of a new plan. But if schools are allowed to develop alternative evaluation systems, it would mark a significant shift in the way teacher evaluations work citywide.

“Where this goes and how this goes I don’t know,” Tisch said, “but I just thought it should be part of the conversation.”

Tisch has already proposed exempting some high-performing districts, as reported by Capital New York. On Thursday, Tisch said she believes the same principles apply to individual schools.

For the last two years, city schools have used the same basic framework for evaluations, with state test scores and teacher observations each counting for a portion of a teacher’s final rating, which ranges from ineffective to highly effective. There has been some variation, though most teachers have been rated effective or better, with some schools opting to use additional city-created assessments, for example, while others tried different rubrics or peer evaluations through an experimental program.

The schools that could be exempt from the new system, according to Tisch, are the state’s “reward schools,” a designation created in 2012 when state officials sought and received a waiver of their own from some requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Eight of the 103 city schools on the list that also receive federal Title I funding for having a large share of needy students became eligible for separate grants to share ideas and work with low-performing schools. Applications for those grants were due earlier this week, according to the state education department’s web site.

Several of the city’s other reward schools have strict screening policies, or are housed in zones that pull from affluent neighborhoods. As a result, they admit and serve some of the city’s top-performing students.

They include elite specialized high schools like Stuyvesant High School and Brooklyn Technical High School; citywide gifted and talented programs, like the Anderson School and the Talented and Gifted School for Young Scholars; and hugely popular zoned elementary schools like Brooklyn’s P.S. 321.

There are also many schools serving higher-need populations. More than half of the students in 25 of the elementary and middle schools, for instance, qualified for free lunch last year, according to city data. At P.S 42, in Chinatown and P.S. 172 in Sunset Park, for instance, nearly 90 percent of students receive free lunch and about 30 percent of students speak a language other than English at home.

To earn the distinction, schools had to rank in the top 20 percent of schools on state test scores for two straight years, or in the top 10 percent on student growth on the tests in 2012-13; all student subgroups had to make academic progress; and there couldn’t be “unacceptably large” achievement gaps between a school’s low-income students and their peers.

Tisch did not elaborate on exactly what those schools might do instead of implementing the state’s evaluation system. But the idea of allowing schools within a district to use different systems is certain to raise questions, and Tisch’s proposal to allow district exemptions had already sparked sharp criticism from the state teachers union.

“Now the chancellor seems to be floating a ‘yacht’ evaluation plan for some communities and non-stop testing pressure for the rest,” New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee said in a statement.

Here are New York City’s Reward Schools for the 2014-12 school year:

PS 42 BENJAMIN ALTMAN PS 172 BEACON SCHOOL OF EXCELLENCE PS 161 ARTHUR ASHE SCHOOL PS 36 UNIONPORT MOTT HALL SCHOOL THE BRIGHTER CHOICE COMMUNITY SCHOOL PS 176 OVINGTON MAGNET SCHOOL OF MATHEMATICS, SCIENCE, DESIGN PS 120 PS 112 LEFFERTS PARK PS 130 HERNANDO DE SOTO PS 24 ANDREW JACKSON PS 304 EARLY CHILDHOOD SCHOOL PS 255 BARBARA REING SCHOOL IS 227 LOUIS ARMSTRONG IS 392 PS 235 LENOX SCHOOL PS 124 YUNG WING MEDGAR EVERS COLLEGE PREP SCHOOL PS 184 SHUANG WEN QUEENS GATEWAY TO HEALTH SCIENCE SECONDARY SCHOOL PS/IS 113 ANTHONY J PRANZO PS 133 PS 31 SAMUEL F DUPONT IS 187 THE CHRISTA MCAULIFFE SCHOOL PS 32 STATE STREET PS 18 WINCHESTER SCHOLARS’ ACADEMY PS 162 JOHN GOLDEN PS 173 FRESH MEADOW IRWIN ALTMAN MIDDLE SCHOOL 172 PS 31 BAYSIDE TAG YOUNG SCHOLARS PS 191 MAYFLOWER PS 26 RUFUS KING PS 115 GLEN OAKS QUEENS COLLEGE SCHOOL-MATHEMATICS, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY PS 213 THE CARL ULLMAN SCHOOL PS 11 PURVIS J BEHAN PS 205 ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL PS 46 ALLEY POND PS 47 CHRIS GALAS PS 159 PS 35 THE CLOVE VALLEY SCHOOL PS 11 WILLIAM T HARRIS NYC LAB MIDDLE SCHOOL FOR COLLABORATIVE STUDIES MS 260 CLINTON SCHOOL WRITERS & ARTISTS PS/IS 266 MARK TWAIN IS 239-GIFTED & TALENTED PS 50 FRANK HANKINSON PS 78 PS 41 CROCHERON PS 53 BAY TERRACE PS 1 TOTTENVILLE PS 203 OAKLAND GARDENS JHS 67 LOUIS PASTEUR PS 186 CASTLEWOOD PS 94 DAVID D PORTER PS 195 MANHATTAN BEACH PS 221 THE NORTH HILLS SCHOOL MATH & SCIENCE EXPLORATORY SCHOOL PS 144 COL JEROMUS REMSEN NEW EXPLORATIONS SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & MATH PS 212 MIDTOWN WEST PS 196 GRAND CENTRAL PARKWAY PS 188 KINGSBURY MS 255 SALK SCHOOL OF SCIENCE PS 5 HUGUENOT PS 58 THE CARROLL EAST SIDE MIDDLE SCHOOL PS 158 BAYARD TAYLOR PS 59 BEEKMAN HILL INTERNATIONAL PS 40 AUGUSTUS SAINT-GAUDENS PS 98 THE DOUGLASTON SCHOOL PS 290 MANHATTAN NEW SCHOOL PS 321 WILLIAM PENN PS 199 JESSIE ISADOR STRAUS SPECIAL MUSIC SCHOOL PS 87 WILLIAM SHERMAN THE ANDERSON SCHOOL PS 6 LILLIE D BLAKE PS 234 INDEPENDENCE SCHOOL PS 77 LOWER LAB SCHOOL PS 89 PS 183 ROBERT L STEVENSON NYC LAB HS-COLLABORATIVE STUDIES ELEANOR ROOSEVELT HIGH SCHOOL MILLENNIUM HIGH SCHOOL BARUCH COLLEGE CAMPUS HIGH SCHOOL STUYVESANT HIGH SCHOOL HS-DUAL LANGUAGE & ASIAN STUDIES FIORELLO H LAGUARDIA HIGH SCHOOL HS MATH SCIENCE & ENGINEERING AT CCNY BRONX CENTER FOR SCIENCE & MATH BRONX HIGH SCHOOL OF SCIENCE HS AMERICAN STUDIES AT LEHMAN COLLEGE BROOKLYN TECH HIGH SCHOOL BEDFORD ACADEMY HIGH SCHOOL LEON M GOLDSTEIN HIGH SCHOOL TOWNSEND HARRIS HIGH SCHOOL JAMAICA GATEWAY TO THE SCIENCES QUEENS HIGH SCHOOL AT YORK COLLEGE STATEN ISLAND TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL