the rating game

Report: Low-rated teachers more often work with poor students

A new report by the advocacy group StudentsFirstNY found that low-rated teachers work more often in high-poverty schools. The group presented its findings outside City Hall.

The poorer a school’s students are, the more likely they are to be taught by low-rated teachers.

That’s the conclusion of a new report by the education advocacy group StudentsFirstNY. The group, which is critical of the city’s current teacher evaluation system, looked at ratings given to 65,527 teachers during the 2011-2012 school year and found that the low-rated teachers disproportionately worked in schools with high concentrations of poor students.

At schools with relatively few poor students, 1.14 percent of teachers received low ratings last year, according to the report. But at schools where more than 85 percent of students are considered poor, 3.9 percent did.

The inequities were even more pronounced when comparing schools with different demographics. At schools where fewer than a quarter of students are black or Hispanic, just 1.06 percent of teachers got low ratings. At schools where almost all students are black or Hispanic, that figure was 4.13 percent.

The report says the findings support StudentsFirstNY’s position that new teacher evaluations are needed in New York State.

The group has panned the current evaluation system, in which teachers can score either “unsatisfactory” or “satisfactory,” though it used ratings issued under the system for the new report. It is among those pressing the teachers union to make concessions so the city can adopt new evaluations by Jan. 17 and avoid losing $250 million in state aid.

“This report highlights the utter failure of New York City schools to provide quality teachers to those students who need them most,” said Executive Director Micah Lasher, who left the Bloomberg administration last year to start StudentsFirstNY. “A successful deal to implement a meaningful teacher evaluation system is a necessary first step toward righting that wrong.”

The report makes 10 recommendations, mostly aimed at making it easier for schools to hire, fire, and reward teachers more easily.

According to a coalition formed to counter StudentsFirstNY’s influence in the city’s mayoral race, New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, blame for the skew in teacher ratings across schools lies elsewhere.

“The inequitable distribution of quality teachers is the result of Mayor Bloomberg’s refusal to provide adequate support and professional development to teachers,” said Zakiyah Ansari, a spokeswoman, in a statement. “Teacher evaluations and paying for test score performance will not solve the problem.”

Indeed, a new evaluation system that complies with the current state law would not allow the city to act on the report’s findings. It would not allow districts to remove low-scoring teachers any faster: Teachers will still have to have two straight low ratings to face termination. It also won’t redistribute teachers among schools — although a feature of the “value-added” algorithm that will be used to generate part of each rating might make it look like that has happened.

At a press conference outside City Hall this morning to unveil the report, Lasher said that while new evaluations are not a panacea, they are a necessary first step if the city wants to tackle inequities in the way teachers are distributed among schools.

“First we need to get a clear and robust picture [of teacher quality] in all schools,” he said. “New evaluations give more texture and feedback.”

The number of unsatisfactory ratings handed out each year has increased under Mayor Bloomberg, who has aggressively sought to replace the city’s lowest-performing educators. U-rated teachers were more than four times more likely to leave the school system after receiving their ratings last year than teachers rated satisfactory, according to city data.

StudentsFirstNY’s complete “Unsatisfactory” report is below:

SFNY Unsatisfactory Report by

Detroit week in review

Week in review: The state’s year-round scramble to fill teaching jobs

Miss Michigan Heather Heather Kendrick spent the day with students at the Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Science in Detroit

While much of the media attention has been focused this year on the severe teacher shortage in the main Detroit district, our story this week looks at how district and charter schools throughout the region are now scrambling year-round to fill vacant teaching jobs — an instability driven by liberal school choice laws, a decentralized school system and a shrinking pool of available teachers.

The teacher shortage has also made it difficult for schools to find substitutes as many are filling in on long-term assignments while schools try to fill vacancies. Two bills proposed in a state senate committee would make it easier for schools to hire retirees and reduce the requirements for certifying subs.  

Also, don’t forget to reserve your seat for Wednesday’s State of the Schools address. The event will be one of the first times in recent years when the leader of the city’s main district — Nikolai Vitti — will appear on the same stage as the leaders of the city’s two largest charter school authorizers. For those who can’t make it, we will carry it live on Chalkbeat Detroit.

Have a good week!

– Julie Topping, Editor, Chalkbeat Detroit

STATE OF THE SCHOOLS: The State of the Schools address will pair Vitti with the leaders of the schools he’s publicly vowed to put out of business, even as schools advocates say city kids could benefit if the leaders of the city’s fractured school system worked together to solve common problems.

LOOKING FOR TEACHERS: The city’s teacher shortage mirrors similar challenges across the country but the problem in Detroit is exacerbated by liberal school choice policies that have forced schools to compete with each other for students and teachers.

Hiring efforts continue at Detroit’s main school district, which is planning another job fair. Head Start centers are also looking for teachers. Three new teachers talk about the challenges, rewards and obstacles of the classroom.

WHOSE MONEY IS IT? The state Senate sent a bill to the House that would allow charters to receive a portion of property tax hikes approved by voters. Those funds have historically gone only to traditional district schools.

UNITED THEY STAND: Teachers in this southwest Detroit charter school voted to join a union, but nationally, union membership for teachers has been falling for two decades.

COLLEGE AND CAREERS: A national foundation based in Michigan granted $450,000 to a major Detroit business coalition to help more students finish college.

High school seniors across the state will be encouraged to apply to at least one college this month. The main Detroit district meanwhile showed off a technical center that prepares youngsters and adults for careers in construction, plumbing and carpentry and other fields.  

STEPS TO IMPROVEMENT: A prominent news publisher explains why he told lawmakers he believes eliminating the state board of education is the right thing to do. An advocate urged Michigan to look to other states for K-12 solutions. And one local newspaper says the governor is on the right track to improving education in Michigan.

This think tank believes businesses should be more engaged in education debates.

LISTEN TO US: The newly elected president of a state teachers union says teachers just want to be heard when policy is being made. She wrote in a Detroit newspaper that it takes passion and determination to succeed in today’s classrooms.

A PIONEER: Funeral services for a trailblazing African American educator have been scheduled for Saturday.

Also, the mother-in-law of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, died in her west Michigan home.

FARM-TO-SCHOOL:  A state program that provides extra money to school districts for locally grown produce has expanded to include more schools.

BETTER THAN AN APPLE: Nominate your favorite educator for Michigan Teacher of the Year before the 11:59 deadline tonight.

An Ann Arbor schools leader has been named the 2018 Michigan Superintendent of the Year by a state group of school administrators.

MYSTERY SMELL: The odor from a failed light bulb forced a Detroit high school to dismiss students early this week.

EXTRA CREDIT: Miss Michigan encouraged students at one Detroit school to consider the arts as they follow their dreams. The city schools foundation honored two philanthropic leaders as champions for education.

And high school students were inspired by a former college football player. 

Struggling Detroit schools

The list of promises is long: Arts, music, robotics, gifted programs and more. Will Detroit schools be able to deliver?

PHOTO: Detroit Public Television
Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti answers questions at a community meeting in Detroit.

Arts. Music. Robotics. Programs for gifted kids. New computers. New textbooks. Dual enrollment programs that let high school students take college classes. International Baccalaureate. Advanced Placement.

They’re all on the list of things that Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a group of community members assembled in a Brightmoor neighborhood church that he would introduce or expand as soon as next school year.

Vitti didn’t get into the specifics of how the main Detroit district would find the money or partnerships needed to deliver on all of those promises, but they’re part of the plan for the future, he said.

The comments came in a question and answer session last month with students, parents and community members following Vitti’s appearance on Detroit Public Television’s American Black Journal/One Detroit Roadshow. The discussion was recorded at City Covenant Church. DPTV is one of Chalkbeat’s partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

Vitti has been appearing at community events since taking over the Detroit schools last spring. He is scheduled next week to join officials from two of the city’s major charter school authorizers, Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, at a State of the Schools address on October 25.


Watch the full Q&A with Vitti below.