New Eval System Pushes Out 34 Teachers

Thomas MacMillan Photo

New Haven’s new method of grading teachers spurred low performers to improve their game—and led 34 others to leave the school district, officials announced Monday in the first test of a nationally watched component of the city’s school reform drive.

School officials announced the news at a school board meeting Monday night, as New Haven enters its second full year of grading its teachers and principals based on how their students perform.

The departures took place without anyone getting fired, and with the district’s relationship with its union intact.

Meanwhile, a national expert who helped craft New Haven’s teacher evaluation system said the district appears to have succeeded where others have failed in several ways: Swift implementation; ratings that distinguish between teachers’ levels of talent; removing tenured teachers; and cooperation with the teachers union. The early results set New Haven apart from rancor-ridden Washington, D.C., the other major city to undertake this new wave of teacher evaluation.

The new system graded 1,846 classroom teachers into five ratings, from 1 (“needs improvement”) to 5 (“exemplary”). Teachers’ scores came from classroom observations and goals they set for their kids, based largely on growth on student test scores.

The new system, brought about by a landmark 2009 teachers contract, makes it easier for the district to fire tenured teachers who aren’t performing well. New Haven has gained national plaudits for leading a charge now taken up by many states to tie teacher evaluations to student performance. Observers have been watching to see if, after its first year of implementation, New Haven’s much-touted system would prove more effective and less acrimonious than the one it follows after, in Washington, D.C.

School officials emphasized Monday that the new system is not about just removing poor-performing teachers, but helping many of them improve—two goals they said were met in the system’s inaugural year.

Overall, 75 teachers were flagged as poor performers in November or in March. Of those, 39 percent rose out of the “needs improvement” category by the end of the year. Another 20 percent didn’t improve their rating but got to keep their jobs. The final 41 percent resigned or retired in the face of termination.

A total of 16 tenured teachers (1.3 percent of the tenured force) and 18 non-tenured teachers (2.8 percent of the non-tenured force) left the district voluntarily because of poor performance on the evaluations, district officials said. Independent validators affirmed those teachers’ ratings.

Three quarters of the city’s teachers rated “effective” or better, meaning they got a score of 3, 4 or 5.

Click here for a presentation outlining the results.

As the threat of teacher firings loomed this fall, teachers union president Dave Cicarella waited to see if the grading system would be carried out fairly and whether it would affect tenured as well as non-tenured teachers.

On Monday Cicarella (pictured) announced the process had gone “smoothly” on both counts.

“Teachers are much happier because everyone knows what’s expected of them,” Cicarella said.

The old grading system simply rated teachers as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, and how the system was used varied from school to school. Now teachers sit down with supervisors to set the terms for their own evaluations. They get more feedback on how they’re doing.

Superintendent of Schools Reggie Mayo declared the new grading system “one of the best things that has happened in this school district.” He said it provides support for those who need it and consequences for those who fail to improve.

Mayo (pictured) called the system “a model for the nation,” ensuring teachers “have the resources to excel” so their students can, too.

On the campaign trail last week, Mayor John DeStefano touted the evaluations as a successful component of his nascent school reform drive, which he is making the centerpiece of his campaign as he seeks a 10th two-year term in office. DeStefano, who serves on the school board and appoints its members, missed Monday’s meeting on the eve of the most competitive Democratic mayoral primary in a decade.

36 Rate “Exemplary”

Teachers who got the lowest marks amounted to 3 percent of the workforce. The rest of the teachers were spread across the rankings: 8 percent of teachers rated “exemplary,” 38 percent “strong,” 28 percent “effective,” and 9 percent “developing.” Eleven percent of teachers weren’t graded, either because of a transition in school leadership or because some itinerant teachers fell through the cracks, according to school reform czar Garth Harries.

The 36 teachers who ended the year with an “exemplary” rating will be offered the chance to become leaders of their own “professional learning communities,” paid by a stipend to be funded by a private grant, Harries said.

School officials also released results from a parallel system for grading principals, which debuted last school year. Of the 44 principals who were graded, one person received the lowest mark and left the district. Fourteen percent were “developing,” 39 percent “effective,” 34 percent “strong” and 11 percent “exemplary.”

School officials didn’t name names, but said that four principals have left the district over the past two years based on poor performance. One of those was former Wexler/Grant Principal Kevin Muhammad, who was demoted from his job for poor performance. Allegations later emerged that he had made hundreds of lewd and threatening calls to women at the school. Facing criminal charges, he resigned from the district in May.

Assistant principals and central office staff were also graded; those results have not yet been compiled. The school board still hasn’t finished drafting a new way of grading the superintendent along the same lines.

A survey of principals in May showed they were pleased with the new teacher grading system, especially with the chance to help teachers improve in the classroom by giving specific feedback.

1 Job Rescued, 2 Lost

Iline Tracey agreed. Tracey, who was recently promoted to the district’s central office, ran the King/Robinson school for the past six years.

After Monday’s meeting, Tracey gave an on-the-ground report of how the new system worked.

Principal Tracey sat on the panel of teachers, administrators and parents who came up with the evaluation system. She had a good grasp on the thick stack of new rubrics with which she’d be grading her teachers for the first time. The 52 teachers in her K-8 school were graded by Tracey or by an assistant principal.

Teachers sat down with a supervisor in the fall to agree on goals for the year. Those who teach subjects on standardized tests had to base one goal on the Connecticut Mastery Test. Supervisors then observed them in class to see how they were doing.

Last November, three teachers in Tracey’s school were alerted that they were on the way to a “needs improvement” rating if they didn’t shape up. The teachers, all of whom were tenured, got improvement plans and extra professional development.

Tracey shared one story of how one teacher seized a chance to learn. She said the teacher had a firm grasp of the curriculum. “The problem was classroom management.”

The teacher’s class was disorganized, Tracey said. Kids need established routines with clear rules to make the day flow smoothly: That’s what the teacher’s class was lacking. Tracey paired the teacher with a veteran teacher who ran a tight class. The struggling teacher took time to shadow the veteran. She also attended workshops and watched videos on classroom management.

Over the course of the year, the struggling teacher sat down with her supervisor for a status conference, where she discussed her progress along her goals. (Click here for a glimpse inside a similar conference at a West Rock school.)

Like all other teachers flagged as “need[ing] improvement,” the teacher got a series of visits from an outside validator from ACES (Area Cooperative Educational Services) to see if that initial rating checked out. Districtwide, validators agreed with school administrators in 87 percent of the “needs improvement” ratings and 80 percent of cases where teachers had been flagged as “exemplary.”

By the end of the year, Tracey said, the hard work, extra training and feedback had paid off. When she visited the classroom again, she saw “there were clearly defined rules in place,” rules that students themselves had helped to set. And the rules were being enforced.

Based on that improvement, the teacher moved up from a “1” to a “2” on the rating scale, saving her job, Tracey said.

The other two teachers at King/Robinson who had been flagged as “1"s, however, did not show significant improvement. Those two teachers—one of whom had been teaching for over 10 years—remained at the bottom ranking at the end of the year. Facing termination, they decided to leave the district of their own accord, Tracey said.

Tracey said in all her years as a principal, she never fired a tenured teacher for poor performance. The only teachers she let go were non-tenured, in their first two years on the job.

Cicarella, the union president, said he welcomes the change: Now tenured teachers are treated the same as their non-tenured counterparts.

The teachers who left King-Robinson couldn’t be reached for this story; the district did not release any names of terminated teachers or the schools where they worked.

Tracey called her experience with the new grading system “very positive.”

“I’m not looking at it as punitive,” she said.

“This is not a game of attacking teachers,” school reform czar Harries said later that evening.

He shared one sign that departures were peaceful: Of the 34 low-performing teachers who left the district, all of them had the right to request a termination hearing if they felt they were being wronged. None did.

“Benefit Of The Doubt”

Harries said the district also made an effort to give low-ranking teachers the “benefit of the doubt” in some “marginal cases.”

Harries said seven tenured and eight non-tenured teachers fell into this category. They rated as “needs improvement” but were not threatened with termination. The biggest reason they weren’t fired was that they didn’t get the support they needed to improve, according to Cicarella. The district agreed to let those teachers keep their jobs—with the understanding that they’ll need to shape up next year.

Here are the raw numbers: 75 teachers received a “needs improvement” ranking in November or March. Of those, 29 boosted their rating enough to keep their jobs: 17 improved one step to “developing,” nine improved two steps to “effective” and three jumped three levels to be “strong” teachers by the end of the year.

Another eight left the district before the process was finalized. That leaves 38 who ended the year with a “needs improvement rank,” meaning they risked termination.

Another three teachers joined that group when they slipped in ratings and ended the year with a new “needs improvement” rank, which would set off a process in the fall of observations and improvement plans.

Of this group of 49 non-improving teachers, 16 tenured and 18 non-tenured teachers resigned or retired. The remaining 15 were allowed to keep their jobs—a number that will likely decrease next year, as the district moves into the second year of its grading system.

Superintendent Mayo said he expects more 1s and 5s next year, as principals become more comfortable with the new format. Last year, principals at some schools shied away from rating teachers in those categories.

The city’s second-largest high school, for example, didn’t grade anyone a “1” because Hillhouse High Principal Kermit Carolina was new to the job and to the grading system.

As the system is more fully implemented, Mayo said he remains concerned about whether administrators have the capacity to handle the volume of paperwork, conferences and classroom observations that is due to follow.

“Is This For Real?”

Education watchdog Alex Johnston, who was brought onto the school board as an outside reformer, said he has heard a lot of talk about New Haven’s teacher evaluation system. The system earned a glowing editorial from the New York Times in May 2010 and drew interest from President Obama’s secretary of education, who invited New Haven’s school and union officials to D.C. to share how the new system works.

“People have asked me, ‘Is this for real?’” Johnston (pictured) said Monday.

“Yes,” came his answer Monday. “I think there are very few places in the country that have had these kind of results.”

He said the conversations that take place about instruction are valuable, and students in classrooms should feel the impact of even 34 poor-performing teachers being replaced with more effective teachers.

“This is a big deal,” Johnston said. “I am very optimistic” that the process is going to have “a good impact.”

Timothy Daly, president of The New Teacher Project, which was hired by the city to help craft the evaluation system, gave several reasons Monday why early signs point to a good start. DeStefano raised private money to hire Daly’s New York-based group, which was founded by Michelle Rhee before she left to make national waves as the school chancellor in Washington, D.C.

Daly downplayed TNTP’s role in the process—he said his group administered a couple of surveys of New Haven teachers and administrators and served as a resource, offering New Haven decision-makers options as they crafted their new grading system. The group brought to the table a national perspective, including research on some systemic flaws in teacher evaluations. TNTP’s contract has ended and the group had no role in implementing the new system.

When he learned New Haven’s results Monday, Daly said they stand out in several ways.

One problem with teacher evaluations is that they serve only to “separate incompetence from the rest,” Daly said, but not to “distinguish levels of performance.” That was one finding of a study TNTP performed of 12 districts across four states called the Widget Effect: Our National Failure To Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness.

Daly said by contrast, New Haven’s teacher and principal evaluation results appear to reflect the nature of the workforce—which is that there are people of all different talent levels.

The fact that New Haven has removed tenured teachers is also exceptional, Daly said. TNTP’s research has shown “it’s extremely uncommon for a tenured teacher to get a negative rating, let alone be dismissed.”

Washington, D.C., became the first district in the nation to roll out a teacher evaluation program based on student growth two years ago. It was one of Rhee’s most controversial moves as chancellor, prompting concerns that teachers would be fired unfairly and that focusing so much on test scores would encourage cheating. Since Rhee left the district has relaxed the rules under which teachers can get fired. That district now faces a federal probe into allegations of cheating on tests during Rhee’s tenure.

After D.C., New Haven was one of the first districts nationwide to design a teacher evaluation system based on student performance; since then President Obama has spurred states to take up this issue through his Race To The Top initiative.

New Haven is “further along than any other district” except D.C. in implementing such a system, Daly said.

So far, New Haven has seen nothing like the public acrimony that erupted around Rhee’s reforms. Monday’s meeting was quiet, with only a few members of the public present.

Daly said it’s a positive sign that no New Haven teachers challenged the results of their ratings. He said it appears that the union and district continue to collaborate well.

He also credited New Haven for quick implementation: The system was designed in just one year, and launched it “not as a pilot, but with stakes attached.”

“They’re a great example of how you can design a system that fits your needs and get it implemented in a short timeline,” Daly said. 


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posted by: robn on September 13, 2011  9:09am

This is good and I agree that the impact will be felt by many students, but these 34 leaving teachers only represent 1.8% of 1,846 evaluated teachers. Not suggesting a pogrom, because we’ve got a lot invested in our employees, but our school results are really bad and the problem must go deeper than 34 failing teachers.

posted by: Just a Mom on September 13, 2011  9:17am

How is this helping kids get a good education?  There is just more pressure on the teachers to “teach to the test”.  We’ve lost sight on what “education” really is.  Four days into the school year, and my son was already testing!  I am all for removing terrible teachers, but I don’t see how this evaluation system based on children’s test scores is fair or even an accurate assessment of the teacher’s ability.  Some kids are horrible testers…others do very well. I feel this will strain the teacher/student/parent relationship because of increased pressure on standardized test scores.  We lose sight of the individual student and focus soley on statistics and scores.  It’s a sad state of affairs.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on September 13, 2011  9:23am

Very positive development.  Congratulations NHPS for implementation. 

I would however be concerned if I was the parent of a child who had one of the 16 non-performing teachers who are still in classrooms today.

posted by: Open Policy on September 13, 2011  9:26am

The Board of Ed and the City should reveal to the public the names of the teachers who were let go.  They are always touting the award winners and great teachers which they should do but we have a right to know who did NOT perform well as a teacher.  Did our children ever have them?  What were the exact reasons for each dismissal?

posted by: Morris Cove Mom on September 13, 2011  9:34am

Cicarella is a nice guy for saying the whole process went smoothly.  I know that some principals were not as willing to cooperate, and that basing these scores on evaluations was hard.  Some teachers I know told me that their principals spend less than 10 minutes a year observing their classes.  10 minutes a year!

And while the system does push teachers to prove their worth, so to speak, it also seems to emphasize test scores over grades, behavior, and curriculum.  I hope the methodology is changed and improved in this upcoming year.  I think this method can work, but needs some checks and balances in place, first.

posted by: Annie on September 13, 2011  9:50am

Dear Open Policy: you should be able to get some of that information (at least the names) if you file an FOI request: the name of a resigning public employee should be an open record, I think. So even if the boe didn’t go out of their way to release the names (probably in deference, which is not a bad stance for them to take, imho), if the public wants to know, they can find out.

posted by: brutus on September 13, 2011  10:04am

Someone suggested that the problem with our schools must go deeper than 34 failing teachers.

I agree.

And I am not going to suggest that the answer must be due to the failure of administration.

Instead, I would like others to consider how making teachers the leaders of individual school building instruction might result in the exponential reduction of the achievement gap here in Ct.

I truly believe it would work and surprise everyone.

Unfortunately, the powerful will not allow it.

Any thoughts?

posted by: Efavorite on September 13, 2011  10:21am

robn says, “but our school results are really bad and the problem must go deeper than 34 failing teachers.”

I’m sure it does—I’m sure it goes deeper than teachers, period.  I’m sure, that as in any other school district, it has to do with administration parental support, varying neighborhood and school conditions and socio-economic status.

Improving student achievement is complex.  It’s not possible to fire and hire your way to success.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on September 13, 2011  10:39am


What exactly do you mean by “individual schoolbuilding instruction”?  Whatever you are talking about- where has it worked before?

posted by: What on September 13, 2011  10:44am

The process is a farce!  My spouse, an NHPS teacher, was never evaluated formally by any member of the administration.  Many teachers were not observed just given numbers based on how much they were liked by administrators.  Why are the administrators not held accountable for anything???  They are the problem… inflated salaries for bullying teachers.  The union is in bed with the administration, Destefano and Mayo.  It is a sick system that needs to be healed.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 13, 2011  11:01am

This speaks the real deal.
Should Teacher Evaluation Depend on Student Test Scores?
By Diane Ravitch

P.S.How about a parent Evaluation System.

posted by: brutus2011 on September 13, 2011  11:41am

Individual school building instruction simply means that teachers, in the form of teacher boards, administer the instruction, or are the instructional leaders, of each individual school in a public school district. This is separate from the non-instructional administration of schools such as security, food service, maintenance, payroll, etc.

Teachers would also oversee the all-important factor of school learning environment. Why? Because without a proper school-wide learning environment, learning will lag.

I am not sure if this has been implemented before, although I remember something about a teacher-led school recently in Detroit.

My rationale is as follows:

1. Incentives-the current system has individual school building admins (principals, ass’t prins, etc.) who are paid double the salary of teachers (on average) with a commensurate pension for their future.  This financial incentive is the fertile soil for the favoritism, cronyism, and patronage that is rampant in our public school districts-not just in New Haven-it is virtually everywhere. What person who earned $10K/month with a great pension plan would not seek to keep their job? If this disparity in income were eliminated, I believe that administrative shenanigans would be greatly curtailed.

2. Management model-here in New Haven there exists an extreme top-down management model with the superintendent of schools as the czar. I believe this model needs to be inverted. Instead of the orders coming from above, I propose having them originate from below (so to speak)....and no, I am not a communist.
Teachers are not widgets to be manipulated on a product floor or line. Teachers are educated in their content area(s) and in pedagogy. In addition, many teachers are attracted to the field because they value inquiry and erudition.
Who better to plan, design, and implement instruction than those held most accountable (by far)for results?

3. Societal goals-our society clearly has a problem with educating our future citizens. Not only in terms of the achievement gap but also in terms of graduation rates. And even more ominous is the number of those who do graduate who are required to take remedial math and English sections in college! Point?

We, as a city or state or society, need to do something different than allowing the current system, and those who profit from it, to continue to fail through inefficiency and waste. (I know, this is career suicide, but hey?)

I can see an educational future for our collective citizenry that is much better than the limits of the system operating now.

posted by: Teacher in New Haven on September 13, 2011  11:47am

Just a mom and 3/5,

...  To the extent that teachers were measured according to test scores last year, it was because they chose those scores as a measure early in the year.  The new evaluation system is based on goals set by the teacher in conference with their administrator.  Thus, teachers have the chance to suggest the appropriate measures of their effectiveness, and it is the administration’s responsibility to ensure that those measures are rigorous, and to hold teachers accountable.

There were certainly lazy administrators, and scores that seemed suspect, but on the whole this evaluation system seemed far more effective to me than the “system” that preceded it.

posted by: MOTHER INVOLVED on September 13, 2011  12:35pm

The faults start at home first, many parents are not involved in their children’s education nor activities from school so how can we only put the blame on teachers, I also agree on how the lack of Administration plays another big part in how our school system is failing. I have 4 children: 1 in College, 2 in High School and 1 in Middle School. I am very involved in their education and activities and still like that why has it been that I have had to change my child out of two different schools due to how the administer of the school treats certain parents and children. My child is not perfect, none of them but I have taught them to have respect and they have been brought up with good morals. Many teachers and administers speak to our children very disrespectful, they embarrass them in front of their classmates and are labeled as the worst children possible. Now, did these adults who are well educated and have children themselves ever thought for a second maybe the child has been through some trauma, or has problems at home, maybe the teachers and administration have been informed but feel that everything in life is an excuse for under-served why not help those families who don’t have enough education to help their children with homework, why not build a volunteer program where high school students could help these families with these difficulties in homework, teach them to become mentors, tutors to where they may use the volunteer time for The New Haven Promise. Build a children’s support group as well as parent support group in the schools where parents and children get involve. Have mentors facilitate the children’s group where children may feel comfortable expressing how they feel and their thoughts about what should be changed in schools, what would they like to see improve in the schools. The parent support group would be there to show parents how important it is to be involved in you child’s education, how important it is to have other support around whether it is your neighbor, the school system, family, just knowing there is someone who provide you with support and resources in the community. Have the teachers and administration involved in these groups to hear and learn what some of these families struggles are and what they most need support in. I get very frustrated with the STATE system, how they give money to all this research programs, money which they indicate is to help the community and under-served families. Why do they build programs after programs which are all similar and nothing in our community changes? Why is it our youth is out in the street during school hours? where are the truancy officers!.. Why are there no jobs for young youth to teach them how important it is to have and education and how hard it is to survive on a low wage? My child that is in college graduated high school with excellent grades but because I as a single parent have always pushed her enough to better and not give up so easy. She did her volunteer hours for The New Haven Promise and still like that she received a letter stating she did NOT qualify because of her attendance, when all year she was only absent 19 days, why not focus on her grades when she had honor classes and took AP courses, she was involved in the school activities, she played sports, she worked a part time job and went to school and still had excellent grades, she participated in the summer academic programs, why not focus on the good things our children are doing so if they have siblings it will inspire them to work hard at school and motivate them to succeed in life. But I am thankful for who my child is, she was accepted in a great college, received a scholarship from Gear up, did not apply for any loans and is taking two majors. Why can’t we help these other youth accomplish all that, instead of focusing on what teachers you should degrade in the news, what schools are the failures, what scores our children are getting, what about the school board overall are they not at fault, are these teachers receiving the support they need too. What stability are you teaching our children to have if every year there is different teachers, how are they feeling when their favorite teacher got fired or resigned. How are these children’s emotional state? Maybe since young age they have never had stability and our system is just doing the same thing too. One of my children came home real upset, mad, frustrated, sad because one favorite teacher was removed from the school by security in front of her students, all the students watching them escort her out the building. Not good at all COMMUNITY! We need to do major changes. If you are going to do assessments lets start with the Board of Education, then the School Administration, then Teachers, Then Parents, Then School Staff, yes the staff too because they are part of our children’s daily lives. Do any of you parent’s really know who is there sitting behind the table in the school office? Do you know who your school social worker or guidance counselors are? what is there background, do you know who the security guards are and how they treat our children, do you know who the substitute teachers are and what qualified them to substitute, are they just their to baby-sit our children or teach them something. I have heard truths from my children when they say we have a substitute this whole week because one of our teachers is sick, or was suspended, or whatever reason it is, and is the sub really teaching that week? what if it has to be a longer time than a week? then how do you expect our children’s scores improve. How is it when parent’s receive a letter indicating your child will be held back due to his grades and when a concerned parent request a meeting concerned for her child, asking for help in solving the situation, all that is said by administration is the child lack effort, the child is not motivated, the child only comes to school to socialize, maybe the parent comes with concerns of why the child’s grades are very low and request a PPT meeting, and at the meeting THEY (administrator, social worker, psychologist, PPT Chairman, Teacher)  nothing wrong with the child, the child’s cognitive is fine, it is how the child behaves, the parent not once received a referral home, but they are not willing to do a behavioral assessment, better yet they embarrass the child in front of parent during meeting, where they are not suppose to bring a child in the meeting unless the parents signs a consent stating her child may attend the meeting. Why not focus on what our children and the young youth really need out here, why not build a program giving young youth who dropped out of school to be able to get their education? you might say well the Adult Ed. is available, but how do you expect these youth to learn when maybe as younger youth their parent’s never knew they had a learning disability, maybe they went thru a trauma and never received the counseling they needed, how do you think giving them a book to work from is going to help them, that is only going to frustrate them more and cause them to continue being in the streets. How do you expect these youth to go to school if they have no money for the bus, just because they are not under the age of 16 does not mean its okay to forget about them. Yale University does a lot of research, where do you think the money come from? it is GRANT MONEY, then the state continues to provide them with more money to build programs because in their study they indicate they want to help the Community, the under-served families, the youth, the single parents, why not use some of that money to help these families have the transportation to attend the classes. Yale University, why not do a research on our school system, how our families struggle to succeed, what is the real story behind the poor education our children are receiving, lets also assess the Parent Advocacy who sit behind a desk at the board of Education and really do not help these families with their needs. Better yet they are good friends with the school administers and alert them of what is going on. How are parents suppose to trust anyone, how are our children suppose to trust and feel secure someone is their to provide support in what they have difficulties with, How are the teachers suppose to care if the WHOLE SCHOOL SYSTEM do not even really have concerns, they are only concerned about the reputation they are getting, the statistics, the funds that are not available or are being cut. Lets really target the major issue, do not just find a scapegoat and blame those few teachers because 34 teachers are not the only ones involved in our children’s lives. As many have stated prior this goes WAY FAR MORE than just dismissing 34 teachers.

posted by: motherinvolved on September 13, 2011  12:49pm

I needed to share this which made alot of sense towards what we are questioning:
Teachers Would ‘Like’ Parents to Read This

If the Facebook “Like” count at the bottom of this CNN article is any indication, you’ve probably already read “What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents.” (214,000 Likes in 24 hours? Really?)But if somehow this eluded you, it’s an opinion piece by Ron Clark, author of The End of Molasses Classes and founder of The Ron Clark Academy (and Oprah sensation). In a “tell it like it is” tone, Clark asks parents to stop making excuses for their kids, allow them to fail sometimes, “be a partner instead of a prosecutor,” and give teachers the benefit of the doubt. When it comes to grades, he writes:
The truth is, a lot of times it’s the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone. Parents will say, “My child has a great teacher! He made all A’s this year!”
Wow. Come on now. In all honesty, it’s usually the best teachers who are giving the lowest grades, because they are raising expectations. Yet, when your children receive low scores you want to complain and head to the principal’s office. And above all, Clark writes, a parent should never speak badly of a teacher in front of a child. It’s easy stuff to get behind as a teacher—but perhaps not so easy from a parent’s perspective. That begs the question: Is the piece a real plea for parents to be more forgiving of teachers or simply an exercise in catharsis? As always, leave your thoughts below.

I think that the point the author is making is that good teachers give ‘honest’ grades. They aren’t afraid to grade based on student learning. Not all students meet the standards each quarter. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t learning or that they do not have a good teacher.
It is a shame that some teachers need to inflate grades to avoid conflict with parents

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 13, 2011  1:30pm

@Teacher in New Haven
What do you do with the teacher that has 30 student who have behavior problems.Don’t turn in work Assignments and Don’t show up to class.So with these problems,How can a teacher be evaluated in a fair way.This whole teacher evaluation system is being push by the so call school reform corporate vampires.The teachers should have the right to put out students who have behavior problems. Also studies show that this teacher evaluation system doesn’t work.

What’s the Best Way to Grade Teachers.

posted by: Anon on September 13, 2011  4:49pm

I honestly can’t understand how anyone can expect us to believe that any process in a school system has any credibility when it requires teachers to appear in DeStefano campaign ads.

So, I am supposed to be aware of that and turn around and be sure they have this squeeky clean process for eliminating low performing teachers.

considering the campaign ads, I am more apt to believe that some teachers are let go as poor performers because they aren’t cheerleaders for certain politicians and as a reward every low performing student gets assigned to their classes.

I mean, there comes a point where you start assuming corruption instead of the opposite.

forcing teachers to be in campaign commercials is not subtle at all. I would think the same sort of political machine would set up teachers it didn’t like so that they would fail.

if new haven flushed out some people who shouldn’t be teachers, hooray for them, but the only reasonable way to be in new haven is skeptical, especially when it comes to the school system

posted by: Teacher in New Haven on September 13, 2011  5:50pm


This was the first year of this evaluation system, so I would like to see the studies you cite.

In the hypothetical case you propose, I would first suggest that after October 1, they should speak with their union rep, because our contract limits the number of students in a given class to 27 (25 in elementary).  Then I would counsel that teacher to spend September evaluating the capacities of the students in that class to determine a goal that is measurable, attainable, and a bit ambitious.  If that teacher based their goal on where their students start the year, and chooses measures that accurately measure their achievement, then they should have no cause for concern.

posted by: Some Perspective on September 13, 2011  6:56pm

The title should read “escorted” not pushed.  These teachers were not terminated, nor was TEVAL the first evaluation (formal or informal) this tiny minority came up way short on. 

This is only 2% of the teachers.  About 10-15 are shown the door every year already (whether they are ‘coached out’ or under-performing, non-tenured teachers who are not renewed).  So that means in reality that only 1% of teachers were “pushed out because of TEVAL”. 

This one percent had multiple evaluations, due process, third parties, and time to get it together.  If they didn’t, their union fought for them and had the evaluations cancelled.  They did this for almost as many teachers as actually left the system.  Most of their colleagues would agree that, ‘yeah, that one needed to go’.  Maybe there is an exception out of the group, but most just weren’t cutting it.  TEVAL was just the final, drawn out proverbial straw.  Frankly, every teacher, parent, and student agrees that the worst one percent should get out.

Their is a correlation, but not full causation here.  Pushed suggested something else, less than the pretty fair deal this small group got.  This isn’t necessarily a defense of everything about TEVAL, it has certain faults, but some perspective on what went into the process.

posted by: JOKE on September 13, 2011  8:12pm

I went through TeVal and received an excellent review.  My job isn’t close to being in jeopardy because I am very good at what I do. I’m also very well respected by most parents and kids, and generally do enjoy working with them.

The problem is, education is loaded with too many arrogant know-it-alls throwing around lame rhetoric like “No excuses” and “urgency” and “accountablity.”

Meanwhile, schools like mine still lack essentials for students like supplies, furniture, computer equipment and support staff.  So who is being held accountable for that? 

Oh, and my TeVal?  Performed by a coach, NOT an administrator.  Real smooth, Dave, real smooth.

PS @ MS. BAILEY:  Of course the “national expert” who helped craft New Haven’s evaluation system is going to tout it!!

posted by: CHALLENGE on September 13, 2011  8:58pm

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  If teachers are to blame for the achievement gap—which seems to be the sexy trend these days—then let’s test that.

Take all the teachers from Hooker, Edgewood and Nathan Hale and place them in Hill, Clemente and Wexler.  Take all the teachers from Hill, Clemente and Wexler and put them in Hooker, Edgewood and Nathan Hale.

I GUARANTEE scores WON’T DECREASE at Hooker, Edgewood and Hale any more than scores will increase in Hill, Clemente and Wexler—because ALL must be held accountable in a child’s education.

I agree that teachers should be held accountable.

But who is being held accountable for the lack of supplies, equipment, support staff and poor management in and of many of New Haven’s schools?

And just how are parents who consistently miss school orientations, ignore teacher notes and phone calls and miss parent-teacher conferences being held accountable?

NHPS’ upper management likes to preach to teachers about “adult actions.”  Unfortunately, there are many adults whose actions are simply not benefitting our kids or helping our teachers.

posted by: Tom Burns on September 14, 2011  12:45am

Lets be real clear——our system not only is not modeled after the Washington DC teacher evaluation model—-the fact is we totally reject anything associated with the DC model and instead we developed our own—“Original” modeled after no other——Who is Tim Daly?? The New Teacher Project did do surveys and provided some info—-but the info provided—we rejected—-I am appalled that they would even attempt to take credit for our system(which was developed by our teachers in our various working groups which numbered about 60 teachers)We will continue to grow our model over the next three years into a model of real support and professional development(hopefully to a point where NO teachers will ever be terminated as our system assists them in becoming better teachers year after year) “Not removing but Improving”
Lets be real clear on another thing——Our system is not solely based on a test score and it never will be——-as the article states-the teacher sits down with their Instructional Manager at the beginning of the year to set the terms for their own evaluation——student growth can be and must be measured in a variety of ways—-(determined by the teacher and their IM together)——And by the way—we are much further along than DC in every way—-their system is one of punishment and cruelty while ours is built on the premise of support and teamwork——-
I am so proud of what we have done so far, but their is much left to accomplish—so if any teachers out their would like to become a part of our Reform Working Group please contact me or Dave Low immediately—-
I admire all of my colleagues and would like to take this time to thank you for all you do for the children of New Haven—keep up the good work—Tom

posted by: Teachergal on September 14, 2011  9:07am

Tom B. States: Lets be real clear on another thing——Our system is not solely based on a test score and it never will be——-as the article states-the teacher sits down with their Instructional Manager at the beginning of the year to set the terms for their own evaluation——student growth can be and must be measured in a variety of ways—-(determined by the teacher and their IM together.

Tom”, if you define the beginning of the year as January, then I guess my admin followed the terms of teval. Too many variables still for this tool to be effective but it is a good start.  It is still very subjective and favoritism is alive and well in many schools. Kiss the right butts and you are golden!

posted by: Superman on September 14, 2011  11:45am

If this is such a good thing, perhaps it can be expanded to supervise and evaluate Mayor Destefanos fiscal irresponsability, Superintendent Dr Reginald Mayos performance, better yet lets have it permeate all municiple jobs performance, TOP TO BOTTOM ! same rules apply if you dont constantly improve you will be euthanised

posted by: What is up with the Copier Situation in New Haven? on September 14, 2011  7:36pm

We have had the same copiers for 5 years. We were promised new ones this year. My evaluation depends on having working equipment. The entire district’s curricula depend on photocopies.

posted by: teachabc on September 14, 2011  10:20pm

This is all BS!  The new teacher evaluation system was barely followed in some schools.  There are some teachers in New Haven who never even received ratings from administrators or were given ratings and NEVER observed by administrators.  This does not mean the new evaluation process is not fair because it is highly effective IF followed by administrators.  In many schools the regulations and scheduling for the evaluations process was not followed. 

New Haven needs to focus more on holding students unaccountable for negative behavior and getting the parents invested in the students education.

posted by: CROCK on September 19, 2011  8:06pm

Know what has to stop? 

NHPS telling parents that paraprofessionals are in K-1 classrooms, thereby reducing class size and providing much-needed attention to smaller groups of students. 

Because guess what?  Paras are being pulled regularly and used as substitute teachers. K class sizes are up to 27 in some schools. Twenty-seven 4- to 5-year-olds, 1 teacher.  Kids First?

NHPS brass also must stop with the lies that paras do nothing or simply sit around.  Please.  On the off-chance they are sitting, it’s usually with a student who cannot control his or herself for a whole group lesson.  One principal told me that “Dr. Mayo is considering getting rid of paras altogether.”  Love to see that.  Then he’d have to hire subs, which would cost him more.

Also alarming:  Teachers who have paras who have been pulled, and who present such concerns to their principals, have been told by some principals: “Tell your colleagues not to be out.”

Sorry, but not only isn’t the job of a teacher to tell a colleague not to call out sick, but the contract provides sick days for teachers.  Some teachers have kids of their own who get sick and nobody else to care for them.