Workforce - Ranking teachers on their students' artistic merits

New York City could hire and fire on progress in sport and art

Teachers in New York City could be employed and dismissed on the strength of their students' progress in subjects including physical education and art, under plans announced this week.

Last year, the city's Department of Education introduced a highly controversial system that ranks individual teachers on the basis of their students' standardised test scores. The decision to publish the rankings in The New York Times led to a bitter dispute between education officials and the United Federation of Teachers union.

Now new proposals are taking things further. In future, a teacher's ranking will be determined not just by standardised tests but by student progress in sport, art and foreign languages.

New York state education commissioner John King said the new assessments are all about helping "teachers teach better so students can learn better". He added: "The plan I am announcing today creates a multiple-measures evaluation system that is fair for teachers and principals. More important, it will help improve teaching and learning and give New York City students a much better opportunity to graduate from high school."

Under the new plans, students' test scores will make up 20 per cent of the overall teacher rating while 60 per cent will be based on lesson observations. Teachers and principals will be able to decide between themselves how the remaining 20 per cent will be evaluated.

The rankings in New York followed a similar move in California, when in 2010 the Los Angeles Times published ratings for each of the city's 6,000 elementary school teachers (of children aged 5-11). More than three dozen states are now working on incorporating student test scores in teacher evaluations.

The announcement in New York follows months of fierce negotiations between city officials and the United Federation of Teachers. Michael Mulgrew, president of the union, said the new evaluation plan would give teachers greater powers to challenge any evaluations or observations.

"Despite Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg's desire for a 'gotcha' system, as Commissioner King noted, New York City 'is not going to fire its way to academic success'," he said.

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