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New York Dept. of Edu. announces value-added program bid despite new controversy

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) and its Board of Regents has made preliminary steps in satisfying the federal government’s grant of roughly $700 million as part of the Race To The Top initiative, which includes a value-added metric in analyzing teacher performance.

On Wednesday, a bid request was published on NYSED’s website seeking proposals to “develop and provide Growth and Value-added Measures of Teacher and Principal Effectiveness.”

The state’s Education Department asks that interested parties offer the following services:

Design methodologies and produce growth and value-added measures covering teachers and principals with students in grades 4-8 taking the State English language arts (ELA) and/or mathematics assessments;

Design value-added methodologies and measures covering teachers and principals with students taking any existing State assessments, or new State assessments added during the contract period, that are identified by NYSED as part of the teacher and principal evaluation initiative; and,

Design and deliver reports that effectively communicate results to parents/students, teachers, principals, schools, districts, Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), Teacher and Principal Preparation programs, and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

The deadline for submissions is June 17 and a mandatory webinar appearance by prospective contractors will take place May 26.

The bid request comes during a contentious period between NYSED and New York’s teachers union, New York State United Teachers (NYUST), following the board’s announcement it will back-peddle on agreements it made with the teachers union regarding how much student test scores will weigh into a teacher’s evaluation.

The legislation’s language permits test scores to account for 20 percent of a teacher’s performance rating, with another 20 percent in the form of district-specific metrics, and 60 percent in non-test score considerations that would be subject to collective bargaining. However, last Thursday, NYSED announced a school district can adopt the state’s value-added metric, giving double weight to value-added scores.

“There were advisory committee meetings to implement the law with fidelity for 11 months,” begins Carl Korn of NYUST during an interview with The American Independent, “but the Regents took steps backwards by ignoring its own team of analysts and making an 11th hour change.”

The union objects to a standard of evaluation that can rely on value-added metrics by as much as 40 percent of a teacher’s scorecard, and industry experts agree. When the state body announced it was changing the rubric, Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University, and nine other education scholars wrote a letter chiding (PDF) the board’s decision. They wrote, in part, “Reviews of research on value-added methodologies for estimating teacher ‘effects’ based on student test scores have concluded that these measures are too unstable and too vulnerable to many sources of error to be used as a major part of teacher evaluation.”

“It defies logic when research designed to measure student performance” is applied to teachers, Korn said. “It’s just plain dumb.”

The state’s education authority called for the changes following Governor Andrew Cuomo’s concerns the district-level evaluations would be inconsistent with the results of the state test scores. But Korn counters that narrative, arguing, “There are 700 school districts in the state of New York and some have more bears than students.”

Districts should be allowed to design evaluations that gauge teacher performance in areas state test scores do not measure, Korn said, like music, art, social studies and physical education.

NYUST has stated it will “likely sue” the board in light of its vote to adopt the new regulations.

The state is responsible for creating the value-added scorecard tools as part of the 2010 legislation, but they cannot go into effect until the software is proven stable and reliable. Korn did not want to speculate what the final product will look like, explaining those considerations will be made as the product nears completion.

Seventeen members are elected to the The Board of Regents by the Albany lawmakers, for five-year terms. The members do not receive a salary but are reimbursed for travel and other expenses associated with their official duties.

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