Following the partially Yale-funded New Haven Promise program, a new system that evaluates public school teachers is the next step in New Haven’s education reform campaign.
On Jan. 10, the program released its first report, containing ratings of all New Haven public school teachers. The teachers were rated based on their performance in and out of the classroom, and the evaluation program has been implemented in all 45 New Haven public schools. Like New Haven Promise, the evaluation program was created to improve the quality of education in New Haven schools, though this initiative targets teachers.
“The idea of making sure that kids are prepared for college requires great teachers. We want to make sure that the best teachers are able to provide that opportunity for the kids,” said Patrick Flynn, the leader of the project and the head of professional development at Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES). “This is a huge part of New Haven Promise.”
Teachers were rated according to their level of collaboration with colleagues, impact on student academic achievement and support for students’ non-academic needs. The teachers received ratings ranging from one to five, with those given ones classified as “needs improvement” and those given fives declared exemplary. Teacher’s with an “exemplary” rating will serve as mentors to teachers who need improvement.
If teachers with low scores fail to improve by May, they may face termination, Flynn said.
Assistant Superintendant Garth Harries ’95 said that the program also serves to foster colleague mentorship by allowing those with a high evaluation to guide those who scored lower.
“[Exemplary teachers] will have the opportunity to apply for teacher leadership programs, and also the opportunity to have more responsibility and be paid more,” Harries said.
One of the teacher leadership programs includes the Teacher Education and Mentoring (TEAM) program, which allows teachers with high scores to teach ongoing professional development seminars on a range of different topics.
Principals of each school released the first round of ratings last November.
Harries said he thinks that the program will be successful because it encourages collaboration among educators.
“We have outset to design a system that not only includes a meaningful connection to student learning outcomes, but also one that reinforces and supports a deep relationship between the principal and the teacher,” Harries said.
Teachers given low scores will be re-evaluated three times by a team of auditors brought in from ACES over the semester. Those with high scores will be revisited twice to confirm their initial ratings. The full evaluation will be completed in May.
At Wilbur Cross High School, Principal Peggy Moore rated seven teachers “exemplary” and seven “needs improvement.” Principal of James Hillhouse High School Kermit Carolina put none in either category.
At the end of the day, though, the students need to be the focus of education reform, Harries said.
“What the teacher is responsible for is not just the absolute intelligence of the student, but their growth,” he said. “We wouldn’t expect a teacher to be able to close huge learning gaps in a single year, but we do expect them to make progress.”
The teacher evaulation program is separate from the school tier system that began last spring.