Thirty-four teachers left New Haven Public Schools after failing to earn satisfactory grades in the first year of the district’s teacher evaluation program.
The new program, in which teachers are graded on their performance, gave 75 percent of city teachers a score of “effective,” “strong,” or “exceptional.” Still, 34 teachers voluntarily resigned or retired after earning the lowest posssible grade. The program also evaluated school administrators — four of whom earned the lowest score and left the district.
“This process was fair, open and supported by teachers, principals and their unions,” NHPS Superintendent Reginald Mayo said in a Monday press release. “We offered teachers and administrators strong support that helped them improve.”
The evaluation process considered 1,846 teachers, grading them on a scale from “1: Needs Improvement” to “5: Exemplary.” Of the 75 teachers who originally received the lowest scores last November, 29 were able to increase their grades by June, with three attaining a score of “4: Strong.” All teachers, except those who earned a “5,” were provided additional training within their schools,and were evaluated both by administrators and by third-party “validators.”
But the remainder of the lowest performing teachers, including both tenured and untenured faculty, were unable to improve. As a result, these teachers left the school district, either through voluntary resignation or retirement, according to the press release.
The four principals who left the school district earned scores of “1.”
“I want to emphasize that our teacher evaluation system is intended, first and foremost, to make teachers better,” New Haven Public Schools Director of Communication Christopher Hoffman said in an email to the News Wednesday. “This is not a ‘gotcha’ as has happened in some places. Our goal is to have the best teachers in America, and the teacher evaluation system is a powerful tool to achieve that.”
The school district said it did not terminate any of the departing teachers, and did not release the names of teachers who left the district.
David Cicarella, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, told the News that the school district has reprimanded low-performing teachers in the past, adding that in those cases as well, teachers would often leave the district voluntarily to avoid termination. Cicarella added that termation would keep these teachers from getting hired by any other district, whereas a voluntary departure would not necessarily scar their permanent record.
Cicarella said in the press release that the teacher evaluation system is proof of the quality of teachers in New Haven.
“The data is clear that an overwhelming majority of educators in New Haven are very effective,” he said in the release. “Those in need of assistance receive support and the necessary time and tools to improve.”
Cicarella added that there were few complaints regarding the teacher evaluation process among union teacher representatives.
The teachers who earned scores of “5: Exemplary,” comprising eight percent of the total faculty examined, will serve as “educational leaders” in their districts, the press release said.