Under the current evaluations, teachers are observed five times a year. They’re graded on their ability to meet nine standards, including managing time, explaining information clearly and correcting students’ misunderstandings.
For some teachers — those who teach math or reading in grades 4 through 8 — half of the evaluation has depended on how students fare on yearly standardized tests.
In the coming year, there will be less weight placed on such test results. Progress on citywide test scores will count for 35 percent of a teacher’s rating. But other measures of student achievement will factor into the ratings. Measures determined by principals and teachers, such as performance on final exams or early literacy tests, will count for 15 percent of an evaluation.
Henderson said she doesn’t expect that change to make much difference in final ratings but hopes it will help calm the anxieties that teachers have when so much of their future rides on test scores.
Several education reform watchers said reducing the reliance on test scores will bring the District more in line with other states and school systems.
“With all the concerns about the reliability and the validity of the scores, with them bouncing around from year to year, it makes sense for them to be a third rather than a half,” said Michael J. Petrilli of the Thomas J. Fordham Institute, a Washington think tank.
“This is exactly how you would want public policy to work — that they make improvements every few years.”
There are a number of other tinkers. For example, only four of five classroom observations will count in an evaluation. The fifth will be informal and strictly for feedback. Also, teachers who are consistently rated effective or highly effective will have only three formal observations.
If one observation yields a much lower score than the others, it won’t count — a recognition that it’s possible for any teacher to have a bad day.
Saunders said teachers will appreciate those changes.
Finally, the school system has changed the way it doles out performance-based bonus pay and salary increases.
The maximum annual bonus for a highly effective teacher will remain $25,000. But now salary increases, previously available to the highest-performing teachers in all schools, will be limited to those working in high-poverty schools — about three-quarters of the total teaching force.