2014 was an exciting, yet turbulent time for classrooms across New York State. With the continued implementation of the Common Core State Standards and a new teacher evaluation system, educators and students were challenged to meet high expectations. Implementing any new program can be a challenge, and this is particularly true across 695 districts, 4,788 schools, and more than 2.5 million students. As educators we see challenges not as problems, but as teachable moments. Below, we lay out the state of the classroom – a look at what is working and what can be improved in New York’s schools.
- Teacher evaluation: We can learn from experience over the last two years to make the system more useful for teachers, to better differentiate strengths and weaknesses among educators, and to ensure teachers are held accountable only for what we can control.
- Common Core: To improve implementation of the Common Core while continuing to hold teachers and students to high standards, we should allocate funds for an additional week of Common Core-focused professional development and time for collaboration, focus on aligning all curricula to the Common Core, provide additional resources and workshops for parents, and focus attention on special education students, English Learners, and students with severe disabilities.
- Teacher compensation: We recommend offering additional compensation to teachers working in high-poverty schools and hard-to-staff subjects, directly connecting performance to compensation, and raising the starting teacher salary.
- Tenure and due process: To make tenure and due process a tool that protects teachers and serves students, we must preserve tenure and due process to ensure that teachers are shielded against arbitrary dismissals, but also connect tenure decisions with evaluation results and reform the due process system to automatically dismiss teachers who commit serious misconduct directly affecting students.
- Teacher preparation: To improve teacher preparation, we must raise the bar for admissions to teacher preparation programs, require teachers to demonstrate mastery through pre-service exams, and hold programs accountable by measuring graduates’ retention and classroom effectiveness.
- Teacher development: We recommend creating meaningful career ladders across the state, ensuring teachers receive high-quality professional development opportunities and aligning all professional development to the Common Core State Standards.
- Testing: We recommend increasing access to timely and disaggregated data, continuing to eliminate unnecessary exams, and exploring alternatives to the Regents exam requirements for high school graduation.