Observers Get Key Role in Teacher Evaluations

The New York City teachers’ union has long called the process used by the city’s Education Department for reviewing and dismissing struggling teachers partisan and unfair.

But now, as part of an agreement reached Thursday, the Education Department and the United Federation of Teachers will put into effect an evaluation system that will bring independent observers into the city’s classrooms to monitor the weakest teachers.

The role of these observers — known officially as “independent validators” — is based on a similar practice in use in schools in New Haven. One observer will be assigned to any teacher receiving a first “ineffective” rating, the lowest possible grade under the new teacher evaluation system. Under the agreement, city education officials, with the consent of union leaders, will contract with a company to provide observers, who are to be licensed educators — former teachers, principals or administrators. Each observer will be assigned to between 50 and 80 teachers, and will perform three classroom observations for each one during the year.