October 17, 2013
In June 2013, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) announced a new teacher evaluation system for New York City, which is being enacted citywide in the 2013-14 school year. The implementation of a new system for evaluating the 75,000 teachers who work in New York City's public schools is a massive undertaking -- one that will change how principals use their time, how teachers direct their efforts in the classroom, and, ultimately, how students experience school. State Education Commissioner John King has said, "These evaluation plans will help principals and teachers improve their practice, and that in turn will help students graduate from high school ready for college and careers. That's our goal in everything we do."As the intended beneficiaries of this major reform effort, students and their families have an enormous stake in its success. This paper makes the case that the New York City Department of Education (DOE) must include them in the policy implementation process.Students and parents should have the opportunity to actively contribute to the policy changes that affect their lives; reforms are more likely to be successful, sustainable, and responsive to local needs when students and families are engaged as partners and supportive of such efforts. As theNational Parent Teacher Association (PTA) notes, "Because parents, teachers, students, and the general public are affected by school policy, it is appropriate that they participate in its determination. We believe that such sharing of responsibility will result in greater responsiveness to student and societal needs and therefore improve the quality of educational opportunity."The voices of actual New York City public school parents and students echo this desire for participation with respect to teacher evaluation policy. One New York City high school student told us, "Since the students are the ones subjected to changes in the system (as well as the teachers) they should be allowed to have a say in what they think will benefit/hurt them. They should be able to say what they think makes their teachers effective/ineffective, and what can be done to fix any problems with the new policy."Similarly, Diana M., the parent of an eleventh grader in Queens, affirmed, "We have a voice, we have many concerns and as parents should be included in these new policies that are taking place....Students as well parents have ideas and we can change the school system for the better [for] students, the DOE and the parents alike....The change starts with all three parties, parent, student and educator!"With this paper, we are calling on the DOE to include students and parents when putting the new evaluation system into practice by establishing a stakeholder advisory group to provide feedback throughout the implementation process and ensure open discussion and sharing of responsibility take place. We begin by setting forth the arguments for including parents and students in the implementation of the new policies and conclude by providing examples of structures established for this purpose in other cities and states.