02/19/2012 10:01 pm ET Updated Apr 18, 2012

Evaluating the Evaluations

As a New York City public school student, I am glad to see state organizations and policymakers cooperating to develop an effective teacher evaluation system. Ever since attending a teacher-led conversation with Deputy Secretary for Education David Wakelyn, organized by Educators 4 Excellence, I have been anxiously awaiting an agreement regarding teacher evaluations. The public school system cannot handle any more stress -- budget cuts have been detrimental, forcing program cuts, staff cuts, and more. New York State needs effective teachers to teach the future generations -- and an effective system to support teachers. Education is a field where no corners can be cut.

As I sat in the audience at the teacher-led conversation, alongside many teachers, I could not help but think about student evaluation systems. I thought back to the beginning of each academic year, when I received a syllabus for each class. Each teacher clearly explains what is expected of students, and how they will be evaluated. Strong rubrics are diverse; evaluating students in multiple areas, such as homework, exams, and participation. At the end of a marking period, a student's grade reflects his or her performance in multiple areas. Receiving a poor grade isn't a crime; it is a sign that the student must take certain steps to perform more effectively. A support system should be in place, such as extra help sessions or available meetings with a teacher. Just as students are generally evaluated in a productive manner, teachers must be evaluated with a system that is constructive rather than punitive.

According to an announcement by the Governor's office on February 16, 2012, the evaluation system will be "based on multiple measures of performance including student achievement and rigorous classroom observations." The system will be composed of 60 percent classroom evaluations, student and parent feedback, and student portfolios. The remaining 40 percent will be based on student academic achievement. It is absolutely essential for a large portion of a teacher evaluation to be based on classroom observations. Relying mainly on tests to evaluate teachers is ineffective, and unfit for the New York State Education System. New York State United Teachers President Richard C. Iannuzzi acknowledged that "a child is more than a standardized test score" and "the purpose of evaluations must be to help all teachers improve and to advance excellence" -- both points I applaud.

An immense amount of emphasis on students has been apparent. In the same announcement, Governor Cuomo stated the system "will put students first" and that the agreement was achieved by "putting the needs of students ahead of politics." State Education Commissioner John B. King said "The goal is and always has been to help students." As a student, I am expecting a system that will improve the education system for students and teachers alike. These policymakers are developing a system that has the ability to genuinely support the classrooms, and I expect nothing less.