February 19, 2012

Cuomo: NY, union agree on teacher evaluation plan

"This agreement recognizes that students are more than a test score,"  Mulgrew said.

Cuomo: NY, union agree on teacher evaluation plan

Posted: Feb 16, 2012 10:09 AM EST Updated: Feb 16, 2012 5:55 PM EST

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A statewide agreement announced Thursday will bring tougher teacher evaluations to New York public schools and make student performance 40 percent of a teacher's grade, replacing decades-old policies that relied more heavily on classroom visits and colleague opinions.

The deal reached by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, teachers unions, and state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. would allow 60 percent of an evaluation to be based on classroom observation and other measures not related to standardized tests.
The deal broadly reflects a 2010 law passed by the Legislature to qualify for $700 million in federal education funds. King has said millions more in state aid is also tied to effective teacher evaluations.
Thursday was the deadline Cuomo had set for the parties to end their two years of talks. Otherwise, he threatened to impose his own teacher evaluation plan in a budget bill amendment, taking advantage of the extraordinary powers of a New York governor to insert policy in budget bills.
"Today's a great day for the schools within the state of New York and for schoolchildren within the state," Cuomo said. "I believe this is a better system than any system that had been contemplated or discussed until now."
Cuomo said the system was the best he's seen to reward good teachers and eliminate bad ones. He added that he will contact the U.S. Education Department, but felt confident the deal will secure the millions in Race to the Top funds.
New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi called the deal historic and said it will put "an effective teacher in front of every classroom."
The state plan now goes to local school districts, including New York City's, where local deals over specific areas such as appeals must be struck within a year. The state education commission will have to approve local teacher evaluation plans - perhaps the strongest element of Thursday's agreement.
If school districts and their unions can't agree on an evaluation system, Cuomo said he will deny a scheduled 4 percent increase in state aid. The increase totaling $800 million includes $300 million for New York City schools alone.
The plan allows for 20 percent of an evaluation to reflect student progress on state tests. Another 20 percent can be from a list of three testing options, including state standardized tests, third-party assessments or tests approved by the state Education Department and locally developed tests subject to state approval.
The agreement also creates a rating system for teachers following the evaluation. A score of 64 percent or lower would rate a teacher as "ineffective," and that could eventually lead to dismissal if the teacher does not show progress under an improvement plan.
A grade of 65 percent to 74 percent would be "developing," requiring an improvement plan and 75 percent to 90 percent would be "effective," the goal for every teacher in a classroom. A rating of 91 percent to 100 percent would be "highly effective" and those teachers would be eligible for any merit increases or other perks, as determined in local labor contracts.
The deal includes the potential for grading on a "curve," but that could be rejected by the state education commissioner.
Teacher Jeff Peneston of the Liverpool district in Central New York said his colleagues understand the need for accountability. But he notes that guidance counselors and teachers in the arts or technology won't be judged by tests because there are no standardized tests for their fields.
"Every teacher that I've worked with believes in the importance of assessment and proving that you're a credible and competent professional. It's right for teachers. It's right for kids," Peneston said in an interview. "It all sounds fine in the big picture. ... this is where I have a problem: Currently half of my colleagues are not tied to a state or national exam. Because of this split, it's a good example of just what a false idol these large standardized tests are."
The deal includes an agreement on an appeals process that had been holding up negotiations on a local evaluation system in New York City. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers announced the agreement Thursday on the appeals process. But they must still agree to an overall evaluation plan to secure the $300 million increase, Cuomo said.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew hinted at tension in the local talks, saying in Albany that the deal should show Bloomberg that good education policy is the product of discussion and not simply about closing ineffective schools.
"This agreement recognizes that students are more than a test score," Mulgrew said.
In a written statement, Bloomberg said the deal will benefit generations of students.
"It will help us to create a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation system that will ensure that teachers who are rated `ineffective' can be given the proper support they need to grow - or be moved out of the classroom," Bloomberg stated. "While there are still issues that the City and UFT will be discussing in order to finalize an evaluation system, this resolves the lion's share of the most difficult issues."
King said the plan was "an extraordinary example of effective collaboration." It also creates a model that will be used to rate school principals.
"The goal is and always has been to help students - to give them every opportunity to succeed in college and careers," King said. "To make that happen, we need to improve teaching and learning. We owe it to our students to make sure every classroom is led by an effective teacher and every school is led by an effective principal."
State schools Chancellor Merryl Tisch, head of the policy-setting Board of Regents, called the agreement a significant improvement over the broader 2010 law.

"But our work is by no means over," she said. "The Regents have adopted a major education reform plan, and teacher and principal evaluations are just a part of that reform."
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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