Deal Reached on New York State Teacher Evaluations

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Superintendents throughout the area attended a conference on the new teacher evaluations in January in Briarcliff Manor. Photo Credit: Meredith Shamburger

ALBANY, N.Y. – The New York State Education Department and the New York State United Teachers reached a deal on how to best evaluate New York state’s teachers, part of a mandate to hold on to $700 million in federal Race to the Top aid. The deal comes after an ultimatum from Governor Andrew Cuomo that if the parties couldn’t reach a deal, he would use a 30-day budget amendment to propose his own reforms in the executive budget.

The agreement announced Thursday lays out how teachers will be evaluated on a 100-point scale. On the scale, 60 points would come from administrative observations, peer observations and independently trained observers, according to a press release from the governor’s office. 

As much as 40 points could come from state evaluations. Of those 40, 20 will come from students' scores on state evaluations, and the remaining 20 points will come from one of three options. Options include locally or independently designed tests, both of which would need to pass muster with the NYSED, or from state tests, according to the press release. Teachers will also receive one of four public ratings; teachers would be graded as ineffective, developing, effective and highly effective. 

Educators remain critical of the system that links students' test scores with teachers' livelihoods, saying it will have unintended and severe negative consequences. 

"The over emphasis of those results, and linking them in such a large proportion to teacher evaluation, I am concerned, as are many other principals that it will be harmful to the education process," said Carol Conklin-Spillane, principal of Sleepy Hollow High School in the Tarrytown Union Free School District. 

An amendment to education law was originally passed in 2010 in an attempt to secure Race to the Top funds, but a lawsuit between the SED and teacher’s unions temporarily halted the reforms. 

Despite the deadline brushing deal between Richard Iannuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers and John King, New York state education commissioner, a large number of educators have concerns about the criteria on which Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR) will be based. 

“It’s never a bad thing to have accountability measures in place,” said Deborah O’Connell, assistant superintendent of Croton-Harmon Schools, “However, this is moving so quickly that it’s very hard for districts to have enough time to implement the APPR."

Principals from nearly every school district in Westchester, 117 total, signed a petition against the broad changes and implementation of the APPRs. The position paper signed by these principals expressed concerns such as classroom funds going towards observation and consulting companies and that linking a teacher’s livelihood with students' test outcomes encourages making tests the main focus in the classroom.

For some districts, officials believe the ends don’t justify the means. The Croton-Harmon School District will receive $6,909 over four years to implement the changes. Officials say this likely won’t even cover the cost of the new evaluation system. 

Still, the long-warring parties involved in the deal lauded it, Iannuzzi said in the press release, "Teachers support high standards and accountability for our profession. We believe today's agreement is good for students and fair to teachers.”

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Comments (6)

GoodSyntax:

While I do see a need to improve our childrens education, I don't think that this is the best solution. According to this, districts can design their own tests, and obviously local administrators have a compelling reason to ensure that they do not have "ineffective" teachers. I'm not sure how this conflict of interest can be resolved in this framework.

As much as I do not subscribe to most democratic party ideals, I disagree with hulkpage. Yes, unions do contribute to the problem, but the root cause is that any action, legislation, decision or choice made by school employees (superintendents all the way down to the janitors) that do have the best interests of the children in mind, is a mistake. There is simply no room for politics, finger pointing, "that's not my job" or other excuses. The window for learning, especially the fundamentals acquired in elementary school, is short, and even a couple of wasted years due to financial or political pressures is in a word, unacceptable.

Having children in school myself, I can easily differentiate between good teachers and bad. Maybe the simplest solution would be to empower parents, and allow us to dictate whether we are satisfied with the teacher or not. At the end of the day, teachers are servicing the parents by teaching their children, communicating with the parents and offering appropriate guidance (or restraint in some cases). If parents are happy and the children can demonstrate proficiency (per the state tests), then maybe that is all that is really required.

BobG:

GoodSyntax,

I like the name you chose.

Do you think that there is value in a parent choosing his or her child's teacher or teachers for the following academic year? If parents talk to one another, then good teachers will probably be selected, parents might come to schools to see teachers in action, and poorer teachers will wind up teaching the children of parents who don't care. If a district needs to eliminate teachers, it will be an easier, and more just, selection. Do you agree?

GoodSyntax:

Shoot! Double-post.

Sorry

BobG:

The good news is that teachers will be observed more often. (When I retired tenured teachers were observed once per year, non-tenured three times.) The bad news is that peer review can turn into a lot of patting one another on the back, where nothing critical is said of a colleague. I believe that observations by parents should be part of the formula. We need more parents in classrooms.

GoodSyntax:

I agree, we do need more parents in the classrooms!

Unfortunately, parental involvments is sorely lacking these days. My wife is a teacher, and she is barely able to get 75% attendance for parent conferences. Parents are, and I hesitate to say this, a major source of the problem. The miseducation of our children starts at home, with a lack of supervision, discipline and support.

I certainly understand being busy, overworked, stressed out and crazy at times, but I never forget that these are MY children, MY flesh and blood and MY contribution to the world. I will not take the easy way when it would be my children that suffer for it. Maybe it's just me, but it is quite suprising that all parents don't feel the same way and don't want the best for their children, even if it involves personal sacrifice.

hulkpage:

Seriously I find anything to do with teacher unions or democrats for that matter so loathsome. Its funny that threats of intervention by Gov Cuomo apparently makes both sides cringe.

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