State and Teachers Union Make Deal On Evaluations

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By Associated Press

A deal has been struck on a new teacher evaluation system that should ensure New York gets $1 billion in threatened federal education money, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.
    
The agreement between the state and its largest teachers union creates a statewide standard for evaluating teachers in districts outside of New York City.

The deal fulfills much of a commitment the state made two years ago to enact reforms.

It also frees up nearly $1 billion in federal funds linked to the reforms.
    
"Today's a great day for the schools within the state of New York and for schoolchildren within the state of New York," Cuomo said. "I believe this is a better system than any system that had been contemplated or discussed until now."
    
The New York State United Teachers union negotiated the deal with the state Education Department.

Now school districts will need to reach agreements on local assessments.

Under the agreement, 60 percent of a teacher's evaluation will be based on rigorous and nationally recognized measures of teacher performance.

The deal requires that a majority of the teacher performance points will be based on classroom observations by an administrator or principal, and at least one observation will be unannounced.

The remaining points will be based upon defined standards including observations by independent trained evaluators, peer classroom observations, student and parent feedback from evaluators, and evidence of performance through student portfolios.

The other 40 percent of a teacher's evaluation will be based on student academic achievement, with 20 percent from state testing and 20 percent from a list of three testing options including state tests, third party assessments/tests approved by the SED and locally developed tests that will be subject to SED review and approval.

Under the plan, school districts will also have the option of using state tests to measure up to 40 percent of a teacher's rating.

A major sticking point had been the use of standardized test scores to evaluate teachers.
    
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew are still working on a system for city schools and their 1 million students.

Cuomo agreed to help settle conflicts there, including how an appeals process would work.
    
A major sticking point has been using student test scores in evaluations of school teachers, a purpose for which the tests were never designed.
    
At issue was the use of student performance in standardized test scores.

A 2010 law passed to qualify for federal Race to the Top funds tied to education reforms requires 20 percent of a teacher's evaluation to be based on student performance in the tests, now limited to fourth and eighth grade math and English tests.

But more tests could be added.

A greater issue is whether another 20 percent of an evaluation could be used as a "local" measure, although the scores would have to be used differently than a simple reflection of student progress.
    
Also critical is how teachers could appeal their evaluations.

The law called for that to be worked out locally in collective bargaining with teachers unions' locals, but New York City is finding that a difficult, perhaps impossible, issue to resolve between the mayor and union.
    
State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. has withheld some aid for districts he said were delaying action on teacher evaluations.

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Friday, October 31, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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