NY, union agree on teacher evaluation plan

February 16, 2012 1:20:16 PM PST
A statewide agreement announced Thursday will bring tougher teacher evaluations in public schools statewide and make student performance 40 percent of a teacher's grade.

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 reform funds. King has said millions more in state aid is also tied to effective teacher evaluations.

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. If not, Cuomo said he will deny a scheduled 4 percent increase in state aid, which would total $800 million, including $300 million for New York City schools alone.

Thursday's deal includes a settlement on an appeals process that has stopped negotiations on a local evaluation in New York City. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers must still agree to an overall evaluation plan to secure the $300 million increase, Cuomo said.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew revealed some 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.

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."

King said the plan was "an extraordinary example of effective collaboration."

Cuomo said he will contact the U.S. Education Department, but felt confident the deal will secure the millions in Race to the Top funds. Cuomo called the state evaluation system rigorous and the best one he's seen to reward good teachers and eliminate bad ones.

"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."

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 also includes the potential for grading a "curve," but that could be rejected by the state education commissioner. The commissioner will also be able to approve or reject local evaluation plans.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday found that 50 percent of voters trust Cuomo more "to protect the interests of New York State public school students." Thirty-eight percent trust the teachers union more. It found that 45 percent of those polled said they approve of the way Cuomo is handling education, while 42 percent disapprove.

Voters also supported merit pay for "outstanding" teachers by 2-to-1. And two-thirds of voters said they support making it easier to fire teachers.

The poll surveyed 1,233 voters from last Wednesday through Monday. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

Associated Press Writer Karen Matthews in New York City contributed to this report.

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