Teacher Evaluation Program To Go Local?

It appears a bill to allow teacher evaluations to be made on a local level is headed for passage.

In fact, as of press time, only one man stood in its way — New York Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who has yet to allow the bill to come to the floor of the Senate. The state assembly embraced it by a near-unanimous vote.

The topic has been a political hot potato for 10 years, especially in Albany. It’s an outgrowth of President Barack Obama’s Race To The Top program, which basically replaced the No Child Left Behind Bill.

The race awarded competitive grants to school districts.

Before that, teachers were given the equivalent of a pass or fail evaluation, rated either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. In order to get federal funds, the state adopted a new system that incorporated student tests scores into the teacher evaluation process.

In 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo complained the system was too easy on teachers. Carl Korn, the Chief Press Officer for the New York State Union Teachers said it’s not about the oversight; it’s about a system that doesn’t work properly.

“Teachers have no problem with being evaluated,” Korn said. But the system that was adopted, basing 50 percent of the evaluation on standardized test scores, hurt students, he said.

“It narrows the curriculum. There is an over emphasis of test preparations,” Korn said. Worse, “the system was never designed to evaluate teachers.” The net result: “It sucks the joy out of teaching,” Korn lamented.

Cuomo’s model incorporated not only test scores but also evaluations, and what Korn called “a very unstable algorithm” that fluctuated wildly from year to year.

Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging Cuomo in a Democratic primary, has already endorsed the bill.

“In essence, I believe in local control for teacher evaluation, rather than the one size fits all Cuomo proposal with all of its crazy matrices, formulas, and reliance on tests that have been less than reliable,” said Assemblyman Fred Thiele.

“Let the local schools devise the system that fits them best,” he added.

And that’s what will happen if Flanagan moves the bill forward and Cuomo signs it — and he recently indicated he would. It would remove the mandate that standardized testing be used to evaluate teachers and give local school boards the freedom to develop their own mechanism. Korn said the current law could lead to loss of tenure should a teacher get two consecutive “Ineffective” ratings. After one year, the teacher must agree to a Teacher Improvement Plan.

According to published reports, nine for 10 teachers or better earn “effective” ratings each year.

Educators have pointed out the inequities inherent in standardized testing, among them the socioeconomic differences between school districts and the percentage of students taking the test.

Korn also said the bill passed by the Assembly also removes the results of standardized tests from a student’s permanent record.

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