Governor Andrew Cuomo brokered a last minute deal between the United Federation of Teachers and the mayor’s office over the thorny issue of evaluating New York’s teachers.
By Russ Finkelstein
The new evaluation system will take into account student growth. In addition, teachers given low ratings will be able to appeal their evaluations, though there is still more negotiating to be done.
“I believe that this is a better system than any system that had been contemplated up until now,” Cuomo said yesterday at a press conference in Albany.
The debate about teacher evaluations has been dragging on for nearly two years now. Without an agreement, New York State stood to lose $700 million in federal aid in federal aid that was conditioned on the state implementing a teacher evaluation system that includes student performance. That money is now assured, but Cuomo says that money isn’t the only issue.
“New York is at the top of the curve when it comes to spending, we’re down at the bottom in terms of graduation rates. We need performance, this is a performance evaluation system,” Cuomo said.
Under the old evaluation system, teachers are either given a satisfactory or unsatisfactory rating and firing teachers was difficult and rare. Under the new agreement, teachers will be evaluated based on a combination of student test scores and in class observations. Teachers rated ineffective are subject to being fired, but they will have the right to appeal their evaluations before a special committee. Michael Mulgrew is the president of the United Teacher’s Federation.
“We now have a fair appeals process, independent validation is in there, which is what we were asking for from the beginning, and we would not have that in there if it wasn’t for the Governor,” said Mulgrew.
Damien LaRock, a teacher in East Elmhurts Queens said he’s happy that the agreement allows a teacher to appeal a low rating.
“If a teacher does receive a poor rating, they should have an opportunity to defend themselves and state the case that there’s a lot more that goes into the quality of a teacher than just standardized test score performance of their students,” LaRock said.
The agreement leaves a variety of practical details that have yet to be ironed out. Local school districts must still determine how they will evaluate student growth. In addition, Mayor Bloomberg threatened to close 33 struggling schools to get rid of ineffective teachers before the new appeals process is put takes effect. Mayor Bloomberg reacted to the announcement yesterday at city hall.
”Nothing in this deal prevents us from moving forward with our plan to replace teachers in 33 of our most struggling schools so we can immediately begin turning them around and giving our students the support they need,” Bloomberg said.
The teacher’s union opposes mayor’s action, just another example of the fighting left ahead.