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Deal Reached on New York State Teacher Evaluations

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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