Monday, March 30, 2015

Breaking: School funding and teacher evaluations are linked after all, a top official with the state education department said late Monday.

Ask Mulgrew if his "Our hard work has paid dividends" statement still holds? Oh where oh where are our Unity trolls?

In the apparently still-fluid state budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers are considering making an increase of at least $1.4 billion in school aid contingent on state approval of locally negotiated evaluation plans for teachers and principals by a mid-November deadline. The structure would be similar to 2013, when districts first implemented the current evaluation system.
That year, the New York City Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers missed the state-imposed mid-January deadline, prompting officials to withhold $250 million from the state's largest school district.
According to budget language that has not yet been finalized, the department would craft—subject to approval of the Board of Regents—regulations outlining a new evaluation system by June 30, deputy senior education commissioner Ken Wagner t

Some aspects of the rating system would be optional, so they would require negotiations between school districts, teachers and principals’ unions.
“Theoretically, all districts would have to review their contracts and see whether their contracts have to be modified,” Wagner said. “They would have to renegotiate their contracts, and all of the plans would have to be submitted and approved by November 15 to get their increase in state aid.
“They would still get their base state aid, but they wouldn’t get their increase,” he continued. “Statewide, we’ve seen numbers from 5 to 6 percent. Let’s just say it’s a 5 percent increase in state aid; that 5 percent would be removed from their aid allocation from the entire year.”
Education stakeholder groups warned that creating a new evaluation system under the same conditions as the last one likely won’t lead to better results.
“If we rewind back to the first year of implementation, districts had to put these plans in place under threat of losing a state aid increase,” said David Albert, spokesman for the New York State School Boards Association. “Why would we do the same thing again? Why not give districts the time they need so they can take the time to negotiate agreements that make sense?”
Robert Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents, said a threat of losing state aid is more detrimental to districts than unions, so it puts school administrators at a disadvantage during negotiations.
Representatives from Cuomo’s office and leaders of the Legislature’s majority conferences did not immediately return a request for comment.
Cuomo has often touted his first-term strategy of tying state aid to implementation of the evaluation system, arguing it forced school districts to comply where they had previously resisted.
Members of both the Senate Republican and Assembly Democratic conferences have said in recent weeks that they opposed making a state aid increase contingent on the enactment of Cuomo's education reform proposals.
The budget’s changes to the tenure process would be the following, according to Wagner: The probationary period before a teacher is offered the traditional job protections would be extended from three years to four years, and teachers would have to get three “effective” ratings in those four years, but not necessarily consecutively. A teacher would not be able to get an “ineffective” rating in the fourth year and be offered tenure.
Wagner’s version of the language is different than what both the Cuomo administration and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters late Sunday.
Under the budget language, the department would be required to develop a new evaluation system based on a “matrix” model, which would include student performance on state exams as well as observations but differs from the current model in that it is not based on percentages.
The student performance component would be based on state standardized tests, although there might be options to include additional tests. The observations component would require administrators to evaluate teachers’ performance but also include the option of peer evaluations.
The state education department would be charged with determining some technical aspects of the model, such as how to weight the required and optional tests and observations in each component.
One detail that is still “in flux,” Wagner said, is whether the education depar
department will be required to design an additional standardized test for use in the evaluation system; the Cuomo administration said on Sunday that would be included in the budget.
State education officials think that “isn’t a good idea,” Wagner said, frankly.
“We went into this whole process hoping that there would be a way to decrease the reliance on traditional standardized assessments, and anything that would prompt or encourage people to increase their reliance on traditional standardized assessments is not of interest to us,” he said.
Not only would the proposal increase testing, which would be widly unpopular, especially among parents, it would also be costly. The education department is currently near the end of a five-year, $32 million contract with Pearson for the Common Core-aligned English and math exams that third through eighth graders are federally required to take.
Stakeholder groups questioned whether there would be any demand from districts for an additional test, given the heated opposition to standardized testing, especially in some areas.
Wagner said the “matrix” model might not achieve Cuomo and education reform groups’ stated goal of further differentiating teacher performance. In other words, it might not actually lead to a more varied distribution of educators across the scale of “ineffective,” “developing,” “effective” and “highly effective.” Cuomo has criticized the current system

because, in his opinion, too many educators are receiving high ratings, and too few are receiving low ones.
Wagner said because the scale only include four ratings, the evaluation system already provides less information than if it was based on a scale of 0 to 20 or 0 to 60, for example.
Also, he said, when two ratings are combined under the “matrix” model, a higher score is almost always the result. For example, if a teacher gets an “effective” on one component of the system and “highly effective” on the other, the result will be “highly effective.” If the component scores are “developing” and “highly effective,” the overall score will be the middle option, “effective.”
But in the situation where “ineffective” and “developing” are combined, the overall score will be the lower option, “ineffective,” Wagner said.
The budget bill containing education funding and policy has not yet been introduced.
Cuomo has said he will waive a three-day waiting period that would otherwise prevent lawmakers from voting on the bill by the March 31 budget deadline.


  1. Norm, so what does this mean? Is it Pre APPR as it was in the city two years ago where the union can negotiate an evaluation and then send it to the state for approval? If no approval is given or the union can't agree then we are stuck with the Regents comes up with as with the King evaluation? Am I on track here or way off?

  2. Who exactly are these "peer evaluators"? I thought Cuomo wants "outside evaluators". Peers sound like our fellow teachers. Thoughts or clarification on this would be appreciated.


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating).