A Sound Deal on Teacher Evaluations,New York Times, 16. februar 2012
Thanks to an agreement brokered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York has moved a step closer to carrying out the statewide teacher evaluation system it promised two years ago in return for $700 million from the federal Race to the Top education program. Ending the impasse between the teachers’ unions and education officials will help improve instruction across the state.
A deal, announced on Thursday, resolves several points of dispute that led to litigation between the state and the state teachers’ union and held up negotiations between New York City and its union. But the local districts and the unions must still bargain over some of the details before the evaluation system can be carried out.
Virtually everyone agrees that the traditional evaluation system was terrible. Teachers across the state were regularly given high ratings even when their work was poor. The new system, created in 2010, requires teachers to be rated as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective. Those rated as ineffective for two consecutive years can be dismissed through an expedited process. The state law requires that 60 percent of a teacher’s score be based on subjective measures like classroom observation and 40 percent on student test scores or other measures of student performance. Half of the student-achievement portion was to be based on state tests and half on locally developed measures.
The state union, New York State United Teachers, successfully challenged in court a state regulation that would have allowed districts to use the state test scores for the local measures, too.
The agreement specifies that the state test can be used as the local portion — but only if the data are used in a different way and that process is arrived at through collective bargaining. The deal also resolves a sticking point in negotiations between New York City and its union, the United Federation of Teachers. The union has been given the right to challenge up to 13 percent of ineffective ratings in cases where harassment and unfairness are suspected. The city will be able to remove an ineffective teacher in a matter of days; the old process sometimes took as long as a year.
To push districts to finalize their evaluation systems, Governor Cuomo has wisely included a provision in the agreement that would deny districts that do not comply a planned 4 percent increase in state education financing. That penalty, combined with the threat of losing federal money, should get the two sides to end the blockage.