Deal struck on statewide teacher evaluations

With the clock ticking on a deadline set by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state officials and teachers' unions have brokered a deal that will create a new system for evaluating teachers.

The New York Times reports that Cuomo threatened to use his gubernatorial budget powers to pressure teachers' unions and education officials to come to an agreement:

A month ago, the governor warned the sides to reach a deal by midnight on Thursday — the last day he could submit his amendments to the budget — or he would impose his own evaluation system. And on Thursday, Mr. Cuomo emerged as the clear winner. For the first time, all school districts will have to abide by the same tight guidelines to assess teachers and principals, using a scoring system intended to take into account their performance and student achievement.

A press release issued on Thursday, Feb. 17, describes the new system:

Teacher Performance – 60 points

Under the agreement, 60 percent of a teacher's evaluation will be based on rigorous and nationally recognized measures of teacher performance. The agreement requires that a majority of the teacher performance points will be based on classroom observations by an administrator or principal, and at least one observation will be unannounced. The remaining points will be based upon defined standards including observations by independent trained evaluators, peer classroom observations, student and parent feedback from evaluators, and evidence of performance through student portfolios.

Student Achievement in State and Local Assessments– 40 points

Under the agreement, 40 percent of a teacher's evaluation will be based on student academic achievement, with 20 percent from state testing and 20 percent from a list of three testing options including state tests, third party assessments/tests approved by the SED and locally developed tests that will be subject to SED review and approval. Under the plan, school districts will also have the option of using state tests to measure up to 40 percent of a teacher's rating.

Rating System

The agreement significantly tightens the scoring system to ensure student achievement and teacher performance are both properly taken into account for teacher ratings. Teachers or principals that are rated ineffective in the 40 points could not receive a developing score overall.

Ineffective: 0 – 64
Developing: 65 – 74
Effective: 75 – 90
Highly Effective: 91 – 100

Assigning a Curve for the Ratings

The agreement sets forth, for the first time, a standard for school districts and teacher unions to set the allocation of points or the "curve" for the teacher ratings. The curve must be allocated in a manner that a teacher can receive one of the four ratings, and the SED Commissioner will be able to reject insufficiently set curves.

SED Commissioner Final Review

The agreement also, for the first time, gives the SED Commissioner the authority to approve or disapprove local evaluation plans that are deemed insufficient. This will add rigor to the process and ensure evaluation plans comply with the law.

The Associated Press reports:

The state plan now goes to local school districts, including New York City’s, where local deals over specific areas such as appeals must be struck within a year. If not, Cuomo said he will deny a scheduled 4 percent increase in state aid, which would total $800 million, including $300 million for New York City schools alone.

Readers: How is your school district reacting to the news?