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Teachers won’t face consequences for state test results in eval deal

Teachers rated Ineffective or Developing based on state Common Core tests this year or next will not face negative consequences, according to changes to the evaluation system agreed to by the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo on June 19 in the final hours of the legislative session.

The Legislature’s changes followed widespread criticism of the tests themselves and a botched implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards by the State Education Department. The state rushed to put the standards and tests in place without full curricula and without giving educators a chance to test what worked with their students.

For the 2013–14 and 2014–15 school years, teachers with poor ratings based on state measures of student learning can have their final ratings recalculated using locally designed assessments or other nontest measures of student performance, according to the agreement.

If there are no local measures, then observations and other measures of teacher effectiveness would make up 100 percent of the evaluation.

Teachers rated Ineffective based on student performance on state Common Core tests could not be terminated, denied tenure or be subject to expedited termination hearings.

“In other words, if your students’ scores help you or are neutral, they stay, and if they hurt you they will not count — the state will only look at your observation score,” explained UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

Mulgrew said the legislation reflected common sense. “Everyone recognizes that the Common Core, while the right direction for education, had a terrible rollout,” he said. “Students aren’t being judged on the Common Core tests, and the Legislature made the smart decision not to judge teachers on it either.”

Only teachers still rated either Developing or Ineffective after student performance on Common Core-aligned state tests are removed as a factor will receive a Teacher Improvement Plan the following year.

Student scores on the 2014 Common Core-aligned tests are due to be released this summer.

Common Core untested

The protections for teachers were expected to be enacted in some form after students were insulated from test-score consequences in the state budget passed on April 1. Student retention, promotion and placement cannot be based primarily on the new tests and their scores on these exams will not appear on students’ permanent records until 2018, under the budget provisions. State Education Commissioner John King, however, balked at removing the high-stakes consequences for teachers.

With the assistance of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, an agreement was finally hammered out by the UFT; newly elected leaders at NYSUT, the UFT’s state affiliate; and the chairs of the Senate and Assembly education committees, John Flanagan and Catherine Nolan.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who earlier warned that such a measure might jeopardize New York State’s federal Race to the Top funding, embraced the legislation. The agreement allows the new evaluation system to proceed, but delays the impact of state test scores until teachers have gained experience with Common Core standards and tests.

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