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Regents endorse teacher evaluation system with revisions

The New York State Regents in a May 16 vote endorsed the final regulations for a more objective teacher evaluation system that will incorporate multiple measures of judging teacher performance and aims to shift the focus to developing and supporting teachers.

The Regents accepted last-minute changes requested by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would allow a local school district to increase the weight given to student growth on state exams in the evaluations from 20 percent to 40 percent if the local teachers union agrees through a collective-bargaining process. The local school districts can still limit state standardized tests to 20 percent and use local measures of student achievement such as locally created tests, student work and portfolios for another 20 percent. A minimum of two-thirds of the remaining 60 percent of a teacher’s evaluation would be based on observations. The other third of the 60 percent would be decided through local negotiations. Teacher portfolios are one example of what could make up that third.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said he favored capping the weight of high-stakes standardized tests at 20 percent. He warned that making test-based accountability a larger factor in the evaluations would compel teachers to overemphasize test preparation to the detriment of student learning.

“While the UFT has supported some role for student progress on standardized tests in teacher evaluations, we also know that the more weight put on standardized tests for children or teachers, the more school systems will focus on test prep rather than real learning,” he said. “Our children deserve a well-balanced education, not a strategy designed only to raise test scores.”

At the governor’s recommendation, the Regents also revised the guidelines to say that teachers should be rated ineffective if they show no growth in student test scores and other forms of achievement for the entire year.

If the DOE and the UFT can agree on the details by Sept. 1, the new evaluation system will go into effect in New York City for 4th through 8th grade English language arts and math teachers this coming school year and for all teachers the following school year. Until local negotiations have concluded, the present system stays in effect.

To encourage compliance, Cuomo said school districts would be ineligible for the $500 million in incentive awards he announced in his state budget if they do not follow his timetable.

Under the current system, teachers receive either a “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” rating each year. Under the new system, teachers would be rated each year as “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing” or “ineffective.” Teachers identified as developing or ineffective would receive a Teacher Improvement Plan aimed at supporting their professional growth. The DOE will be required to document that such a plan was implemented before any disciplinary action against a teacher can be taken.

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