Governor launches website to track progress on evaluation system

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo today announced an online initiative to spur student and parent involvement in pushing for school districts to adopt new teacher-evaluation systems. The website, www.nystudentsfirst.com, will include an interactive map that tracks progress on setting up the new evaluation system in the state’s 696 public-school districts, as well as a state-by-state comparison of teacher-evaluation systems.

The state Education Department has released new guidelines for implementing a revamped system that ties student growth and performance to teacher and principal evaluations. A 2010 law that required new teacher and principal evaluations had stalled, and the state Education Department and New York State United Teachers were involved in ongoing litigation over the regulations to implement the law. NYSUT had filed a lawsuit over the Education Department’s regulations to implement the system. Cuomo helped broker an agreement, which is included in his proposed 2012-13 state budget. The new fiscal year begins April 1.

Visitors to the website can sign up for information and alerts about their school district’s progress and information about contacting their districts. If school districts don’t reach agreements with their teachers unions by Jan. 16, 2013, they will not receive school-aid increases included in the state budget. After two years of cuts, education aid is increasing 4 percent in 2012-13.

“Now that we have created a national model for teacher evaluations, we need the parents, students and people of New York to help us make sure it gets implemented in our schools,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I hope the countless parents and advocates who have been demanding accountability in our schools will use www.nystudentsfirst.com to get involved in our efforts to put students first and reform our education system.”

These are details of the revised teacher-evaluation system, which the Legislature is expected to adopt in the state budget:

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.

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