Editor's note: This is one in a series of articles focusing on Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2007, which calls for an enhanced accountability system for schools, including the creation of statewide minimum standards for teacher tenure. These upcoming changes were approved last spring by the governor and Legislature as part of the 2007-08 state budget.
Tenure law changes are on their way in 2008-09, and NYSUT is carefully monitoring development of the new regulations to ensure that they make sense and respect collective bargaining rights.
The upcoming changes, which require the creation of statewide minimum standards for teacher tenure determinations, are part of Gov. Spitzer's education accountability system.
Under Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2007, the statewide process for tenure determinations made on or after July 1, 2008, includes:
an evaluation of the teacher's successful use of student performance data when providing instruction;
peer review by other teachers, as far as practicable; and
an assessment by the teacher's building administrator.
NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira discussed the upcoming changes at NYSUT's Policy Council meeting last month.
The law would affect teachers who are currently in their tenure track; however, NYSUT, working collaboratively with the State Education Department, is seeking to amend the law so it applies prospectively to teachers hired on or after July 1, 2008.
"NYSUT opposes making changes affecting teachers currently in a tenure track," Neira said. "It's a matter of fairness. You can't change the rules in the middle of the process."
NYSUT is also working to ensure that the regulations clearly indicate that any changes in the determination of tenure for new teachers are consistent with the local collective bargaining agreement.
While the executive budget initially proposed using student test scores to determine tenure, NYSUT's advocacy was instrumental in getting the state Legislature to reject that proposal.
Instead, the law will require using student performance to improve instruction.
"It means school districts must provide teachers with information, professional development and timely student data to assist improving instruction," Neira said. "It does not mean the evaluation of teachers is based on student test scores."
Neira noted the process for evaluating teachers is a mandatory subject of collective bargaining and part of the Annual Professional Performance Review.
Currently, the APPR requirement includes peer review as an optional method of teacher evaluation and proper training of administrators to conduct teacher evaluation.
"To us, peer review can be used 'as far as practicable,' as long as it is collectively bargained at the local level," Neira said.
Local union leaders may believe peer review is not 'practicable,' for example, in a small rural district where there are not enough other subject area teachers.
In response to local leaders' requests, NYSUT will develop a training session on the new regulations and the use of student data to inform instruction.
Leaders also asked that the statewide union share best practices for peer review programs and make sample contract language available.
Neira noted that the State Education Department has not yet released its proposed regulations.
The state Board of Regents is scheduled this month to discuss a concept proposal for tenure regulations.
Watch www.nysut.org and New York Teacher for the latest details.
- Sylvia Saunders