ALBANY, N.Y. June 28, 2011 - New York State United Teachers has filed suit against the Board of Regents and State Education Commissioner John King, declaring regulations adopted last month violate state law and exceed the Regents' authority, including a regulation that allows school districts to double the weight of state standardized test scores in teacher evaluations.
State Supreme Court Justice Richard M. Platkin signed an order late Monday requiring the Board of Regents to show why the disputed regulations should not be suspended pending a final determination on whether they are illegal.
NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi stressed the 600,000-member union remains fully committed to the development and implementation of a comprehensive, objective and fair system of evaluating teachers to improve student outcomes and to ensure only the most highly skilled teachers have the privilege of teaching New York's students.
"New York was poised to take the lead in developing a thoughtful, comprehensive evaluation system developed in collaboration with teachers and other stakeholders. Instead, the Regents chose politics over sound educational policy and the cheap way over the right way, doubling down on high-stakes tests of dubious worth instead of requiring school districts and teachers unions to collaborate in ways that would really strengthen instruction in our classrooms," Iannuzzi said.
He added, "In adopting regulations that will surely lead to more 'teaching to the test,' the Regents and State Education Department ignored the very law they helped negotiate; the cautions of leading national education research experts and the recommendations of a task force of practitioners and education stakeholders. They rushed into place badly flawed, contradictory regulations that will do nothing to strengthen student learning or the teaching profession." Iannuzzi is a plaintiff in the case.
At issue are those Regents' regulations which are inconsistent with the statute adopted by the Legislature and signed into law in May 2010. New York's new teacher and principal evaluation system was the foundation of New York's successful Round 2 application in the federal Race to the Top program, which awarded the state $697 million.
The NYSUT lawsuit states that, under section 3012-c(2)(a) of Education Law, a teacher's annual professional performance review (APPR) rating is to be based on a 'single, composite teacher effectiveness score,' of which 40 percent is based on student achievement measures. The law prescribes that "(a) twenty percent is to be based on student growth data on state assessments … or on comparable measures of student growth," and "twenty percent … shall be based on other locally selected measures of student achievement that are determined to be rigorous and comparable across classrooms… and are developed locally" through collective bargaining. (Boldface added for emphasis.)
The Regents' regulations instead allow the same state assessments - which the state Education Department has conceded are flawed measures of student achievement - to be used for both the first 20 percent and second 20 percent of a teacher's evaluation, despite language that mandates the second 20 percent "shall" be based on "other" measures, which are to be "developed locally."
In addition, the lawsuit said the Regents' regulations also violate Education Law 3012-c, which specifically mandates that several aspects of teachers' annual performance reviews are subject to collective bargaining. Specifically, the suit alleges the Regents' regulations illegally address appeals procedures for teachers rated 'ineffective' for two consecutive years; mandate the proportion of a teachers' evaluation that is to be based on classroom observations; empowers districts to use independent, trained evaluators, and incorrectly asserts that teachers evaluations not be a factor in tenure determinations – all of which the law specifically states should be subject to collective bargaining between school districts and their local teachers unions.
In addition to Iannuzzi, other plaintiffs in the case are:
Gary Fernando, a veteran teacher who would be subject to the new evaluation procedures. Fernando is also president of the Islip Teachers Association, which is currently involved in contract negotiations with its school board.
Jennifer Romer, an elementary school teacher in East Greenbush and president of the East Greenbush Teachers Association.
Shelly Packer, a teacher and president of the Greenburgh Teachers Federation in Westchester County.
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.