April 2012
March 19, 2012

Next steps for teacher evaluation

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
Caption: Schenectady H.S. teachers Jenny Hayes and Lauren Dean learn how to make evaluations objective and fair at a training at NYSUT headquarters. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

As the State Education Department moves forward with implementation of the state's new teacher/principal evaluation system, NYSUT will be vigilant in holding SED accountable for its areas of responsibility.

"NYSUT is diligently monitoring every step, and we will push it right back at SED if it is not being done right," NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi told hundreds of local presidents in a conference call focusing on the new agreement on Annual Professional Performance Reviews. "If major flaws develop, we will hold SED accountable."

Iannuzzi said the union will make sure the state is providing the guidance and support needed for districts and local unions to negotiate and implement a fair evaluation process.

This means SED must:

• Build a state data system that establishes the teacher of record by matching the right students with the right teacher; tracks attendance and other student characteristics; and includes a data verification process.
• Provide direction and training on Student Learning Objectives (SLOs), a new state-required measure that will be used to evaluate teachers of non-tested areas.
• Develop a review process for negotiated district plans, including a form that will allow districts to summarize key points necessary to get state approval.

In addition, SED must build a state growth data model that will show student growth on state assessments. SED has already indicated that growth data for grade 4-8 ELA and math teachers will not be available by the end of the school year; Sept. 1 is the new target date.

As NYSUT United went to press, both the Senate and Assembly adopted legislation putting in place the teacher/principal evaluation agreement announced in February by Iannuzzi, SED Commissioner John King and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

As budget negotiations continued, the two houses of the Legislature released budget bills that would modify APPR provisions, in particular the governor's plan to tie teacher evaluation to school aid.

The Assembly bill concurred with the governor's proposal to withhold any increase in state school aid unless the district has submitted an SED-approved APPR plan by Jan. 17, 2013. But the bill would limit the provision to the 2012-13 school year only.

The Senate plan would add a provision requiring SED to offer a rigorous explanation of deficiencies if a plan is denied; a 10-day timeline for the review of resubmitted plans; APPR transition aid to cover the costs of developing local measures of student achievement; and flexibility for high performing schools.

NYSUT continues to oppose the idea of withholding school aid increases if a district is unable to negotiate a state-approved plan. New York would be the only state in the nation to tie school aid to teacher evaluation plans.

"The executive budget proposal linking APPR and state aid increases was done unilaterally by the governor," Iannuzzi said. "The governor's budget language was not part of the settlement discussion. NYSUT is on record with the governor and legislators opposing any linkage of state aid to APPR or competitive grants. We will continue our opposition to this language."

The statewide teacher/principal evaluation legislation, expected to be signed into law immediately by the governor, largely clarifies and strengthens the state's teacher/ principal evaluation law crafted with NYSUT's leadership and enacted in 2010.

Iannuzzi noted the legislation incorporates significant safeguards against abuse, safeguards that are unmatched in any other state. It requires the specifics of 80 percent of evaluations to be bargained collectively and limits the use of state standardized tests to 20 percent, rather than the 50 percent the state had been seeking. The deal creates the basis for settling NYSUT's lawsuit that successfully challenged regulations conflicting with the 2010 law. It was under appeal by SED.

Iannuzzi said it is crucial for NYSUT to hold SED and ultimately school districts accountable because the union will challenge ratings based on a flawed measure or when an educator does not receive the required professional support.