March 2012 Issue
February 17, 2012

Teacher evaluation moves forward

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United

In a groundbreaking settlement that could serve as a national model, NYSUT and state leaders have agreed to a statewide teacher evaluation system that clearly limits the weight of students' standardized test scores; is designed to help all teachers improve; and reinforces collective bargaining as the vehicle for shaping evaluations to meet local needs.

"We believe this agreement is good for students and fair to teachers," NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi said. "It includes two principles we believe are essential. First, a child is more than a standardized test score. While there is a place for standardized testing in teacher evaluations, tests must be used appropriately. Secondly, the purpose of evaluations must be to help all teachers improve and to advance excellence in our profession."

Iannuzzi, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and State Education Commissioner John King joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo to announce what the governor called a "historic agreement."

Cuomo said the pact should place New York back on track to receive the millions promised in federal Race to the Top funds.

Commissioner King promised to work with NYSUT and UFT on implementation, and to provide technical support to school districts. Even before the Feb. 16 agreement, many districts and unions had already taken bold steps to negotiate APPR agreements.

Under the governor's budget proposal, SED must approve local APPR plans by Jan. 17, 2013, or districts could lose 2012-13 aid increases.

The statewide agreement largely clarifies and strengthens the state's teacher evalu- ation law crafted with NYSUT's leadership and enacted in 2010. Fully 80 percent of the evaluation specifics must be bargained collectively at the local level; 20 percent is set by the state. The deal creates the basis for settling NYSUT's lawsuit that success- fully challenged regulations conflicting with the 2010 law. It was under appeal by SED.

"Teachers support high standards and accountability for our profession," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira. "The agreement reinforces how important it is for teachers to have a voice in establishing standards of professional excellence and in developing evaluations they were partners in."

Throughout this process, NYSUT has steadfastly insisted the state had to avoid overuse of student standardized tests. In a statewide print and web ad campaign, the union makes it clear that "A student is more than a test score."

A statewide poll conducted for NYSUT in January found that parents strongly agree: Two-thirds believe there is too much emphasis on state testing in public schools.

"You'll see people around the country looking at our work here in New York state as a model for advancing collective bargaining to effect positive change; requiring appropriate limits on the use of standardized tests; and using teacher evaluations, first and foremost, to help all teachers improve," Iannuzzi said.

VIDEO: Dick Iannuzzi talks to reporters minutes before today's press conference. (Courtesy the Times Union)