Responding to the union's push to slow down and get it right, the Regents unanimously agreed to delay making changes to the teacher evaluation system that had been proposed by the State Education Department.
SED Commissioner John King had proposed adding more weight to student test scores in teacher evaluation by replacing the growth model with the more complex value-added model (VAM) and increasing the percentage for state standardized test scores to count from 20 to 25 percent. He also wanted the new model and weighting to be applied retroactively to the 2012-13 school year, using April's Common Core-aligned standardized tests.
Union activists immediately sprang into action: NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira led the charge in pressing SED, saying it was unfair to use untested, unreliable results and switch course midstream.
Neira urged NYSUT Board members and local presidents to personally contact their local Regents to make it clear that moving forward so quickly would undermine the state's already shaky roll-out of the Common Core and new assessments.
Regent Roger Tilles, for example, met with more than 60 Long Island leaders in Suffolk and pledged his support for a delay, said Antoinette Blanck of Northport.
Regent Roger Tilles, left, talks with NYSUT Board members Pat Puleo of Yonkers and John Mansfield of Lindenhurst prior to the vote.
"I find meeting with local educators to be absolutely invaluable," said Regents Vice Chancellor Anthony Bottar. "It gives me the opportunity to hear directly from the people who are doing all the work."
Bottar said the meetings persuaded him and his colleagues that the new teacher evaluation system needed more time to adjust.
NYSUT kept pressing. Just two days after more than 15,000 educators, parents and community members came to Albany for the union's "One Voice United" rally, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch sent signals that the Regents would hold off on the VAM proposal.
NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi commended the Regents on their action: "The Regents are acknowledging that a temporary pause is, in fact, a step toward implementing the Common Core correctly, and recognition that accountability must be balanced by fairness for both students and teachers ... Instead of blindly imposing a bad timeline, the Regents moved to do what's in students' and teachers' best interest and that's 'getting it right.'"
"This will allow school districts and teachers to proceed with this year's evaluations as envisioned by the law," Neira said. "The Regents listened to the concerns of educators, who welcome accountability but have clearly conveyed that evaluations must be based on criteria that is clearly defined, fair and transparent."
Neira noted the enhanced growth model approved includes a new provision that allows attendance to be factored in. Student test scores will be weighted based on their attendance.
Board members Tony McCann, Pat Puleo, Sylvia Matousek, Stacey Caruso-Sharpe, John Mansfield, Antoinette Blanck, Jeanette Stapley, and Catherine Savage attended the Regents meeting in solidarity.
Regents rethinking research paper
After NYSUT raised numerous questions, the State Education Department is rethinking its Regents Research Paper plan and seeking more field feedback. Now, instead of making the research paper a requirement for students to take the upcoming Common Core-based English Language Arts Regents, SED is considering the research paper as a new graduation requirement.
In yet another case where the union urged SED to slow down and get it right, NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira outlined a series of concerns and questions in a letter to the commissioner and the Regents after the plan was unveiled in April.
While NYSUT supports the concept of a student research paper, Neira urged SED to consider making it a capstone project in 12th grade. This would give students more time and allow the research paper to be broadened to other subject areas where students may have a greater interest. Time and necessary funding must be available to provide in-class work, education on Internet research, discussion with teachers and peer review. Teachers must also have the appropriate professional development and resources to implement effective instruction.