it's a deal

Legislators sign off on Cuomo's teacher evaluation framework

A late-night, no-contest legislative agreement has brought changes to the state’s teacher evaluation system a crucial step closer to becoming law.

The deal also heads off protest by the evaluation system’s critics, including principals from across the state who had planned to ask legislators to make changes.

Under the agreement, the State Senate and Assembly agreed to approve revisions to the state’s 2010 teacher evaluation law proposed last month by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office and the state’s main teachers union, NYSUT. The agreement came during a spree of deals that lawmakers tore through all night and well into this morning, on issues as wide-ranging as the state’s pension system, congressional redistricting, and a database to store most convicted criminals’ DNA.

In large part because NYSUT had signed on to the framework, the evaluations legislation was among the least controversial issues before the lawmakers. They made no changes to the framework agreed upon last month.

That the legislature included teacher evaluations in the spree at all was something of a surprise. Cuomo had proposed the revisions to the law as part of the budget amendment process, meaning that they would be approved only when the state’s budget is finalized by the end of the month. Now, as soon as Cuomo signs the legislation, it goes into effect, and changes to teacher evaluations won’t be on the table when legislators haggle over budget items.

The legislative approach spells the likely end of the line for an insurgency by more than 1,400 principals from across the state who planned to press lawmakers during the budget process to make some changes to the evaluation framework. A group of about 70 principals convened earlier this week on Long Island to prepare an ad for next week’s edition of Legislative Gazette, a small publication widely read by insiders in Albany. Now, when the ad appears, the budget process is likely to be ongoing, but teacher evaluations won’t be part of the debate.

Cuomo cheered the agreement in a statement late last night.

“We are writing into law a new national model for teacher evaluations that will put our students first and put New York State at the front of the class when it comes to school accountability,” he said. “I commend the legislative leaders for taking this extraordinary step to create permanent and real evaluations in our schools.”

A press release from State Education Commissioner John King and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch heralding the deal arrived just after midnight.

Tisch praised the deal but cautioned that it was “just a part” of what state officials must do to boost education across the state.

“Our work is by no means over. The Regents have adopted a major education reform plan, and teacher and principal evaluations are just a part of that reform,” she said in the statement. “Our work will not be finished until we’ve made sure all our students receive the education they need to succeed in college and careers.”

The agreement also includes the New York City-specific appeals process that the city and UFT said last month that they had agreed on. That piece of the law will take effect Jan. 17, 2013 — but only if the city and union and settle on the local details of a teacher evaluation system before then. City and union officials are locked in a stalemate over Mayor Bloomberg’s plans to overhaul 33 struggling schools and do not appear anywhere close to a deal on new evaluations.

The January 2013 date is the deadline Cuomo set earlier this year for districts to settle on details of their evaluation system or risk forgoing increases to their state school aid.

Week In Review

Week In Review: A new board takes on ‘awesome responsibility’ as Detroit school lawsuits advance

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The new Detroit school board took the oath and took on the 'awesome responsibility' of Detroit's children

It’s been a busy week for local education news with a settlement in one Detroit schools lawsuit, a combative new filing in another, a push by a lawmaker to overhaul school closings, a new ranking of state high schools, and the swearing in of the first empowered school board in Detroit has 2009.

“And with that, you are imbued with the awesome responsibility of the children of the city of Detroit.”

—    Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens, after administering the oath to the seven new members of the new Detroit school board

Read on for details on these stories plus the latest on the sparring over Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Here’s the headlines:

 

The board

The first meeting of the new Detroit school board had a celebratory air to it, with little of the raucous heckling that was common during school meetings in the emergency manager era. The board, which put in “significant time and effort” preparing to take office, is focused on building trust with Detroiters. But the meeting was not without controversy.

One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.

The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.

 

In Lansing

On DeVos

In other news

year in review

Teaching in Colorado in 2016: Debate intensifies over how to find, keep and pay good teachers

PHOTO: Melanie Asmar
A Relay resident practices giving directions to her peers, who pretend to be students.

An urgency to improve teaching and attract more people to the profession grew this year as schools and districts increasingly had trouble finding teachers for some jobs and debates continued about performance pay and how to increase teacher diversity.

The discussions started early this year at the legislature with a bill that was passed to help rural districts recruit more teachers by hiring a statewide coordinator and by providing stipends to students wanting to go into teaching.

This year’s annual report from the state showed the shortage does start in college and the numbers of students enrolling in teaching programs dipped once more. Superintendents from several school districts discussed the problem at an annual forum and said teachers need to get paid more but must also feel respected.

Officials in rural districts have also said this year that their big challenge in recruitment is often salary, but they are directing some efforts to find teachers who are drawn to the benefits of being in a small town.

Even in the larger urban districts, improving teacher pay and experience was a topic of discussion this year. The advocacy nonprofit A-Plus Colorado released a report in September with suggestions to improve the performance pay model in Denver Public Schools.

Denver teachers did get a slight raise this summer under new agreements with the teachers union, as did some teachers in Jeffco Public Schools.

Besides looking at pay, Denver schools are also getting a chance to expand a coaching program for teachers after voters passed a bond measure in November. DPS is also looking at the possibility of providing affordable housing for teachers, as some districts are already doing.

Another group looking to increase the number of teachers is the Relay Graduate School of Education, which opened an office in Denver this year and started a local teacher residency program.

The city of Denver also stepped into the field by joining DPS to target teacher recruitment to increase diversity in the classrooms where the majority of students are racial minorities but most teachers are white. Among the new teachers that joined DPS this fall, that didn’t change much. Three of the teachers that participated in the targeted recruitment from DPS, and were still working in the district this year, shared the experience of being recruited with Chalkbeat.

Next year, discussions about recruitment, diversity and improving teacher quality are sure to continue. One decision to look for is a state Supreme Court ruling on teacher job guarantees under the 2010 teacher evaluation law. Educators will also be watching the legislature and other advocacy groups as they look at solutions to teacher shortage issues through school funding changes.