Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and soon-to-be acting Education Commissioner Elizabeth Berlin offered a host of proposals that would dramatically change education policy in New York state in a 20-page letter released Wednesday.
The letter, a response to a series of pointed questions from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, is the first comprehensive look at the changes that the Board of Regents and State Education Department are willing to throw their support behind as Cuomo continues to push for aggressive changes to the way teachers are hired, fired, and evaluated.
While some of the changes were in direct response to issues raised by Cuomo’s office, others were unsolicited. The letter includes proposals around school funding, improving school integration and passing the DREAM Act.
The complete letter is below. We’ll be sorting through it today — but first, here are all of Tisch and Berlin’s suggested policy changes.
- Change the law so that state-determined test scores count for 40 percent of evaluations, instead of 20 percent.
- Establish standardized “scoring ranges” for principal observations, instead of allowing local districts to determine those scoring ranges.
- Make it easier to remove teachers who receive two consecutive “ineffective” ratings.
Removal of poorly performing teachers
- Replace the independent hearing officers who oversee the termination process for teachers and principals with state employees.
- Bar students from being assigned two teachers in a row with ineffective ratings. That policy has been proposed or adopted in other states, including Rhode Island, Indiana, and Florida.
Teacher training and certification
- Establish year-long internships in schools and a statewide teacher residency program modeled on a New York pilot program created with Race to the Top funds.
Incentives for high‐performing teachers
- Use $20 million apportioned to Cuomo’s Teacher Excellence Fund in last year’s budget to fund existing programs that compensate teachers for taking on leadership roles.
- Increase total funding for teacher leadership programs in next year’s budget by as much as $80 million.
- Require teachers to work in a classroom for five years before being eligible for tenure.
- Change the law to explicitly state that non-tenured teachers can be fired at will, regardless of their evaluation ratings. State education officials have already made some changes to reassure district officials who say the law is too vague on this issue.
- Allow the State Education Department to more forcefully intervene in “chronically underperforming districts” like Buffalo. Tisch and Berlin ask Cuomo to support an existing bill that would put districts on oversight plans.
- Implement an intervention model used in Massachusetts that appoints receivers for struggling schools or districts and authorizing them to “take numerous aggressive actions.”
- Eliminate the regional distinctions under the current cap or raise the cap on charter schools in New York City.
- Make it easier to close charter schools that do not improve student performance to close, and change the law so that any closed charter schools are not counted toward the cap.
- Renew mayoral control in New York City.
- Consolidate high schools in districts with declining student enrollment.
- Encourage school districts to merge programs and services by boosting the funding formulas that help minimize the effects of changes in tax rates that can result from reorganizations.
Selection process for the Board of Regents
- Do not change the selection and appointment process for Regents.
Selection process for the education commissioner
- Do not change the selection process for the commissioner.
- Adopt the Regents’ state aid proposal released earlier this month, which calls for an increase of $2 billion and targeted at the highest-need districts, as well as those hit hardest by the 2007-2009 economic recession.
- The extra $2 billion would set aside $86 million for districts to improve their services for English language learners and $251 million more for the state’s universal pre-K program.
- Boost funding for districts offering Career and Technical Education programs.
- Expand programs like the Rochester Urban-Suburban program designed to increase socioeconomic integration.
- Require districts to establish enrollment policies meant to increase socioeconomic integration.
- Pass the DREAMers Act, which would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities and to qualify for state financial aid.