Cuomo pushing teacher evaluation safety net as deadline nears

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing a new, two-tiered solution to the thorny problem of how to fix teacher evaluations in light of widespread anxiety about Common Core test scores, sources say.

Under a proposal that Gov. Cuomo is supporting in the legislature, the state would generate two scores for low-rated teachers and principals whose evaluations are based on Common Core-aligned state tests, according to two sources familiar with the negotiations. Teachers rated “developing” or “ineffective” and whose evaluation is based on those state test scores would be eligible for the second score.

That new score would only be used for personnel decisions like termination and would be based on the other parts of a teacher’s evaluation, like principal observations or student scores on other assessments.

The two-tiered evaluation system would be in effect for this school year and the 2014-15 school year, the sources said.

The proposal resembles the “safety net” now offered to teacher candidates if they fail a new licensing exam, the edTPA. The exam is still administered, but if teachers fail they can take an alternative assessment that almost everyone passes.  The safety net is available through the 2014-15 academic year.

The talks are focused on teachers whose student growth scores come from state math and English tests for grades 3-8, which are aligned to the Common Core standards. It’s unclear if high school teachers, whose evaluations are based partially on Regents tests that were aligned to the Common Core this year, will also be included in a final deal.

The number of teachers that would be affected by Cuomo’s proposal is unknown, since ratings for this school year won’t be finalized until the summer. In 2012-13, 5.5 percent of teachers were rated “ineffective” or “developing” and state education officials have said they expect similar figures for this year.

Under the provisions, a teacher could still technically be fired because of repeated low evaluation ratings. But such a decision would have to be based on ratings based on locally-developed student growth measures and a principal observation.

The proposal has emerged as the clock ticks down on this year’s legislative session, which is scheduled to end on Thursday. Republicans and Democrats are both in favor of tweaking the evaluation law, but issues

It’s unclear if the new system would earn an OK from officials at the U.S. Department of Education, which earlier today warned lawmakers that evaluation changes limiting the use of test scores could put New York at risk of losing some Race to the Top grant money.

The proposal would trigger for a relatively small number of the state’s teachers, a point that Cuomo is likely to highlight if it’s adopted by lawmakers. Cuomo has resisted making changes to teacher evaluations, but changed his position in recent months amid growing pressure from the state teachers union.

A spokesman for the governor’s office did not respond to questions about the proposal.

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