Teacher evaluation regulations further reduce role of state tests, outside observers

PHOTO: Geoff Decker
From left, Regents Judith Chin, Kathleen Cashin and Merryl Tisch

The state released proposed regulations for New York’s new evaluation law on Friday that would allow districts to further reduce the role of standardized tests and outside observers.

That regulations are set to be discussed Monday at a highly anticipated Board of Regents meeting, days after seven of 17 members signed onto a position paper that recommended its own version of regulations. The state’s proposal, which needs Regents approval, includes some options that address some of the paper’s demands.

The regulations don’t include anything about delaying implementation of the new teacher evaluation system, a key demand of the dissenting Regents that also has the support of the city teachers union and the city Department of Education. The state department has said it would create a system for districts to apply for extra time, in two-month increments, to delay implementation. But the regulations don’t make it any clearer how districts will qualify for those waivers.

The proposed regulations, which are summarized in this slideshow, include some significant changes to the initial proposals that state officials presented last month. Those changes include:

  • A further reduction in the role of state tests for districts that opt to use a second assessment to evaluate teachers. Student growth on the state tests would be allowed to count for as little at 50 percent of the student performance portion of a teacher’s rating if used in conjunction with other assessments, such as the performance-based tasks used in New York City, that the state deems to be of high quality. Previously, the state had proposed that state tests count for as much as 80 percent of the student performance measurement.
  • An even more diminished potential role for outside evaluators. The state will allow principals observations to count for up to 90 percent of a teacher’s observation portion of evaluations, up from 80 percent.
  • New language allowing the state to step in and make changes to local collective bargaining agreements “if a district’s system does not result in meaningful feedback for teachers and principals.”

The regulations aren’t likely to satisfy the Regents who voiced their criticism this week. Their position paper calls for all districts to be given one year to implement the evaluations and state test scores to count for no more than 20 percent of the entire evaluation.

It’s shaping up to be a busy agenda for next week’s Board of Regents meeting:

  • A vote on updated regulations about what would have to happen in low-performing schools under the state’s new receivership law. One symbolic change is that they won’t be referred to “failing” school any more in regulatory language. New York City has 12 schools that could face a more intensive turnaround plan next year while dozens of others have two years to improve.
  • Long-term renewals for five charter schools authorized by the Department of Education: Achievement First Endeavor (five years), Community Roots (five years), International Leadership (four years), the New York Center for Autism (five years) and Renaissance (four years). Some of the schools included letters from the school either defending their enrollment numbers, or explaining what they’ll do to serve more needy students.


Aurora school board reverses course, accepts finding that district should have negotiated bonuses with union

Students in a math class at Aurora Central High School in April 2017. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

Following weeks of criticism, the Aurora school board on Tuesday reversed course and accepted an arbitrator’s finding that a pilot bonus system violated the district’s agreement with the teachers union.

The Aurora school district rolled out an experiment last year to offer bonuses to some teachers and other staff in hard-to-fill positions, such as psychologists, nurses and speech language pathologists.

The teachers union argued that the plan should have been negotiated first. An arbitrator agreed and issued a report recommending that the pilot program stop immediately and that the district negotiate any future offerings. The union and school board are set to start negotiations next month about how to change teacher pay, using new money voters approved in November.

When school board members first considered the arbitrator’s report last month, they declined to accept the findings, which were not binding. That raised concerns for union members that the district might implement bonuses again without first negotiating them.

Tuesday’s new resolution, approved on a 5-1 vote, accepted the full arbitrator’s report and its recommendations. Board member Monica Colbert voted against the motion, and board member Kevin Cox was absent.

Back in January 2018, school board members approved a budget amendment that included $1.8 million to create the pilot for incentivizing hard-to-fill positions. On Tuesday, board member Cathy Wildman said she thought through the budget vote, the school board may have allowed the district to create that incentive program, even though the board now accepts the finding that they should have worked with union before trying this experiment.

“It was a board decision at that time to spend that amount on hard-to-fill positions,” Wildman said.

Board president Marques Ivey said he was not initially convinced by the arbitrator’s position, but said that he later read more and felt he could change his vote based on having more information.

Last month, the Aurora school board discussed the report with its attorney in a closed-door executive session. When the board met in public afterward, it chose not to uphold the entire report, saying that the board could not “come to an agreement.” Instead board members voted on a resolution that asked the school district to negotiate any future “long-term” incentive programs.

Union president Bruce Wilcox called the resolution “poorly worded” and slammed the board for not having the discussion in public, calling it a “backroom deal.” Several other teachers also spoke to the board earlier this month, reminding the newest board members’ of their campaign promises to increase transparency.

Board members responded by saying that they did not hold an official vote; rather the board was only deciding how to proceed in public. Colorado law prohibits schools boards from taking positions, or votes, in private.

The board on Tuesday also pushed the district to provide more detailed information about the results of the pilot and survey results that tried to quantify how it affected teachers deciding to work in Aurora.

story slam

The state of teacher pay in Indiana: Hear true stories told by local educators

It’s time to hear directly from educators about the state of teacher pay in Indiana.

Join us for another Teacher Story Slam, co-hosted by the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Chalkbeat Indiana, and Teachers Lounge Indy. Teacher salaries are the hot topic in education these days, in Indiana and across the country. Hear from Indianapolis-area teachers who will tell true stories about how they live on a teacher’s salary.

Over the past two years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from the teachers, students, and leaders of Indianapolis through our occasional series, What’s Your Education Story? Some of our favorites were told live during teacher story slams hosted by Teachers Lounge Indy.

Those stories include one teacher’s brutally honest reflection on the first year of teaching and another teacher’s uphill battle to win the trust of her most skeptical student.

Event details

The event will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, March 15, at Clowes Court at the Eiteljorg, 500 W Washington St. in Indianapolis. It is free and open to the public — please RSVP.

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