Press Release

WASHINGTON (February 16, 2012) — Today’s agreement on a modernized teacher evaluation system in New York state is a critical step forward for the students, teachers, taxpayers, and employers in the Empire State. The New York State Union of Teachers, the United Federation of Teachers, the State Education Department, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo deserve credit for abandoning an antiquated system that failed students and teachers, and moving on to a system that offers better feedback to teachers, so they can improve their craft, and deliver better outcomes for students.

Positive elements of the agreement include:

  • The metrics to be used to evaluate teachers: Given that a teacher’s most important role is growing student learning, it’s absolutely appropriate that student achievement data be a substantial part of any teacher evaluation. We believe that the parameters of the New York state agreement are a step toward ensuring the use of rigorous evaluations that accurately reflect teachers’ impact on student learning. Further, these parameters increase the likelihood that teacher evaluation metrics will be comparable both across and between LEAs so that parents, policymakers, and taxpayers can accurately and fairly compare teachers between schools and across districts.
  • The Role of the Commissioner: The agreement stipulates that the New York State Commissioner of Education has final authority to approve or disapprove local evaluation models. Again, we are hopeful that this will help set a high and uniform state standard, and ensure that the models developed by individual school districts adhere to the requirements the state will lay out in statute.
  • Appeals process: By adding a third-party outside evaluator who, when an appeal is made, independently assesses the teacher, and by tightening up the process so appeals can’t be dragged out for months, the state is creating a fair and streamlined way for districts to ensure that students are not subjected to subpar teaching for any longer than necessary.

There is much in this agreement that should be celebrated, but we are disappointed that its scope is too narrow to confront one of the most pressing problems in the area of teacher quality: teacher assignment patterns. By not addressing the inequitable assignment of teachers, the agreement misses a critical opportunity to make education in New York state not just better, but fairer overall. When it comes to teacher quality, the current teacher assignment systems and patterns in New York state shortchange low-income students and students of color — as do those in the vast majority of states and districts across the country.

We are hopeful that New York state and the unions soon will use information from the new evaluation system to act together to address the injustice of teacher assignment patterns.

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