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Teacher evaluation bill finalized

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 3/22/2012, 4:01 p.m.

Last week, the state Senate, Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially agreed on a new evaluation system for teachers and principals for New York schools.

With the new legislation, evaluations for teachers will be determined by different criteria, and each part will be divided and weighted as a specific percentage.

Sixty percent of the evaluation will be based on generally accepted, nationally recognized measures of teacher performance. For example, the legislation requires that most of the teacher performance points be based on classroom observations by administrators and principals, with at least one observation unannounced.

The remaining 40 percent will be based on students' academic achievement, 20 percent of which will be determined by state testing and another 20 percent will be determined from a list of three testing options, which may include other state tests.

A score between 0 and 64 would label a teacher "ineffective," 65 to 74 would place them under "developing," 75 to 90 would receive the "effective" label and 91 to 100 is considered "highly effective."

The legislation is the result of hard bargaining between Cuomo, the Legislature and the teachers' unions.

"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," Cuomo said in a statement. "The new statewide evaluation law sets clear standards for measuring educators based on how our students are performing in the classroom so we can make sure our children have the best possible opportunity for the future. I commend the legislative leaders for taking this extraordinary step to create permanent and real evaluations in our schools."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver concurred. "This will provide comprehensive standards for using multiple measures to evaluate teacher effectiveness and help struggling teachers grow and improve. I commend the governor for his commitment to giving our students the best education system possible," he said.

United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew is fine with the new evaluation system, but he said the progress that has been made could be thwarted by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"The appeal process will not go into effect unless and until Mayor Bloomberg negotiates agreements with the UFT for an overall teacher evaluation deal or for schools eligible for School Improvement Grants," said Mulgrew. "I want to congratulate Governor Cuomo and New York State United Teachers for their hard work in finding common ground on the statewide issues that separated them. Their agreement recognizes that students are more than a test score."

In December, talks fell apart due to the UFT's request for an outside arbitrator to hear teacher appeals when they're given negative evaluations. During Cuomo's state budget address in January, he threatened to introduce a teacher evaluation system of his own if the state Education Department, the city of New York and the teachers unions couldn't agree on one. For now, all parties have a degree of satisfaction over the agreement.