UFT and Cuomo at odds over teacher evaluations

Stephon Johnson | 12/26/2014, 1:49 p.m.
New York State Gov. Cuomo has decided to renege on an agreement to prevent student test scores from dragging down ...
Andrew Cuomo Pat Arnow

Amsterdam News Staff

New York State Gov. Cuomo has decided to renege on an agreement to prevent student test scores from dragging down teacher ratings during the evaluation process. He said he won’t shield teachers from the consequences of a controversial rollout of the new Common Core standards.

According to the state-mandatory evaluations, 96 percent of teachers statewide earned the top two scores last school year, “effective” or “highly effective.”

Cuomo, after a cabinet meeting at the Capitol last week, called the state-mandatory evaluations “evaluations in name only.” He also said that the evaluations“... affirms the premise that you have to do a better job on designing a teacher evaluation mechanism. It is incredible to believe that is an accurate reflection of the state of education in New York. I think we have to go back to work on the teacher evaluation process.”

Cuomo added, “I think we should reevaluate the evaluation system in light of this data, and I don’t know that those changes would make a significant difference to this data.” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said Cuomo’s latest move is an attack on teachers and mirrors those who want to eradicate or simply weaken the teachers’ union.

“This letter comes right out of the playbook of the hedge funders for whom education ‘reform’ has become a pet cause and who poured money into the Cuomo re-election campaign,” said Mulgrew. “The governor owes these people big time, but unfortunately the children of New York will end up paying his debts. The ‘Hunger Games’ approach of the governor’s hedge fund pals specifically does not address the real issues of our schools and children—especially the huge disparities in local school funding and the $6 billion the state owes for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity and which the governor has shown no interest in funding.

“This failure translates into oversize classes, lack of supplies, along with shortages of librarians and guidance counselors, arts and music and all the other supports for teachers and students that would help our schools succeed. This is what the governor should be talking about rather than the agenda of the ‘special interests’ who want to ignore parents, blame teachers and privatize public schooling.”

New York City teachers were included in the state-sponsored evaluation data for the first time and performed worse than teachers in the rest of the state. Only 9 percent of NYC teachers earned a “highly effective” rating, compared with 58 percent outside of the city. Education leaders in the state used the ratings to suggest that teachers evaluations outside of the city were artificially high.

Jenny Sedlis, executive director of StudentsFirstNY, a school reform group, said that the teacher evaluation system that’s in place can work only if the districts doing the evaluating set higher standards.

“New York City’s results prove that Governor Cuomo’s evaluation system measures teacher effectiveness when implemented in good faith, making it a critical tool to improve schools for kids,” said Sedlis in a statement. “Unfortunately, most districts and unions across the state set the bar so low that nearly 60% of teachers got the highest rating when only a third of students read and do math at grade level. Albany must act to strengthen the system to live up to its promise, and Mayor de Blasio must develop a plan to reward our best teachers and improve the worst immediately.”