Governor details controversial teacher evaluations, education reforms

Staff Reports Posted 1 April 2015 at 12:00 am

Staff Reports

ALBANY – The new $142 bllion state budget includes a $1.3 billion increase in state aid to school districts, for $23.5 billion in total education funding.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was successful in tying the funding increase to a new system for evaluating teachers.

“When it comes to education, the budget we approved will transform our school system in comprehensive ways,” Cuomo said in a statement issued this morning. “The reforms we have included will move us to an education system that rewards results, addresses challenges and demands accountability.

“That’s why I tied a landmark 6 percent increase in new school spending – raising state funding of schools to a record-high $23.5 billion in this year’s budget – to vital reforms, including improvements to the systems for teacher evaluation, certification and preparation as well as providing new authority to improve failing schools.

“This year we are finally ensuring that New York’s education system will be about the students it is intended to serve, instead of just perpetuating a bureaucracy.

“I described the budget I first proposed just two months ago as an Opportunity Agenda. The importance of education reform that we fought to include in this year’s budget shows that we believe there is no greater path to opportunity than a good education.”

Cuomo’s office issued the following press release about some of the education changes:

Education Transformation Act of 2015

New York’s education system is set to implement some of its most dramatic and fundamental reforms in years through the Education Transformation Act. The budget includes the governor’s proposal for an increase of $1.3 billion in state education support to take education funding to its highest level ever – $23.5 billion.

The components of the transformation are as follows, :

1. Best and Brightest Recruitment: To attract our best and brightest to the teaching field, the Budget provides funding for a new full scholarship program for SUNY/CUNY for top students who commit to teach in New York for five years.

2. Graduate Education Program Accreditation: The first statewide, uniform admissions standards for teacher preparation programs will be established, and SED will have enhanced authority to close programs that fail to prepare students for the teaching profession.

3. Teacher “Bar” Exam / CTE: The State currently requires teachers to pass a teacher “bar” exam – and will now also require teachers to complete 100 hours of continuing education and recertify every five years or lose their licenses.

4. Teacher Evaluation System: A redesigned teacher evaluation system will be established whereby educators are rated in two categories, student performance and teacher observations.

Student Performance – Districts will use a standardized state measure, or may choose to use a state-designed supplemental assessment.

If a teacher receives an Ineffective rating in the state measure subcomponent, the teacher cannot be rated Effective or Highly Effective overall.

If a local district chooses to use a state-designed supplemental assessment and the teacher is Ineffective when both subcomponents are combined, the teacher must be rated Ineffective overall.

The state allocates weights for this category and its subcomponents.

Teacher Observations – This category must contain two subcomponents: principal observations and independent observations. Peer observations may be included at the discretion of the Commissioner.

If a teacher receives an Ineffective rating in the teacher observation category, the teacher cannot be rated Effective or Highly Effective overall.

The state allocates weights for this category and its subcomponents.

Teachers will be evaluated based on a four point scale. In regulations, the Commissioner shall set scoring bands, cut scores and weights, and the Commissioner must have the system put in place by June 30, 2015. Local districts must put evaluations in place by November 15, 2015, in order to be eligible for increased aid.

5. Reduce Student Testing: The Chancellor of the Board of Regents will outline to the Governor and Legislature recommendations by June 1, 2015 on how to decrease the overall amount of state and local testing, improve test quality, and reduce test-related stress and anxiety.

6. Tenure = Performance: The Education Transformation Act of 2015 reforms tenure so that it is based on performance and is not simply a function of time.

The probationary period will be extended to a minimum of four years with no automatic right to tenure at any point.

A teacher will have to be rated Effective or Highly Effective in at least three of four years to be eligible to receive tenure. If a teacher does not meet this threshold, he or she can be terminated or the district may extend the probationary period.

7. Bonuses & Promotions: A bonus of up to $20,000 will be provided to teachers who are top performers, and promotion opportunities will be tied to the evaluation system.

8. Teacher Removal:

For Ineffective teachers: Statewide, all hearings will be heard before a single officer rather than a panel. Local districts will be able to use new expedited removal proceedings for teachers with two consecutive Ineffective ratings, and will be required to do so for teachers with three consecutive Ineffective ratings.

For misconduct: Teachers accused of physical or sexual abuse will be suspended without pay and the hearing process will be expedited. Teachers convicted of violent felonies with a child victim will automatically lose their certifications.

9. Failing Schools:

Failing schools will be required to have a state-approved improvement plan in place with student achievement metrics and goals. If a failing school does not show demonstrable improvement at the end of one year, the school will go into receivership. During that year, either the Superintendent or the Chancellor will be vested with the increased powers of a receiver.

The receiver will have the power to hire and fire staff and restructure the school.

$75 million will be available to help failing schools improve.

Continued Pre-K Investment: The new state budget includes $365 million to continue our $1.5 billion commitment over five years for full-day 4-year old Pre-K.

Expanding Pre-K for 3-Year Olds and in High-Needs Districts: In addition, studies show that 3-year olds enrolled in high-quality programs make some of the largest gains in cognitive and behavioral skills. This budget invests an additional $30 million to expand Pre-K for 3 and 4 year-olds in high-needs districts.