New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo recently made public the state’s $142 billion budget, referring to the education reforms it contains as a change that will create progress within the school system.
During a radio interview, Cuomo referred to the education plan as a “dramatic shift for the system.” Included in the budget are a number of changes for the public school system, such as new rules for the dismissal of ineffective teachers, changes to the process used by the state to take over chronically failing schools, and a new evaluation system for teachers.
“The system now is basically a seniority-based education system,” Cuomo said of the current teacher-rating system. “The assumption was the longer you’re there, the better you are. Now we’re moving to performance, and the performance keeps improving and the evaluation systems keep improving.”
Despite being criticized by the New York State United Teachers union, who held a number of protests after Cuomo originally suggested his plans to link 50% of a teacher’s evaluation score to student progress on state exams this January, the Legislature ended up passing a plan allowing the state Education Department to determine exactly how much weight test scores and classroom observations will hold in the new evaluation system, writes Jon Campbell for The Democrat and Chronicle.
“Let’s be absolutely clear: NYSUT rejects this evaluation system,” the union said in a statement Friday. “It is an unworkable, convoluted plan that undermines local control, disrespects principals and school administrators, guts collective bargaining and further feeds the testing beast.”
In the end, Cuomo said he believes using student test scores is the only way to truly compare one school district to another.
He went on to say that while not everyone will approve of the reforms, he believes they will lead to positive change in the state. “Change is traumatic,” Cuomo said. “Change is also how you progress.”
State Education Department spokesman Dennis Tompkins released a statement saying the agency will remain diligent in obtaining input from those who hold a stake in the new system. Regulations for the new process are not due until June, and school districts do not need to implement them until November 15 of this year.
“Our goal is to ensure that the evaluation system accomplishes differentiation so that we can better target resources and professional development to help teachers and principals improve the instruction their students receive and to reduce the reliance on testing,” Tompkins said. “The Board and the Department will work with stakeholders to make sure we achieve that goal.”
The reforms were approved along with a $1.4 billion increase in school funding by state lawmakers, referred to by Cuomo as “the most pro-teacher budget in history.”