New York State United Teachers Win Battle, Face Criticism

New York State United Teachers have recently won a key battle in its court fight with the New York Board of Regents over the implementation of a new teacher evaluation system. The evaluation system was part of a broad education law passed in 2010 and would have allowed, for the first time, to use student achievement as part of the rating of teacher effectiveness. According to the press release by the NYSUT, the law allowed for 20% of the teacher’s grade to be determined by test scores, and another 20% by criteria jointly developed by the schools and the union. However, in the final guidelines on the implementation of the law, the Board of Regents allowed the standardized test results, or a similar measure of student achievement, to be used for the full 40% of teachers’ grades. Furthermore, instead of allowing the schools to make the determination about the evaluation criteria via negotiations with the unions, NYSUT alleged that the Regents imposed their own guidelines on the schools.

NYSUT filed a lawsuit against the Regents, and earlier this month Supreme Court Justice Michael Lynch largely sided with the union.

As Supreme Court Justice Michael Lynch pointed out, “other locally selected measures” clearly exempted the tests used for the first 20 percent (although, contrary to what NYSUT asserted, it could include other state tests). But, at Mr. Cuomo’s urging, the Regents let school districts use the same test for both of those 20 percent chunks, allowing 40 percent of a teacher’s score to hinge on one test.

After evaluating the judge’s decision, the TimesUnion.com mostly agreed that he made the right call. Although the Union’s editorial board conceded that, as pointed out by the Education Commissioner John B. King Jr., the evaluation system as outlined in the law would allow a teacher to score zero on the student achievement portion and still be rated “satisfactory,” that didn’t justify the Regents’ attempt to “to an end run around the law.”

While the paper criticized the Regents, King, and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo for trying to rewrite legislature, it also called on NYSUT to stop being an obstructionist force in the state’s attempt to craft a robust and fair teacher evaluation system.