Teacher Evaluation Compromise a Win for New York’s Cuomo

The passage of a compromise bill to deal with the public release of teacher evaluation information marks a victory for the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. The proposal, which the governor said was a “take it or leave it proposition,” will make evaluation scores available publicly, but will not associate them with teachers’ names, except in cases when the parents wish to find out the scores of their kids’ current teachers.

The Republicans in the state legislature have previously said that the compromise doesn’t go far enough, but on the last day of the session they indicated that they will vote to approve the measure. In the end, the bill was approved with the nearly-unanimous 59-1 vote, and no debate, in the state Senate. In the Assembly, representatives discussed the proposal for nearly three hours before passing it with the vote of 118-17.

One person who has expressed lack of satisfaction with this development is New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who felt that the public should have access to the full, unredacted assessment data. Members of his administration lobbied lawmakers to make the information generally available, but in the end they weren’t able to overcome either Cuomo’s determination or the lobbying muscle of the state’s teachers unions.

What might have swayed reluctant lawmakers was that the option was either to accept the governor’s proposal or to continue allowing complete public disclosure. No alternative plan made it as far down the legislative pipeline or enjoyed the same broad level of support.

“This particular path we’re on is a mistake, and we need to rethink what we’re doing here; but clearly we don’t want a repeat of last February’s or March’s media disaster,” said Assemblyman James Brennan (D-Brooklyn) in voting “yes.”
After his defeat, Bloomberg said: “Evaluations are important resources for parents, principals, and teachers alike and parents need information to make good decisions about their children’s schools.”

He credited the bill with at least allowing the online release of the information so parents can analyze how districts perform.

Although some lawmakers have indicated that they viewed this compromise as a temporary measure and wanted to take another in-depth look at public availability of assessment data in the near future, Cuomo had expressed a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the idea of revisiting this issue in next legislative session.

In all, the legislature made full use of the waning hours of the session, tackling not only education, but bills that dealt with gambling, child pornography and several small budgeting issues.