The New York Board of Regents has passed a reformed set of rules for the state's new teacher evaluation system, but with reservations. Jon Campbell, reporting for the Democrat & Chronicle, says the board promised to write a letter to lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo outlining their concerns.
The state's education policymakers voted 10-6 in favor of the new processes, which would include a system for teachers to appeal their ratings and flexibility of the observation requirement for small school districts. The new regulations are a result of a state law approved by Cuomo and the Legislature in March and that teachers unions have fought vigorously.
If the Regents had not approved a set of rules governing the evaluation process, there might have been a loss of state money for local schools since the board was required by law to do so.
"Quite frankly, I have met with hundreds of people, and all I hear is the joy of teaching is being squeezed out of them as a result of this process," said Regent Judith Johnson, whose district stretches from Poughkeepsie to Westchester County. She voted against the proposal.
The new process puts emphasis on the results of state standardized exams, which includes tests in grades 3-8 and the Regents exams in high school. The second portion of the analysis is based on teacher observations by a school administrator and an "independent" observer such as a highly-proficient teacher from another school in the same district.
The Education Department will re-examine the statistical tabulations that are used to calculate student progress on standardized tests and which are used for teacher evaluations. The new set of regulations will be temporary until November when the Regents will vote on whether they should be made permanent.
Although the New York State United Teachers union says there is still plenty of work to be done on the evaluation law, it did react positively to some of the Regents' amendments to the June regulations.
One change likely to be requested, writes Rick Karlin of the Times Union, is the addition of an appeals board to allow teachers to contest poor ratings resulting from their students' standardized test scores.
"It's a bad law, but voting down the regulations doesn't change that," said Robert Lowry, deputy director of the state Council of School Superintendents, after the vote.
Another change made by the Regents is that next year's grades 3-8 assessments in math and English will have fewer questions. The change was made based on input from teachers who believed the existing tests were too long.
News 10 ABC quoted Commissioner MaryEllen Elia of NYS Department of Education on how the process will play out:
"The decision right now to continue the emergency regulations gives another thirty days, and another thirty days for public comment, public participation."
Ratings for teachers in the state of New York are a contentious issue with serious implications. Evaluations are tied to an educator's tenure, raises, and possible removal, according to the New York Post's Kirstan Conley.
Members of the board also agreed that rural school districts be allowed to apply for hardship waivers if independent evaluators to assist in performing the evaluations could not be found.