Race To The Top For Education Aid: New York Taking a Different Approach to Teacher Evaluations

Governor Cuomo has taken New York in a new direction with the evaluation of teachers in an effort to raise the bar in New York schools.  A deal was struck between Gov. Cuomo, teachers unions, and John B. King Jr. (state Education Commissioner) in February that rearranges how teachers in New York will have their performance evaluated.  It is critical in a down economy to take advantage of the millions of dollars in aid that is at stake in the federal race to the top education funding scheme.  Some states are learning that there are many different issues with using teacher evaluations as one mechanism to increase student standardized test score.

However, the deal in New York would allow 60% of teacher evaluations to be based on classroom observation and other standards not related to standardized testing, making student performance worth 40% of a teachers grade.  This is a deviation from heavy reliance on classroom visits and peer-reviewed classrooms.  Of that 40%, 20 % can be from analyzing student progress on state tests.  Another 20% can be from three options: 1) state standardized tests, 2) third-party assessments, and 3) tests approved by the state Education Department, which can be locally created.

In addition, if a teacher scores 64% or lower on their evaluations they are deemed “ineffective” and may face dismissal.  A score of 65%-74%  would classify a teacher as “developing” and require improvements.  A score of 75%-90% proves a teacher is “effective” and anything higher would be “highly effective” and deserving of a merit increase or perk.

How a school decides to structure the evaluation system and reward perks for successful teachers is up to the local authority.  Furthermore, the local school districts has the ability to set up an appeals process for teachers.  For the elements they have control over, a local school district must reach a plan within one year.  This plan must be approved by the state education commissioner.  If no plan is set in place within a year Gov. Cuomo announced that he will deny a scheduled 4% increase in state aid from that school district.

An article from the Wall Street Journal discussing the agreement can be found here.