- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York lawmakers approved legislation Tuesday night to overhaul statewide teacher evaluations, which would require firing those found ineffective three years in a row.

The Assembly’s 72-54 approval followed criticism by several of that chamber’s minority Republicans that there was little time to consider the voluminous budget bills, some printed only hours earlier. Supporters said the legislation increased overall state aid to public schools by $1.4 billion to $23.5 billion for the coming year.

“We beat back some of the worst proposals from the executive,” said Assembly member Patricia Fahy, an Albany Democrat. One such proposal from Gov. Andrew Cuomo would have required that student performance on tests account for 50 percent of teacher evaluations, she said.

The state Senate’s 36-26 approval of the education budget followed complaints by several minority Democrats in that Republican-controlled chamber that poverty, not teachers, is the underlying problem for the troubled schools in the state.

The new teacher evaluations will be based partly on student test scores, with a local option for additional testing. Another portion will be based on classroom observation of teachers by a school administrator and by an independent evaluator. The state education commissioner will decide what weight to attach to each component.

It’s intended to overhaul the current system for evaluating teachers and school principals that found more than 95 percent effective or highly effective last year. Cuomo in response called for more competitive standards.

The evaluations also would provide $20,000 annual bonuses for the top-performing teachers, according to the governor’s office. School districts that don’t establish evaluation systems as prescribed would be considered uncompliant and forfeit any increases in state aid.

Teachers found ineffective for two consecutive years could be called by their districts to termination hearings. After three straight years of low ratings, teachers would be terminated, according to the legislation.

New York State United Teachers called the evaluation plan “unworkable” and said it “guts” collective bargaining. The 600,000-member union said it “does nothing to help students,” will make it harder for poor communities to attract good teachers and “further feeds the testing beast.”

Assemblyman Dean Murray, a Long Island Republican, said there’s nothing preventing the commissioner from now deciding to base 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on test scores.

Assemblyman Peter Lopez, a Schoharie Republican, said the final education bill was only printed earlier that day and was being rammed through, with evaluations left to state education officials who had failed students with poor implementation of the Common Core curriculum.


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