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Educators Give Governor, Legislature 'F' For New Teacher Evaluation Rules

Valhalla Schools Superintendent Brenda Myers, right, called the new system of teacher evaluations "an absolute travesty." Photo Credit: File photo
Elmsford Schools Superintendent Joseph Ricca is among the administrators in Westchester County concerned about the state's desire to change teacher evaluation processes once again. Photo Credit: File photo

This story has been updated.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- School superintendents and teachers in Westchester and Putnam counties agree that new job evaluation standards folded into the state budget are even worse than the current set mandated four years ago.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed 50 percent of a public school teacher's annual evaluation be measured by students' progress on test scores. The plan was passed by state legislators as part of the state budget April 1, but requires details to be ironed out by the state Education Department and Board of Regents by mid-June.

"That's a pretty tight timetable,'' Elmsford Schools Superintendent Joseph Ricca said of the deadline for more details, and November deadline for school districts to have a new evaluation system in place to assure they don't lose state aid the following school year. "We're hopeful the tool the state Education Department develops in 2 1/2 to three months provides for a level playing field for the assessment of growth. Each time you change something, the expectation changes, which makes it real hard to get a true measure of progress."

Valhalla Schools Superintendent Brenda Myers was upset the state legislature passed 11th-hour changes to the state budget that did not include any recommendations that seasoned educators proposed to Cuomo's staff.

"The end result that we have is an absolute travesty," Myers said Wednesday. "This will set student achievement in the state of New York back ten years."

Frances Willis, superintendent of schools in Putnam Valley, said, "I'm very opposed to this type of measurement process for teachers. ... Where is the evidence that this is a valid way of evaluating a teacher's assessment? The governor has a fixed position. It does not seem to be right. I'm very saddened by it. It's very disheartening for teachers."

Willis said measuring growth of individual student's progress through test scores is a valid measurement tool, so she encourages parents not to have their children opt out of taking such tests.

A teacher in Port Chester, who asked not to be identified, agreed: "They should focus on the students, not the teachers. If you have unmotivated kids cutting class, that's the root of the problem. Even a good teacher is not going to change that."

Lee Adler, a Cornell University ILR School expert in labor la who specializes in unions, said, "many school superintendents feel they already have a pretty good pulse through their principals on how their teachers are doing."

Raymond Sanchez, superintendent in Ossining, echoed the views of other local school district leaders, adding that any new mandates are costly in time, money and their impact on employee morale. "Very few good decisions are made on short notice and in a rush,'' Sanchez said.

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