Parents, board members speak out on teacher evaluations

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Parent groups and school board members urged New York's education policy makers Thursday to stop tying state aid to teacher evaluations.

Forcing districts to adopt a new evaluation system under the threat of losing funding "causes unnecessary pressure to develop important policy in a rush," the New York State PTA said in submitted remarks during a daylong "Learning Summit" in Albany.

The Board of Regents and state Education Department invited parents, teachers and administrators to weigh in on how the state should use classroom observations and test results to measure the performance of teachers and principals.

The Regents have to adopt regulations by June 30. School districts will then have until Nov. 15 to negotiate individualized plans and have them approved by the state in order to collect an increase in state aid included in the state budget.

Among other issues raised Thursday were how many classroom observations to require and how long they should last, how to measure student growth based on test results and whether the state should adopt a "default" evaluation system for districts unable to reach agreement with its teachers union on a plan.

"Our overall goal is to create a system that recognizes excellence and provides targeted support so educators can improve their practice and students can benefit from the best teaching possible," said Ken Wagner, senior deputy commissioner at the state Education Department.

The New York State School Boards Association recommended legislation to "permanently decouple" approval of evaluation plans and state aid increases. The group also was among several to recommend relaxing the deadlines for the new system to reduce anxiety and the chance for mistakes.

Advocacy group StudentsFirstNY, however, said the state should act "with urgency" to create a rigorous teacher evaluation system.

The new evaluation system was one of several education reforms Gov. Andrew Cuomo included in the state budget adopted April 1. He called the current system "baloney" after virtually all teachers were rated effective last year, when Common Core-aligned testing ranked relatively few students proficient in English and math.

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