Assembly passes bill to revamp teacher evaluation process

Photo by Alberto G. via Flickr

Lawmakers in the State Assembly have passed legislation that would change how teachers throughout the state are evaluated annually.

The bill (A.10475) which was last week by a vote of 133-1, ultimately reduces how much influence state officials in Albany hold in the evaluation process. The changes would allow for local districts to set their own policies and rules for teacher evaluation, while also removing a requirement that evaluations take into account students’ standardized test scores. The bill was sponsored by Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, D-Ridgewood.

Teachers unions are praising the changes in policy, calling it “instrumental to winning back the trust and confidence of parents and educators.”

“Our message is clear: ‘Let us teach.  Let them learn,’” said New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta in a statement. “This bill would return control over teacher evaluations to local school districts and teachers, allowing them to collectively bargain systems that help teachers grow professionally while meeting the unique needs of their students.”

The changes are a reverse from policy demands that Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for during his first two terms as governor, despite their controversial standing among unions who argue that state-enforced standards punish teachers and create education policies that are not adaptable to unique situations at the district level. Lawmakers have delayed implementation of the new evaluation standards over the past several years, ultimately deciding to rescind the standards altogether.

In addition to altering how teachers are to be evaluated, the legislation also makes standardized tests such Regents examinations optional and requires that standardized test scores for students in grades through 3-8 are not included on that child’s permanent record. The bill also calls for the state Department of Education to work with district’s that are opting out of standardized testing.

In a statement released after the bill passed, Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino, R-Sayville, called the bill a step in the right direction.

“We all know that a few tests cannot adequately paint a picture of a child’s academic achievement and understanding over the course of the school year, and I don’t think it is wise to consider these test results when evaluating teachers and principals,” Garbarino said. “I voted to ensure that we take a holistic and local approach to the evaluation of our educators. Ultimately, what we want are teachers who are not burnt out and are passionate about educating our children.”

Not everyone agrees with the proposed changes to teacher evaluations. In a prepared statement, Ian Rosenblum, executive director of the Education Trust New York, called for lawmakers to retain the current system while they continue to explore changes through the state Education Department.

“Teacher evaluation should be a tool to identify our strongest educators as well as those who need additional support,” Rosenblum said. “To be meaningful, it must include whether students are achieving academic growth, among multiple measures.”

The bill now moves to the Senate, where it is likely to face some opposition in the Republican-controlled chamber. As of April 27, the Senate version of the bill (S.08301), sponsored by Sen. Carl Marcellino, R-Long Island has been referred to the Education Committee for further debate. If passed the bill would take effect immediately.

“The current effort to permanently undermine New York’s teacher evaluation system takes us backwards, masks inequity, and will lead to more and unnecessary testing,” Rosenblum said.