Now, Cuomo plans Common Core changes for teacher evaluations

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Andrew Cuomo. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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ALBANY—Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he expects to amend his signature teacher and principal evaluations to shield educators from “premature” consequences of low scoring on Common Core-based test scores, a marked change from his position in recent months.

“We have to deal with the issue of the effect of Common Core testing on teacher evaluations,” Cuomo said Tuesday at a news conference on the state budget, referring to the tougher curriculum standards adopted by the state that produced sharply lower scores on standardized tests in New York last year.

Approved Monday, the budget included reforms to the implementation of the Common Core standards for English and math. The law includes an indefinite prohibition on test scores being used "solely or primarily" in decisions about student promotion and placement, and strikes the grades from students' permanent records.

“If you said Common Core testing was premature for the students, and you just halted the grades on the transcripts, then what is your opinion about the impact of Common Core testing on teacher evaluations, and what should be done?” he continued. “That is an issue that we have not addressed and that we need to address before the end of session, in my opinion, depending on what happens.”

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Capital reported earlier this month that Cuomo might wait until after the budget to make changes to the evaluations, which include student test scores as a measure of performance.

New York State United Teachers, a statewide teachers' union, will hold its first contested election in recent memory this weekend; Cuomo wants to avoid negotiating the changes twice, in case current president Richard Iannuzzi is replaced.

Assembly Democrats have also suggested that Cuomo and lawmakers might leave any changes to the evaluations to the State Board of Regents, a policymaking panel. The Regents proposed in February a regulatory change that would allow educators facing dismissal to argue that their districts botched the implementation of the Common Core in a disciplinary proceeding.

The union, which has been fighting for a moratorium on using Common Core tests to evaluate teachers, said the Regents' consideration was far from a solution; teachers and principals may already make that argument, they said. Alternatively, Cuomo railed against the Regents, accusing the board of attempting to “delay” or “stop” the evaluations, which he has touted as a key achievement of his administration.

The board tabled the proposal after the criticisms and will reconsider it at its meeting this month.

In arguing for Common Core changes to protect students, Cuomo has argued that the testing was rolled out too quickly and is not a fair indicator of student success. Until Tuesday, he had not taken the same position in regard to teachers.

In fact, he noted in a statement that a panel he convened to examine Common Core implementation “does not make any recommendation to halt or slow teacher evaluations,” contrasting their position to that of the Regents and lawmakers. Leadership in the Assembly and Senate has supported a temporary moratorium on using the tests to evaluate teachers.

His announcement that he will seek changes to the evaluation system follows the union's launch of a $1.5 million advertising campaign against him, and NYSUT has railed against Cuomo for his recent pro-charter schools position.

Nearly every school district in the state, with the notable exception of New York City, began evaluating teachers and principals last year on a scale of “ineffective” to “highly effective.” After a battle between former mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers, New York City finalized a plan late and will issue its first evaluations this year.

State exams count for 20 percent of the evaluations for some teachers. Two of the lowest consecutive ratings could be grounds for dismissal.

Students in third through eighth grades began taking their second round of Commmon Core-aligned tests Tuesday. Last year, about 70 percent failed.