Cuomo wants more reliance on student scores for teacher evaluations

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Andrew Cuomo delivering his State of the State address. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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ALBANY—Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to amend his signature teacher-evaluation system by increasing the reliance on student test scores, decreasing the importance of classroom observations and diminishing local school districts' ability to design components of the ratings system.

According to a book outlining Cuomo's policy and budget speech on Wednesday, the governor will propose a “simplified and standardized” evaluation system that rates teachers 50 percent on state test scores (or a comparable measure of student growth for teachers in subjects that are not tested) and 50 percent on observations.

Rather than being locally negotiated, the “scoring bands” for both components would be set at the state level under the proposal, and if a teacher is rated “ineffective” on either portion, he or she may not get a score higher than “developing” overall. (The ratings are assigned on a scale of “ineffective,” “developing,” “effective” and “highly effective.” Two consecutive “ineffective” ratings could be grounds for termination.)

Cuomo’s plan calls for at least two observations, one of which would be conducted by an “independent observer,” which could be a principal or administrator from within or outside the school district, a SUNY or CUNY professor or “trained independent evaluator” from a list to be provided by the State Education Department.

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Thirty-five percent of the observation component would be based on the “impartial observation,” while 15 percent could be based on an observation by a school administrator.

Under the current system, observations conducted by administrators or peers count for 60 percent of the ratings, while state exams count for 20 percent and local tests count for 20 percent. Cuomo’s proposal would eliminate the local measures component altogether.

In a 20-page letter to Cuomo, Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch recommended getting rid of the local piece, although her solution was to double the ratings’ reliance on state exams to 40 percent, leaving the observation component at 60 percent.

Instead, Cuomo has more than doubled the ratings’ reliance on state exams, a bold move given teachers’ and parents’ widespread distrust of fairly new Common Core-aligned tests.

Cuomo’s proposal seeks to limit the number of teachers who receive high ratings under the system, since the subjective observations component is seen as an area where administrators have the opportunity to inflate teachers’ scores. He has argued that the current system is not accurate since the vast majority of teachers have been rated “effective” or “highly effective,” while most elementary and middle schools students have failed state-administered math and English exams.

Cuomo also plans to enact a law that prevents students from being placed with "ineffective" teachers in two consecutive years.