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Cuomo poses teacher changes; advocates say priorities misplaced

Cuomo poses teacher changes; advocates say priorities misplaced

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office has sharply criticized the process to evaluate teachers and remove bad ones, in a letter his office sent to the Board of Regents.

In a letter dated Thursday, Jim Malatras, director of state operations, questioned how the current evaluation system could be credible when only 1 percent of teachers were rated ineffective. More than 95 percent were rated either highly effective or effective, which are the top two categories.

Developing teachers accounted for 3.7 percent of the total. Under the state’s teacher evaluation system, teachers that are rated ineffective for two years in a row can be removed through an expedited process.

Sixty percent of the teacher evaluation score is based on classroom observation and other traditional measures, which Malatras called subjective. Another 20 percent is based on local tests and the remaining 20 percent on student progress on state standardized tests. He also called for reform of the teacher disciplinary process, especially in New York City, where poor-performing educators are removed from the classroom but still continue to be paid for doing nothing.

He also called on making changes to the teacher training and certification process including a one-time competency test for all teachers currently in the system.

Other ideas were to extend the length of time before teachers could receive tenure and offer incentives to high-performing teachers.

He also signaled out school districts that have declining enrollment and whether the state should push mergers, consolidations or regionalization.

Cuomo also called on possibly making changes to the appointment process to the board of Regents and a transparent process -- with parent, teacher and legislative input -- to replace Commissioner John King, who is leaving to work for the federal Department of Education.

The letter is already generating reverberations among education advocates.

The Alliance for Quality Education called it “ridiculous,” saying Cuomo is ignoring the real issues such as the limited funding for preschool programs outside New York City, the widening gap in funding between rich and poor school districts

“The crisis in our public schools is crying out for attention. The governor is avoiding these critical issues that define his legacy on education. Rather than addressing them head-on he is seeking to draw attention away from them. His focus on expanding charter schools and using high stakes testing to evaluate teachers is nothing more than carrying the water of Hedge Fund billionaires who are his political patrons,” Executive Director Billy Easton said in a news release.

New York State United Teachers also slammed the letter as “clueless” and said the governor should listen to the advice of parents, educators and students.

 “Instead, New Yorkers get clueless, incendiary questions that do the bidding of New York City hedge fund billionaires who have letterhead and campaign donations, but know absolutely nothing about how public education works.  If the governor wants a battle, he can take the clueless New York City billionaires.  We’ll take the parents, teachers, higher education faculty and students in every ZIP code of the state,” Union President Karen Magee said in a news release.  

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