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Urgent! Call Albany NOW 3/31/15 to protect our children from testing tied to the budget!

If the information presented by the Cuomo official in this article as of 10pm Monday March 30 (here and at the end of this post) is accurate, this is very bad news for the children of New York.

Not only will the children continue to be tested in order to determine whether their teachers get to keep their jobs or not, a second test might be added to assist with this determination. BUT the extra test will not be mandated by NYSED so if a district decides to use it, the extra testing is on the district NOT NYSED (thanks a lot Governor Cuomo and legislators!) Regardless of how well the teacher does on the observation portion of the evaluation, if their students do not show growth based on the test scores, the teacher can NOT receive an effective or highly effective rating. Not in this article but from earlier reports (here and here), if teachers are rated ineffective for two or three years in a row, they can be fired (within 90 days unless they can justify not being fired for two years of ineffective ratings; mandatory firing in 30 days for three years of ineffective ratings unless the teacher can prove fraud).  That sounds like an awful lot of pressure to put on a child’s test score to me!

Have the people in power in Albany been listening that these tests are developmentally inappropriate; that they cause harm to children; that they are statistically invalid for evaluating teachers; that there are so many problems with these tests that they should NOT be used in any way shape or form (read here for a sampling if you are not familiar with the various testing issues) let alone be the gatekeeper on whether a teacher gets to keep their job?

Apparently the education portion of the budget bill is not yet available (as of 10pm Monday) so we do not know what the exact language is in the bill. Senator Amedore’s office reminded me of this when I spoke to them at 9pm tonight. However Governor Cuomo is willing to waive the three-day waiting period requirement so the budget bill can be passed on time, therefore once the bill hits the legislator’s hands, I expect that it will be voted on very quickly so we will not have the luxury of waiting to see what the bill actually says and then leisurely voicing concerns.

Several of the New York State senators’ offices have been insisting that school aid will not be linked to any of the education reforms but as of the publishing of this article at 7:30pm this evening Monday March 30, 2015, Ken Wagner, an official from NYSED is stating that the aid is indeed linked.

School funding and teacher evaluations are linked after all, a top official with the state education department said late Monday.
I regret the inconvenience this will cause to our legislators’ aides but the phones need to be ringing off the hooks so that our senators and assembly members know that inclusion of any of these items in the budget will be considered by parents as a failure to support what we want to see for the education of our children:
  • increased reliance on testing
  • setting teacher evaluations as part of the budget process
  • receivership for schools – I have not focused on this due to the testing concerns but it is a total destruction of local school control
  • anything tying school aid to Cuomo’s education reforms

Please call both your senator and your assembly member as well as the speaker of the house Assemblyman Heastie and senate majority leader Senator Skelos.  Senator Amedore and Assemblyman Cahill represent the majority of families in the Kingston City School District.

Senator George Amedore (518) 455-2350

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (518) 455-4436

Budget hook

Regarding school funding, it looks like neither the senate or the assembly stuck to their guns and we will not get the $1.8 billion that the assembly was pushing for or the $1.9 billion that the senate put forward.  Reports seem to be settling around $1.3 or $1.4 billion with Senator Skelos being quoted here that schools would get half of the GEA back this year and the rest next year.  Senator Amedore also issued a statement regarding elimination of more than 50% of the GEA.  Please thank him for supporting elimination of the GEA when you call.

Schools also need the Foundation Aid formula to be updated and used each year because this is what will give the school districts a reliable revenue that they can count on from year to year.  Not sure what portion of the school aid will be considered foundation aid.

***

ALBANY—The final plan for a new statewide teacher evaluation system will require observations by an “independent” evaluator, a Cuomo administration official said during a briefing with reporters late Monday.
It’s hard to say definitively what will be in the bill, since it hasn’t been introduced, and leaders of the State Senate and Assembly did not immediately return a request for confirmation that they have agreed on specifics of the deal. But the administration official, speaking on background, presented the plan in great detail, some of which Capital has already reported, arguing the deal was solid.
According to the briefing, the evaluation system will have two components: observations and student performance on state tests.
There will be two required observations, from a teacher’s principal or administrator and an “independent” evaluator, who could be a principal, administrator or “highly effective” teacher from another school or district. As Cuomo originally proposed, a college professor or retired educator could also serve as the independent evaluator. A peer observation will be optional.
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The official argued against critics’ characterization of the “independent” evaluator as an unfunded mandate. If schools or districts agree to swap evaluators, neither would have to pay for the other’s services, the official said.
Student growth on state-administered, Common Core-aligned English and math exams in third through eighth grades and Regents exams in high school will be required components for the evaluation system.
Districts and local unions may choose to include an additional test, which would be designated by the State Education Department. Contrary to how the extra test was described before, it would not have to be designed by the state, which is a costly and time-consuming process.
The additional exam would address concerns about teachers being rated based on a student’s work on one day or over one test-administration period, the administration official said. But the test would be optional, so parents wouldn’t be able to blame the state for additional testing. the official said.
While the State Education Department will be charged with determining how performance indicators translate to “ineffective,” “developing,” “effective” or “highly effective” ratings, the budget will include certain rules that “trump” the outcome of the department’s calculation.
For example, if teachers are evaluated using only the traditional state exam and are rated “ineffective” based on student performance on that exam, they may not be rated “effective” overall; they may only be rated “ineffective” or “developing.” For teachers at districts that opt to use two tests, if teachers’ rating based on both tests combined is “ineffective,” they must be rated “ineffective” overall.
If teachers are “ineffective” based on observations, they can’t be “effective” or higher overall.
The budget will also include new requirements for continuing education or professional development. While teachers are already required to complete 100 hours of professional development annually, there will be stricter state guidelines for what constitutes professional development. Teachers will have to complete the state-approved development in order to retain their certification.
The budget will also include $20,000 bonuses for high-performing teachers.
MORE: ALBANY EDUCATION 2015 STATE BUDGET ANDREW CUOMO EDUCATION EDUCATION REFORM NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY NEW YORK STATE SENATE STATE BUDGET TEACHER EVALUATIONS

Details begin to emerge on new teacher evaluation system capitalnewyork.com 10:07pm March 30, 2015