2011-05-20 / Top Stories

Regents Change Teacher Eval Procedure

By Howard Schwach

Amid controversy and significant opposition from the teacher union groups, the New York State Board of Regents voted on Monday night to incorporate student growth on test scores as a part of the teacher evaluation system in state school district, including New York City, and to allow districts to use those standardized test scores as 40 percent of the evaluation, rather than the 20 percent agreed upon by the unions and the state education department last year.

Regent Geraldine D. Chapey, who lives in Rockaway, voted for the change. The newest Regent, Kathleen Cashin, who formerly ran Region Five (which includes Rockaway) for the Department of Education, voted against the change.

According to the law passed last summer, which changed how teachers are evaluated and introduced the element of student test scores to the teacher evaluation mix, state test scores were to count as 20 points out of 100, with observations and local assessments to be used to make the total.

The Board of Regents vote would change that to allow for 40 percent of the total to be used for the evaluation, eliminating local assessments entirely.

The teacher’s union would have to approve the change, but the new rule puts the union in a tight spot because local assessments cost money to develop and administer and that money would be hard to find in a depressed economy and fiscal crisis, union officials say.

Cashin, who is known for challenging Mayor Michael Bloomberg on education issues, said she was concerned that a greater reliance on the state tests would increase the already-heavy emphasis schools place on math and reading.

“Even 20 percent [reliance on test scores] narrows the curriculum because people teach prep,” Cashin said. “You know that is already happening.”

The teachers union has opposed the new regulation and has hinted that it will consider taking legal action against the Regents’ decision.

“We agreed to 20 percent, but 40 percent is just too much,” one union official said.

“While the UFT has supported some role for standardized tests in teacher evaluation, we also know that the more weight put on standardized tests for students and teachers, the more school systems will focus on test prep rather than real learning,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a prepared statement.

The vote was 14-3 in favor of the proposal.

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