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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Teachers Cannot Be Evaluated Only By Student Scores - Union Wins

Teacher Tests Overhaul Goal Struck Down
By JACOB GERSHMAN, Wall Street Journal, AUGUST 25, 2011

New York's effort to overhaul its system for evaluating teachers suffered a setback on Wednesday when a state judge ruled that public-school educators can't be deemed ineffective based only on the performance of their students.

Siding with the state's teachers union, a state Supreme Court judge in Albany struck down a provision of new state regulations that give schools more leeway to fire teachers whose students persistently get poor marks on standardized tests and other assessments.

Justice Michael C. Lynch specifically rejected the section allowing schools to give teachers the lowest rating if they fail the student performance part of their evaluation, even if they score higher on other measures.

State officials said they would appeal. "That is the most disappointing aspect of this decision," said New York's education commissioner, John King Jr. "The notion that a teacher whose students show no academic growth or lose ground academically would be able to get a positive rating is highly problematic."

Under the new system approved last year, 40% of a teacher's review is based on student achievement. The rest is determined by other factors such as classroom observations.

Last June, New York State United Teachers sued the state Board of Regents, charging that the regulations violated state law. The union, a federation representing hundreds of thousands of teachers, contended that the regulations put too much emphasis on test scores, going beyond what lawmakers intended when they revised the evaluation system last year.

Justice Lynch agreed in part.

"Since multiple measures must be considered," he wrote, "the scoring ranges developed by the Commissioner must allow for the 60 point category to have meaningful impact in the composite score, even in an instance of poor student achievement."

The judge also ruled that only 20% of the evaluations can be based on a single, uniform assessment tracking a student's test scores year to year. The state wanted to push that percentage up to 40%. The judge said schools would have to come up with different ways of measuring student performance.

"This decision upholds the role of practitioners and the value of collective bargaining," the union president, Richard C. Iannuzzi, said in a statement.

The new regulations, parts of which still must be collectively bargained, are supposed to kick in for about 60% of the state's public teacher work force—whose contracts expired in July.

As part of New York's winning bid for about $700 million in federal grants, the state said it would launch the new system this school year, beginning with most math and English teachers in grades four through eight. Unless the state loses an appeal of Wednesday's decision, the regulations will still hold.

Write to Jacob Gershman at

August 24, 2011
For State Teachers’ Union, a Victory on Evaluations
A judge ruled Wednesday that the New York State Board of Regents overreached in its interpretation of a new law on teacher evaluations, offering a victory to the state teachers’ union.

The decision, by Justice Michael C. Lynch of State Supreme Court in Albany, invalidated aspects of a recent Regents vote on teacher evaluations, and may further delay the introduction of the law, which is scheduled to go into effect for all fourth through eighth grade teachers, pending union approval, in the coming school year.

“We are extremely pleased with the outcome,” said Richard C. Iannuzzi, the president of the union, the New York State United Teachers.

In June, the union sued the Board of Regents, which sets state education policy, arguing that last-minute changes the Regents approved had increased the role of student test scores in teacher evaluations beyond what the 2010 law permitted.

In hs 16-page decision, Justice Lynch largely sided with the union, writing that the Regents had failed to give sufficient weight to the law’s collective bargaining requirements, and that it had not fully acknowledged the law’s stipulation that test scores alone cannot determine a teacher’s performance review. “The Regents is unquestionably invested with broad rule-making authority,” Justice Lynch wrote, “but such authority must be exercised subject to and in conformity with the law of the state.”

John B. King Jr., the state education commissioner, said the state planned to appeal.

We are disappointed,” he said, by the aspects of the decision “that undermine the rigor of the evaluation system.”

Heeding a call from Dr. King and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the Board of Regents voted in May to permit districts to base 40 percent of a teacher’s annual review on students’ scores on state standardized tests. But the law specifies that 20 percent of the evaluation must be based on state tests, with an additional 20 percent based on other, locally developed student tests. The other 60 percent of the evaluation is based on subjective measures, including observation.

In a compromise that pleased both the union and the state, Justice Lynch ruled that districts could use state tests for both the local and state measure, if the local union chapter approved and the tests were used in more than one way.

But he invalidated a Regents decision that would have required any teacher who received a rating of “ineffective” on the test score component of his or her evaluation to get an “ineffective” rating over all — no matter how well that teacher scored on subjective measures.

The new law replaces the simple “satisfactory/unsatisfactory” scale that teachers have been judged against for decades with a four-tiered rating: ineffective, developing, effective or highly effective. It was passed in a compromise between state education officials and the teachers’ union in 2010, to help the state win a $700 million grant from the federal Race to the Top competition.