Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he will be submitting a program bill that would expedite and expand ongoing plans to implement a statewide, objective teacher evaluation system, based on both performance and seniority, for school districts to use when making employment decisions.
By today's actions, both the State Senate and the Assembly have acknowledged that the state must move forward on improving performance in the classroom as well as improving teacher evaluations.
The real question, however, is what is the alternative to "last in, first out." The current so-called "last in, first out" policy lacks objectivity by maintaining teachers simply based on years of service without factoring in classroom effectiveness, performance, or need.
"It is time to move beyond the so-called 'last in, first out' system of relying exclusively on seniority," Governor Cuomo said. "However, we need a legitimate evaluation system to rely upon. This will help make a statewide evaluation system ready and allow us to replace 'last in, first out.'"
Last year as part of "Race to the Top," legislation was passed to overhaul the existing teacher and principal evaluation system. As a result of the legislation, a State Education Department task force is in the process of developing new teacher evaluation guidelines that includes merit and other factors in time for the 2011-2012 school year. However, the original law only covers math and English language arts teachers in grades 4-8, and would not expand to all subjects and grades until 2012-2013.
The Governor's program bill would accelerate the new standards to cover all grades and subjects for the 2011-2012 school year. In addition, the Governor's bill would set clear standards and enhanced transparency requirements, including the posting of guidelines on all school districts' Web sites.
"We need to put students first by keeping the best educators in the classroom, whether they have worked for one year or 25 years," Governor Cuomo said. "While seniority should be part of the equation, it cannot be the only factor when making important employment decisions in our schools. Entrenched interests that benefit from the status quo will portray this as an assault, but the reality is we want to work with teachers to support New York's students."
Parameters of the new teacher evaluation system include a new rating system including "highly effective," "effective," "developing," or "ineffective." The evaluations will play a significant role in a wide array of employment decisions, including professional development, tenure determinations, selection for leadership opportunities, and termination. Teachers and principals with a pattern of ineffective teaching or performance could be charged with incompetence and considered for termination through an expedited hearing process.