Court Objects to New State Teacher Evaluation

By Jill Colvin on August 25, 2011 8:59am 

A student writes during a school lesson.
A student writes during a school lesson.
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MANHATTAN — The State Department of Education must scale back its emphasis on students’ test scores in assessing teacher performance, a Supreme Court judge in Albany ruled Wednesday.

The ruling is a win for the state teachers union, which had sued the state, arguing that the Board of Regents had overstepped its bounds in May when it adopted tougher new teacher evaluation standards that would have allowed 40 percent of a teacher's rating to be based on the same state test scores.

The other 60 percent was to be based on subjective measures, like classroom observation.

But Justice Michael Lynch said that in order to up the weight on the tests, the state needs the  permission of the local teachers' union.

“This decision upholds the role of practitioners and the value of collective bargaining,” New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi said in a statement celebrating the decision, which the state intends to appeal.

The decision further complicates the roll out of the new evaluations, which are supposed to begin being implemented this year in grades four through eight. The evaluations are to play a key role in firing decisions.

The state said it will appeal the decision, which also prohibits the state from grading teachers as "ineffective" based solely on students' scores.

"If we’re serious about supporting excellence in teaching, we can’t have an evaluation system that permits a teacher who scores a zero on student achievement to receive a positive rating," state Education Commissioner John King, Jr. said in a statement.

“We will be consulting with the Attorney General’s Office about our plan to appeal, and we’ll explore every avenue, including new legislation, to turn this around," he said.

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