CITY HALL — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a groundbreaking agreement Thursday between the state and teachers’ union for a new teacher evaluation system that will make New York eligible for nearly $1 billion in federal funds.
Under the deal, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg hailed as "historic," the schools will begin evaluating teachers using a new system that rates teachers on a four-point scale instead of the pass-fail system used today. Teachers rated as "ineffective" two years in a row will be eligible for termination — the first time evaluations will be widely used in teacher firing decisions.
The governor had threatened to write his own evaluation system if a deal was not reached Thursday, to prevent the state from losing out on $700 million in Race to the Top funds.
In addition to the state-wide evaluation framework, the Bloomberg administration and the United Federations of Teachers announced they had reached a deal over how teachers rated "ineffective" can appeal their grades — a dispute that halted negotiations for months.
The UFT had wanted to appoint an independent panel to make decisions, while the city wanted principals to have final say.
Under the agreement announced Thursday, 87 percent of ineffective rating disputes will be handled by principals, with final say by the DOE. But the union will have the chance to appeal up to 13 percent of cases in front of a three-member panel, made up of one representative from the city's Education Department, one from the state's, and one from the UFT, DOE officials said. The provision is intended to protect against unfair ratings by principal who may have it out for teachers.
After a teacher has received one ineffective rating, he or she will then be assigned an "independent validator," hired by the DOE, who will make an independent assessment the following year. Teachers who receive second failing grades from both their principals and validators will almost certainly be fired, officials said.
Bloomberg, who was not in Albany for the announcement, said that staff had been working on the deal around the clock in recent days and that a final compromise was reached while he was still sleeping, at roughly 5:30 a.m.
“This is very good news for the 1.1 million school children of New York City, and it really will benefit generations of students to come," he told reporters at City Hall.
But, he made clear the agreement will have no bearing on the city's decision to move forward with plans to replace up to half of teachers at 33 struggling schools at risk of losing tens of millions of dollars in School Improvement Grant Funds.
Mulgrew threatened that until the mayor agrees to negotiate a different solution for those schools, the union will not sign off on a final evaluation deal.
"The appeal process will not go into effect unless and until Mayor Bloomberg negotiates agreements with the UFT for an overall teacher evaluation deal... for schools eligible for School Improvement Grants," Mulgrew said in a statement, adding that "the Mayor’s obsession with closing schools presents a significant barrier to us reaching that overall agreement."
The city and union must work out any outstanding issues by Jan. 17, 2013, or the governor has threatened to cut four percent from the city's education funding next year.
Under the larger evaluation framework, announced in Albany Thursday afternoon, teachers will be graded on a 100-point scale, 60 percent of which will be based on evaluations of teacher performance, including classroom observations. Student performance on state tests will account for 20 percent of a teacher's rating.
For the final 20 percent, which had been the point of contention, local school boards will be able to choose between three testing options, including state tests, third-party assessments or another locally-developed test that would be subject to state review.
Teachers who earn fewer than 65 points would be rated "ineffective." Teachers with scores between 65 and 74 points would be considered "developing." Those scoring between 75 and 90 points would be deemed "effective," while colleagues with scores above 91 would be graded "highly effective." Local districts, however, would be permitted to set their own grading curves.
Cuomo said the deal will make the state "a national leader in holding teachers accountable for student achievement."