NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York’s teachers should, for now, be able to argue against being fired on the basis of their students’ poor performance on state assessments aligned with new learning standards, a panel of education policy makers recommended Monday.
The Board of Regents panel also recommended extending the phase-in of Regents exams that are based on the more difficult standards, known as the Common Core, so that the class of 2022, not the class of 2017, would be the first group required to pass more rigorous English and math exams to graduate.
The six-member work group appointed by Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch set out last month to find ways to improve the way that New York is implementing the Common Core standards.
The K-12 educational benchmarks have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia as a way to raise student readiness for college and careers. But a series of statewide public forums last year underscored high anxiety levels among parents, students and teachers because of the uneven way they have been introduced across districts, as well as their negative impact on student assessments and teacher performance ratings.
“Any major shift — especially one involving 700 school districts, more than 4,500 schools and millions of students — is going to require adjustments and course corrections along the way,” Education Commissioner John King Jr. said. “The implementation of the higher standards has been uneven, and these changes will help strengthen the important work happening in schools across the state.”
A separate panel of lawmakers, parents, educators and business leaders appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week is expected to make its own recommendations by the end of the legislative session.
Teachers in many districts have said they were not given sufficient materials and guidance to teach to the new standards, and that last spring’s Common Core-aligned state assessments forced them to test students on material they had not yet learned, resulting in a dismal passing rate.
The state’s teacher evaluation law requires that districts use student performance on the assessments as a factor in teacher and principal hiring and firing decisions.
Monday’s report said that educators whose jobs are at risk because of this year’s and last year’s test results should be able to raise as a defense a district’s failure to provide adequate professional development and curriculum support.
The New York State United Teachers, the state’s largest teachers union, has been demanding a three-year moratorium on high-stakes consequences related to the tests.
“The changes we’ve made protect teachers and students from unforeseen and unintended consequences of the implementation without damaging the foundation we’ve built to help our students succeed in the 21st Century,” said Wade Norwood, who chaired the work group.
The report also recommended that school districts scale back the use of their own tests in teacher evaluations and stop standardized testing altogether for students in kindergarten through second grade. While the state does not mandate testing of the youngest students, some districts adopted local testing as part of their teacher-evaluation formulas.
By law, 20 percent of a teacher’s score must be based on state assessments, 60 percent on classroom observation or surveys and 20 percent based on a locally chosen measure of student achievement — which for some districts is local testing.
The report said that, beginning with the next school year, the state should throw out any teacher evaluation plans that rely on K-2 testing and cap at 1 percent the instructional time districts can use for local assessments in other grades.
In a statement, Cuomo said the recommendations are “simply too little, too late for our parents and students.”
“Common Core is the right goal and direction as it is vital that we have a real set of standards for our students and a meaningful teacher evaluation system. However, Common Core’s implementation in New York has been flawed and mismanaged from the start,” Cuomo said. “As far as today’s recommendations are concerned, there is a difference between remedying the system for students and parents and using this situation as yet another excuse to stop the teacher evaluation process.
“The Regents’ response is to recommend delaying the teacher evaluation system and is yet another in a long series of roadblocks to a much needed evaluation system which the Regents had stalled putting in place for years,” Cuomo added.
Also in the report, the state Education Department announced plans to postpone creation of a statewide student database until concerns about privacy and security have been addressed.
The state had planned to transfer students’ grades, test scores and attendance records to Atlanta-based service provider InBloom this year. But opponents ranging from parents to state legislative leaders raised concerns about storing personal student data on servers in the so-called cloud, accessed through the Internet.
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