A deal has been struck on a new teacher evaluation system that should ensure New York gets $1 billion in threatened education funding, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.
The agreement between the state and its largest teachers union creates a statewide standard for evaluating teachers in districts outside of New York City.
The state deal fulfills much of a commitment the state made two years ago to enact reforms. It also frees up nearly $1 billion in federal and state funds linked to the reforms.
"Today's a great day for the schools within the state of New York and for schoolchildren within the state of New York," Cuomo said. "I believe this is a better system than any system that had been contemplated or discussed until now."
The New York State United Teachers union negotiated the deal with the state Education Department. Now school districts will need to reach agreements on local assessments. A major sticking point had been the use of standardized test scores to evaluate teachers.
Two hours after the state announcement, Mayor Bloomberg said the city had reached a deal with the union on how to evaluate teachers within its 1 million-student public school system.
"I am happy to report that we have arrived at a strong evaluation system," Bloomberg said at a press conference at City Hall. "The governor will put language into his budget amendments that we agreed on earlier today."
A major sticking point has been using student test scores in evaluations of school teachers, a purpose for which the tests were never designed.
At issue was the use of student performance in standardized test scores. A 2010 law passed to qualify for federal Race to the Top funds tied to education reforms requires 20 percent of a teacher's evaluation to be based on student performance in the tests, now limited to fourth and eighth grade math and English tests. But more tests could be added.
A greater issue is whether another 20 percent of an evaluation could be used as a "local" measure, although the scores would have to be used differently than a simple reflection of student progress.
Also critical is how teachers could appeal their evaluations. The law called for that to be worked out locally in collective bargaining with teachers unions' locals, but New York City is finding that a difficult, perhaps impossible, issue to resolve between the mayor and union.
A deal will fulfill much of a commitment the state made two years ago to enact reforms. It also frees up nearly $1 billion in federal education money that was linked to the reforms. State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. has withheld some aid for districts he said were delaying action on teacher evaluations.
A new Quinnipiac University poll found that 50 percent of voters trust Cuomo more "to protect the interests of New York State public school students." Thirty-eight percent trust the teachers union more. It found that 45 percent of those polled said they approve of the way Cuomo is handling education, while 42 percent disapprove.
Voters also supported merit pay for "outstanding" teachers by 2-to-1. And two-thirds of voters said they support making it easier to fire teachers.
The poll released Thursday surveyed 1,233 voters from last Wednesday through Monday. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.