As lawmakers approached Tuesday night's state budget deadline, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was finalizing what could be described as a take-it-or-leave education reform package that continues to rely heavily on standardized test results but seems to put the onus on the state teachers union to seek second chances for low-scoring teachers.
The Education Transformation Act is tied to a school funding increase of more than $1.33 billion, but it may be a hard pill for lawmakers to swallow — especially in the Democrat-dominated Assembly, where members are closely aligned with teachers unions.
Under the plan, teachers whose students persistently do poorly on tests designed to show student growth during the school year could be fired, even if they are tenured.
The plan works to shift the blame for alleged overtesting of students — a major complaint by the public — from the state to the teachers union.
And it puts a heavy responsibility on the state Board of Regents and their Education Department to develop the "cut scores" for exams that will place teachers into one of four performance categories: ineffective, developing, effective and highly effective.
Under the new program, half of a teacher's rating will be based on classroom observations and half will be based on tests. Only one set of tests will be mandated: the standardized math and English tests given in grades 3 to 8, and Regents exams required for graduation from high school.
If a teacher's students do poorly on those, the educator could not receive an overall rating of effective or highly effective.
In that case, however, the union could request another set of tests. If the results for this second test are also poor, that teacher would be considered ineffective overall, and the school could move to terminate the teacher after a minimum of three years of poor results.
This aims to attack the perception among parents that the state is mandating too many tests.
If students are subjected to extra tests, it would be because the local teachers union was asking for them to help with the teachers rating, according to the thinking behind the proposal.
Cynic that I am, I am not shocked by much in this world.
But even I am stunned at the audacity of this testing proposal and the attempt to shift the blame for overtesting from the state to teachers and teachers unions.
It's such a cynical and hostile move from Cuomo and his flying attack monkeys that I can't imagine it doesn't backfire on them.
More from State of Politics:
New teacher evaluation criteria that is being proposed in the state budget would potentially put the onus on local teachers unions as to whether a second test should be added for students which would count to a performance rating, according to a Cuomo administration official.
“It’s an option and it’s a risk,” the official said on Monday night. “It is a risk to have that second test. We’ve design it in the system because we’re trying to reduce testing.”
Evaluations would include one state-based test, along with an option — to be decided by collective bargaining — for a second test to be developed by the Department of Education. No new funding will be allocated for the second test, which would not have to a newly written examination.
Implementing the new evaluation is tied to a increase in education aid, with a November deadline.
“It puts the burden on them and in many ways belies the myth the state was asking for more test,” the official said. “Now, if they want the second test, they’ve going to need to ask for a second test.”
These people claim they have students' interests at heart?
This is nothing but a cynical "gotcha" system meant to scapegoat teachers and teachers unions.