ALBANY—Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have agreed on a framework for the state budget with at least a $1.4 billion increase in school aid, a plan to allow the state education department to develop the new teacher evaluation system and tighter disclosure requirements for lawmakers.
Cuomo has said education and ethics reform were his top two priorities in the budget, but the governor was forced to make concessions from his initial proposals.
Heastie said the task of developing a new evaluation system for teachers and principals would be delegated to the education department. Earlier this week, lawmakers said they were discussing a plan to ask the Board of Regents to develop the new rating system. Since the education department reports to the board, it’s unclear what’s different about the two plans.
A Cuomo administration source said the budget would specifically charge the education commissioner with the task, not the board. There is currently a vacancy in that role, since commissioner John King departed last year to take a job with the federal government.
The department would have to flesh out the details of the new system by June. School districts would need to finalize any locally negotiated aspects of their ratings system and submit their plans for state approval by November.
“We’re giving S.E.D. the ability to do what the intent is for them to do,” Heastie said. “The state education department should be the chief arbiters of education policy in the state, and we’re allowing them to do what their mission is.”
Heastie said the education department would have broad authority to determine the specifics; the Cuomo source, speaking on background, said the rating system would be based on observations and testing. Districts would be required to use state-administered standardized assessments as a component in the ratings, but they would also have the option to use an additional test that would also be designed by the state.
The rating system would use a model that’s not based on percentages, the source said. Lawmakers have debated using a “matrix” model.
Teachers and principals who are rated “ineffective” on the portion of the evaluation that’s based on testing would not be able to earn an overall rating of “effective” or higher.
Currently, the system is based on a scale of “ineffective,” “developing,” “effective” and “highly effective,” and two “ineffective” ratings could be used as grounds for termination.
Under the new plan, districts may bring disciplinary charges against educators with two consecutive “ineffective” ratings, and educators would be fired within 90 days unless they can provide “clear and convincing” evidence that they should keep their job.
Districts could bring disciplinary charges against educators with three consecutive “ineffective” ratings, and the educators would be fired within 30 days unless they can prove “fraud.”
A spokesman for the education department declined to comment.