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State deal toughens teacher evaluations, makes it harder to secure tenure, official says

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seen in

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seen in a June 12, 2014 file photo. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

ALBANY -  A top Cuomo administration official said Senate and Assembly leaders have agreed to new laws that will toughen teacher evaluations and make it harder for teachers to secure tenure.

The package is expected to be adopted Tuesday with the last elements of the state budget.

Under the new evaluation structure, teachers must be rated "effective" both on their students' performance on state tests as well as through classroom observation to get an overall rating of "highly effective" or "effective."

The current system may allow a teacher to be rated "effective" even if their students' test scores reflect little progress.

The job of deciding how to weight students' test performance would fall to the State Education Department, the source said Monday night. The agency would take into account difficulties such as a large number of immigrant students who have limited English proficiency, as well as a district's advantageous resources, such as its wealth.

Currently, the teacher evaluation law spells out what percentage of a teacher's job rating is determined by student test scores and what percentage by local measures, including classroom observation.

A school district now can seek to remove a teacher after two consecutive years of "ineffective" ratings.

Under the new proposal, a district would be required to consider firing a teacher after three straight years of "ineffective" ratings, the official said.

Under the revised evaluation law, teachers would need to achieve "highly effective" or "effective" ratings in three of four consecutive years before they are granted tenure.

In addition, 27 schools statewide that have been designated as chronically underperforming for 10 years would get one year and resources to show "demonstrable progress" before they are taken over by another school -- acting as a "receiver" -- to make improvements, the official said.

Effective teachers also could get $20,000 bonuses -- equal to about one-third of the average teacher salary statewide -- and credit toward promotions under the plan, the official said.

Lawmakers also said they were close to final agreement on school aid.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said the statewide package would total about $1.4 billion for grades K-12 -- the biggest increase since the 2008 financial crash. Additional money would be provided for prekindergarten education and other programs.

Of the $1.4 billion, about $500 million would be allotted statewide in 2015-16 to restore aid money cut during the economic downturn. Roughly $500 million more would be provided the following year, making the restoration complete.

Compensating districts for the previous cuts -- known as the Gap Elimination Adjustment, or GEA -- is a No. 1 fiscal priority for Long Island educators.

Roberta Gerold, president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, said local school leaders appreciated the pledge of extra aid but are anxious to see computerized "runs" showing how much money would go to each district.

"We need to know the details, so we can ensure that public education doesn't get short shrift," said Gerold, who is superintendent of Middle Country schools.

With John Hildebrand

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