Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa speaks to the New York State...

Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa speaks to the New York State Board of Regents in Albany on July 15, 2019. Credit: Hans Pennink

Legislation that rewrites the state’s teacher evaluation system — giving more local control to districts and eliminating student test scores as a required assessment tool — is expected to be delivered to state lawmakers Wednesday.

Melinda Person, president of New York State United Teachers, and state Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa are scheduled to jointly deliver the proposed legislation to the State Capitol, which union leaders said “rewrites New York’s flawed teacher evaluation system to finally support educators, administrators and students.”

“The extraordinary agreement is the result of deliberative discussions among the union, state officials and scores of stakeholders to fix the punitive evaluation system that was foisted upon teachers in 2010,” NYSUT said in a release.

Several statewide education groups applauded the move.


  • NYSUT President Melinda Person and Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa are expected to deliver to state lawmakers proposed legislation to rewrite the state’s teacher evaluation system.
  • The revisions would give more local control to districts and eliminate student test scores as a required assessment tool.
  • Evaluation of a teacher's job performance would be subject to an agreement between representatives of the local teachers union and district leaders.

“We were extensively involved in developing the proposal and support its adoption. It was the product of months of discussion between the State Education Department and multiple school groups,” said Robert Lowry, deputy director for advocacy, research and communications for the New York State Council of School Superintendents. “The proposal would restore local control, eliminating some of the damaging parts of the current system and giving districts flexibility to negotiate plans that fit their local circumstances.”

Brian Fessler, director of governmental relations for the New York State School Boards Association, said: “This new system allows districts to go over those finer details and points locally without having them be overly prescribed from the state.”

But Ken Girardin, research director for the Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank, said Tuesday that NYSUT has for years undermined the state's standardized testing system and “has never presented compelling evidence that New York's evaluation system is too tough on or unfair for teachers. Where is the data? How many teachers couldn't hit 'effective?' How many would have if it hadn't been for the use of standardized tests?”

In 2010, lawmakers approved basing teachers' ratings on students' achievement on state English and math standardized tests as well as on classroom tests and supervisor evaluations. In 2019, lawmakers approved ending the mandate tying teacher evaluations to students’ scores on standardized tests under the process known as the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR). But even supporters acknowledged at the time that it didn’t completely unlink exams and evaluations, leaving 50% of a teacher’s appraisal to some measure of student performance.

Those changes were prompted in large part by massive student boycotts of state tests that swept across the state and remain strong on Long Island to this day.

That law required local districts to negotiate with their teacher unions to choose the exams to be used to evaluate an educator's performance. About half of job ratings were based on test scores, and the other half on classroom observations by district supervisors.

The newly proposed legislation, which has the support of several stakeholder groups statewide, would eliminate “the current harmful requirement that students’ test scores be used to assess teachers. It will return evaluations to local control, allowing New York state to put the emphasis back on what matters most in our classrooms — teaching and learning,” according to NYSUT.

Under the proposal, evaluation of a teacher's job performance would be subject to an agreement between representatives of the local teachers union and district leaders — much like the way contracts are negotiated, said Fessler of the state school boards association, which gave input for the newly drafted bill. The legislation also will give school districts extended time to come up with an evaluation process. Districts can incorporate test scores, if that is what is agreed to locally.

“It allows the focus on these values to improve teacher performance and therefore improve student learning in the classroom instead of it being this exercise in checking boxes and making sure you are meeting this … state rubric,” Fessler said. “We wanted more local control and more flexibility and I think this draft we all worked on helps achieve that.”

The state superintendents group surveyed school leaders statewide and on Long Island in November, finding more than four times as many superintendents — 44% to 9% — responded that APPR was having a negative impact on improving teaching. For all the time and expense required by APPR, the largest share of superintendents responded that it had little or no impact on improvement efforts.

“The evaluation system required by the current law is commonly seen as a waste of time or worse, actually harming efforts to improve teaching and school leadership and to recruit and retain teachers,” Lowry said.

A representative for NYSUT said more information will be made available Wednesday.

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