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Lawmakers propose extending teacher evaluation plan deadline

Long Island school districts facing tight deadlines to

Long Island school districts facing tight deadlines to revamp their teacher-evaluation plans would get extended time under a new bipartisan initiative. Credit: Heather Walsh

Long Island school districts facing tight deadlines to revamp their teacher-evaluation plans would get extended time under a new bipartisan initiative backed by state legislative leaders, though Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo late Tuesday appeared to oppose any such measure.

Proposed legislation introduced by State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Assemb. Catherine Nolan (D-Queens) would push back to Dec. 15 the deadline for districts to win state approval of revised evaluation plans negotiated with their local unions.

The Nov. 15 deadline now in place was part of sweeping legislation covering both teacher evaluations and $2.4 billion in extra school aid cobbled together by Cuomo and lawmakers in a postmidnight session last month.

The state's schedule calls for local districts to draft revised plans by Sept. 1, so the state Education Department can approve them by mid-November.

School superintendents on the Island and statewide have protested that some districts would find it virtually impossible to draft plans over the summer when union leaders were on vacation. Some key lawmakers sympathized.

"The important thing is to get this done right," Flanagan said in a phone interview.

A spokeswoman for the governor, who could veto such an initiative, appeared to reject the legislative proposal late Tuesday.

"The Governor and the legislature passed a law implementing the new teacher evaluation system in this year's budget so there is no need to reconsider that issue now," spokeswoman Dani Lever said in a prepared statement.

Flanagan noted that the proposal he is sponsoring with Nolan also provides an extra 45 days for the state's Board of Regents to collect public comment on the revamped evaluation system once it has tentatively approved regulations for the system. The current deadline for Regents' action is June 30.

On Thursday, the Regents will host an invitation-only Learning Summit at the State Museum in Albany where representatives of school boards, superintendents, teachers and others will present their views on evaluations. Public comments will be accepted via email.

Critics of the state's deadlines noted that the one-day summit may be the only opportunity for public comment, unless lawmakers grant an extension.

"The forum on the 7th [of May] is a good way to gather information, but I think there needs to be an informed debate about this," said Roberta Gerold, superintendent of Middle Country schools and president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association.

The superintendents' group recently sent letters to Flanagan and Nolan, proposing to extend the June 30 deadline for the education department.

Whether the Flanagan-Nolan bill would pass in its present form before the legislative session closes at the end of June remains a question mark. One provision would give the Senate an equal voice with the Assembly in future selections of Regents -- a measure that would presumably encounter resistance among some Assembly Democrats who now control selections.

"We haven't taken a stand on Regents selection, but the sections dealing with evaluations and assessment are all positive," said Robert Lowry, deputy director of the State Council of School Superintendents.

Representatives of several state educational groups have assailed the evaluations law amended last month, contending it would further antagonize teachers and parents already upset by a ratings process tied to state test scores. An estimated 200,000 students statewide, including more than 66,000 in Nassau and Suffolk counties, were pulled out of tests by their parents last month.The education department, which is organizing the summit, on Tuesday announced the names of seven experts in the fields of education, economics and testing psychometrics who will speak at the all-day session. They include Catherine Brown, vice president of the Center for American Progress; Thomas Kane, a Harvard University economist; Sandi Jacobs, of the National Council on Teacher Quality; and Aaron Pallas, a sociologist at Columbia University Teachers College.

"Our goal is to create an evaluation system that will strengthen the instruction in our classrooms and the leadership in our schools," said Anthony Bottar, vice chancellor of the Regents and co-chair of a committee hosting Thursday's meeting.

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