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Most LI school districts submit evaluation plans

More than 80 percent of Long Island's 124 public school districts have submitted draft plans to the state that will be used to evaluate thousands of teachers and principals -- a response far above that of districts statewide.

An Education Department tally released this week shows that 101 districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties have submitted plans to the state agency so far.

In contrast, fewer than 55 percent of districts statewide have turned in plans, state education officials said. That leaves more than 310 districts that still owe plans, including New York City's school system, the state's largest.

Vincent Lyons, Suffolk County's director for the New York State United Teachers union, voiced satisfaction over evidence that the Island's districts have generated the highest percentage of evaluation plans in the state.

One common hang-up for districts, both on the Island and upstate, has been disputes between school boards and unions representing teachers and administrators that must sign off on evaluation plans.

"It was time-consuming; it was tiring," Lyons said. "But it was a cooperative effort, and we got the job done."

In Albany, meanwhile, preparations are under way for the planned December release of the state's initial job ratings, known as "growth" scores, for about 52,000 teachers in grades 4-8, including 7,000 teachers on the Island. The scores, which already were sent to districts, are based on students' improvement on standardized state tests.

State law bans release of teachers' names. Instead, Education Department officials said their plan is to release statistics showing numbers of teachers, in every district and school, who are assigned one of four ratings -- highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective.

State scores will count for 20 percent of teachers' evaluations, with the remainder generated by districts themselves in compliance with the plans now being submitted to Albany. Teachers rated ineffective two years running risk possible job loss.

So far, the Education Department has approved 130 of the 378 plans submitted, including 41 plans from the Island. Districts failing to win approval by Jan. 17 risk losing part of their state financial aid.

Plainview-Old Bethpage is among 23 local districts that have not turned in evaluation plans. Lorna Lewis, the district's superintendent, said administrative and union leaders have essentially settled on a plan covering about 600 teachers, and are within a "hairsbreadth" of agreeing on a salary contract to replace one that expired in June 2011.

"When you have no money to offer, it's hard," said Lewis, who took over the district in August. She was superintendent in East Williston, which has submitted its plan to the state.

Paul Casciano, chief of William Floyd schools, said his district sent its evaluation plan to Albany late Wednesday, a few hours after the Education Department released its list. The plan covers about 700 teachers.

Casciano said an important consideration for William Floyd was that state aid comprises nearly half its total revenues.

"When push came to shove, our teacher leaders and administrator leaders did the right thing," the superintendent said. "They knew how important this was."

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