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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Board of Regents blasts teacher eval law, considers changes

ALBANY - Several members of the state Board of Regents on Monday sharply criticized a new teacher evaluation forced on them by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature a month ago.

The board also heard the first recommendations by the state Education Department on how the evaluation system will be implemented. The recommendations could ease some of the mandates for teachers and school districts when the evaluation system is made final in the coming months.

"In 1784, the Board of Regents was established and its primary purpose was to separate policy from politics. I am finding the reality is much different," said Regent Beverly L. Ouderkirk of Morristown.

"We have to exercise some leadership about what is the direction of education in the state, rather than have that direction dictated to us," said regent Lester Young of Brooklyn.

The evaluation system pushed by Cuomo as part of this 2010 re-election campaign devotes half of a teacher's evaluation on their students' performance on standardized test scores that teacher unions argue is a poor measure of a teacher's ability.

Cuomo has said the latest use of a teacher evaluation system rated 95 percent of teachers effective or ineffective, and he said that's impossible because he said many public schools in New York perform poorly.

Some members said they wanted to take legal or legislative action to fight the teacher evaluation system that Cuomo required to be part of a state budget deal adopted April 1.

The board also heard recommendations from the state Education Department about fine-tuning the evaluation system required by law.

Among those recommendations are to "round up" many teacher scores to give them the "benefit of a doubt" in the new system. The recommendations would also require teachers judged effective or highly effective to face as little as two 10-minute observations in the classroom, said senior deputy commissioner for education Ken Wagner. That's a recommended minimum. School districts could require longer observations.

Regent Roger Tilles of Brookville said the few details the Board of Regents can write into the evaluation system amounts to "putting lipstick on this" law.

He predicted even more families, including those living in the focal point of opposition on Long Island, will refuse to allow their children to take the tests.

"What you are seeing is a sausage made in public space and that's always complicated," said state schools Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch of Manhattan. She has sought a delay for school districts to implement the teacher evaluation with the threat under the law of losing some state aid.

"Evaluation is an important topic and I happen to think it's a valuable tool," Tisch said after the three-hour meeting.

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