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Regents reverse course on teacher-evaluation appeal

New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John B.

New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John B. King, Jr. is shown during a press conference following a presentation of the Regents Common Core Work Group report to the Board of Regents in Albany on Feb. 10, 2014. Credit: Philip Kamrass

The Board of Regents, under fire from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, reversed course Tuesday and set aside a proposal that would have allowed teachers to appeal poor job ratings under the state's new evaluation rules.

The tabled provision, which the Regents had OKd in a preliminary vote Monday, would have let teachers appeal "ineffective" evaluations from the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years, on grounds they were inadequately trained to provide instruction based on the state's new Common Core curriculum.

The Regents have acknowledged the Department of Education was slow in providing curriculum guides for educators before tougher state tests were given. In the new system, teacher job ratings are tied to their students' test performance.

Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who heads the education policy board, noted after Tuesday's vote that the appeals plan was blasted both by Cuomo, who said it went too far, and by New York State United Teachers, which said the provision did not go far enough. NYSUT is the state's largest teachers union.

"NYSUT came out against this, the governor came out against this, for opposite reasons," Tisch said. "There was so much non-solidarity about this that we felt it needed to be discussed."

Tisch repeatedly has described the governor as "a strong ally" in the push for higher academic standards -- she repeated that yesterday -- and the chancellor also went along when Cuomo has pressed in the past to make student scores a bigger factor in teacher ratings.

The board vote setting the provision aside for further discussion was unanimous.

Education Department officials said a firm decision on the appeals provision is needed by April. The timing is driven by the need to have the issue settled by summer, when teachers are to receive their ratings for the 2013-14 school year.

The appeals plan was part of a broader 19-point package designed to ease public anxieties over the state's rapid rollout of curricula and tests based on the Common Core academic standards.

Most of the package, which won tentative approval Monday, got a final Regents endorsement Tuesday on a 15-2 vote. Some elements require further action by the Regents, the State Legislature or other parties.

One provision that goes into effect immediately will allow high school students, until 2022, to pass Regents exams required for graduation with a minimum score of 65. At that point, scores required for graduation will rise to 75 on English exams and 80 in algebra.

Cuomo considers the toughened evaluation system a hallmark of his administration. In a radio interview Tuesday, the governor said of attempts to revise the system, "I get that they don't want to do it. The teachers don't want an evaluation system. My problem is, the people of the state want the teacher evaluation system implemented."

NYSUT, which has sought a two-year suspension of the evaluation system, considered the appeal provision inadequate. However, spokesman Carl Korn said the organization was disappointed the provision was set aside because it confirmed that implementation of evaluations was "faulty."


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