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Letter: Union: Don't rush teacher evals

Classrooms across Long Island were empty on Thursday.

Classrooms across Long Island were empty on Thursday. Check our listings of delayed openings, closures and cancellations to see what's in store for Friday. Credit: Daniel Brennan

Newsday's Sept. 21 editorial misses the mark so badly, it's hard to know where to begin ["Get moving on evaluations"].

New York State United Teachers has worked collaboratively with the state Education Department to develop a comprehensive, rigorous and fair teacher-principal evaluation system. New York's law embeds professional development and discards a subjective, "gotcha" system in favor of one that will improve overall teacher effectiveness and enhance student learning.

Since 2009, NYSUT has spearheaded a pilot project in which local unions, jointly with their superintendents, pioneered new approaches to evaluations; developed a highly regarded, free rubric that districts and unions may use to look at teachers' classroom practice; and devoted thousands of hours of training and support to push the evaluation law forward.

Sure, there have been bumps along the way. This is complex, serious work undertaken at a time when resources for public schools are being slashed. Yet, teachers and school districts, especially on Long Island, have made a commitment to do this work right, and that takes time. While Newsday prefers artificial deadlines, penalties and rushing these evaluation systems into place, students will benefit far more if districts and unions thoughtfully design rigorous and fair evaluation systems that are appropriate for their communities.

This appropriateness includes the care that Long Island districts' and local unions are taking to avoid an over-reliance on flawed tests, a main issue in the Chicago teachers strike. Newsday's editorial reached wrong conclusions about this strike.

Standardized testing and data have a place in education -- and, yes, in evaluations -- but we must ensure that good tests lead to better instruction and greater student learning, and are never solely used for high-stakes decisions. Chicago teachers, with the backing of a majority of parents and the public, stood proudly for that principle. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is just the latest to learn that students are more than test scores.

Richard C. Iannuzzi, Albany

Editor's note: The writer is the president of the New York State United Teachers union.