NY’s Cuomo: 2010 Teacher-Evaluation Law Not Working (Updated)

By Sean Cavanagh — January 04, 2012 2 min read
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told state lawmakers that the state’s 2010 law that ties teacher evaluation to student test scores—a major piece of the state’s winning, $700 million Race to the Top award—is not working, and he suggested it needs to be revised.

In his second “state of the state speech,” Cuomo said he would appoint a bipartisan commission to work with lawmakers on the issue—though he did not say specifically how he wants the teacher evaluation law to be changed.

“We need a meaningful teacher-evaluation system,” the Democrat said today, according to a transcript of his speech. “The legislation enacted in 2010 to qualify for Race to the Top didn’t work.”

But if lawmakers set about a process for overhauling the state’s teacher-evaluation standards, it’s unclear how that could affect New York’s Race to the Top award, which it won through the federal competition in 2010.

While the U.S. Department of Education has given states flexibility in carrying out their plans, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has also made it clear that he expects states to stick to their promises. His department last month issued a blunt warning to Hawaii officials, saying state was in danger of losing its $75 million award if it did not show that it is serious about carrying out its plan.

Since it was approved, New York’s teacher-evaluation law has been the subject of a major court fight. Last year, the New York State United Teachers sued to stop regulations adopted by the state’s Board of Regents, claiming they strayed from the law’s intent and placed too much weight on judging teachers’ performance on the basis of student achievement.

In August, a judge agreed with the union, saying parts of the regulations went too far. At the time, the state said it would appeal the decision.

New York is also the center of teacher-evaluation controversy on another front. This week state Commissioner of Education John King announced that he is suspending funding for 10 districts receiving federal School Improvement Grants, saying they had not made enough progress in establishing teacher and principal evaluation systems.

[UPDATE: In an interview with Education Week, New York’s education commissioner says he’s worried about the state standoff over teacher evaluation undermining the state’s Race to the Top plan.

“We are concerned about district capacity to execute on commitments they made on Race to the Top,” King told my colleague, Christina Samuels.

“We are concerned about being able to fulfill our state race to the top objectives. I’m hopeful that working together with our partners—school boards, superintendents, as well as the representatives of principals and teacher unions—we’ll be able to move forward. But we’re unquestionably concerned.”]

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.