Teaching Profession

Lawmakers in N.Y. Bar Student Scores in Weighing Tenure

By Michele McNeil — April 22, 2008 1 min read

They were hoping to more closely align teacher-tenure decisions with student test scores, but the mayor of New York City and other proponents of that idea got the opposite: a two-year ban.

The New York legislature, as part of its final budget package, approved on April 9 a measure barring for two years school districts’ use of student-performance data to make teacher-tenure decisions. The law also creates a commission that will study the state’s teacher-tenure system.

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See other stories on education issues in New York. See data on New York’s public school system.

In New York, new teachers are on probation for three years before the local school board decides on tenure.

The new law is a major victory for teachers’ unions, which had fought attempts by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to hold teachers more accountable through student test scores. Even former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, had championed the use of test scores in decisions about teachers’ futures. (“Mayor Backs Off Plan for School Funding Method in N.Y.C.,” May 2, 2007.)

It’s also a blow to the state school boards’ association, which was opposed to being told what its members can, and cannot, use to make tenure decisions.

The teachers’ union victory also suggests that new Gov. David Paterson, a Democrat, who accepted the ban as part of the budget package, may be more union-friendly than his predecessor. Mr. Spitzer was forced to leave office amid a prostitution scandal. The New York Times reported on April 12 that Gov. Paterson’s father is a lobbyist who has represented teachers’ unions, including the United Federation of Teachers, which represents 200,000 employees in the city’s public school system and helped get the two-year ban approved.

New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi insisted that linking test scores to teacher tenure is a bad idea.

But Mr. Iannuzzi, whose 600,000-member union is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, didn’t completely close the door.

“There clearly is a place for looking at how students perform when we try and determine who should be standing in front of schoolchildren,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the April 23, 2008 edition of Education Week

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