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NYS Lawmakers Take Another Step Separating Teacher Performance From Test Results

Mike Groll

The New York State legislature approved a measure that ends a mandate that teacher evaluations be based on the results of their students’ standardized tests. It’s another step to end a 10-year-old bitter fight between teachers and their unions and politicians, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, over implementation of the controversial Common Core learning standards.

Assembly Education Committee Chair Michael Benedetto was a teacher for 35 years before running for office. He said he was routinely evaluated by administrators. They observed him in the classroom, and checked over his lesson plans. He said that worked until in 2010, the evaluations were taken over by what he calls the “political sphere” and teachers’ performance ratings were more closely tied to results of standardized test scores. He said that led to “chaos and uncertainty.”

“It was a terrible thing, what we have done to the teachers of this state,” said Benedetto. “We decide to say to them, ‘We don’t trust you and you, teachers, are the enemy.’”

The bill will permit local school districts to decide whether or not to use the test results as part of teacher evaluations.

The measure was heralded by the teachers union, New York State United Teachers. Its president, Andy Pallotta, said in a statement that the system was “broken” and needed fixing.  

“We look forward to making sure this bill is signed into law immediately, and we will continue to advocate for a meaningful assessment system for New York students that will measure student progress more accurately and address the concerns raised by teachers and parents alike,” Pallotta said.

It now goes to Governor Cuomo, who also recommended the changes in his budget plan. Cuomo initially backed linking teacher evaluations to test scores.

A spokeswoman would not say whether the governor will sign the legislature’s bill or wait to approve it as part of the budget.

The controversy led to one-fifth of the state’s students routinely boycotting the tests.  

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.