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Educators criticize requirement that an 'independent evaluator' conduct teacher evaluations

Melinda Shelton

The changes to the teacher evaluation system that the New York state legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo enacted received much attention in this year's budget debate. The focus has often been on the role of standardized tests in teacher evaluations. But the way the new reforms will change how the classroom performance portion of the evaluation is conducted is now generating some concern as well. 

The in-class observation will now need to be done in two parts -- first by the principal of the teacher's school and then by an independent evaluator. Tim Kremer, the executive director of the New York State School Board Association says the principal is the teacher's supervisor and has the most knowledge about his or her performance.

"It almost seems like an artificial, kind of punitive way to go about evaluating. I don't get it," said Kremer.

The idea is to give a fresh perspective on the evaluations. Cuomo and others have criticized the system that last year ranked 95 percent of teachers as effective or highly effective. Schools or districts are supposed to swap principals with nearby schools or districts for these independent evaluations.

"I don't want him going down to the school down the street and evaluating their teachers and having someone who I've never met come in and evaluating our teachers. It just doesn't make much sense."

But Kremer calls this new requirement an unfunded mandate, saying many districts will not be able to share the duties. That would mean they will have to hire a consultant, retired principal or education professor to conduct the independent evaluations.