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Delay of teacher evaluations reverses Cuomo policy

Thomas Favre-Bulle
via Flickr

The state’s latest teacher evaluation system, which was supposed to be in place November 15,  has essentially been put on hold, as 90 percent of school districts have been granted waivers to delay its implementation. It represents a reversal for a policy championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo just last spring. 

The new rules for teacher evaluations were put in place last March, as part of the state budget.  

At the time, Cuomo argued that while two-thirds of New York’s third through eighth graders were consistently shown to be performing below standards in tests, over 95 percent of teachers were rated as performing well.

“It’s not real,” Cuomo said. “You have to go back to the table and try to come up with an evolution system that’s more accurate.”

Cuomo convinced the legislature to enact the new system, which would rely more heavily on standardized tests for the teacher performance reviews, though some expressed reluctance.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie was still admitting regret over the summer.

“When we discussed this, there was a concern about the time frame,” Heastie said in August.

The New York State Board of Regents, which is essentially appointed by the Assembly Democrats because they have the largest voting block in the legislature, developed a waiver. Schools could delay coming up with the new teacher evaluation systems for several months beyond the November 15 deadline, and possibly for as long as an entire school year. Almost all of the schools in the state have been granted the waivers.

A spokesman for the teachers union, Carl Korn, says the timetable was never realistic.

“It involved many moving parts,” he said recently.

Cuomo has said the waivers should be the exception, and not the rule.  Lately the governor has not commented on the teacher evaluations, though he did issue a video announcing a new commission to revisit the Common Core learning standards, which are related to the new teacher performance rules.

“We must fix it and we must fix it now,” Cuomo said in the recorded message.

Cuomo blames the state Education Department, which he does not directly control, saying in a statement in September that he believes the implementation has been deeply flawed.

Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, a Republican who is a frequent critic of the governor, says he’s not surprised by the developments, and Cuomo’s seeming reversal on education policy.  The governor initially favored a fast track schedule to adopt the Common Core standards.

“It says it’s a complete failure the way it was rolled out,” said McLaughlin who said Cuomo went too quickly and caused havoc. 

“He tries to ride in on the white horse to be the savior, not recognizing or acknowledging that he caused the havoc to begin with,” McLaughlin said.

The governor’s Common Core commission is due to report in December.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.