Feds warn NYS on Race to the Top, Governor responds (expanded)

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 at 4:55 pm by

New York is one of three states to be placed on a “watch list” by the S. Department of Education for inadequate follow-through on Race to the Top commitments.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has reacted to the news with a statement harshly critical of school districts, local unions, and what he refers to as “the Assembly-led legislation” creating the evaluation system.

The USDE cited two concerns – delays in implementing new student data systems and new teacher and principal evaluation systems.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said,

“New York made significant progress through Race to the Top over the last year but has recently hit a roadblock that not only impedes Race to the Top but could threaten other key reform initiatives as well.  New York has a chance to be a national leader or a laggard, and we are only interested in supporting real courage and bold leadership.”

The State Education Department issued a statement saying of the report,

“It’s disappointing but not discouraging.  We have to get this done, and we will.  The RTTT report is a reminder that the federal government will hold us to the commitments we made in our RTTT application, just as we will hold districts and educators to the commitments they made.

This afternoon, Governor Cuomo issued a statement.  He said

Secretary Duncan’s report saying New York is on the watch-list for failure is yet another warning that the inability of school districts across the state and their unions to come together has jeopardized the quality of our kids’ education. New York State’s students are now in danger of losing hundreds of millions of dollars because of the failure to devise a teacher evaluation system that works.

The Governor added,

We need to achieve both short term and long term reform of this failed system. I will pursue such reform aggressively.

In the short term, I call on the State Department of Education, local school districts and the union leadership to expedite their negotiations on a teacher evaluation system to prevent the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.

Over the long term, we need to overhaul the system and change the law on the books. The Assembly-led legislation in 2010 protected the teachers union at the expense of the students and instituted a system that was destined to fail.

Here is a link to the USDE’s progress report on New York.

Additional text:

Governor Cuomo’s statement built upon comments he made during a radio interview the day before.  At the conclusion of the interview with Fred Dicker of the New York Post and 1300 AM Albany talk radio, the Governor made it a point to bring up the evaluation issue.

The Governor said,

The law has been a failure. It has not been implemented. It is unworkable. Some would say it was unworkable by design, ab initio [from the initiation], but time has shown that it’s unworkable.

The Governor also reiterated his refusal to get involved in resolving the New York City impasse over teacher evaluations, noting,

There are roughly 700 school districts in this state. The answer isn’t “The Governor should intervene between the local political official – the school board – and the union. I can’t negotiate 700 union contracts.

The Governor concluded by expressing respect for teachers and the union, adding, “my mother was a school teacher,” but concluded, “I represent the students.”

A podcast of the interview is available here.  The evaluation discussion comes at the 52 minute mark, near the very end.

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