Friday wrap-up — and Saturday and Sunday too — April 9, 2012

Monday, April 9th, 2012 at 3:29 pm by

Items we highlighted via twitter and our homepage this past week included budgeting issues, State Education Department activities, teacher evaluations, teacher hearing procedures and a new education lobbying group. 

Budgeting Issues
The State Aid and Financial Planning Service at Questar BOCES published a concise summary of the School Aid changes in this year’s state budget.

The Syracuse Post-Standard reported on the challenges Central new York school districts are facing in assembling budgets for the first-time under the new property tax cap.

The editor of the Albany Times Union wrote about the prospect of school libraries disappearing due to the tough choices confronting schools from the confluence of limited state aid increases and limitations on local taxes.


State Education Department Activities

The State Education Department issued the following items:

— The RFP (request for proposals) for the new School District Management Efficiency Grant Program.

— A tool kit for the Common Core learning standards.

School and district report cards; here is an article on the release which ran in Gannett papers around the state.

State Education Commissioner John King “tweeted” that Newsday ran an excellent column about implementing the Common Core.


Releasing Teacher Evaluations
Issues concerning teachers have been at the forefront in state education news – the debate over releasing individual evaluation results and the difficulties schools face in removing teachers who have attained tenure.

At the beginning of last week, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver expressed support for limiting the release of individual student evaluations to parents.  “But beyond the parents, I’m not sure that we shouldn’t treat teachers like every other municipal and state employee,” whose evaluations are not subject to release under the state’s Freedom of Information Law

New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott first offered an opinion similar to the Speaker’s but then clarified, that like Mayor Bloomberg, he supports release to the full public.

In a National Public Radio interview, Bill Gates expressed misgivings about publishing individual evaluations.

The goal is to help teachers be better,” Gates said. “And when we run personnel systems where we want to be frank with employees about where they need to improve, having [evaluations] publicly available is not conducive to openness and a free exchange of views.

NPR added that “Gates said that parents looking at evaluations could lead to a rush of them trying to get their kids in classrooms with the highly rated teachers and that’s a ‘zero-sum game,’ he said, when what we should be doing is helping all teachers improve.”

The Journal News, serving the lower Hudson Valley is (or was) conducting an online survey on whether individual evaluations should be published.

Today, there are reports that a deal on legislation may be at hand.  In the New York Post Fred Dicker reports,

Gov. Cuomo and state lawmakers are closing in on a deal to give parents full access to the new teacher-evaluation report cards, while banning their general release to the public, The Post has learned.

The agreement, which could come within two weeks, would also guarantee that all teacher-performance statistics for every public school, including the percentage of teachers in high- and low- performance categories, would be made public, sources said.

But still to be determined — and a major stumbling block — is whether there is a legal way to prevent parents from disclosing to the public the private performance evaluations they will receive in confidence. Also at issue is whether parents should be given information about every teacher their child has contact with — for instance, one whom the student might deal with only once a week for a special class — as well as information prospectively on teachers that kids might have in their next grade.

The Speaker and the Governor have both framed the issue as balancing the public’s right to information against teachers’ right to privacy.  That is an understandable perspective for them to take – they are attorneys and that is how court decisions on the issue proceed.

But focusing on the rights of one group of adults versus another’s misses a more important question:  what is right for students?  The overwhelming majority of superintendents who have shared opinions with us believe publishing individual evaluation results does not serve the best interests of students.


Tenured Teacher Hearing Procedures
The New York Times reported on teachers found guilty of inappropriate behavior with students who were able to retain their positions.

Newspapers in the Gannet chain carried an article this weekend on the costs and delays in the process of removing tenured school employees charged with incompetence or inappropriate behavior.

Gannett reported,

It took an average of 742 days — just more than two years — for upstate districts to secure guilty decisions against teachers and administrators, according to a state Education Department report on cases resolved in 2010. It took an average of 512 days for not-guilty verdicts and 338 days for settlements.

For upstate cases decided in 2011, it took an average of 632 days for a guilty decision and 1,070 days for a not-guilty ruling. That’s more than twice the length of time for not-guilty cases in 2010. It took an average of 287 days for cases that were settled.

The number of cases is minuscule compared to the number of teachers in New York. There were 146,601 teachers and 172,901 total staff in school districts outside New York City in the 2010-11 school year, compared to 69,170 teachers and 82,341 staffers in New York City.

The recently enacted state budget makes some changes to the procedures for tenured teacher hearings.  They included authorizing the State Education Department to appoint an arbitrator if the parties cannot agree within 15 days, to set maximum pay rates for hearing officers and limiting the number of study hours they may claim, and to exclude arbitrators who fail to adhere to timelines.  Also, both sides will be barred from introducing new evidence starting 125 days after the filing of charges.

Here is a State Education Department memo outlining the changes.

The budget does not shift hearing costs from the state to schools and employees or their unions, as the Governor and Education Department had proposed.


A New Education Advocacy Group
Last week, the formation of a new education advocacy group was announced, “StudentsFirstNY.”  The New York Times reported,

Leaders of a national education reform movement, including Joel I. Klein and Michelle Rhee, the former schools chancellors in New York and Washington, have formed a statewide political group in New York with an eye toward being a counterweight to the powerful teachers’ union in the 2013 mayoral election.

The Times added, “Members of the group worry that without a significant marshaling of forces, their achievements could be dismantled. Their aim is to raise $10 million annually for five years, hoping to make an imprint throughout the next mayor’s first term.”

News items highlighted on the group’s website show a strong interest charter school expansion.


Finally, in honor of my home territory, happy Dyngus Day!  More here.


This entry was posted on Monday, April 9th, 2012 at 3:29 pm and is filed under Finance, Legislation, Standards & Assessments, State Budget, Teachers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.