200 districts lack teacher evaluations

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — About 200 school districts, including New York City's and Buffalo's, have no teacher evaluation system in place and face the loss of millions of dollars in state aid that could force deep mid-year cuts.

The deadline is Jan. 17 for the landmark job evaluations for teachers and principals to be approved by local unions and the state Education Department. Districts will lose their annual school aid increase that averages 4 percent statewide if they fail to comply, according to the state law passed a year ago.

The state Education Department said 442 of the state's nearly 700 districts have received state approval for their systems. More than 180 districts have submitted plans that are still being considered or tweaked by state officials. Two dozen districts haven't submitted any proposal.

On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made it clear he won't extend the deadline. The evaluations are required under a deal with the federal government for more than $700 million in competitive grants created to improve instruction.

"We didn't say, 'Let's everybody go out there and try,'" Cuomo said. "They've been trying for years and they've been failing for years. This was a hard deadline.

"If you get it done, great. You get 4 percent additional funding. If you don't get it done, that's your business, but then you don't get the 4 percent additional funding," Cuomo said. "People expect performance in life. ... You're not going to get additional money to reward your nonperformance."

With four weeks until the deadline and a weeklong school holiday in between, two dozen schools will have to submit their plans for a review that normally takes four to six weeks, state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said.

"We'll move as fast as we can, but we will not sacrifice the quality of our review," King said. "The plans will help principals and teachers improve their practice and help students graduate ready for college and careers. But the clock is ticking."

Robert Lowry Jr. of the New York State Council of School Superintendents said the evaluations must be approved by unions and negotiations can be difficult with some evaluation systems being held up as part of negotiations drag on over other areas of labor contracts.

"It's a huge concern for some," Lowry said. A cut in aid in the middle of the school year would require a spending cut twice as deep as it would need to be when spread over the school year, he said.

For some wealthier districts, the state school aid increase might be small and state aid might be as little as 10 percent of the district's revenues. But he said poorer districts would have gotten a bigger state aid increase and state aid might account for 80 percent of revenues, resulting in a much bigger hit.

Still, Lowry said, he is pleasantly surprised that the landmark change is being worked out in so many school districts already.

"Some districts have some very wide differences" in negotiations, said David Albert of the New York State School Boards Association. He said it's hard to tell if all districts will meet the deadline.

Carl Korn of the New York State United Teachers union said many local plans will be approved in the coming days.

"While we understand the governor's position, our focus is on helping the remaining districts to do it right and not just do it," Korn said. "Comprehensive, rigorous and fair evaluations can improve teacher effectiveness and enhance student learning."

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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New York (change)

Democrat Andrew Cuomo is Governor of New York.  Two Democrats represent NYS in the U.S. Senate, and NY has 29 representatives in the U.S. House: 21 Democrats and 8 Republicans.
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