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Another Voice: State is gathering input on best way to evaluate teachers

By Betty A. Rosa and MaryEllen Elia

In 2015, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo formed a task force to review the state’s Common Core learning standards and assessments, and to recommend changes to the system. By that time, many New Yorkers had expressed concern with the Common Core standards and the state tests associated with them – and they were angry at the way in which these changes had been hastily imposed on them.

Above all, many opposed the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers and principals. In response, the task force expanded its mandate to also include a review of the evaluation system. The task force recommended that test results should be decoupled from teacher evaluations until the state developed and implemented a new system.

We agreed with that sensible recommendation, and in December 2015 the Board of Regents provided a four-year transition period during which evaluation measures based on state assessments could have no employment-related consequences for teachers. This temporary decoupling was intended to provide us with the time to review and revise our standards, assessments and evaluation system in a comprehensive way.

While we have made great progress, this work is still underway. At its meeting earlier this month, the Regents discussed a proposal to extend the moratorium for one year, through the end of the 2019-2020 school year. The Regents will vote on that proposed extension in April.
When used correctly, evaluations can provide teachers and district leaders with valuable insights and can support their continuous improvement. So, it’s imperative that we take the time to get it right.

To ensure that happens, we are actively engaging with parents, teachers and school leaders to seek their help in developing a new evaluation system, and have already taken important steps in this effort. For example, we received nearly 22,000 responses to a survey we sent to the field seeking input on the best way to create a useful evaluation system. Last month we established two work groups to provide further input. And over the coming months we will conduct regional focus groups and additional surveys to collect even more feedback.

Yes, this is a long process – but, as we learned from the past, it makes sense to listen to the practitioners and to take the time to get it right.

We have tremendous respect for New York’s legislators and we hope our process will help inform them as they consider this important issue. We will continue to work with parents and educators to build an evaluation system that best serves all of New York’s teachers and students.

Betty A. Rosa is chancellor of the Board of Regents; MaryEllen Elia is state education commissioner.

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