Schools set to miss teacher evaluation deadline

June 29, 2012

An important deadline in the state’s ongoing teacher evaluation process occurs Sunday, but as Karen DeWitt reports, most schools will be missing it. 

The law establishing new teacher evaluations set July 1 as the date for schools around the state to submit their plans to the State Education Department. The evaluations are required in order to qualify for federal grant money that New York State won under the Race to the Top program.

But only around 65 of the states more than 700 school districts will be ready, says New York State School Boards Association’s executive director Tim Kremer.

“Not going to make that deadline, for most districts,” Kremer said.

The major reason for the delay is that schools were waiting for Governor Cuomo and the legislature to finalize a plan to limit disclosure of teacher evaluations to the public. On June 21st, the last day of the legislative session, they agreed on legislation to keep the results private, except to parents who actually have a child in the teacher’s class.  Teachers and administrators were hesitant to work on deals on evaluation plans until then.

The School Boards Association backed Cuomo’s bill,  Kremer says largely because  there are too many unknowns in the unfinished teacher evaluation process to expose the very first results to wide public scrutiny.

“We’re not quite ready for primetime,” said Kremer, who said it’s a “work in progress”.

The head of the state’s largest teachers union, NYSUT President  Dick Iannuzzi says his understanding is that the July 1 date is the starting point to submit the teacher evaluation plans.

“I don’t think that the July 1 date was ever a line in the sand date,” said Iannuzzi.

According to guidelines sent out by the State Education Department to school districts, July 1 is the legal date to submit the teacher evaluation plans, and the department legally has until September 1 to accept or reject the proposals. The guidelines say teacher evaluations sent after July 1 will still be accepted, but there’s no guarantee that schools will get their answer from the department by September 1st if they are late.

Iannuzzi says the real deadline that schools have to worry about is January 17, 2013, the date of Governor Cuomo’s next state budget submission. Cuomo has warned that schools that don’t have their teacher evaluation plans in place by then won’t get additional state aid monies. He predicts many schools will submit their plans “very shortly”.

The School Boards Kremer says the teacher evaluation disclosure plan could still be problematic. There’s nothing  in the law to prevent parents from posting their teacher’s evaluation results on the Internet, then pooling the information to “teacher shop” for their children in the next school year.

“It’s probably going to be done in this rather haphazard way,” said Kremer. “There could be some of these websites that are not accurate in the information they portray.”

But then, he says, parents have always exchanged information about their children’s teachers anyway,  it just used to be done over the “back fence” in a more informal manner.