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Administrators React to Teacher Evaluation Reviews

DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. – With new teacher performance reviews on the horizon and Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatening the loss of $805 million in state aid if changes aren’t enacted, some local administrators say that plans are being implemented too quickly.

“I think that I speak for most educators in New York when I say that I wish that the APPR timeline could be modified to allow for more time for implementation,” said Dobbs Ferry Superintendent Lisa Brady. “Time for a more thoughtful and reflective approach to discussion around use of teacher performance rubrics, allocation of points across the rubrics, local assessment options and the specifics about Teacher Improvement Plans would be very helpful and productive.”

Cuomo's recently released executive budget stipulates that school districts will not be eligible for state aid increases unless they have fully implemented the new teacher evaluation process by Jan. 17, 2013. Cuomo also plans to create a commission that will shift educational focus to school accountability to “improve student achievement and operational efficiency.”

Under the new teacher review process, publicly available ratings will be compiled based on principal observations, state test scores and other locally decided measures. However, school officials have noted that current state tests could only evaluate math and English teachers in fourth through eighth grades.

The new evaluations are a product of Race to the Top , a federal program designed to give funding grants to states that pledge to implement education policies set by the Obama administration.  Dobbs Ferry High School principal John Falino said these new guidelines are already in the spirit of what teachers are trying to do, so it shouldn’t be much of a difference.

“Given that, our students should continue to do well on state exams and our teachers should not feel the pressure of having to adjust their curriculum to include rote tasks that are without meaning,” Falino said.

A total of 1,213 principals throughout the state have signed an open letter protesting the structure of the new teacher reviews, saying educational research doesn't support the current plan and that tax dollars will be redirected outside of the classroom to help pay for the evaluation process.

Hastings Superintendent Timothy Connors said his staff will make the best of whatever changes are necessary in evaluations.

“I’m a very optimistic person and people will work to do things in a good way that will benefit students and the school district so that’s what we’re going to be doing here in Hastings,” Connors said.

Dobbs Ferry resident Lisa Ferrara said that tests are just a snapshot of a moment in time and evaluators need to be careful with the weight given to scores, but otherwise she is not overly concerned.

“I don’t know anyone who likes the idea of ‘teaching to the tests,’” Ferrara said. “If students are working hard, thinking critically, asking good questions and thinking outside the box, the test scores will follow.”

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