Cuomo needs to get tough on teacher evaluations
Feb 14, 2012 | 2234 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Likely, by the time you read this, we'll know whether teacher unions and state lawmakers were actually able to come to an agreement on what most people deem sensible: a teacher evaluation system.

Or, more likely, we'll know whether they failed and painted Governor Andrew Cuomo - who in recent weeks has made developing a teacher evaluation system a priority - into a proverbial corner.

Implementing a teacher evaluation system means so much more to the City and State of New York than just a method for grading the performance of the people entrusted with educating our children. It means $700 million in federal "Race to the Top" funding that was only awarded to the state on the promise that a teacher evaluation system would be put in place.

That was nearly two years ago and to this date nothing has been accomplished. Now the federal government wants to know when it's going to get its money back.

With the dire economic situation facing New York State, we can't afford to be throwing away free money.

Given past experience it's doubtful, but hopefully by the time you are reading this both sides will have come to their senses, and a system for evaluating teachers will be in place and the $700 million that will be spent improving the state's education system will no longer be in jeopardy.

But "both sides coming to their senses" rarely happens in New York politics, so Cuomo will be forced to go with Plan B. The governor will file an amendment to the proposed state budget that stipulates that school districts that fail to put an evaluation system in place will see its state funding cut by about four percent.

If it comes to that, Cuomo needs to be aggressive in pushing for an evaluation system that doesn't leave too much discretion on evaluating teachers left for the unions and individual school districts to negotiate.

If Cuomo only gives a broad outline for an evaluation system and leaves the details to be worked out on a case-by-case basis, the system will have no teeth, which is exactly what the unions are counting on. That, and in the case of New York City, a new mayor coming into office who will be less forceful with the United Federation of Teachers.

If it comes to a showdown, this could be the biggest test yet of Cuomo's governorship.
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