showdown

Cuomo pans Regents' Common Core plan as "too little, too late"

ALBANY — It didn’t take long for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to fire back at the latest change to his signature teacher evaluation policy.

As part of a plan to improve the rollout of the Common Core standards, the state Board of Regents today approved a new regulation that would make it easier for teachers who receive low ratings to defend themselves.

The Regents’ plan was seen as a moderate alternative to the two-year delay on tying test scores to teacher evaluations that leading lawmakers called for last week. But while Cuomo gently dismissed that proposal, he issued a harsh statement today that questioned the very existence of the state policy-making body.

“Today’s recommendations are another in a series of missteps by the Board of Regents that suggests the time has come to seriously reexamine its capacity and performance,” Cuomo said in the statement. “These recommendations are simply too little, too late for our parents and students.”

The scathing statement, nearly 200 words long, caught officials at the State Education Department building across the street by surprise. It was sent out just moments after Commissioner John King and Chancellor Merryl Tisch completed a conference call with reporters and hurried off to another meeting. They were not immediately available to respond.

During the call, Tisch praised Cuomo’s support. “There is no question that the governor has been an enormous ally in this implementation and in the rollout of evaluation,” she said.

Cuomo seems to have taken particular offense to changes to teacher evaluation policies. The Regents approved a new regulation that would make it easier for teachers brought up on termination charges by their district after receiving two straight years of ‘ineffective’ ratings to defend themselves. Teachers would be allowed to cite their districts’ failure to support teachers as the teachers worked to prepare students to meet the Common Core standards as evidence in their defense during termination proceedings.

“The Regents’ response is to recommend delaying the teacher evaluation system and is yet another in a long series of roadblocks to a much needed evaluation system which the Regents had stalled putting in place for years,” Cuomo said.

The strident statement shows just how protective Cuomo is of New York’s teacher evaluation law, which has been a core education accomplishment during his first term as governor. Cuomo has negotiated several changes to the law to push the law into effect, in the process taking on both unions and school districts that were slow to implement their plans.

John Flanagan, chair of the State Senate’s education committee, took a softer tone, saying that the Regents’ plan addressed many of his concerns about the Common Core rollout.

The education advocacy organization StudentsFirstNY, which is closely aligned to Cuomo, broadly criticized the Regents for catering too much to the state teachers union. It suggested that the union was pressuring some Regents members whose tenure is up for reappointment this year.

“By threatening to oust incumbent Regents and rile up stakeholders, the teachers union and their allies are forcing the Regents to tamper with the state’s new evaluation system, which was enacted with the full consent of the union,” said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis.

In an interview, Maria Neira, vice president of the New York State United Teachers, said the report did not go far enough for the union.

“We’re going to continue to lobby our legislators because we do need a moratorium,” said Neira, referring to legislators’ request to detach Common Core test scores from teacher evaluations. “I didn’t hear that said. What I heard was the opposite.”

Betty Rosa and Kathy Cashin, two Regents representing New York City, voted against the slate of changes, arguing that they did not go far enough to address concerns.

Ruling

Judge orders Nashville schools to turn over student information to state charters

A Nashville judge has sided with Tennessee’s Achievement School District in the tussle over whether local school districts must share student contact information with charter networks under a new state law.

Chancellor Bill Young this week ordered Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools to turn over information requested by LEAD Public Schools, which operates two state-run schools in the city. The district has until March 16 to comply or appeal.

The ruling is a blow to local district leaders in both Nashville and Memphis, who have argued that a federal privacy law gives them discretion over who gets that information. They also contend that the intent of Tennessee’s new charter law, which passed last year, was that such information should not be used for marketing purposes.

The State Department of Education has backed information requests by LEAD in Nashville and Green Dot Public Schools in Memphis, both of which operate charter schools under the state-run turnaround district known as the ASD. State officials say the information is needed to increase parental awareness about their school options and also to help the state’s school turnaround district with planning.

Nashville’s school board has not yet decided whether to appeal Young’s ruling, according to Lora Fox, the city’s attorney.

Shelby County Schools was not included in the state’s lawsuit leading to this week’s ruling, but the case has implications for Memphis schools as well. Last summer, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen ordered both districts to turn over the information. Both have been defiant.

Lawyers representing all sides told Chalkbeat this week that Young set the March 16 deadline to allow time for the legislature to address ambiguity over the state law and for Nashville schools to notify parents of their right to opt out.

Rep. Bill Forgety already has filed a bill in an attempt to do clear the air. The Athens Republican chaired the key House committee that advanced the new charter law and has said that recruitment was not the intent of the provision over student contact information. His bill would restrict charter school requests to a two-month window from January 1 to March 1, confine school communication with non-students from February 1 to April 1, and open up a two-way street for districts to request the same information from charter schools.

The disagreement began with longstanding requests from state-run charter organizations for addresses, phone numbers and emails of students and their parents who live in neighborhoods zoned to low-performing schools. When local districts did not comply last summer, the charters cited the new state law requiring them to hand over student information to the charter schools within 30 days of receiving the request.

To learn what information is at stake and how it’s used, read our in-depth explainer on student data sharing and FERPA.

Gold standard teachers

Tennessee adds nationally certified teachers but continues to trail in the South

PHOTO: Ruma Kumar/Chalkbeat

Twenty Tennessee educators have earned a national certification that’s considered the profession’s highest mark of achievement, although the state continues to lag in the South in growing that community.

The state Department of Education on Tuesday released the list of new educators designated as National Board Certified Teachers.

Their addition brings Tennessee’s number of NBCT educators to more than 700, with another 63 pursuing certification. By comparison, Kentucky has 3,600, Virginia 3,400, and Georgia 2,600.

“We know that teachers are the biggest factor in the success of our students, and it is an honor to celebrate educators who are helping their students grow, while serving as an example of what it means to be a lifelong learner,” Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement.

Nationally, 5,470 teachers earned the designation in 2016-17, raising the total to more than 118,000 through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The certification takes from one to three years to complete and includes a performance-based peer-review process. Successful candidates must demonstrate a proven impact on student learning and achievement.

In Tennessee, at least 36 school districts offer at least one type of incentive for achieving the certification. The most common is a salary bonus.

North Carolina continues to lead the nation in certification, with 616 more teachers gaining the endorsement last month from the Arlington, Va.-based organization.

Earning their certification in Tennessee were:

  • John Bourn, Franklin Special School District
  • Christy Brawner, Shelby County Schools
  • James Campbell, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Kimberly Coyle, Sumner County Schools
  • Suzanne Edwards, Williamson County Schools
  • Anastasia Fredericksen, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Theresa Fuller, Kingsport City Schools
  • Amber Hartzler, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
  • Jennifer Helm, Williamson County Schools
  • Deborah Higdon, Franklin Special School District
  • Karen Hummer, Franklin Special School District
  • Heather Meston, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Melissa Miller, Franklin Special School District
  • Kelsey Peace, Sumner County Schools
  • Lindsey Pellegrin, Franklin Special School District
  • Andrea Reeder, Williamson County Schools
  • Jordan Sims, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Susanna Singleton, Williamson County Schools
  • Melissa Stugart, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Drew Wilkerson, Franklin Special School District

To learn more, visit the website of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.