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.