Court Rules Against NY's New Teacher Rating System

An Albany judge has sided with the state teachers union, by ruling that the state put too much emphasis on student test scores in its new teacher evaluation system scheduled to go into effect this fall.

Under the system, student growth on the state's annual tests could count for up to 40 percent of a teacher's performance review and observations would count for 60 percent. But state judge Michael Lynch noted that even if a teacher earned high scores when observed by a principal, he or she could still be rated as ineffective if student test scores were very low.

New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi said the ruling was good for students and teachers. "This decision upholds the role of practitioners and the value of collective bargaining," he said.

But State Education Commissioner John King vowed to appeal. "If we're serious about supporting excellence in teaching, we can't have an evaluation system that permits a teacher who scores a zero on student achievement to receive a positive rating," King stated.

Last year, New York state won a $700 million federal Race to the Top grant, which requires it to design a new teacher evaluation system for the 2011-2012 school year. Local school districts are supposed to negotiate their own rating systems with their unions. New York City and the United Federation of Teachers have yet to agree on a plan.

Under legislation approved in 2010, the ratings were to be based on multiple measures, 60 percent of which would come from classroom observations. Of the rest, 20 percent was to be based on student growth on the state's annual math and reading tests. The other 20 percent was to be based on other locally selected measures.

But when some school districts argued that it would be too expensive to come up with their own separate testing systems, the state Board of Regents voted this year to let them use the annual exams for the remaining 20 percent. That prompted the lawsuit by New York State United Teachers.

Commissioner King noted the judge rejected the union's argument that state regulations don't allow test scores to count for up to 40 percent of a teacher's rating. Instead, the judge voided the rating system because it's scoring system of 1-100 put too much weight on the test scores in deciding whether to label a teacher "ineffective."