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Teacher Evaluation Changes Could Cost New York a Slice of Its Race to the Top Grant

New York state could lose nearly $300 million in Race to the Top funds if the state follows through on a proposal to put off incorporating test scores from common-core-aligned exams in teacher evaluation.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and policymakers in the state are mulling plans to put off using scores on new common core tests as a factor in teacher evaluations, after widespread complaints about the rollout of the standards in the Empire State, according to published reports. Adding to the pressure: State test scores fell sharply last year when the new common core tests were in place.

But delaying the use of the tests in evaluations would run afoul of the state's plan for improving teacher effectiveness, as outlined in its Race to the Top proposal, and could result in a loss of coveted federal funding, said Ann Whalen, the director of the department's implementation and support unit in a statement first provided to the online news site Chalkbeat New York. 

"New York committed to a system of educator evaluation and feedback based on multiple measures of effectiveness, including student growth on statewide assessments. Stopping that progress now will undermine four years of hard work by the state's educators, school leaders and stakeholders. As the Secretary has said before, breaking promises made to students, educators and parents and moving backward on these commitments—including stopping the progress the state has made to improve student achievement—puts at risk up to $292 million of New York's Race to the Top grant for improving schools and supporting their educators and students."

The statement came in response to a question from the smart reporters at Chalkbeat, who wanted to know whether the proposed change would impact the state's Race to the Top funding.

If the department does indeed decide to withhold the Empire State's funding, it wouldn't be the first time. Last year, federal officials withheld a sliver of Georgia's grant, also because of issues with teacher evaluation.

But so far, the department hasn't put a slice of anyone's Race to the Top grant on hold because of changes to common-core-aligned exams, even though both Georgia and Florida ditched the PARCC assessment consortia and Race to the Top rockstar Tennessee has delayed implementation of their common core assessment for one year, and may switch from PARCC to another test.

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