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New York's Move to Revamp Evaluations Stirs Debate

New York's State Education Department and teachers' unions have brokered a deal to revamp teacher evaluations by linking them to student test scores, according to the The New York Times. The agreement is expected to boost the state's chances of winning coveted federal Race to the Top money.

Under the agreement, teachers would be measured each year on a 100-point scale, 20 percent of which would be based on student improvement on state exams. Another 20 percentage points would be based local tests developed by individual school systems, while principal and peer observations make up other parts of the evaluation.

Teachers would be rated as highly effective, effective, developing, or ineffective—in place of the current satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Those rated ineffective for two consecutive years would be subject to an expedited process for termination. The new evaluations would not have any immediate effect on teachers' pay.

Questions loom about how well received the plan will be among rank and file teachers. The Times story specifically—and interestingly—notes that, "The unions ... did not gain any clear benefit from the deal, other than shielding themselves from criticism that they were hurting the state's chances in Race to the Top."

That passage (among other things) sank blogger NYC Educator into a state of disbelief:

I had hoped [United Federation of Teachers President] Michael Mulgrew would bring something new to the UFT. Instead, he's brought us yet another idiotic deal in which we gain nothing, and provide givebacks. And this time he's managed to provide no raise, not even an illusory time-for-money swap. Despite this, he's unilaterally changed the contract with no input whatsoever from rank and file.

On the other hand, teacher Dan Brown—who actually works in D.C., not in N.Y.—argues the is a deal is ultimately a win for teachers, who, in his view, have been left with a choice between getting aboard the evalutions-tied-to-testing "train" or defending an indefensible system:

As trains go, you're either onboard, on the sidelines or getting run over.

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