'Handful' of Schools Risk Missing Evaluations Cutoff, Losing Aid

4:28 PM, Jan 17, 2013   |    comments
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By Jessica Bakeman, Albany Bureau

ALBANY -- Midnight on Thursday is the deadline for schools to get their teacher and principal evaluation plans approved, and just fewer than a dozen districts face losing the 4-percent aid increase that's tied to the agreements.

As of noon on deadline day, 11 districts did not have approved evaluation plans.

"Today is the day. It's the one-year mark, and the compliance has been overwhelming," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday on a public radio show in Albany. "All but a small handful have figured out how to do it, and we're saying to the small handful: You're the outliers. Everybody else could do it; you should be able to do it."

Cuomo has stressed he would not extend the deadline for any district. The legislation that tied approved evaluation plans to state aid passed last January.

New York City is one of four districts that has not submitted an evaluation plan to the state Education Department, as the city's Department of Education and its teachers' union could not agree. The original submission deadline was in July, which the vast majority of districts missed.

The others that have not submitted proposals are Harrison schools in Westchester County, Fallsburg schools in Sullivan County and Pine Plains in Dutchess County.

It is unlikely these districts will get approval, as the state Education Department required every single approved district -- about 680 of them -- to make revisions and resubmit before their proposals were accepted.

Six districts still needed to resubmit their revised proposals to the state Thursday, according to the department's website.

Carmel schools in Putnam County, Onteora schools in Ulster County and Shoreham-Wading River schools in Suffolk County resubmitted revised proposals and received approval Thursday morning.

The Buffalo School district had its resbumitted plan approved before the deadline on Thursday.

It is unclear whether the remaining districts will be able to get approval in time, but state Education Commissioner John King said earlier this week that his staff is working "around the clock."

"But this is not a rubber stamp process," he said in a statement Monday. "We will not sacrifice quality for expediency just to approve a last minute submission. Every district's plan must be consistent with the law."

Cuomo said districts have requested extensions, but there were no requests on Wednesday or Thursday morning.

"We've been talking about putting this teacher evaluation system in for years -- literally years and years," he said on the Capitol Pressroom. "We won federal grants based on the fact that we were putting the teacher evaluation system in place, and then we just never did it."

Cuomo pushed schools to implement the evaluations by threatening the loss of $800 million in funding. Total school aid from the state is about $20 billion.

The controversial evaluations, which require union negotiation, rate educators based largely on student test scores and observations.

Under the law, teachers and principals are rated on a scale from "ineffective" to "highly effective." Two of the lowest scores consecutively can be grounds for termination.

"My point was: You want funding from the state, you have to perform in your job," Cuomo said.

Cuomo said districts and unions that don't reach the agreement -- forfeiting the aid increase -- will "fail their fundamental mission."

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