Opinion: Give NYC School Districts a Strict Deadline

Judy Hartnett's picture
Thursday, February 9, 2012

Two years ago, New York State’s legislators passed a law requiring districts and teachers unions to replace outdated evaluations that rate nearly all teachers “satisfactory” and fail to provide the feedback and support educators deserve.

It was the right thing to do. Rigorous evaluations tied in part to student learning, as measured through test score gains, are crucial to helping more teachers succeed — and as decades of research have shown, when teachers succeed, students succeed, too.

The evaluation law positioned New York as a national leader on education reform and helped it win one of 12 federal Race to the Top grants in 2010.

There was just one problem: The law did not set a deadline for districts and unions to reach an agreement or specify what would happen if they could not.

The result? An open-ended process plagued by endless delays and very little progress on the new evaluation systems that were promised.

New York City is a prime example. The city has worked with the United Federation of Teachers for the past two years to pilot promising new ways to evaluate teachers, but the two sides have been unable to agree on a citywide solution.

This deadlock has come at a high price. Teachers remain saddled with an evaluation system that insults their professionalism by giving them almost no useful feedback and support.

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