Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to the radio Wednesday to tout the state’s new $142 billion budget, hailing the package’s education reforms as change that will push progress in the school system.
In an interview with public radio’s “The Capitol Pressroom,” Cuomo painted the education plan as a “dramatic shift for the system.” The new budget, which took effect Wednesday, includes a series of changes for public schools, such as a plan to form a new system for evaluating and disciplining teachers.
“The system now is basically a seniority-based education system,” Cuomo said of the current teacher-rating system. “The assumption was the longer you’re there, the better you are. Now we’re moving to performance, and the performance keeps improving and the evaluation systems keep improving.”
The education reforms were opposed by the New York State United Teachers union, which had held protests across the state after Cuomo proposed a broader, more-aggressive plan in January that would have tied 50 percent of a teacher’s annual evaluation score to student performance on state tests.
Ultimately, the Legislature passed a plan that allows the state Education Department to decide how to weight a new evaluation system based on test scores and classroom observation, but within the parameters of a number of rules set forth in the law.
“Let’s be absolutely clear: NYSUT rejects this evaluation system,” the union said in a statement Friday. “It is an unworkable, convoluted plan that undermines local control, disrespects principals and school administrators, guts collective bargaining and further feeds the testing beast.”
While the teachers union had spoken out against making the system more reliant on student test scores, Cuomo said that’s the only objective metric for comparing one school district to another.
The Democratic governor acknowledged that the reforms will be difficult for some to accept, but he said it will ultimately lead to positive change.
“Change is traumatic,” Cuomo said. “Change is also how you progress.”
In a statement, state Education Department spokesman Dennis Tompkins said the agency will work to receive input from those who have a stake in the evaluation system. The department has until June to set regulations for the new process, and school districts will have until Nov. 15 to put them in place locally.
“Our goal is to ensure that the evaluation system accomplishes differentiation so that we can better target resources and professional development to help teachers and principals improve the instruction their students receive and to reduce the reliance on testing,” Tompkins said. “The Board and the Department will work with stakeholders to make sure we achieve that goal.”
(AP file photo)