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Regents look to extend moratorium on linking tests scores, teacher evals

Regents look to extend moratorium on linking tests scores, teacher evals

Regents look to extend moratorium on linking tests scores, teacher evals
Schenectady English teacher Meghan Libertucci resumes class after being announced as the Schenectady 2016 Teacher of the Year.
Photographer: Erica Miller/Gazette Photographer

The Board of Regents on Monday signaled a desire to extend a moratorium on using students' scores on annual math and English tests as part of mandatory teacher evaluations.

The yearlong extension, covering the 2019-2020 school year, would give state Education Department staff more time to work out changes to the state’s teacher evaluation system. Chancellor Betty Rosa asked staff to present a formal moratorium for the board's approval at the Regents' regular meeting in December.

“[We want] to be mindful, thoughtful, inclusive and make sure that the voices of teachers, principals, superintendents … everyone’s voices are heard,” Rosa said at Monday’s board meeting.

Education officials also said they hope lawmakers listen to recommendations they come up with regarding a new evaluation approach. The teacher evaluation and testing issue has been a political flashpoint, and lawmakers have demonstrated interest in acting with or without recommendations from state education officials.

"Our hope is that we can all come together and address this issue from the perspective of knowing that there is a tremendous amount of work that has to get done," Rosa said.

The underlying teacher evaluation system, implemented in the wake of changes to education laws in 2015, required student scores on annual state English and math tests be used as part of teacher and principal evaluations. The requirement sparked outrage on the part of teachers and fueled a movement by parents to refuse to allow their children to take the tests. 

State officials have sought to calm the furor over testing and teacher evaluations; they enacted the moratorium on the use of test scores for evaluations two years ago, to buy more time.

But state education officials have also resisted attempts to pass legislation to decouple test scores from teacher evaluations, as the teachers union has demanded. The state Assembly in the spring passed a bill that would have severed the link, and it garnered the support of a majority of the state Senate. But the bill stalled after Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said she worried it would create “unintended consequences.”

The Board of Regents on Monday promised to solicit broad input, in hopes of developing an evaluation system with more support.

"This gives us an opportunity to get it right," said Andrew Brown, vice chancellor of the Regents. "We believe the moratorium will allow us to go out and talk to ... the teachers, the principals and others to make sure we come up with a system that is more widely embraced and accepted."

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