Listen to Mrs. Tisch

The state Regents chancellor points the way forward on reforming teacher evaluations and teacher tenure
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Mike Groll/AP

Gov. Cuomo asked state education leaders to offer pointed recommendations to repair New York’s broken teacher-evaluation system, among other urgent school-reform tasks.

Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Acting Commissioner Elizabeth Berlin on Wednesday delivered — with an aggressive and specific battle plan for improving teaching and learning from Brooklyn to the Bronx to Buffalo.

 

They would scrap the part of the teacher-rating system that allows teachers to juice their scores, and change the law so poorly performing teachers can more easily be removed from the classroom.

And, of great importance, they would once and for all eliminate the union-controlled arbitration process that has protected from termination thousands of teachers, from those who engage in intimate conduct with students to those who can’t write a lesson plan to save their lives.

The state Legislature no longer has any excuse but to send Cuomo reform measures he can sign.

Cuomo’s December letter, sent by aide Jim Malatras, was prompted by the alarming news that the state’s new teacher ratings had, in their first year of full results, laughably deemed fewer than 1% of teachers ineffective — and stamped virtually all of them effective or highly effective.

This, the governor’s office rightly pointed out, proved the fledgling system to be a sham wrapped inside a mockery.

Tisch and Berlin urge, first, eliminating a meaningless piece of the ratings that has artificially inflated the grades of instructors across the state: the 20% of scoring based on local criteria hammered out in cooperation with teachers unions.

Rely instead on how much progress students make on state tests and other measures.

Second, Tisch and Berlin call for having the state, not localities, set passing scores for teacher quality categories. By law, those are now negotiated locally between districts and unions, comically defining quality down.

Third, the officials call for making “a pattern of ineffective teaching a rebuttable presumption of incompetence.”

In conjunction with this evaluation overhaul, the governor and Legislature must finally fix the tangled process for severing the worst teachers from the payroll.

The machinery is Soviet in its efficiency. In New York City, the average length of hearing time required to render a decision on terminating a teacher is a slothlike 190 days.

Tisch and Berlin urge replacing union-approved contractor arbitrators with a new cadre of state employees “who will be held accountable for strict adherence” to timelines written in law.

Good. Legislation should also specify that piles and piles of arbitration precedents giving teachers inordinate job protections are thrown out.

While extending the probationary period for teachers from three years to five, Cuomo and the Legislature should enshrine in law a simple, revolutionary concept. As outlined by Tisch and Berlin: “No student can be assigned to two teachers in a row with ineffective ratings.”

Putting students first. What a concept.