Keshia Clukey

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New teacher evaluations costly for school districts

Posted by keshiaclukey on May 9, 2013 at 7:30 PM

New teacher evaluations costly for school districts

BY KESHIA CLUKEY

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Students aren't the only ones subject to testing. A state mandated evaluation system now puts teachers and principals in the hot seat, but it's about more than just a passing grade.

Legislation passed in the 2013-14 state budget requires districts to have a plan approved by the state education department by Sept. 1 each year, a measure that costs local school districts time and money.

Those that don't abide by the legislation risk losing increases in additional state aid.

"It's a cost that wasn't there before. It's a mandate that doesn't come with any additional directed funding," said Robert Reina, Frankfort-Schuyler Central School District superintendent. The district is projecting to spend about $17,000 this school year for assessments, in addition to excess staff costs, he said.

This is the first year districts have had to implement their Annual Professional Performance Reviews, which include a combination of measurement of student growth through state exams and local assessments, as well as observation.

Districts were required to have their plan approved by the state by Jan. 17, or they would lose this year's proposed increase in state funding. All local districts were approved by the deadline.

The majority, about 90 percent of districts statewide, only have a one-year plan, said Robert Lowry Jr., New York State Council of Superintendents deputy director for advocacy research and communications.

"I would anticipate that, over time, as these requirements become more established and more routine, that we would see districts and unions agree to multiyear plans," Lowry said.

Districts must submit their new or revised plans by Sept. 1, or once again face losing state aid, though a district's expired plan will remain in effect until a new one is negotiated.

Districts must have their plans approved by their Board of Education and administrative and teacher unions prior to submission.

Districts could face penalties if they fail to fully implement their plans.

But implementation is expensive.

Outside of the state's five largest cities, school districts expect to spend an average of $155,355 to implement the new evaluation system, according to the New York State School Boards Association. Costs include additional compensation, training fees, assessments, software and technology, as well as printing. The majority of those costs are accrued the first year and should diminish in subsequent years, experts said.

The Utica City School District review plan already is a two-year contract, said Utica Teacher's Association President Larry Custodero.

The district and unions plan to make slight changes to the evaluation plan based on experience from this year, he said. These changes will be made and submitted this summer, prior to the state deadline.

"This has got to be a complete cooperative effort from everybody," Custodero said, though he doesn't believe there will be any issue in passing the revised plan.

Frankfort-Schuyler purposefully chose a one-year plan, Reina said.

"We'll be meeting in June and July to update it," he said. "We want to run through the whole process for a year to see how it works."

Still, it's a huge time commitment.

"We're looking at the possibility of changing staffing responsibilities in order to keep up with the record keeping and report filing that's necessary," Reina said.

The district estimated how many hours its three building principals would have to spend evaluating their teachers through the plan. The result: 19 straight days, Reina said.

They'll be spending about a month of the school year solely on evaluation, he said. "That's less time that they're in the classrooms, doing curriculum development and other related jobs."

At a glance
* In 2012, legislation was enacted to create a more comprehensive and rigorous teacher and principal evaluation system. It will protect more than $2.5 billion in Race to the Top money and other education funds over two years and improve student performance, according to the state Education Department.
* Districts had until Jan. 17 to have their plans submitted to the state Department of Education, and approved. All local districts were approved by the deadline.
* The 2013-14 state budget now requires districts to have an approved plan by Sept. 1 annually. Districts that do not have a plan in place face losing state aid.
* Legislation states that the district’s expired plan will remain in effect until a successor is negotiated, lessening the chance of losing aid, though they could still face penalties if they fail to fully implement their plans.


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