Excuse me, Mr. Cuomo, but teachers are the good guys


Governor Cuomo certainly puts the “bully” in bully pulpit.

In his State of the State address, delivered in Albany on Jan. 21, Cuomo proposed overhauling the state’s teacher evaluation system, called the Annual Professional Performance Review, or APPR, which he instituted only 23 months ago, on Feb. 16, 2012.

If the State Legislature agreed to revamp APPR (that is, to follow Cuomo’s proposed rules and his rules alone), the governor said, he would give school districts a 4.8 percent, or $1.1 billion, hike in state aid. If the Legislature failed to act, the increase would be only 1.7 percent, or $385.8 million.

In effect, Cuomo was saying there’s plenty of state money to increase school spending, but he’s willing to disburse it only if he gets his way. Negotiations, he’s saying, are out the window.

Cuomo called APPR “baloney,” arguing that 98 percent of teachers are rated effective or highly effective, yet only 38 percent of students pass state exams.

Under the current APPR system, 80 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is tied to administrators’ classroom evaluations and students’ performance on local measures, including tests, while 20 percent is based on students’ performance on state exams. Districts can opt to base up to 40 percent of teacher evaluations on state tests, but most don’t.

Cuomo would like to realign the percentages. He wants to base 50 percent of teacher evaluations on students’ state test performance and 50 percent on observations and local measures. “We need real, fair, accurate teacher evaluations,” he said.

Before rebuking the governor’s plan, I want to remind people of what he said about APPR in 2012, when he implemented the system. Standing side by side with then New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi and then State Education Commissioner Dr. John King, Cuomo announced what he called a “groundbreaking agreement” to institute APPR.

“This agreement is exactly what is needed to transform our state’s public education system,” he said, “and I am pleased that by working together and putting the needs of students ahead of politics, we were able to reach this agreement.”

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