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2-17-12 Education Issues in the News
Bloomberg Business Week - New York Teacher Deal Links Evaluations to Student Test Scores

NJ Spotlight - NJ Rewarding 12 Districts for Improving Special Ed…$1 million to be spent on programs for children with disabilities

Star Ledger -Senate committee approves Gov. Christie's Secretary of Higher Education appointment

Bloomberg  Business Week - New York Teacher Deal Links Evaluations to Student Test Scores

February 17, 2012, 8:31 AM EST

By Freeman Klopott

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- An agreement between New York and its largest teachers union on evaluations makes the state part of a movement backed by President Barack Obama to hold educators responsible for student performance.

The deal announced yesterday by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a 54-year-old Democrat, may save New York $700 million in federal funding. It’s also an example of how the push to hold teachers accountable has been taken up by both sides of the negotiating table, said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, a Washington-based group that supports charter schools and diminished union power.

“This is a big step in the right direction that puts New York up there in the top tier of states that have already begun down the road of codifying an evaluation system with some portion based on student test scores,” Allen said in a telephone interview yesterday. “It’s terrific that we have people from both parties finally recognizing that evaluation is an important component of creating student achievement.”

Last month, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned that New York would have to return $700 million if it didn’t fulfill its promise to Obama’s Race to the Top program to implement teacher evaluations. The president, a Democrat, has proposed $5 billion in incentives for states and school districts to tie teacher pay to performance as part of his $69.8 billion education-budget proposal.

Cuomo Threat

The deal between the Education Department and New York State United Teachers union was reached after Cuomo threatened to insert his own evaluation plan into the budget. The agreement puts into action a 2010 law and provides a framework for districts to negotiate with local unions.

In a related deal, New York City and its local teachers union, with Cuomo’s help, agreed to an appeals process for educators graded poorly in evaluations that will save the city at least $300 million in state funding, Cuomo said.

“This historic agreement about a statewide teacher evaluation system that is directly linked to student performance ends a two-year-long stalemate and will make New York the national model for education reform,” Larry Schwartz, secretary to the governor, said yesterday at a press conference in Albany.

Under the agreement between the state and United Teachers, which represents 600,000 people, 60 percent of an evaluation will be based on classroom observations by administrators, and peer and parent feedback. The remaining 40 percent will be split between students’ performance on state tests and locally developed exams.

‘Talking About Layoffs’

New York’s more than 700 districts have until Jan. 17 to use the framework to negotiate specifics with local unions or risk losing their share of a 4 percent increase in state funding, Cuomo said when he introduced his $132.5 billion budget last month. Lawmakers approved the extra spending in last year’s budget, bringing the total to $20.3 billion for fiscal 2013, or about $800 million more than the current year.

“If a school district doesn’t get the money, the school district is going to start talking about layoffs,” Cuomo said during a Feb. 14 Cabinet meeting in Albany. “That’s going to affect the union, and so I think that’s an incentive.”

The deal on evaluations is another victory for Cuomo. In his first year, he erased a $10 billion deficit, got New York’s two biggest government-worker unions to agree to pay freezes and furloughs, instituted a property-tax cap and pushed through a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the third-most-populous state. In December, the Legislature passed a Cuomo-endorsed tax package that raised rates on joint filers earning $2 million or more, and cut them for the middle class.

“He’s the first Democratic governor in New York to challenge the unions and step up to the plate,” Allen said.

Not a Cure

Teacher evaluations aren’t a panacea, said Alan Sadovnik, co-director of the Newark Schools Research Collaborative in New Jersey, a joint project between Newark Public Schools and Rutgers University-Newark.

“I don’t think we should fool ourselves to think that value-added teacher-evaluation systems will weed out all the ineffective teachers or are a magic bullet to solving the achievement gap,” Sadovnik said in a telephone interview yesterday. “Unless we address conditions outside of schools, while also addressing conditions inside schools, teacher evaluations, while having some effect, will be limited.”

NYC Sticking Point

Among the rules that New York districts will negotiate is the implementation of an appeals process for fired teachers.

United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi said such a system is best worked out locally.

“One size fitting all is a bad recipe for education,” Iannuzzi said yesterday on WCNY public radio in Albany.

The appeals process had been a sticking point between New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration and United Federation of Teachers, the local union.

The debate grew hostile and that’s “why they asked the governor to sit down and broker an agreement,” Schwartz said during the Feb. 14 meeting.

The Bloomberg administration and the UFT will now work out the remaining details for the city evaluation system, the mayor said at a press conference in New York yesterday.

“The system the governor will put into his budget amendment, which will become effective by the end of the year, will allow us to not only move forward with replacing the broken ’pass/fail’ system with something far more rigorous and far more comprehensible,” Bloomberg said. “It will also help us ensure that teachers who are rated ‘ineffective’ can be given the support they need to grow, or if that doesn’t work, to be moved out of the classroom.”

The mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

--With assistance from Henry Goldman and Esmé E. Deprez in New York. Editors: Mark Schoifet, Stephen Merelman

To contact the reporter on this story: Freeman Klopott in Albany, New York, at fklopott@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net


NJ Spotlight - NJ Rewarding 12 Districts for Improving Special Ed…$1 million to be spent on programs for children with disabilities

By John Mooney, February 17, 2012 in Education|Post a Comment

Trying to spur improvement and innovation the old-fashioned way, the Christie administration will be sending checks to a dozen school districts that showed the strongest achievement among their students with disabilities.

Acting commissioner Chris Cerf is expected to announce on Friday a dozen “Special Education Recognition Awards,” totaling $1 million, to districts that last year had a combination of the highest scores among these students and those with the most improvement.

The districts each will be awarded between $50,000 and $100,000, depending on their enrollment, to be spent on programs for children with disabilities.

The awards span the different income levels, with districts split into five categories comparing them only against their socio-economic peers. There was also a separate category for high school districts.

Paid out of federal funds for special education, the state will extend the program next year as well, and instead of ranking districts off scores alone, it will ask districts and individual schools to apply with descriptions of their programs and services.

Providing direct cash awards for targeted populations is a new tack for the state, and one that Cerf said he hopes can be an incentive for districts to make gains in a number of areas.

These special education awards are also one of the first public uses of the state’s new data system measuring the growth of individual students, instead of whole grades of students.

Special education was a logical first choice for the incentives, officials said. Students with disabilities have often been overlooked and sometimes looked down upon in their achievement gains.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act eased some of that with its requirements for gains in all student categories, but also led to tensions within schools that those scores were pulling down the others.

“We know a lot of these awards has to do with the districts really paying attention to these students and their achievement results,” said Barbara Gantwerk, assistant commissioner. “This will really put a spotlight on those with disabilities.”

Among the winners, for example, three quarters of Lincoln Park’s students with disabilities passed the state’s tests, and more than half did so in North Bergen. These schools also showed higher than average growth in their students’ test results over the course of the year, officials said.

The districts chosen were the two highest ranked in their income categories by the achievement measures. There also were a few conditions to insure fairer picks, officials said, including that the winners’ special education populations were sizable and that there wasn’t an over-classification of students.

The 12 winners were:

·         North Caldwell (Essex)

·         Green Brook Township (Somerset)

·         Lincoln Park (Morris)

·         Madison (Morris)

·         Totowa (Passaic)

·         Dennis Township (Cape May)

·         North Bergen (Hudson)

·         Lodi (Bergen)

·         Dover Town (Morris)

·         Fairview (Bergen)

·         North Hunterdon/Voorhees Regional High School (Hunterdon)

·         Northern Valley Regional


Star Ledger -Senate committee approves Gov. Christie's Secretary of Higher Education appointment

By Susan K. Livio/Statehouse BureauThe Star-Ledger Published: Thursday, February 16, 2012, 4:32 PM Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2012, 4:32 PM

TRENTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee today unanimously approved the governor’s appointment of Rochelle R. Hendricks to be the Secretary of Higher Education.

At the committee’s urging, Hendricks pledged to delve into why so many New Jersey students attend colleges outside the state, and why tuition costs have climbed so astronomically.

Hendricks also said she was fully behind Gov. Chris Christie’s "bold and transformative" plan to restructure New Jersey’s university system. The plan would reconfigure and rename the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark, and allow Rowan University in Gloucester County to take over the Camden campus of Rutgers University, including its law school.

"The time has come – It’s an extraordinarily critical moment to do this. I hope we have the will to do so," she said.

Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), an opponent of the merger, asked Hendricks to consider allowing the legislature to have more of a say in shaping the plan. "The merger sells out UMDNJ in Newark,’’ and should include the New Jersey Institute of Technology, he said.

Nominated by the governor in May, Hendricks most recently served as the state’s acting deputy commissioner of education and previously served as acting education commissioner after Gov. Chris Christie fired Bret Schundler in August 2010 and before he hired acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf four months later.

The higher education secretary is a new post. In 1994, Former Gov. Christie Whitman abolished the position of higher education chancellor, calling it redundant because she said the responsibility for colleges should rest with the presidents and trustee boards of the individual institutions.

Before she was hired by the state education department in 1987, Hendricks, 64 of Fair Haven, spent 15 years at Princeton University as assistant dean of students, director of the Educational Opportunities Program, and interim director of the Women’s Program.

The nomination moves to the full Senate for approval.


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