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State Supreme Court Sides With Teachers' Union On Evaluations

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The State Supreme Court ruled on the side of the state teachers' union Wednesday, saying that according to an existing law only 20 percent of teachers' evaluations can be based on standardized test scores.

The state is supposed to be rolling out a new teacher evaluation system that for the first time will include students' test score performance, but there has been a lot of disagreement over how much those scores should count.

Last spring, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he wanted state test scores to count for up to 40 percent of teachers' scores.

The Board of Regents agreed but the state teachers' union quickly sued, saying those tests were only supposed to be 20 percent, according to the law.

The court sided with the union Wednesday, saying just 20 percent of teachers' grades can be based on how much their students improved, or failed to improve, on state tests.

The judge also ruled the Department of Education made it too simple for teachers to be rated ineffective. The law calls for an evaluation system that judges teachers using "multiple measures."

The rating system set by the education commissioner would let teachers fail based on test scores alone.

The state fired back, saying this ruling would allow teachers to get good ratings even if test scores show no student improvement.

Education Commissioner John King said in a statement, "If we’re serious about supporting excellence in teaching, we can’t have an evaluation system that permits a teacher who scores a zero on student achievement to receive a positive rating."

The state says it plans to appeal.

The evaluation system was supposed to be used this coming school year, but it looks like the lawsuit may drag-on.

Once it is settled, the details of the evaluations still need to be negotiated between school districts and their local unions. In the city, that is usually a very long process.

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