Lawmakers approve bill to end mandate tying teacher evaluations to test scores

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State lawmakers overwhelmingly voted Wednesday to approve a bill that would end the mandate tying teacher evaluations to student scores on standardized tests.

The new law is being touted by supporters as a victory for teachers and students. But critics say it will have little practical impact.

Jeanette Deuterman, chief organizer of the Long Island Opt-out test boycott movement, says the newly approved law doesn't completely delink exams and evaluations and leaves 50 percent of a teacher's appraisal tied to some measure of student test scores.

"So all this does is really say that, you know, districts will be able to choose their own tests to use for evaluations, but it keeps the matrix in play that makes test scores count half of a teacher's evaluation," she says.

Under the law, the exact type of tests would be decided by each school board and teacher's union. But the fact that half of a teacher's evaluation is still based on some sort of test or assessment has some superintendents on the Island criticizing lawmakers for passing the law.

"The problem is, when you attach test scores and you have children in the middle of that, it taints, I believe, the relationship between the teacher and the student," says Patchogue-Medford Superintendent Michael Hynes. "You're gonna have, I believe, teachers who are going to teach to the test because they know that their jobs depend on that."

The Senate approved the measure 60-0; the Assembly, 125-6. Assemblyman Edward Ra was one of two Long Island representatives who voted no.

Ra said: "Fifty percent of a teacher's evaluation will still be based on assessments, which for all intents and purposes, means more of the same: more high-stakes tests, more concerned parents, more needlessly stressed kids and more educators teaching to tests written by bureaucrats instead of meeting the individualized needs of their students."

Members of the opt-out movement and rank-and-file teachers are now lobbying lawmakers to introduce a new bill that would reduce or completely eliminate the amount of testing that's part of teacher evaluations.

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