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Sheldon Silver New York State Capitol Building Albany, NY 12230 Dear Governor Cuomo, Senate Leaders Skelos and Klein, and Assembly Speaker Silver: We write to thank and congratulate you for the substantial improvements you have made to New York State’s teacher evaluation law as part of this year’s budget. As you know, nothing that happens in school matters more to our children’s future than the quality of their educators. Meaningful teacher evaluation and support systems are critical first steps toward improving teacher quality, and this year’s budget ensures that they will remain in place in every one of New York State’s school districts for years to come. As you may know, our organizations joined together in January 2012 to urge that the evaluation law be amended to include a “backstop” – a mechanism whereby the State Education Department could impose an evaluation system on any district that did not succeed in negotiating a system with its local unions. (See attached.) When negotiations failed this past January in the City of New York and five other districts across the State, the need for such a backstop became greater than ever. This year’s budget responds to that need by empowering the State Education Department to impose an evaluation system on each of those districts that have been unable to agree on a system. This is a critical change to New York’s evaluation law that ensures our children and educators won’t lose out – on either future funding or needed progress on teacher feedback and support – just because the adults can’t agree. In addition, your budget addresses a growing concern that the short durations of many teacher evaluation agreements will leave districts in limbo and teachers, principals, and school with a disruptive uncertainty about how they should manage a critical element of improving their teaching and bettering their schools. This year’s budget ensures stability by keeping the agreements in place unless and until they are updated – the same standard that the law applies to collective bargaining agreements, generally.
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Taken together, these amendments to the teacher evaluation law represent a major step forward on behalf of our students. Now we must focus on how the law is implemented to ensure that all evaluation systems – whether imposed by the State Education Department or negotiated by individual districts – are rigorous and meaningful both in design and execution. Your continued vigilance is essential. Thank you again for your bipartisan leadership and for continuing to move our State forward on the critical and inseparable issues of educational equity and teacher quality. Sincerely, Buffalo ReformED
• Press Contact: Hannya Boulos Hannya@BuffaloReformED.com 716-783-3372
Families for Excellent Schools
• Press Contact: Jeremiah Kittredge jeremiah.kittredge@ familiesforexcellentschools.org 347-899-5193
• Press Contact: David Umansky Umansky@civicbuilders.org 212-571-7260
National Council on Teacher Quality
• Press Contact: Sandi Jacobs firstname.lastname@example.org 202-393-0020
• Press Contact: Princess V. Lyles email@example.com 347-931-8120
NYCAN: The New York Campaign for Achievement Now
• Press Contact: Fiona Hoey firstname.lastname@example.org 917-318-5799
Democrats for Education Reform
• Press Contact: Joe Williams email@example.com 646-354-9625
• Press Contact: Chandra Hayslett firstname.lastname@example.org 212-257-4350
Education Reform Now
• Press Contact: Elizabeth Ling email@example.com 646-599-6123
Students for Education Reform – New York
• Press Contact: Sam Williams firstname.lastname@example.org 201-463-5978
Educators 4 Excellence – New York
• Press Contact: Jonathan Schleifer email@example.com 212-279-8510 ext. 30
• Press Contact: Andy Jacob firstname.lastname@example.org 347-987-0749
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Buffalo ReformED Civic Builders Democracy Builders Democrats for Education Reform Education Reform Now Educators 4 Excellence National Council on Teacher Quality The New Teacher Project NYCAN: The New York Campaign for Achievement Now Parent Power Project StudentsFirst Students for Education Reform Turnaround for Children
January 3, 2012 The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo Governor of New York State NYS State Capitol Building Albany, NY 12224 Dear Governor Cuomo: We are gravely concerned about New York’s credibility when it comes to living up to our promise of providing every child in the state with an outstanding classroom teacher. As you are aware, labor and management from school districts in many parts of the state have so far failed to implement key provisions of the state’s Race to the Top laws. These laws passed with bi-‐partisan support in our state’s successful attempt to win $700 million in federal funds for public schools. It has been widely documented that one of the reasons New York beat out so many other states in President Obama’s RTTT competition was the enthusiastic pledge by leaders of both education labor and management to work collaboratively to implement new teacher evaluations which would highlight the exceptional work done by effective classroom teachers. See video of New York’s representatives promising to work together to implement the RTTT plan here. Like other winning states, New York promised it would implement the reforms that came with the money. Nearly two years later, however, all that the students of New York’s public schools have to show for this grand bargain is foot-‐dragging and politicking by the same grownups who assured the federal government we were serious. To avert a situation where New York is forced to return hundreds of millions of sorely-‐needed federal dollars, we urge you to consider introducing “shot clock” style measures to ensure that all school districts will fully implement the state's new teacher evaluation framework in accordance with the Race to the Top timeline. New York cannot afford to leave federal money on the table at a time when its schools are already facing budgetary hardships. Federal education officials have made clear their intention to hold states accountable to their Race to the Top programs, as seen recently in the case of Hawaii. Hawaii’s failure to secure a collective bargaining agreement with its teachers' union contributed to it being placed on "high-‐risk status,” in danger of losing its grant and subject to extensive review and reporting requirements. Aside from the fact that we believe that implementing these new, modernized teacher evaluation systems is the right thing to do, we are also mindful there are other federal funding streams which could be jeopardized by this high-‐profile impasse. New York City, alone, has almost $60 million in federal School Improvement Grants at risk after its negotiations with the United Federation of Teachers around a pilot system for evaluating teacher performance broke down this past Friday. It is also endangering tens of millions of dollars in federal Teacher Incentive Fund grants earmarked for its teachers, because it has not adopted a system which recognizes and highlights great teaching. 2
To ensure that the City and the state’s other districts fulfill New York’s promises to its schoolchildren, we request that you introduce a back-‐stop measure that requires districts to develop teacher evaluation plans by August 31, 2012. Any district that has not successfully negotiated its own plan by that date will have to automatically carry out a “default” plan, to be created by the State Education Department. Those districts would have one year (until August 31, 2013) to install and fully implement their default plan systems. Governor, we thank you for your efforts to date to strengthen New York’s focus on educational measures and accountability, most recently by introducing your School District Performance Improvement Awards program to incentivize districts to make innovative reforms that improve student performance. Research studies have demonstrated, time and again, that the most impactful factor on the level of learning in a classroom is the quality of its teacher. At this critical juncture when the state faces a key deadline in implementing a teacher evaluation framework that will impact its students for years to come, we ask that you step up again to ensure that the task gets accomplished. Sincerely, Buffalo ReformED Press Contact: Hannya Boulos -‐ Hannya@BuffaloReformED.com – 716-‐783-‐3372 Civic Builders Press Contact: David Umansky -‐ Umansky@civicbuilders.org – 212-‐571-‐7260 Democracy Builders Press Contact: Rev. Jamaal Nelson -‐ email@example.com – 646-‐281-‐9164 Democrats for Education Reform Press Contact: Elizabeth Ling -‐ firstname.lastname@example.org – 646-‐599-‐6123 Education Reform Now Press Contact: Myles Mendoza -‐ email@example.com – 303-‐912-‐0267 Educators 4 Excellence Press Contact: Sydney Morris -‐ firstname.lastname@example.org -‐ 212-‐279-‐8510 ext. 10 National Council on Teacher Quality Press Contact: Sandi Jacobs -‐ email@example.com – 202-‐393-‐0020 The New Teacher Project Press Contact: Andy Jacob -‐ firstname.lastname@example.org – 347-‐987-‐0749 NYCAN: The New York Campaign for Achievement Now Press Contact: Christina Grant -‐ Christina.Grant@NYCAN.org – 516-‐749-‐9462 Parent Power Project Press Contact: Carrie Remis -‐ email@example.com – 585-‐350-‐8306 StudentsFirst Press Contact: Nancy Zuckerbrod -‐ firstname.lastname@example.org – 301-‐204-‐9391 Students for Education Reform Press Contact: Alexis Morin -‐ email@example.com – 774-‐258-‐0024 Turnaround for Children Press Contact: Pamela Cantor, MD -‐ firstname.lastname@example.org – 646-‐786-‐6200 3
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