Education Week - March 25, 2015 - (Page 17)

GOVERnMEnT & POLITIcS Gov. Cuomo's Budget Sparks Backlash in N.Y. Proposal aims to toughen teacher evaluations By Stephen Sawchuk Do schools need more money or greater accountability? That age-old education debate, currently playing out between New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state's teachers' union, is becoming a powder-keg thanks to the fallout from the governor's budget proposals. At issue is Gov. Cuomo's 2015-16 budget request for education, which would predicate some $733 million in new aid on lawmakers' acceptance of provisions to increase the weight placed on standardized test scores in teachers' evaluations and to make it harder for teachers to earn tenure. Although so far there seems to be a mixed appetite among lawmakers to approve those changes, the state's teachers' unions are taking no chances, supporting protests by parents and others against the proposals. And they are using those newfound alliances to hammer home a longstanding complaint that the governor has refused to meet the requirements of a 2006 court ruling demanding more money for the schools. Evaluation Debate Gov. Cuomo's focus on teacher evaluation escalates long-standing tension in the state over revisions to how teachers are graded. New York won $700 million in the federal Race to the Top competition in 2010, largely on the strength of a law, supported by both union and state officials, linking teacher evaluations to student achievement. But almost since the ink dried on that legislation, the two sides have disagreed about how to implement the law, especially over the question of how much of each teacher's rating should depend on student test scores. Mr. Cuomo has put the technique of conditioning education aid on policy changes to effective use before. In 2012, he required districts to settle with their unions on a final teacherevaluation system in order to receive a portion of their total funding. But beginning last year, Mr. Cuomo began to express dissatisfaction with the results of the new rating systems, noting that nearly all teachers are being given good scores-just as they had under the former evaluations. Gov. Cuomo's 2015-16 budget proposal attempts to tighten the evaluation rules and throws in a host of other policy alterations, many opposed by the unions. Among other actions, he wants the budget deal to: * Increase students' standardizedtest scores to 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation, and require at least one observation to be conducted by someone outside a school. * Require teachers to earn five evaluations of "effective" or better before being eligible for tenure. * Make it easier to dismiss teachers who have received poor evaluations. * Use $8 million to appoint receivers to oversee failing schools or districts. * Increase the state charter school cap by 100 schools, bringing it to 560. * Use $100 million to support tax breaks to donors who help provide scholarships for parents to send their children to private schools. In all, Mr. Cuomo's tactic "positions him where the leverage is-with the budget process. He is a great tactician," said Derrell Bradford, the executive director of nycan, an education advocacy organization that supports the governor's plan. "The challenge is that, because there is so much in it, it has PAGE 19 > A protestor outside the New York state Capitol in Albany marches this month with supporters of public education. Hundreds of public school students and parents rallied at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to reject Gov. Andrew Cuomo's education reforms. Special Education Task Force Urges Overhaul for California By Christina A. Samuels Members of a task force that spent two years studying special education in California used their final report to recommend sweeping changes to the state's entire pre-K-12 system in hopes of improving achievement for students with disabilities. Virtually every major element of education policy-including early-childhood education, special education finance, teacher training, and accountability-was wrapped into the final report from California's statewide task force on special education. The report was presented to the state board of education March 11. The next question, now that the report is done: Are those recommendations achievable in a state that accounts for about 1 in 10 students with disabilities nationally? "This is the time for a major leap forward, and I think a lot of people feel strongly that this is a better time than some false starts in the past," said Carl A. Cohn, a former superintendent for the Long Beach Unified district and the chairman of the task force. The proposals, if all implemented, would require action from classroom teachers all the way up to the federal government. But members of the panel say that the opportunity for major change is possible. Mr. Cohn said the state can take advantage of the changes wrought by an improving financial picture for the state, as well as the shift to Common Core State Standards. Alice Parker, the state director of special education in California from 1997 to 2005, testified before the task force when it was seeking community comment. "What I'm so excited about from the task force is that people came together and thought, 'It's not good enough in California,' " Ms. Parker said. An education consultant, she and others helped write the report, but did not contribute to the final proposal. "We've got to stop the practice of saying, 'This is a child with a disability, so send them to Alice because she's a special educator.' We need to work collaboratively." Heavy Hitters The task force was the brainchild of Stanford University colleagues and education heavyhitters Michael W. Kirst and Linda DarlingHammond. Mr. Kirst, the president of the state board of education, is a professor emeritus of education and business education at Stanford; Ms. Darling-Hammond, an education professor, is the chairwoman of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. In an interview, Mr. Kirst said that special education was caught up in managing legal requirements. "All that ever came before the [state] board were compliance documents to send in to Washington," Mr. Kirst said. "And yet we kept hearing very difficult things about how the students were doing." Mr. Kirst and Ms. Darling-Hammond pitched their idea for a statewide task force in the fall of 2013, eventually getting four foundations- the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, the Stuart Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation-to support its work. The task force found statistics that supported its impression that California lags other states in serving its 600,000 students in special education. For the class of 2012, the passing rate for students with disabilities on the California High School Exit Examination was 56 percent by the end of their senior year, compared with 95 percent for students without disabilities. To make matters worse, California is below national averages when it comes to including students with disabilities in general educaPAGE 19 > EDUCATION WEEK | March 25, 2015 | | 17 Mike Groll/AP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 25, 2015

Education Week - March 25, 2015
Civics Tests for Diplomas Gain Traction
For Education Next, Views With An Edge
Employers Integral To Career Studies
Experience Seen as Boost For Teachers
Elite Private Schools Tackle Ed Tech
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Eligibility Rules Fuel Growth Of Indiana’s Voucher Program
States Should Play Role in Fostering Engagement, Report Says
Teacher-Leadership Movement Gets Boost From Ed. Dept.
Blogs of the Week
Nonprofits Link Businesses To Career-Tech Programs
At Beaver Country Day, Investing In Innovation
Special Education Task Force Urges Overhaul for California
Gov. Cuomo’s Budget Sparks Backlash in N.Y.
Fight Looms on Kansas Plan To Fund K-12 Via Block Grants
Blogs of the Week
Why School Policies Need to Be Fine-Tuned
Which ‘Common Core’ Are We Talking About?
What Will Be the Impact of the Assessments?
More Educator Voices on Common-Core Implementation
Overcoming ‘Initiative Fatigue’
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Breaking the Code of the Common Core

Education Week - March 25, 2015