Governor Andrew Cuomo says that if the teachers union continues to obstruct the implementation of a new, robust evaluation system for teachers and principals by Thursday, he’ll act on his own and impose a system. That’s precisely what he ought to do.
The showdown still was underway at press time, but regardless of whether or not the governor and the union reach an agreement, a larger point remains: Once again, the teachers union, emboldened by its allies in the Democratic-controlled State Assembly, has resisted efforts to bring accountability into the classroom.
Unlike his fellow Democrats in the Assembly, Mr. Cuomo has shown that he understands the reactionary role the teachers union continues to play against the effort to bring much-needed reform to poor-performing school districts. Mr. Cuomo is acting on behalf of poorly served students and their parents. The union, of course, is simply trying to protect incompetent teachers.
The public knows who has New York’s greater interests at heart. A recent Sienna College poll showed that 71 percent support the governor’s school reform proposals. The union is thought to be a political powerhouse, but it should be no match for a mobilized and well-informed electorate sick of the status quo and those intent on preserving it.
The proposed evaluation system, which would incorporate standardized test scores as part of the process, has been delayed for nearly two years. The state agreed to implement an evaluation system in 2010 when it was awarded $700 million in federal funds as part of President Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” program.
Mr. Cuomo would tie increases in state education spending to the implementation of genuine evaluation plans in individual districts. He has the full support of Mayor Bloomberg, who has made it clear that he wants a process that would allow the city’s Department of Education to move quickly in getting rid of bad teachers. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott has emphasized that any such process has to be fair to teachers and ought to provide them with the resources they need to become better teachers. But at the end of the day, rigorous evaluations will provide administrators with a database for identifying teacher competency.
That’s an important step, and a necessary one. And once the state’s plan is in place, perhaps Mr. Cuomo can lead a discussion about merit pay in the classroom.