Capitol Notes

Suspension of teacher evaluations remains in limbo

Despite the cancellation of most standardized tests and the logistical challenges of conducting classroom observations during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to formally cancel the annual performance reviews for teachers.

Speaking on The Capitol Pressroom, interim Education Commissioner Shannon Tahoe said her office has had conversations with the administration about waiving this year’s review, but as of Monday afternoon they were still waiting for a final determination.

Tahoe said the state education department and the board of regents believed it would be “impossible, if not impracticable” to conduct the annual evaluations. “The regents and the department believe that it’s best just to suspend the (Annual Professional Performance Review) for this school year,” she said.

Prompt action is necessary, according to the commissioner, since the reviews are used to inform tenure choices that are usually made at the end of the school year following a 60-day notice period.  “A decision would need to be made on this pretty shortly,” Tahoe said.

The request to waive this year’s APPR requirements was first reported by Spectrum News.

Tahoe also told The Capitol Pressroom that the department is considering have school districts resubmit their “continuity of learning” plans, which were required by the state as part of the transition from classroom instruction to remote learning when schools were closed in March in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Plans needed to address instructional methods, tools, curriculum, and resources that would be utilized.

“Some of the plans are amazing and the district’s are doing a  great job … and I think other plans were very generic at the beginning,” Tahoe said, noting that districts only had 24 to 48 hours to draft these contingency plans.

There is an expectation that updated plans would reflect the past month of distance learning and additional experience using digital technology.

As remote learning continues – at least until May 15 – it’s possible that some districts will be able to utilize new digital technology, as Tahoe said the department is engaged in an expedited review of purchases relying on the state’s Smart Schools Bond Act. Final sign off is still needed by a review board controlled by the state Division of budget.

 

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