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SFNY Memo: Gov. Cuomo's Promise to Put Students First

MEMORANDUM

TO:  All Interested Parties 

FROM:  Jenny Sedlis, Executive Director, StudentsFirstNY

DATE: January 21st, 2015

RE:  Governor Cuomo’s Promise to Put New York Students First in 2015

Governor Cuomo’s Opportunity Agenda outlines proposals that would dramatically improve student achievement across the state. Below we highlight some of the key levers put forward by the Governor in his State of the State Address.


Raising the Bar on Teacher Quality
 

1. Strengthening the teacher evaluation system

Eliminating the local measure of student growth, which has proven to be unreliable and incomparable across districts, would reduce the number of standardized tests students are required to take. Setting scoring bands at the state level would help prevent districts from undermining the integrity of the teacher evaluation process by watering down standards.

2. Reforming tenure

Governor Cuomo’s proposal to require that a teacher receive five consecutive annual ratings of “Effective” or “Highly Effective” before tenure is granted significantly raises the bar for tenure eligibility and for the teaching profession at large. Research shows that five years of performance represent a close reflection of teachers’ long-term performance.

3. Strengthening teacher prep programs

While education superpowers like Finland and Singapore recruit top candidates to its education schools, the U.S. consistently recruits teachers from the bottom of the applicant pool. Requiring that graduate teacher preparation programs put in place higher admissions standards and closing the weakest teacher education programs will improve the quality of instruction we deliver to kids across the board.

 

Protecting Students from Failure 

1. Protecting students from ineffective instruction

No student should have a teacher unequipped to do the job and should absolutely never suffer with ineffective teachers for multiple years, as theharm done to the student can be irreparable. We applaud Governor Cuomo’s proposal to prohibit the assignment of a student to ineffective teachers in consecutive school years.

2. Transforming failing schools

Governor Cuomo is boldly standing up for students trapped in persistently failing schools, 93% of whom are students of color and 82% of whom are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. He has proposed legislation appointing receivers to oversee failing schools and districts, taking his cue from the Massachusetts model that has successfully spurred improvementsin struggling schools.

3. Fixing the teacher dismissal process

Removing grossly ineffective teachers from our schools is essential to getting our students the education they deserve. Currently the process for doing so is far too burdensome and expensive. The average proceeding for removing an incompetent teacher lasts 830 days and costs taxpayers $313,000. Over a 10-year period (1997-2007), under largely the same process, just 12 of New York City’s 75,000 teachers were dismissed for incompetence.

 

Giving Parents Greater School Choice

1. Raising the arbitrary cap on charter schools

With 50,000 students in New York City alone on waiting lists for a seat in a high quality charter school, raising the cap by 100 charter schools is clearly a step in the right direction.

2. Narrowing the charter-district funding gap

Charter schools only receive 67% of the per-pupil funding awarded to district schools. Recognizing the value of excellent charter schools for families and students in high‐need districts, the Governor has recommended an increase in per-pupil charter funding.

3. Establishing an education tax credit

Supporting private investments in educational programs will encourage contributions to public schools, nonprofits dedicated to the improvement of schools, local education funds, and organizations awarding educational scholarships. The education tax credit bill is supported by a coalition of community, labor, and religious groups.

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