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New York's Race to the Top setbacks more extreme than most

Many of the 12 Race to the Top winners are facing implementation challenges, according to Education Week, but none so striking as New York, where a judge last month overturned a key element in the state’s teacher evaluation plans.

From EdWeek:

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said he would withhold funding from states that do not live up to their Race to the Top plans. But [State Education Commissioner John King] said he believes New York state and its union could avoid that fate.

The regulations “are entirely consistent” with the 2010 state law, he said, adding: “I remain extremely optimistic that we’ll find a way forward. Inevitably, there are moments of disagreement, but I’m confident about the long-term direction.”

King’s argument is the same that Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch made last month during the “On Education” panel that I helped moderate. I had asked whether New York is keeping its Race to the Top promises and whether it has the capacity to execute planned reforms, given the teacher evaluations decision, which had been handed down just the previous day.

Panelists didn’t really deal with the big-picture question, but they projected confidence about rolling out new teacher evaluations, the piece of New York’s application that most helped the state land $700 million in federal funds.

Tisch called the legal decision “a setback in the court system.” And the city Department of Education’s second-in-command, Shael Polakow-Suransky, said, “I’m confident we’re going to get to an agreement around this in the coming period, because we have to.”

When I spoke to Michael Mendel, a UFT vice president, last week, he told me that the union still had not had any negotiations with the city about a local agreement on teacher evaluations but that it would be willing to enter them. “We’re here. I’m here every day,” Mendel said. “Once the opening of schools is over, I’m sure we will start discussions.”

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