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NYC among just two dozen districts without teacher eval plans

Not having a teacher evaluation agreement puts New York City in an increasingly elite group: Of the state’s 694 school districts, just 27 haven’t agreed on an evaluation system.

And almost all of the other lagging districts have much less ground to negotiate with their teachers unions than the city does: They have fewer students, on average, than some city high schools.

According to the latest update from the State Education Department, 442 districts have already had their evaluations systems approved. About 180 have received feedback from the department and are expected to revise and resubmit before the Jan. 17, 2013, deadline set by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And about 45 have submitted plans recently and are waiting to hear whether they pass muster.

That leaves just 27 districts that have not submitted even a first draft of a teacher evaluation plan, despite increasingly strident admonitions that state officials at least six weeks to review whether plans adhere to legal requirements and department guidance.

“The clock is ticking,” State Education Commissioner John King said in a statement today. He added, “There are still over two dozen districts that have not submitted APPR plans. The longer they wait, the more difficult it will be to complete our review by the deadline. We’ll move as fast as we can, but we will not sacrifice the quality of the review.”

New York City’s plan, if it is completed, will be far harder to review than those of other school districts that still have not turned in a teacher evaluation plan. All together, the 26 districts enroll just over 80,000 students, roughly the same number as are in ninth grade in city high schools. The largest of the districts, Yonkers, is often grouped with New York City in the state’s “Big Five” urban school districts, but even it has just 23,000 students. None of the other districts enrolls more than 10,000 students, and on average, they serve just 2,300 students each.

Of the remaining Big Five districts, two — Rochester and Syracuse — have already had their plans approved. Buffalo submitted a plan in July, but the teachers union there is refusing to negotiate over required revisions because of a contract fight.

Cuomo set the Jan. 17 deadline early this year to urge districts to negotiate new teacher evaluations with their unions earlier than the state’s evaluation law would require. Districts that do not have plans approved by then will risk losing increases in their state school aid. In New York City, Department of Education and union officials both say they are committed to trying to reach an agreement in time but will not sign off on a bad plan just to get the state funds.

Some elements of new evaluations are set in law, but many others are up for negotiation. They include the assessments that will be used to judge student growth for 20 percent of the annual score, the observation model that must account for at least 31 percent, and other subjective elements such as student surveys or peer review that can factor into the final rating.