Teachers' unions play key role in changing evaluation system

Teachers in New York will see a revised evaluation system after the state's Board of Regents approved a policy that gives local school districts as well as teachers' unions greater influence over the ratings educators receive for their work. It replaces a controversial approach that relied mainly on student growth scores generated by computers and based on a number of metrics, including standardized test scores. The board unanimously approved the change. Under the changed rules, around half of a teacher's evaluation will continue to be linked to standardized test performance by students. The other half of the evaluation will be based on classroom evaluations conducted locally.

Local districts will be allowed to choose the testing criteria that are applied each year. These annual evaluations affect around 190,000 teachers across the state. Teachers' unions as well as local parents had heavily protested the old system. Around 43% of students in two counties were pulled out of state standardized tests by their parents in reaction to the use of testing metrics for teacher evaluation. Both education unions and families said that the focus on test scores put too much pressure on both faculty and students, leading to a detrimental environment for learning.

New York State United Teachers said that the vote reflected work being done across the state to fix a "broken" system. The state egislature previously passed a law that laid out guidelines for future evaluations in response to teachers' protests and widespread outcry.

When parents and teachers' unions protested the use of a fully standardized-test-based evaluation system, they were able to achieve change. This is one reason why many employees seek to protect themselves through union representation in the workplace. Unions working to defend their members can consult with an attorney about their options to take action in court as well as on the job.

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