ALBANY - A push to decouple New York's teacher-evaluation system from students' scores on standardized tests is gaining momentum at the state Capitol.
Lawmakers in both houses of the Legislature introduced bills this week that would prohibit school districts from using the grade 3-8 math and English exams from being used to rate teachers and principals.
The issue has long been a sticking point for the powerful New York State United Teachers union, which has thrown its support behind the bill and is hoping to convince lawmakers to act on it before the state's legislative session ends in mid-June.
The proposal has support from the Democratic leader of the state Assembly and Republicans in the GOP-led Senate, a key to its chances of passage.
“It has become increasingly clear that standardized tests do not fully account for the diversity of our student populations,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said in a statement.
Under state law, New York's system for evaluating its teachers is partially based on student scores on assessments. The evaluations are used, in part, to determine which teachers are granted tenure protections.
Amid the uproar over the exams and the Common Core education standards they are based on, the state agreed in 2015 to a moratorium on using the standardized test scores on teacher evaluations through 2020.
The new bill would make that permanent and require the state Education Department to come up with "alternative assessments" to be used in the teacher-rating process.
The state's standardized tests have been the subject of a multi-year boycott in New York, a way for parent activists to speak out against the exams' high-stakes nature and the Common Core.
About 20 percent of students have refused to take the exams in recent years.
The bill was introduced in the Assembly on Wednesday and was followed up in the Senate, where it was sponsored by Senate Education Chairman Carl Marcellino, R-Nassau County.
“Testing should not be the ‘Holy Grail’ of our educational system but just one measurement out of a holistic set of ways to evaluate a child’s development," said Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, Schenectady County, one of the bill's co-sponsors.
The bill was praised by the teachers union, which called it "long overdue."
"The misuse of standardized tests and the state’s over-reliance on testing continue to plague the learning climate in our classrooms," NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said.
High Achievement New York, a coalition of groups that have been supportive of the state's education standards, declined comment on the bill directly.
But in an email, Steven Sigmund, the coalition's executive director, said the organization is "supportive of evaluations that have a sensible mix of factors, including objective measures."
"The annual assessments are the only objective statewide measure that all students take, no matter where they happen to be growing up," he said.