State Education Commissioner defends teacher evaluations

State Commissioner of Education Dr. John King got a firsthand look at Syracuse Schools during his visit to Henniger High School Thursday.

The commissioner's visit comes as school districts across the state are debating a controversial plan for teacher evaluations based in part on students scores on standardized tests. The plan has met with resistance from teachers' unions.

Commissioner King says student test scores would not be the only measure used to evaluate teachers.

"The tests are only one part of the system. It's a multiple measure system so we will look at how students are progressing based on their learning, but we will also have administrators observing teachers," he says. One major point of contention is the state's plan to include the test scores of chronically absent students in teacher evaluations.

Commissioner King says the state can not afford to exclude any students' test scores when evaluating teachers, especially those struggling to make it to school. "If we keep the focus on how we use the evaluation process to help students learn more effectively and how we help teachers and principals improve their practice than I think we can move forward and get to a place where more students are career and college ready when they graduate high school," he says.

Commissioner King says the state is also looking at a plan to consolidate and create regional high schools in rural districts as a cost cutting measure. Each of the state's 700 school districts has to have a state approved teacher evaluation process in place by January 17th. Districts who don't have one risk losing millions of dollars in state aid.

We have placed a call to the Syracuse Teacher's Association for comment.