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School districts around the country are facing obstacles as they attempt to finalize new teacher evaluation systems in time for the 2013-14 school year. At least 30 states have passed laws requiring new evaluation systems, but many cities are experiencing pushback from teachers and unions, particularly on requirements to include student test scores as a part of a teacher’s rating.

New York City teachers recently balked at a proposal to include student test data in the evaluations. The teachers union and city officials failed to meet a state mandated deadline to reach an agreement, which could cost the city up to $450 million in state funding. Other districts in New York received approval for their plans with just hours to spare.

A proposed bill in Connecticut would delay the start of a new statewide teacher evaluation program from 2013 to 2014 due to educator concerns about funding and implementation. And Hawaii has been warned by the U.S. Department of Education that it may lose the federal funding it won in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative if it fails to secure a teacher contract that links teacher evaluation to personnel decisions. Although the Hawaii Board of Education has mandated the use of new evaluations, contract negotiations are ongoing in the state.

In other places, however, compromises have been made. Earlier this month, the United Teachers Union of Los Angeles voted in favor of an evaluation system that will rely on raw state test scores and district assessments.

The union had strongly opposed the use of the controversial “value-added” system which uses a complex formula to calculate student growth on standardized tests. Critics have questioned the validity of value-added and warned against using it for high-stakes decisions. The district has yet to determine what percentage of the evaluation will be based on student test scores.

Union president Warren Fletcher praised the agreement. “We worked hard at the bargaining table to craft a system that intelligently uses student data in the evaluation of teachers,” he said in a statement.

New Jersey has also been moving forward with new evaluations. The state launched a pilot program this year in preparation for mandatory statewide implementation of a new system in the 2013-2014 school year. The law had required districts to report their final evaluation systems to the education department by Jan. 1, but the administration extended the deadline to Feb. 15.

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Jackie Mader supervises all photo and multimedia use, covers early childhood education and writes the early ed newsletter. In her nine years at Hechinger, she has covered a range of topics including teacher...

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