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On Wednesday, the state Education Department will unveil a new online system to streamline submitting and implementing teacher evaluation plans.
The department created a Web portal similar to the TurboTax software program that will allow school districts to input their teacher evaluation plans for state approval and public viewing. It is designed to make the process of evaluations more efficient and transparent and to ensure that schools are complying with the law according to state deadlines.
"The good news for a parent is that we're now putting a system in place for their teachers in their schools that will identify the teachers who need help," said Valerie Grey, executive deputy commissioner at the state Education Department.
All the state's nearly 700 school districts must implement teacher and principal evaluations by Jan. 17, 2013, or risk losing some state aid. The specifics of each evaluation system will vary by district, and state officials expect it will take four to six weeks to review each plan. After plans are approved by the state, they will be available to the public through the new website. At least 100 districts across the state have already reached agreements on teacher evaluations with their unions.
Districts should submit their teacher evaluation plans by July 1 for consideration and have them ready to implement in September. The new system has a built-in checklist on every step so district officials can track if they've followed the law, said Stephanie Wood-Garnett, assistant commissioner of higher education.
"It takes away one part of stress for districts," she said.
She said officials realized the system was too complicated when, on the first set of teacher evaluation plans due on Jan. 1, none of the districts eligible for School Improvement Grants submitted plans that complied with the law. The new system will not accept incomplete plans and is designed to be user-friendly, she said. It even tones down some of the dense language frequently used in department documents.
On Monday, the department trained dozens of school board members, union officials and BOCES employees on how to use the new system.
The features of the new system also will allow districts to upload documents, PowerPoint presentations as well as video and audio. Parents eventually will be able to use the new system to compare the teacher evaluation plans in their district with those of the surrounding districts.
The new system will also provide a general overview of the approved plan for each district. It will not make public individual teacher evaluations, an issue at the Capital that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised to resolve before the end of this legislative session.