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State approves Buffalo schools teacher evaluation plan

Mike Desmond/WBFO

The long and tangled fight over millions of dollars to help bail out Buffalo's six worst-performing schools may be nearing a resolution.

State Education Commissioner John King Wednesday said he will approve the latest deal between the Buffalo Teachers Federations and the school district when it is formally signed by interim Schools Superintendent Amber Dixon and BTF President Phil Rumore.

A series of prior deals was rejected by Albany or by union members.  The sides have struggled for months over finding a plan that is acceptable to all interests. 

The school system brought in 25 teachers to work with BTF and district negotiators to work out the problems with Albany which have delayed the money, threatening layoffs. 

A key issue for was how to account for chronic student absenteeism in city schools.    Dixon says the new agreement gives points for teachers dealing with large numbers of absentee students.

"[The new] language was  really the addition of only one sentence to the April 18 approvable document, and that one sentence said if you are in a school with more than 20 percent of your students English-language learners, you would have an additional two points added to your score," Dixon said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon. 

"The teachers that were there insisted that there be something to deal with the English-language learners and also codified some of the stuff that we had already agreed to on student absenteeism. But this is for the six schools only and possibly four additional EPO (educational partnership organizations) schools, and for this year only," Rumore told WBFO and AM 970 News.

The four high schools and two elementary schools have massive absentee issues and many recent immigrants who don't do well on tests in the English language. Rumore says it will take about two weeks for all city teachers to vote on the deal.

If the agreement is signed, it will restore $5.6 million in School Improvement Grants for six persistently low-achieving schools, hampered by years of bad test scores.

Commissioner King froze the cash in January because an acceptable evaluation plan was not in place for the current school year. Buffalo was one of ten districts that saw its funding frozen at the time. The only unresolved district remaining is New York City.

Dixon says this shows the district and teachers can work together, offering hope for next year's evaluation and potentially for a union contract.


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