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Untangling the latest on the teacher eval debacle

On Friday, the district presented the teachers union with its latest proposal to settle the student attendance issue in the teacher evaluation agreement.

What does it all mean?

Here's a simplified user's guide to the latest developments:

- Amber Dixon says the state will only allow the district to create two groups of students, based on attendance. We have no way of knowing whether that's the case, seeing as the state is not talking publicly about teacher evaluations.

- According to Dixon, that means there cannot be a "weighting" system -- something that has been discussed more and more lately as a possible solution -- in which a student who attends school more gets counted more heavily.

- The new plan divides students at the elementary level into two groups -- based on the schoolwide attendance overall. That's a significant distinction. The proposal establishes two different targets for elementary schools, based on average daily attendance in the building: one in schools where average daily attendance is 85 percent or higher, and another, lower target in buildings where it's below 85 percent.

- That is different from differentiating between individual students whose attendance is 85 percent or better and those whose attendance falls below 85 percent. It's like the difference between looking at a team's win-loss record and looking at an individual player's stats. Well, kind of. Not a perfect analogy, but hopefully it helps get the distinction across.

- Elementary teachers' local growth measure (20 out of 100 points on the evaluation) would be based on schoolwide growth, Dixon says, not on the growth of the students specifically in that teacher's class.

- This provision would not even make a difference for the two elementary schools affected by this agreement -- MLK and International School 45. Both of those schools' average daily attendance is over 85 percent. Remember, this is a one-year agreement that affects only the six schools funded by the school improvement grants.

- There is no attendance provision for the high schools, where the attendance problem is most severe.

- The money in question is not the full $9.3 million, a state spokesman confirmed on Friday. The state apparently is not questioning the money BPS was due from September through December. The funds in question are those due from Jan. 1 on -- about $5.6 million.

- The district last week requested an adjournment of its Thursday hearing in Albany. State officials previously said federal regulations stipulated the hearing could be held no later than March 23. That's Friday.

We'll have more of an update soon, probably in tomorrow's paper.

- Mary Pasciak

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Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

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Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

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Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

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Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

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