State on Board If BTF Affirms Evaluation Accord ; Commissioner Voices Approval as Union, City Schools OK Deal Pending Teacher Vote

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The Buffalo Teachers Federation and the district administration have agreed on a teacher-evaluation plan that State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said he will approve -- a development that will likely restore $5.6 million in aid to six schools.

The agreement, which applies only to those six schools and only for 2011-12, is subject to approval by a majority of the 3,500 teachers in the district, who will vote by secret ballot next week.

More than two dozen teachers met with district officials for a total of four days this week and last week in the Hearthstone Manor, Depew, to try to work out an agreement.

The end result was a document that was nearly identical to one that the union's council of delegates rejected in late March. The most substantive change was an adjustment for teachers in schools with a high percentage of students whose native language is not English.

But teachers directly involved in the recent meetings said they were pleased with the collaboration between the union and the district, and most seemed to have a better understanding of the agreement.

"The district and the teachers are working hand in hand to provide a quality agreement to really evaluate quality teaching," said Fred Sales, who teaches Spanish at Riverside Institute of Technology, one of the six schools directly affected by the agreement.

"The commissioner, Dr. King, has been realizing that students' performance is affected by other things, such as attendance. And if you are an [English as a second language] student coming from another country as a refugee, you can't be asked to pass algebra."

Many teachers at the Hearthstone Manor on Wednesday said they were satisfied that the agreement addressed their major concerns but left room for improvement when it came time to negotiate an evaluation agreement for 2012-13.

"We came up with an agreement we can live with," said Sue Baker- Kroczynski, a teacher at George Blackman School 54. "Is it perfect? No. Can we live with it for this year? Yes."

Under the proposed agreement, any teacher in a school where 20 percent or more of the enrolled students are not native English speakers will have 2 points added to their overall evaluation score, which is out of a possible 100 points. So if a teacher in such a school gets an overall score of 84, the additional points would give them a final score of 86.

It appears that the allowance will affect only two of the six schools, based on the most recent information available from the state Education Department. Half of the students at International School 45 have a native language other than English, as well as 20 percent of the students at Riverside.

In the other four schools -- Bennett, Burgard and South Park high schools and Martin Luther King Jr. …