New York state education leaders and the teachers' union have announced an agreement to change how New York school teachers and principals are evaluated, and move away from the mandated reliance on standardized test scores.

State Education Department Commissioner Betty Rosa and New York State United Teachers President Melinda Person hand-delivered their drafted legislation Wednesday to lawmakers to create a new system that doesn't use students' test performance to penalize educators. The state teacher evaluation system, known as the Annual Professional Performance Review, or APPR, was modified in the 2015 budget to place a greater importance on scores.

"It's connecting research to practice and developing strategies to ensure that teachers have the best tools and principals to make sure our young people are getting the best quality education," Rosa told reporters Wednesday in the Legislative Office Building.

When NYSUT elected president Person last year, she said her first task was to change the teacher evaluation system, and state lawmakers said with confidence Wednesday it will happen this session.

The proposed law, which has not officially been introduced in the Legislature, would remove the requirement to base evaluations on high-stakes tests. School districts would have eight years to transition, but could make the changes faster than the required deadline.

Person argued it will support new teachers who are often burdened by the required paperwork under the current model.

"This would be a fair and a just system that would support them in becoming better educators, which is ultimately what they want to do anyway," Person said.

The proposal was negotiated in agreement with state superintendents, principals, school boards, the PTA, Conference of Big 5 School Districts and other stakeholders. The issue has been contentious for union and education leaders for years, and both state Education Committee chairs in the Legislature said they're thrilled with the agreement. 

"That's such a nice thing in Albany," said Senate Education chair Shelley Mayer, a Democrat from Yonkers. "Who can do that? Who gets agreement? It's very hard around here.

"It takes a woman to do it," Assembly Education chair Michael Benedetto replied with a smile.

Benedetto, a Bronx Democrat, was a classroom teacher for decades and recalled how feedback helps educators develop when done in the proper way.

"It's like anything else — we want stability in our lives, we want to know where we're going, how we're going to be rated and what we're going to be rated on, as a teacher, as a professional," the assemblyman said.

Lawmakers will review the proposal and draft legislation in the coming weeks.

They say the change will not be done in the budget, but is a top priority for the Legislature and will get done before session ends in June.

"It will be done by the end of the year, that's for sure, and even quicker than that,"  Benedetto said. "And I generally don't make predictions like this."

Education officials have had discussions how to improve the number of teachers in New York, and the quality of educators, especially in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and significant issues related to student learning loss during that period.

The education commissioner said she looks forward to hearing Gov. Kathy Hochul's response to the proposal, but she's confident in securing the governor's support.

"The one thing we know for a fact is the governor is committed to teacher quality and development," Rosa said. "How she will respond after reading it, I can't predict."