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NIAGARA FALLS – Performance review standards for teachers and principals in the Niagara Falls City School District have been approved by the state education commissioner, assuring the district of a full share of state financial aid for this school year and putting it in a good position to receive additional federal funding beginning in the 2013-14 school year.

The district has announced that State Education Commissioner John B. King has approved of Niagara Falls’ plans for annual professional performance reviews under requirements of the new national education policy called Race to the Top. “Thanks to teamwork on the part of our negotiating team, the Niagara Falls Teachers Union and our administrators’ union, we are confident that we have fair plans in place,” School Superintendent Cynthia A. Bianco said.

The superintendent said principals have been trained in evaluating teachers under their supervision, and Deputy Superintendent Mark Laurrie has been trained in evaluating the principals. “The superintendent has primary responsibility for all,” Bianco said.

The review program is largely an update of procedures that already were in place here, school administrators said, but it still required negotiations and approval of the labor unions representing the teachers and principals. Failure to reach agreements acceptable to the state education commissioner would jeopardize millions of dollars in aid that local schools receive from the state and federal governments.

The new standards, already adopted by the nine-member local School Board, grade teachers and administrators on a scale of 100 points to determine their effectiveness in leadership or in the classrooms. The grades are based 20 percent on state assessment scores, another 20 percent on local factors, and 60 percent on other performance categories including personal observations in classrooms and administrative offices during the year.

The exact amount of state and federal money dependent on the new standards is uncertain, but Niagara Falls typically receives a total of about $87 million to $89 million a year in state aid to help support its budget of about $119 million.

Only a relative handful of the state’s nearly 700 school districts have failed to submit their evaluation plans to the education commissioner. Among them is Buffalo, which has been unable to agree with the Buffalo Teachers Federation on an evaluation program.

Any school district that does not have an approved plan in place by Jan. 17 will lose this year’s increase in state aid – $33.4 million for Buffalo – under a deadline set last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

email: rbaldwin@buffnews.com