From the Morning Memo:

A bill backed by Republican Sen. Jack Martins would exempt the state’s top performing school districts from the newly approved teacher evaluation criteria.

Under the bill, introduced late last week, the top 20 percent of the state’s highest performing school districts would be allowed to submit their current evaluation plans along with a request for a waiver to the Department of Education.

The top 10 percent of the districts would be granted a waiver from the evaluation law. For school districts in the highest 11 percent to 20 percent category that do not receive waiver, the state education commissioner must release a statement in writing explaining the rationale for the rejection within 30 days.

The measure comes after the state budget included a new evaluation criteria that includes both one state test and an in-classroom observation. A second test can be added based on collective bargaining at the local level.

The Department of Education will determine the weight to give tests versus observation.

The bill is actually a re-introduction of a 2012 measure that has passed the Senate at the time.

It’s being revived after some districts, especially top performing ones, have expressed concern that the evaluation measure could hurt top performing teachers, considering the room for improvement is difficult hurdle to clear.

Having top performing districts be exempt from the law has already been floated by Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch — an idea that was roundly rejected by the New York State United Teachers, the umbrella group representing teachers unions.

“This is yet another example showing why the governor’s toxic education plan is top down and unworkable. Instead of doing everything possible to recruit, support and keep great teachers for students burdened by poverty, he’s boxing them in with test and punish,” NYSUT President Karen Magee said at the time.

The measure also comes as school districts across the state on Tuesday reported high numbers of students choosing to opt out of the current round of English Language Arts standardized tests that will run for the next two weeks.

NYSUT and their associated groups have supported the movement to have students opt out of the tests in order to dilute the impact on evaluations.