RECENTLY ADOPTED TEACHER EVALUATION REGULATIONS UNDERMINE LOCAL CONTROL SAY DISTRICT OFFICIALS
September 15, 2015 -- At the North Shore Board of Education meeting this past Tuesday evening, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Robert Chlebicki presented to the Board the new teacher evaluation regulations that were recently adopted by the State Education Department (SED). The new rules, said Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick undermine local control over the evaluation process, potentially hampering the district’s ability to hold onto it’s best new teachers.
SED’s changes to the teacher evaluations, known as APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) came at the direction of Governor Andrew Cuomo, with the state legislature, in particular Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans, following his lead during budget negotiations this past spring. The old APPR, the Governor argued, resulted in too many teachers receiving ratings of effective and highly effective.
Under the evaluation system that was in place for the past three years, Mr. Chlebicki explained, 40% of a teacher’s rating was based on “student performance" measures, and 60% on “teacher observations.”
Half of the “student performance” rating was determined by scores on state exams for students in grades 4-8, (comparing scores from one year to the next). For all other elementary grades and individual subject areas that portion of the score was based on SLOs (Student Learning Objectives) set by the district. For secondary teachers of classes concluding with a Regents exam, the score was based on those exam results and SLOs worked out by the district. The other half of the student performance score (20% of the teacher's total score) was a measure developed locally.
Previously, the teacher observation portion of APPR (60%) during was based on two classroom observations, one of which was unannounced, conducted by building supervisors.
In total, under the old system, 20% of a Teacher's rating was based on student performance on the state tests, and the remaining 80% more or less remained under local control.
Under the new system, 50% of a teacher’s evaluation will now be based on student performance on state exams in grades 4-8. Schools must now also develop “back-up” SLOs for students so that performance measures of children who “opt out” of the exams can be included in a teacher's rating. Under the new system, the state also exercises greater control over SLOs for students in other grades, with target scores previously having been under local control, now having to meet SED parameters. The Local Growth Measure, which had made up 20% of the old evaluation system, has been eliminated entirely, thus excluding performance based learning measures and other district developed evaluation tools, such as portfolios, from the mix.
The “Teacher Observation” portion of the new system has been reduced to 50% of the teacher’s overall score. Two observations are still conducted, however one must be done by an administrator from outside of the building - either from within or outside of the district. 80-90% of this portion of APPR will be based on the building administrator’s observation and 10-20% on the outsider’s observation.
Throughout Mr. Chlebicki's presentation, board members and Dr. Melnick offered their thoughts - none of which were positive.
Trustee Marianne Russo asked rhetorically, “What happens to teachers when it’s a poorly designed test?” She cited the low performance statewide on this past year’s Algebra 2 exam as evidence that the poor scores were not an indicator of a local problem but rather an issue with the test itself. “There’s no way teachers could have predicted this. It could be attributed to the test not the teachers.”
The Trustee also pointed out that the tests do not take into consideration variations in income level from one district to another, with students in wealthier communities having not only more resources in school but often availing themselves of the services of private tutors outside of school.
Trustee Sara Jones asked Dr. Melnick whether there had been wild fluctuations in the testing portion of an individual teacher’s APPR, wondering whether it was reasonable to believe that a teacher’s actual performance could change so much in single year. Dr. Melnick replied that there have been many cases of that, and that a Great Neck elementary school teacher had brought a lawsuit against the state regarding that issue, with that portion of her rating going from highly effective to ineffective in a single year.
As for one of the observations being conducted by a person outside of the building, Dr. Melnick asked, “why would you want someone out of the building observing the teacher?” The purpose of an observation is not just “evaluative,” he explained, but also to help the teacher improve with the observer providing feedback and working with that teacher.
Dr. Melnick expressed concerns regarding the impact the new APPR would have on how teachers would teach, saying, “we have to find a way to let our teachers know that we have their back.” Districts can begin termination proceedings against teachers who receive two successive years of ineffective ratings.
Ultimately, though, it was the new teachers, those on probation that he seemed to be most concerned about, and the ability of the district to hold onto “the best ones.” He said that the district is not permitted to grant tenure to teachers who receive a rating of “ineffective” or “developing” on the state testing portion of their evaluation in the third or fourth year of their probationary period, even if the District finds the teachers to be highly effective three or four straight years on the Teacher observation half of the evaluation, and their total score puts them in the "effective" range.
The parts of the new APPR that are determined locally, within the rigid parameters dictated by the state, must be agreed to by both the district’s administration and its teacher’s union, before going to the state for approval. And although the school year has already begun, the system, assuming an agreement between the two is worked out, would be put in place this year. If the two cannot agree, the district can apply for a “hardship waiver” - once in November, and if an agreement cannot be worked out in subsequent months, again in February, postponing the implementation of the new rules to the 2016-17 school year.
A resident asked what would happen to the district if it did not receive a waiver and did not adopt the new APPR - would it lose the increase in state aid over last year as had been threatened by the Governor last spring. Dr. Melnick replied that under such a circumstance, he did not think the district would lose the increase in state aid.
BACK TO WEEKLY