APPR and Accountability Updates – 2014

APPR Update – The primary item for which SAANYS continues to lobby is an APPR moratorium and/or the establishment of appropriate safeguards to ensure that principals and teachers are not adversely impacted by student performance on common core-aligned assessments. In this regard, we are working with other organizations representing school administrators in Yonkers, Buffalo, and New York City and with other Education Conference Board organizations, including NYSUT.

APPR Adjustments Permitted and Recommended
 – Recently, Education Secretary Arnie Duncan indicated that the USDOE would allow states to postpone full APPR implementation until 2016. In addition, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stated: “No evaluation system will work unless teachers believe it is fair and reliable, and it’s very hard to be fair in a time of transition. The standards need time to work. Teachers need time to develop lessons, receive more training, get used to the new tests, and offer feedback. Applying assessment scores to evaluations before these pieces are developed would be like measuring the speed of a runner based on her time – without knowing how far she ran, what obstacles were in the way, or whether the stopwatch worked … That’s why the Gates Foundation agrees with those who’ve decided that assessment results should not be taken into account in high-stakes decisions on teacher evaluation or student promotion for the next two years, during this transition.”

Position of Regents Chancellor – On June 6, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch was interviewed by Susan Arbetter on The Capitol Pressroom. The Chancellor said the state’s new APPR system was established through a “long and collaborative process” and that “We are ready to make this a ‘go’ in September” and that failure to fully implement the new APPR system “would cost New York State lots of federal dollars.” Twice during the interview, Ms. Arbetter asked how the state would lose federal funding in light of the secretary’s announcement (stated above).  The chancellor never provided any clarification of the types or amounts of expected funding cuts, but said that “We need to honor our federal obligations,” that it is “premature to say what is going to happen” and that there is a need to clarify specific dates.  When questioned about an APPR moratorium, the chancellor responded that the Gates Foundation recommends that common core-aligned test results not be used for high stakes purposes during the first two years of APPR implementation, and this is the third year of APPR implementation in New York State. She also stated that she “has no objection to using years one and two [of New York State’s new APPR system] as a pilot,” but pointed out that the new APPR system is now in its third year of implementation — and that it should be fully implemented, including the high stakes provisions set for teachers and principals.

Accountability Update – SAANYS is receiving a number of inquiries regarding accountability requirements. SAANYS contacted Assistant Commissioner Ira Schwartz with the following questions and received the answers.

Question 1. It is our understanding that any school that does not achieve a 95 percent participation rate in ELA or math must complete a Local Assistance Plan (LAP); except for Focus and Priority Schools, which must complete SCEPs. Is this correct?
Answer – Not necessarily.  The  failure to meet the 95 percent participation rate for an accountability group on an accountability measure would trigger the need for a LAP only if that group also failed to make AYP in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

Question 2. The 95 percent participation rate can be calculated based on 2013-14 only or based on the average of 2012-13 and 2013-14. Is this correct?
Answer – It will be calculated based on both.  If an accountability group for an accountability measure has at least 95 percent participation for either the 2013-14 school year or for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years on average, the group will be credited with meeting the participation requirement.

Question 3. Students taking a mathematics Regents exams in grades 7 or 8 should be included in the participation rate calculation. Is this correct?
Answer – Correct.

Several SAANYS members have asked whether the association plans to engage SED in order to establish adjustments of the accountability system for schools and districts that do not achieve a 95 percent participation rate do to parents/students who choose to “opt-out” of state assessments. On June 2, Kevin Casey, Don Nickson and I addressed this topic directly with Commissioner King and Deputy Commissioner Slentz. We prefaced the discussion by pointing out that SAANYS does not endorse or encourage opting-out, and that most teachers and principals do all that they can to encourage and maximize test participation. The students (parents) who opt-out do so intentionally (as opposed to students who do not take tests due to illness) to safeguard their children from a test situation which they believe to be unfair and perhaps to send a message to SED regarding the quality of their roll-out of common core standards and common core-aligned tests. Not achieving a 95 percent participation rate due to student opt-out is beyond the control of the school administrator.  The commissioner was dismissive of any accountability adjustment that would weaken or reduce “participation rate” as a factor in the accountability system; nor would he consider any adjustments for principals or teachers APPR evaluations. In closing this discussion, the commissioner suggested that building administrators should re-examine their “messaging to parents.”