Ed Commission Report +

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On January 3 Governor Cuomo convened a cabinet meeting at which the Preliminary Report of the New NY Education Reform Commission was presented, and a number of other important issues were discussed. A summary follows:

Preliminary Report of the Commission
(the full 92 page report is attached)
Chairman Dick Parsons presented recommendations including:
• Full-day kindergarten, especially for high needs students
• Integrated Services (e.g., health, mental health, dental), especially in “impacted” community schools. The Governor expressed strong support for this recommendation, referring to such schools as “school plus” or as an “integrated community support network.” He felt that such schools are different and should not be compared to other (affluent, well resourced) schools. He further expressed his vision that such schools become the “single point of contact” for all (local, state and federal) community services.
• Extending the school day or school year
• Recruit and retain teachers and principals; elevating the status of such educators
• Increase college admission requirements, requiring more classroom/clinical experience and examination requirements that resemble the bar exam.
• Create incentives to reward performance
• Create public-private partnerships and enhance high school offerings (e.g., technical skills) and credential opportunities
• Make greater and more innovative use of technology to improve the delivery of instruction and assessments. Chairman Parsons went on to recommend that the state create models and incentives.
• Streamline the process for school district consolidation, and use technology to expand access to programs/subjects. In regard to consolidation, the Governor cited anticipated push-back based on turf and beurocracy, but ended the discussion by saying, “We’re ready.”
Governor Cuomo preceded Mr. Parsons presentation by saying that, as compared to other states, New York has over the years lost ground in educational performance  He expressed support for virtually all the above recommendations, but for some of the recommendations (e.g., full-day kindergarten) he said that securing sufficient funding will be a challenge. Toward to conclusion of his remarks on the Commission’s report, the Governor expressed agreement with the assertion of Commission member Jeff Canada who said, “We have failed our kids.” The Governor and his staff will review the Commission’s full report to determine aspects to be included in the Executive Budget.

Annual Professional Performance Review
In regard to the questions from the press, Chairman Parsons said that APPR is not addressed in the preliminary report. Commission members abided by the recommendation of Commissioner King, who was paraphrased as saying: “Let’s let this roll out and see what results.” The Commission chairman also said that APPR will be addressed in the Commission’s next report in order to address aspects to be “changed and fine-tuned.”
The Governor also strongly dismissed any possibility of waiving or extending the January 17 due date for the submission of APPR plans – including for New York City. During the course of the meeting an unidentified source indicated that 98 percent of school districts now had APPRs in place.

Fiscal Cliff
The Governor described federal actions to address the fiscal cliff as “ugly ball” (a basketball phrase indicating a good result, that was achieved in an unpleasing way). He described actions as “forced – not educated, not collaborative…”; but much better than the alternative of no action.

Sandy Relief Act
The Governor expressed great admiration for all members of the New York (and New Jersey) federal delegations; he also expressed great disappointment in leadership of the House who “reneged” on pledges to pass the $60 billion package yesterday, then this morning; and now pledge action in about one month. Upon further inquiry by reporters, the Governor said that this matter will not have a great impact on the New York State budget, but will have a great impact for families. He repeatedly said that “time matters” and indirectly stated his hope that action would be taken well before a month’s time.

Gun Control
The Governor indicated that his office is working with the Senate and Assembly in regard to gun control. During the course of the interview he indicated that he supports a ban on assault weapons, and that he personally supports micro-stamping (but does not feel that passage of such a measure is likely). He does not plan to pursue a ban on gun shows, saying such decisions should be addressed at the local level. He indicated that “significant change” in needed in regard to guns, mental health and the “culture of violence.” No deadline or timeframe has been set by his office for this purpose.

Education cuts loom, speak up now!

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Whether you know it as sequestration or as the fiscal cliff, the amount of fiscal support for educational programs will be substantially decreased, by approximately eight percent, if a long-term federal budget plan is not in place by January 2, 2013.

If sequestration is implemented, cuts will take effect for the 2013-14 school year for Title 1 grants to schools (currently $14.5 billion, possible cut of $1.2 billion) and special education grants (currently $11.6 billion, possible cut of $973 million). According to a report by the New York State School Boards Association, the average New York State school district will lose $243,000, and the largest cuts will be incurred by the state’s largest school districts: New York City, $95.1 million; Buffalo, $4.1 million; Rochester, $3.4 million; and Syracuse and Yonkers ($1.6 million each).

Use the NASSP Action Center now to easily contact your senate and congressional representatives!

Tell them:

  • A budget plan is needed now – one that is balanced in a manner that safeguards support to schools and students.
  • Many New York State school districts are already straining to implement required services and educational reforms – many of which emanate from the federal level. More funding is needed – not a reduction.
  • More than 30,000 teachers and 7.5 percent of positions for school administrators have been eliminated. Many school services and programs have been discontinued. The full effects of the funding cliff may be expected to adversely impact not only students’ education, but their life opportunities.

ECB recommended revisions of the state school aid calculation procedures

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On December 7, SAANYS coordinated with other associations included in the Educational Conference Board (ECB) to send a letter to Governor Cuomo recommending revisions of the State School Aid calculation procedures that would improve financial aid planning by school districts.

The 2011-12 state budget instituted new limitations (caps) in annual changes to School Aid and Medicaid – the two largest components of state spending. The changes, which are codified in law for upcoming budget cycles, are different for each of the two components. The Medicaid cap is based on the 10-year average change in the medical component of the Consumer Price Index; and the School Aid cap is based on the one-year, annual change in the personal income of state taxpayers. The method for calculating the School Aid cap is more volatile, with year-to-year swings as much as five percent. In fact, forecasting the change in personal income for a single year is itself, open to wide variation as data become available.  For example, the changes in the personal income forecast for 2013-14 have been revised downward several times, with concomitant reductions in the possible School Aid cap falling from $950 million to $610 million.

In its letter, ECB recommends that the method used to set the School Aid cap be revised in a manner that is similar to that used for Medicaid. The calculation of the School Aid cap should use the 10-year average of change in statewide personal income. It is expected that this revised approach will seldom go up or down by more than one-half of one percent per year. For 2013-14, such a revision would result in a School Aid cap of 4.0 percent – a possible increase of $814 million.In addition to SAANYS, the associations constituting the Education Conference Board are: Conference of Big 5 School Districts, NYS Association of School Business Officials, NYS Congress of Parents and Teachers, NYS Council of School Superintendents, NYS School Boards Association, and NYS United Teachers. The ECB letter to Governor Cuomo is posted on the SAANYS website. For more information about ECB or the letter sent to Governor Cuomo regarding State Aid, contact James Viola, Director of Government Relations at JViola@saanys.org.

 

Tonko Talks Frankly with Local Principals

Twenty-one school administrators from 14 school districts and BOCES within the 21st Congressional District met with Congressman Paul Tonko yesterday afternoon to discuss critical issues facing schools and educators. The three-hour event took place at the offices of the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) in Latham, New York.

The open discussion covered timely national issues in education ranging from the possibility of fiscal “sequestration” to programmatic issues and recommendations. The principals and other school administrators talked frankly about the real effects of reduced funding and layoffs in their schools, increased testing for students, and problematic outcomes from the Race to the Top initiative.

Commented James Viola, SAANYS director of government relations, “We are very gratified by the interest and effort of the congressman to reach out to school leaders in the 21st district. We look forward to hosting a similar meeting before the close of the calendar year.“

2011-12 Teacher Growth Scores Sent to Districts

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Today, August 16, SED announced that 2011-2012 growth report files for teacher growth scores (a.k.a,, subcomponent one of annual professional performance reviews) are now available to download. In the news release (read here), Commissioner King notes “that only 3,556 principals and approximately 15 percent (33,129) of teachers statewide [teachers of ELA and math in grades 4-9] will have growth scores based on student assessments in 2011-12, and the growth scores will represent only one-fifth of the overall evaluation.” Statewide teacher performance follows:

·         7%      Highly Effective
·         77%     Effective
·         10%     Developing
·         6%      Ineffective

Finally, the commissioner states in the release that, consistent with Chapter 68 of the Laws of 2012, SED will also release to the public aggregated overall evaluation ratings, composite scores, and subcomponent ratings and scores including state-provided growth scores.

SAANYS Delivers Testimony to Gov’s Ed Reform Commission 7/10/12

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Local Control – New York State has a long history of “local control.” This educational cornerstone means that each school district, through its administrative team and board of education, should have primary control in setting academic priorities, determining services and programs, and ensuring the quality of its educational services and personnel. Over recent years, important federal and state initiatives have been implemented, or attempted, to significantly diminish local control. In drafting our state’s educational blueprint for the future, the Commission must address the foundational consideration of the extent to which educational services and programs, and their attendant costs, should be prescribed by the State.  It is our recommendation that local control should be continued and reinforced. The state and federal roles should be focused on setting academic standards and targets, not determining local procedures and services.

 

Recruitment – An important step toward ensuring that the “best and the brightest” enter the field of public education and ascend to administrative ranks is to enhance the public perception of education.  Nobody wants to enter a career of which they cannot be proud. But sadly, we are at a time when publicly “bashing” teachers and school administrators is accepted and even modeled by state leaders. This perception, coupled with reduced pension benefits and ever increasing job demands, has a chilling effect on individuals’ desiring to make the very substantial financial and personal investments that are required to be a public school administrator. For example, despite escalating academic requirements year-to-year, high school graduation rates have improved every year for the past five years, but rather than extending congratulations, the emphasis tends to be more placed on the limited numbers of students meeting aspirational performance goals. We recommend a “balanced” depiction of our educational system that is as attuned to recognizing achievements as it is areas needing improvement.

School District Budgets – Priority Setting and Professional Discretion – SAANYS is grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Mr. Schwartz and others in the Governor’s office over the past two years to identify state planning and reporting requirements that may be reduced or eliminated. Sadly, in the work lives of school administrators over the past two years, there has been a net increase of such requirements with little or no additional aid to support their implementation. For example, the allocations received by most school districts under Race to the Top (RTTT) fall far short of the actual funding needed to implement its requirements. (Forty percent of school districts receive less than $10,000 per year.) Rather than provide local tax burden relief, it has exacerbated the burden.  In that the RTTT reforms have been incorporated in state law or regulation, they dictate where the “first dollars” are spent. School funds must be directed to implement common core curriculum, to implement Annual Professional Performance Review procedures, and computer-based assessment before they are used for advanced placement programs, arts programs, or kindergarten.  School administrators are restricted from implementing the programs, services and interventions they feel are most strategic because they must implement the state reforms that are mandated. The state agenda is the priority; local priority setting and local control are more and more becoming second tier considerations.  Any action by the Commission to meaningfully reduce unnecessary and unfunded mandates for schools will be helpful. At the very least, action should be taken to prevent the establishment of additional mandates in the future.

Personnel Resources – Priority Setting and Professional Discretion – Personnel resources are finite and shrinking. Over the past three years, administrative positions have been cut 7.5 percent and teacher positions have been cut 4.3 percent (Source: The Council of School Superintendents, October 2011), and it is expected that further reductions will be implemented for the 2012-13 school year. In that the education reforms established under Race to the Top have been incorporated in law and regulation, there is correspondingly increased administrative responsibility, much of which is related to record keeping and reporting. School administrators are not able to direct their time and staff time in the manner they feel most strategic to improve educational performance, but in a manner that will ensure completion of state determined priorities.

Targeted Support for School Administrators  — The volume and complexity of work for school leaders  continues to grow. More than ever before, it is essential to capitalize upon the deep experience of veteran, successful school administrators in mentoring or coaching new administrators and administrators wishing to improve. Support and incentives should be made available for this process and relationship of ongoing support.  It has been demonstrated to be effective in building individual and team capacity, and in developing competency and self-awareness. Such a system, grounded in research and experience, is strongly recommended as a means to enhance the quality of school administrators. Little of the RTTT funds have been devoted to school leadership across the state in all districts.

 

Defining and Measuring Quality – Part and parcel of New York State’s obligations under the Race to the Top program is the establishment of a statewide Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) system. Though the APPR system was established in Education Law in May 2010, due to court challenge, subsequent changes in law and regulation, and the sporadic release of information by the State Education Department, school districts did not know the full and final requirements that needed to be collectively bargained and built into their APPR Plans until March 2012.  The system includes four quality ratings (highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective) for teachers and principals, along with voluminous and complex procedural requirements to be completed for each educator. The APPR system is unpiloted and untried in New York State and therefore, questions remain: Are these the right ratings and definitions of quality? Will the system yield evaluation scores and ratings that are valid and reliable? To what extent should the evaluations be released?  It is therefore recommended that an objective evaluation of New York State’s APPR system be completed. In addition to quality rating considerations, the study should address the extent to which the system is cohesive, results in targeted professional development, supports improved student performance, and impacts upon school district and BOCES budgets.

Evaluation Confindentiality Bill Passes

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The senate and assembly passed Governor Cuomo’s bill (S.7792 / A.10786) regarding the access and disclosure of APPR evaluations and scores for teachers and principals.

The bills provide a measure of administrative relief for school principals (compared to A.9814-A, which would have required individual meetings with parents/guardians) but we do not feel that principals will receive sufficient or equitable confidentiality – especially those who work in smaller school districts. The bills also establish new unfunded procedural and data reporting requirements for school districts (many of which may impact principals and other school administrators).
A summary of the provisions of the bills follows.  

  • The companion bills specify roles and responsibilities for school districts/BOCES and for SED in fully disclosing and releasing final HEDI ratings and composite scores (0 to 100) from Annual Professional Performance Reviews of teachers and principals. The bills would become effective on July 1, 2012 and require that SED, school districts, and BOCES ensure that any public release of APPR data does NOT contain personally identifying information for any teacher or principal.
  • School districts and BOCES would be required to fully disclose and release HEDI ratings and composite effectiveness scores to parents and legal guardians as follows:

- Upon parent/guardian request, to fully disclose and release to the parents and legal guardians of a student, in any manner (including by phone and in person), the final HEDI rating and composite effectiveness score for each of the teacher and for the principal of the school building to which the student is currently assigned.

- Conspicuous notice of the right to obtain APPR information must be provided to all parents and guardians.

- Orally or in writing, explain the scoring ranges for the HEDI ratings to parents and legal guardians.

- Offer parents and legal guardians opportunities to understand the scores in the context of teacher evaluation and student performance.

- Make reasonable efforts to verify that any review request is a bonafide request by a parent or guardian entitled to review and receive the requested data.

  • SED would be required to fully disclose APPR data to the public on its website or by other means, as follows:

- The data must be suitable for research, analysis, and comparison.

- For principals – by school district – final HEDI ratings and composite effectiveness scores.

- For teachers – by school building – evaluation data.

- Within each district and school building – by class, subject, and grade.

- Final APPR ratings and composite effectiveness scores shall also be disclosed according to state region, district wealth, district need category, student enrollment, type of school (elementary, middle, high school), student need (poverty level), district spending.

- On a year-to-year basis, final HEDI ratings and composite effectiveness scores by the percentage or number of teachers and principals in each rating category moving to a higher rating category than the previous year, to a lower rating category and retained in each rating category.

- Data on tenure granting and denial based on final HEDI rating categories.