SAANYS Supports Assembly Bill Amending APPR

SAANYS SUPPORTS
Assembly Bill #7303-A / Catherine Nolan

 

Assembly Bill 7303-A amends Chapter 56 of the Laws of 2015, amending Education Law by:

  • Extending the date by which the State Board of Regents must promulgate regulations for an annual professional performance review (APPR) system under Section 3012-d;
  • Delinking increased state aid from the implementation of the Section 3012-d APPR;
  • Providing that school districts must submit documentation by November 15, 2016, showing that the district has fully implemented APPR;
  • Requiring the release of a significant portion of test questions and correct responses;
  • Requiring that student characteristic be considered in the development of state-provided growth scores;
  • Revising the subcomponents of the teacher observation category;
  • Including “other [approved] locally selected measures of student achievement” in the second optional supplemental assessment for APPR; and
  • Requiring that the commissioner establish a content review committee for all standardized test items in state assessments for grades three through eight.
  • The bill also provides $8.4 million to SED to help eliminate stand-alone field tests.

SAANYS Supports this legislation for the following reasons as it does address several of the immediate concerns regarding Section 3012-d:

  • The timeline set for the New York State Board of Regents and the State Education Department to promulgate regulations for the implementation of a new APPR system under Section 3012-d would be extended from June 30, 2015 to November 17, 2015. At the April and May meetings of the Board of Regents, Board members repeatedly expressed upset in regard to the inadequate time allotted to promulgate regulations in a thoughtful and transparent manner. SAANYS agrees that the timeline is too short, and strongly supports an extension to November 17, 2015.
  • The extension of the deadline to November 15, 2016 for school districts and BOCES to implement the Section 3012-d APPR system is entirely appropriate in allowing for sufficient time to re-negotiate teacher collective bargaining agreements, to re-negotiate administrator collective bargaining agreements, to develop and implement new policies and procedures, to conduct necessary professional development in regard to the new system, and to submit a new APPR plan to the State Education Department for review and approval. The extended time frame will promote the more thoughtful and effective establishment of new APPR procedures. Moreover, there is no need to condition the receipt of additional state aid on the implementation of the new APPR system. Such conditions, if implemented, only hurt students.
  • Teachers and school leaders use test results to revise instruction and to target resources and support to teachers and to students. Releasing a “significant” amount of test questions and corresponding correct answers during the current school year (by June 1) will promote program planning and better position schools, classes, and students for success upon school opening in September.
  • It is essential and right that student characteristics, such as disability status, be considered in the development of state-provided growth scores. However, it is also recommended that the manner/method by which such characteristics are considered should also be examined and revised if appropriate. The department’s current methodology is not transparent, and is felt to be flawed for teachers, and even more flawed for principals.
  • Making the subcomponent two, impartial independent trained evaluator, optional for school districts and BOCES will remove an unfunded mandate and an additional administrative burden. To mandate the assignment of independent evaluators also weakens the ability of a teacher’s instructional leader – the principal – to evaluate and guide a teacher’s growth based on what the principal knows of the needs of his/her students. However, discretionary implementation of this procedure by school districts and BOCES could serve as a pilot program for determining the efficacy of such an approach.
  • Establishing a content review committee for the state assessments administered in grades three through eight is directly responsive to the strong concerns raised by parents and educators since the implementation of the common core-aligned assessments. The establishment of the committee will demonstrate that state leaders are listening, and the committee’s actions may be effective in reversing the growing incidence of students opting-out of such tests.

For more information, please contact James Viola, director of government relations, by telephoning

518-782-0600 or by e-mailing 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.

Update on Test Integrity, APPR, and State Aid

1.  Test Integrity – At the Board of Regents meeting conducted earlier this week, the Board passed a series of additional reforms intended to safeguard and ensure test integrity. In fact, shortly following the Board’s meeting SED announced the appointment of Tina Sciocchetti as director of test security and educator integrity. The appointment of Ms. Sciocchetti is intended to build department capacity in “developing the investigative and deterrence capacity to protect our teachers, administrators, and … students from the kinds of testing scandals that have occurred in other states.” At yesterday’s BOR meeting it was explained that any adult involved in administering and scoring tests will be required to report allegations of inappropriate behavior, (this report requirement currently pertains only to school principals), which is expected to result in more investigations on a yearly basis. Some investigations will be done directly by the new Test Security Unit, but most investigations will be done by school districts/BOCES according to timelines and procedures set by TSU.

2. APPR Regulations – The last action taken at the meeting of the Board of Regents was to act upon regulatory amendments necessary to conform to statutory revisions accruing from the union-SED-Governor negotiations that resolved the APPR litigation. Of course, implementation questions remain such as :
·  When will SED issue the “form” that is to be issued by school districts/BOCES to submit APPR plans for review/approval? or
·  When will SED issue the State-approved instrument for feedback from teachers, students and families?

3. State Aid – During our recent GRC Lobby Day, many legislators supported our recommendation to roll as much of the $250 proposed by the Governor for Competitive grants into operating aid. This news article indicates that during an interview Tuesday, Governor Cuomo has expressed receptivity to rolling a substantial portion of the $250 into operating aid, stating that the sum of $250 million was intended as a “place holder.”

APPR Agreement Reached

At 12:30 today Governor Cuomo delivered an announcement in the Capitol’s Red Room that APPR issues have been addressed. The APPR revisions will be included in a budget amendment and will conform to the “agreements” reached by the parties.

There was no discussion of necessary regulatory amendments, however, Commissioner King indicated that the new APPR requirements are more clear, as previously there was “more ambiguity” in choices.

Based on the announcement it is clear that the APPR procedures maintain the three subcomponents:

Sub-component 1 – State Growth Measures (20 points) – Retains the state growth requirements, including requirements related to the development of Student Learning Objectives (SLOs).

Sub-component 2 – Local Achievement Measures (20 points) – Allows for the use of state assessments in a manner that is different from the way such instruments were used for sub-component 1. It will also continue to allow for other instruments/measures such as SED approved third party assessments and district/BOCES assessments that meet state standards.

Sub-component 3 –  Teacher Performance (60 points) – Will require that “a majority of the teacher performance points will be based on classroom observations by an administrator or principal, and at least one observation will be unannounced. The remaining points will be based upon defined standards including observations by independent trained evaluators, peer classroom observations, student and parent feedback from evaluators, and evidence of performance through student portfolios.”

The agreements apparently also contain APPR appeals provisions that expressly apply to New York City teachers. It will allow for certain appeals to be heard by a neutral panel, apparently based on the basis for the appeal. Such a provision will be of interest to other school districts/negotiators in developing their appeals procedures.

However, all school districts will be required to submit their APPR plans to SED, beginning in July 2012. Each district’s plan will need to be reviewed and approved by SED by the January 2013 due date in order to qualify for the 4 percent increase in state aid. Districts that have an approved plan by September 2012 will receive “bonus points” if they plan to apply for a competitive grant. Commissioner King indicated that he expects that districts with early approvals will serve as models for other districts. In responding to questions regarding SED’s capacity to review approximately 700 APPR plans in a timely manner, the governor added that the “template will be straightforward” and that there should not be “many varieties.”

The governor spoke with Secretary Duncan earlier today, and based on that conversation he believes that any consideration to reclaim federal funds is now “off the table.”  It should also be noted that APPR requirements expressly focused upon principals were not discussed.

The Value of Flexibility

After consistently opposing a millionaires’ tax, and insisting there would be no tax increases, Governor Cuomo turned on a dime and passed a mid-year budget package that essentially did both.  By “restructuring” the tax code, tax rates were slightly reduced for most, but increased for those earning more than $2 million per year. The net result is an estimated $1.9 billion in new revenues. Not tax increases, but new revenues.

This fiscal gyration wipes out the current year shortfall and should make the promised increase in education spending more likely, so the result is an agreeable one. It makes me wonder if the governor’s flexibility might be adopted by others.
In October, SAANYS wrote to Commissioner King and the members of the Board of Regents asking that the State Education Department apply to the U.S. Department of Education for a one-year extension of the RTTT requirement for the implementation of the APPR law. The State of Delaware did so and had its application granted. Regardless, there seems to be little interest at SED in pursuing this course of action.

It seems to me to be increasingly difficult to engage in thoughtful discussion around the practical impact and the validity of our new APPR system. It is my observation that too many people are too quick to place an individual in one philosophical corner (“education reformer”) or another (“defender of the status quo”). Each label is frequently tagged with allegedly having unflattering characteristics (blindly attacking public education despite limited public education experience versus defending the lazy and inept despite the adverse effect on children), which may or may not be true, and most often are not.

Reasonable people may, and do, debate whether student growth scores are a valid means of measuring teacher or principal effectiveness, but being on one side or another does not equate to some kind of moral failure. One may argue that having 20 percent of an evaluation based on student growth scores is insufficient, or to the contrary, that 20 percent is far too high. In either case, the position adopted does not reveal an improper motive. A concern over the method of being held accountable does not equate to opposition to accountability. The state assessment system has an unstable past, and it is not unreasonable to want an accountability system that is built on a firm foundation, and not on 80 percent of one.

It is my hope that we can have informed discussions about the costs and practical front-line implementation issues without being labeled as obstructionists. I hope that those who create a system that they believe will help children will remain humble enough to accept that they too can learn from those who face life’s often unpleasant realities in our schools on a daily basis. I hope that there will be evaluations of the evaluation system as it is implemented, and that proponents of the system will have the courage to make changes should they be warranted. Let our governor serve as our guide; if circumstances call for a modification of earlier positions, let us not be afraid to ‘restructure’ ourselves to the right result.

Fall Vanguard: Rowing the Boat Together

Excerpts from feature interview: “Listening Within and To Those Around Us” – An Interview with Michael Fullan.

“Change is only a mirage unless people actually experience the reality of improvement” (Fullan, p. 57).

Change is something we have become quite accustomed to over the past few years, but we are unsure whether those changes will lead to improvement in our school systems. Dr. Michael Fullan, internationally known for his work in educational leadership, knows how to move forward during the toughest of times. In his new book, Change Leader (2011, Jossey-Bass), Fullan offers educators ideas on how they can move forward during one of the most difficult financial times we have seen in our educational history. The keys? Reflection and Collaboration.

Fullan suggests that educators look within their own practice first before they read books and articles. That reflective practice has to be honest. They need to look at their practice through a critical lens that focuses on both the positive and the negative attributes of their practice. Lastly, those educators who are focused enough to move forward cannot do it alone. They must work collaboratively, across buildings and job responsibilities. That said, Fullan believes that school leaders have been forced to lead with the wrong drivers. The four wrong drivers are external accountability, focus on individuals, technology, and piecemeal reform efforts. He believes we should be focusing on: capacity building, teamwork, and other forms of collaboration, pedagogy, and systemic strategies. Basically, we should not be moving forward alone. We need our collective wisdom to get us through these difficult times.

Full story in the Fall issue of SAANYS Vanguard Magazine.

For Sale

We have entered a time in education when the line between public and private education is blurring, and the influence of moneyed interests is increasing. The primary drivers of this melding of public and private education are economic and philosophical. On the economic side, state aid to education has been reduced, a tax cap has been imposed, health insurance and pension obligations continue to rise, and in its haste to obtain highly conditioned federal RTTT dollars, the state legislature hurriedly passed an evaluation law so full of mandates that it costs most RTTT participating districts far more than what they will receive. For districts not participating in the RTTT, it is just all cost.
Fiscal uncertainty also emanates from Washington, D.C. The nature and extent of the federal spending cuts agreed to as part of the recent debt ceiling deal are unknown, but won’t be good. It is estimated that the automatic cuts that will go into effect if further cuts are not agreed upon will reduce federal funding to the U.S. Department of Education by $3 billion a year above and beyond the initial cuts.

The philosophical drivers are from many sources, but are commonly grouped together under the umbrella banner of the “education reform movement.” This movement includes any number of well-financed foundations (Gates, Walton, Broad, Wallace…), businesses, politicians, charter school advocates, individual philanthropists, as well as those such as New York City Mayor Bloomberg, who may fall into multiple categories.

The motives of those philosophically opposed to the status quo presumably are diverse, ranging from a heartfelt desire to do good to a pure profit motive, but there is no reasonable denial of their impact. They manifest themselves in many ways, some of which seem a little too cozy. Consider the
following:

1) Wireless Generation, a company that has worked with the New York City school system in the past, has a current $1.5 million no-bid contract with the New York City schools. Just this past June, Wireless Generation was set to receive a $27 million no-bid contract from the State Education Department to be funded from RTTT money until the state comptroller stepped in. Wireless Generation is owned by Robert Murdoch’s News Corp., which in turn employs Joel Klein, former Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education as the CEO of its education division.
2) In February, the regents approved the Relay School of Education, the first new education school it has approved in 80 years, to train teachers in a non-traditional manner. The Relay School grew out of Teacher U, a partnership between three charter school management companies and Hunter
College, whose dean of education is David Steiner, formerly the New York State commissioner of education.
3) Despite the RTTT dollars, the January Regents exams were on the chopping block until Mayor Bloomberg and several anonymous donors contributed enough money to finance some of the exams this January. While our state education department gleefully announces receipt of a federal grant in excess of $28 million to provide incentives for new charter schools, the students who need the administration of the January regents are dependent upon the goodwill of Mayor Bloomberg and his friends. Excuse me if I decline to celebrate the re-direction to charter schools of more public education dollars.

4) The Regents Research Foundation, funded by many of the private foundations mentioned above, as well as by the Tisch family and the National Association of Charter School Administrators, has privately hired research fellows to “advise” the commissioner. The eleven research fellows together have one year of principalship experience and ten years of teaching experience. They essen-tially act as shadow senior SED staff, playing a central role in policy development. I do not know who they report to.

It truly seems as if public education is being hijacked right in front of our eyes. It is being purchased by those few with the financial resources to do so. If the legislature won’t intervene by providing adequate funding for public education, and a majority of the Board of Regents is willing to allow the increasing influence of those who can afford to purchase it (at the expense of the Regents’ own influence and authority), then the blurring of private and public education will continue, and we can only hope that the motives of the buyers are not profit driven.