SAANYS Supports Assembly Bill Amending APPR

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

Analysis of Chancellor’s 4/22 Statement on Evaluations

Merryl Tisch, Chancellor

Merryl Tisch, Chancellor

Last evening the e-mail message attached from Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch was disseminated by Senior Deputy Commissioner Ken Wagner. Based on this e-mail, SAANYS is already receiving inquiries regarding the actual timeframe within which school district and BOCES collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) and APPR plans must be revised to conform with the new requirements included in the new law, §3012-d. Please note that we too have just received this information and have not yet had the opportunity to discuss it with Acting Commissioner Berlin and/or other department representatives. As soon as we have such meetings, we will immediately provide you update information. In the interim, here are our thoughts:

First – We agree with the appropriateness and the need to extend the required phase-in of the new APPR system. In fact, we would submit that such an extension is as necessary for SED as it is for school districts and BOCES. We also agree with decoupling increased school aid from a due date for the implementation of the new §3012-d APPR requirements.

Second – Do NOT take the chancellor’s information at face value. I say this for three reasons:

  • The timeline extension called for by the chancellor would not apply to all school districts, but to “districts facing hardships meeting the timeline.” How will such determinations be made by SED? Will another procedure, an APPR Timeline Extension Application, be necessary? Nobody can answer this.
  • The November 15, 2015 due date for APPR Plan approval and APPR implementation, and the fiscal implications for school districts not completing such requirements by that due date, are included in Education Law. The State Board of Regents’ authority extends to education regulations and policy – not the statute. Moreover, regulations and policies must be developed in a manner consistent with Education Law, and cannot countermand or supersede the provisions of law.
  • The chancellor indicates that she has “directed” the State Education Department take such actions in regard to APPRs and school aid – not the Board of Regents; and the possibility of such actions was not discussed at any public session at the last Board of Regents meeting, on April 13 and 14. It appears that such action would certainly require policy or regulation, and this does not appear to be the case.

Third – At the current time, it remains impossible to re-negotiate teachers’ collective bargaining agreements to fully conform to the new APPR requirements; and it is more impossible to re-negotiate such new requirements for school principals – because the requirements of the new APPR system are not yet fully specified. Therefore, any collective bargaining agreements established and ratified between the current time and the time when the all the necessary aspects of the new APPR system are in place should include “reopener language” such as the language that has been provided to all SAANYS negotiators.

Additional Information: Following the transmission of the message above, 10:28 am. The following additional information has come to the attention of SAANYS. Mr. Alphonso David, counsel to the governor, said, “Under existing law, SED may have a hardship exemption procedure if SED defines the process by regulation and if the hardship is genuine and due to a particular circumstance, but that is the exception not the rule.”

SAANYS Delivers Legislative Testimony on Executive Budget – 2/3/15

Jim2SAANYS presented verbal testimony before a joint meeting of the state legislature on 2/3/15. The verbal testimony was limited to 10 minutes, but SAANYS also presented more detailed written testimony. Click here to download the testimony document.

You will find the testimony to be comprehensive in addressing the governor’s Executive Budget proposal. In addition to budgetary issues, some of the programmatic issues addressed include:

·         Annual Professional Performance Reviews (See Testimony Page 8)

·         Probation / Tenure (See Testimony Page 10)

·         Failing Schools and Districts (See Testimony Page 12)

·         Prekindergarten (See Testimony Page13)

2014-15 New York State Budge Summary

Provided below is a bullet point summary of selected state budget provisions related to K-12 education.

Utilization of Test Data
Individual student scores on the state 3-8 ELA and math assessments may not be placed on a students’ official transcript or maintained in a students’ permanent record, but may be used in required state and federal reporting.

Notice must be provided to parents that the 3-8 ELA and math results will not be included on official transcripts or maintained in the students’ permanent record. The above provisions expire on December 31, 2018.

Student promotion and placement decisions may not be based upon results of the state 3-8 ELA and math assessments. Such results may be a factor in such decisions, along with other measures. The promotion and placement policy shall be provided to parents annually.

Pre-K – 2 Test Ban
The commissioner is to promulgate regulations prohibiting standardized tests, but not those required by federal law or those designed to demonstrate application of knowledge and skills.

Test Time

The commissioner is to promulgate regulations creating the following testing restrictions:

–  State assessments may not exceed one percent of the minimum required annual instructional hours for each grade. Assessments not required by state or federal law also may not exceed one percent of the minimum required annual instructional hours for each grade.

–  Test preparation for standardized tests may not exceed two percent of the minimum required annual instructional hours per grade. Teacher administered quizzes and exams are exempted from these limitations. We expect the creation of regulations that provide clarity to these provisions to be challenging.

SED is also to issue guidance on the reduction and elimination of standardized tests not required by law, and report all standardized tests that are administered, by district. Each district shall be required to post this report on its website.

Students With Disabilities/ELL

The commissioner is to issue regulations to allow students with disabilities who are not eligible for the alternate assessment to be assessed on instructional level rather than chronological age.  ELL may be assessed with a state exam that measures English language development rather than the ELA exam for their first two years of enrollment.

Test Administration

The commissioner is required to reduce field tests, make more test questions from the 3-8 ELA and math exams available for review and to expedite review of proposed changes to APPR plans designed to reduce testing.

Universal Pre-K

$340 million to fund Pre-K, $300 million of which is dedicated to New York City.  Pre-K will be funded by grants awarded by SED pursuant to an application scoring system that SED is to develop.  Pre-K programs must provide at least five hours of instruction per school day by certifed teachers and the programs are subject to annual inspections. Grant awards may only be used to supplement and not supplant current expenditures on Pre-K programs.

Teacher Excellence Fund
A teacher excellence fund was funded with $10 million. Districts must submit their locally negotiated plan on supplementing “highly effective” teachers with up to $20,000 to SED and DOB for approval.

The state budget contains many more educationally related items. This summary is designed to provide a quick overview of some of the more high profile items. Any questions or comments should be directed to Jim Viola, director of government relations at

State Testing and Parent/Student Opt Out

With the grade 3-8 ELA and math tests scheduled for administration next week, we are receiving inquiries as to school requirements and options in connection with students “opting out.” This week, SAANYS met with Commissioner John King and Deputy Commissioner Ken Slentz – and we included this issue in our agenda.

Encouragement to Take the Test

In introducing the discussion item, we reiterated our position that SAANYS does not endorse students opting out of the state tests. SAANYS continues to consistently and loudly assert that such testing results should NOT be used for high stakes purposes for students, teachers, and principals for a period of at least two years. However, SED officials referred to a January 2013 field memorandum issued by Steven Katz stating that there is neither a statutory nor regulatory provision/procedure that recognizes or allows for opting out. The Katz memorandum may be accessed at by clicking here.  Subsequent to our meeting, SED issued a Fact Sheet – Common Core and Assessments, available by clicking here.

School Responsibilities When Students Opt Out

It is clear that some students will opt out of the upcoming state tests. SAANYS has heard of a “sit and stare” requirement that some have attributed to the State Education Department, but we were informed that this is not the case. In the end, SED leadership agreed that what school districts should do when students opt out of state testing is a matter of local policy. There is no “requirement” that students who opt out remain in the testing room with the other students who are taking the test. It is SAANYS’ position that such a procedure may be distracting to test-takers, and some may regard such a requirement to be uncomfortable for the students opting out. Based on local policy, students who opt out “may” be sent to an alternative location, or “may” remain in the test location with permission to read, or “may” be otherwise assigned. The one caveat the SED leaders provided is that the school district policy regarding students who opt out should not serve as an enticement to do so. For example, students should not be sent to the gymnasium to play.

After Finishing the Test

We are also taking this opportunity to draw to your attention that, as stated on page two of the SED fact sheet document, students who complete their test early, before the allotted time expires, should check their work. A student who finishes a test early “may” be permitted to read silently. If all students complete the test earlier than the allotted time, the proctor may end the test session.

We hope that you will find this information helpful. We will continue to keep you updated and – we wish you and your students all the best for a successful test administration…Jim Viola

Commissioner King Sends Letter to School Superintendents on 3-8 ELA & Math Assessments

On Monday March 24, the State Education Department sent a letter to school superintendents pertaining to the administration of state tests scheduled for administration to students in grades 3 to 8.

Commissioner King’s letter includes a link to access the 3-8 test schedule, including administration dates, make-up dates, scoring dates, and dates for the submission of answer sheets. However, the overriding theme of the commissioner’s letter is an encouragement for schools to communicate with teachers, parents, and students to correct misinformation to help them better understand “how the assessments help us better identify student strengths and needs and better support the growth of classroom teachers.” It is the commissioner’s expectation that such communication will alleviate stress and frustration among students and teachers.

The information released by SED does not address the matter of students opting out of state testing. However, when SED sent material on March 23, in preparation for a SAANYS-SED meeting held on March 25 under the heading Information on Student Participation in State Assessments, a link was included to access a January 2013 memorandum issued by Steven Katz. The memorandum states: “With the exception of certain areas in which parental consent is required, such as Committee on Special Education (CSE) evaluations for students with disabilities and certain federally-funded surveys and analyses specified under the federal Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (see 20 U.S.C. 1232h), there is no provision in statute or regulation allowing parents to opt their children out of state tests. The failure to comply with the requirements provided above will have a negative impact on a school or school district’s accountability, as all schools are required to have a 95 percent participation rate in state testing.”

Download Commissioner King’s letter.

Release of the 2013 Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Test Guides

The information below was received from Associate Commissioner Ken Wagner on November 20. For each subject and grade, information is presented in regard to Test Guides that integrate important instructional and assessment information – and how ELA and math will be measured in the 2013 assessments.

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.“