“While I agree teachers need to be accountable in the classroom, my biggest criticism is that it has quadrupled my work as a principal. I could have much more meaningful discussions with teachers if I were able to frequent their classrooms more through informal walk throughs and sit down discussions. So much time is spent gathering and tagging evidence and assigning scores appropriately and fairly, that I have very little time for hands-on work with teachers. And putting this on top of the implementation of the Common Core Standards is simply cruel.”
To say that APPR is the hot topic of the school year is an obvious understatement. SAANYS has responded with direct advice, workshop sessions, guidance materials, and even a page at saanys.org dedicated to APPR resources. In late February, a comprehensive survey regarding APPR was distributed to school administrators in every corner of the state (with the exception of New York City). As APPR is on everyone’s mind, it’s not surprising that over 1,300 school administrators responded to the survey, sharing important data and insightful comments. A summary is provided here.
TEACHERS AND STUDENTS
“At the elementary level, we are testing some grade level with one assessment or the other almost constantly.”
Although the reported percentages of any increases in student seat time for testing vary, overall, 55 percent reported that yes, there has been an increase in student seat time for testing as a result of 3012-c. Said one respondent, “This is out of control, we calculated 22 days of lost instruction.”
In addition, 20 percent of respondents felt that the implementation of APPR has diminished their relationships with their teachers. Only 7.8 percent felt that it has actually enhanced relationships. The strain on the work environment seems clear: “I’ve worked tirelessly to establish a collaborative environment, to overcome the ‘us vs. them’ attitude. Now, teachers feel they are being scored all the time. Constant reassurance is necessary to ease anxiety.”
HOW EFFECTIVE IS “EFFECTIVE?”
“One of my best teachers earned a score in the lower end of “effective.” Upon examination, I saw that the state did not accurately count the number of kids and had the wrong students in her class. Also, she is exceptional with kids who need AIS and special ed., and so she takes more than her fair share of those students. I believe that both of these factors negatively and inaccurately impacted her score.”
The accuracy of state-issued growth scores for teachers was reported as questionable. Nearly 27 percent of responding administrators indicated that teacher growth scores “did not reflect my perceptions at all.” The comment above illustrates a common thread of concern – the validity of scores for teachers working on behalf of the most challenged and struggling students. “Teachers feel it is not fair to judge them on student scores when there are so many external factors out of the teacher’s control that have an impact on student performance and achievement.”
RESOURCES AND SUPPORT
“I am sinking – I am working 15-hour days plus many weekends just trying to tread water and stay afloat – my colleagues and I were talking about this today. We used to see and work with kids, we used to know their personal stories, and their families. Now we can’t even recall their names by recognition because we have lost that rapport and interaction.”
This administrator is not alone. Over 45 percent of respondents reported that their workweek has increased by 10 to 20 hours or more due to APPR requirements. “The amount of time it takes to enter the evidence into the observation feedback form is unmanageable. “
“No additional resources have been provided.” This was the answer for 76.6 percent of respondents when asked about additional district resources that have been provided to administrators to assist in the management of APPR implementation. Only 7 percent reported that they have received some sort of clerical help or relief of duties. “I am tied to my computer trying to paste the evidence into the rubric. Hours and hours that could be spent with students and teachers.”
“They were just as confused as everyone else. We would attend meetings one week and two weeks later we were told of a change.” The effectiveness of the network teams received mixed responses. Overall, nearly 64 percent of respondents stated that they do not believe that they have received clear and thorough guidance from networks teams.
However, there was some level of understanding and a bit of sympathy for those trying to pin down a moving target. “I truly felt that the trainers were placed in a difficult position. They were responsible for implementing a plan that really did not exist. Simple implementation issues or questions of semantics were left unanswered.”
Still, when asked what has been the most helpful source for information regarding APPR and its implementation, network teams received the lowest rating, with only 15.8 percent of respondents indicating that the network teams have been “the most helpful.” The EngageNY website seems to be a relatively good source of information for many, with 41 percent stating that they have found its resources to be the most helpful source of information regarding APPR regulations and implementation. However, many comments noted that the EngageNY website was difficult to navigate and “the magnitude of time needed to understand the documents is absurd.”
Helpful as EngageNY may be in some regard, overall, 75 percent of respondents reported that they have not received clear and thorough guidance from SED regarding APPR laws and regulations. Many responses spoke of the confusion of on-going changes. “The information we have been receiving is and was changing constantly. It would have been far more effective with proper planning and research at the state level before implementation,” commented a respondent.
In addition, there was recurrent concern regarding special education. “Guidance for special education has been established and retracted. Information and examples for special education professionals has been limited.”
“I enjoy the classroom observations. That being said, the paperwork and the confusion and lack of clarity are counter-productive.”
Based on some thoughtful responses to the question, “What are your top three observations regarding APPR under 3012c as you see it now?” it should be noted that many school administrators are trying to extract some positives from what is very often referred to as a “frustrating,” “unsustainable,” and “very time-consuming” initiative.
“I like the local 20 and the 60 points from the rubric. These pieces have put the focus back on instruction and student learning. I think the state 20 holds far too much weight and should not completely overturn the other parts of the process. It makes people paranoid and/or fearful, which can overshadow good instruction.”
“I was positive coming into this experience. I now am feeling less optimistic about where this is all heading.”
The road ahead is uncertain. However, what comes across clearly from the survey responses is that the sheer magnitude of paperwork, stress, and concern about validity and useful outcomes may overshadow any positives of the APPR process. Already, many respondents have expressed concern over the future of the profession. Said one respondent, “3012c has created a culture of fear and resentment. No one is opposed to accountability, but this methodology is seriously flawed. I personally know of teachers who have turned away from the principalship due to the current atmosphere, and student teachers who are finishing their degrees, but have no intention of teaching, for the same reason.”
SAANYS plans to follow up this survey with another next spring – using this and subsequent feedback in discussions with the education commissioner, legislators, and other policymakers. Analyzing the survey results, one gets a sense of widespread despair. SAANYS feels it essential that policymakers act to help repair the disruption they have wrought.