Tag Archives: APPR

Annual Professional Performance Review

Put the children first in education reform

Read this excellent commentary about APPR, unions, NYSED and our children.

I am so proud to know the author Anne Miller- LaValle​ and so excited that she will be serving on the Wappingers School Board of Education starting in just a few days!

Just in case you can’t access the article from the Poughkeepsie Journal, I am including the full text below:

In a recent interview, Harrison School District Superintendent Dr. Louis Wool discussed the dangers of the recently implemented teacher rating system known as Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR). It’s a system whereby the New York State Education Department holds teachers and students hostage to the Common Core standards and associated curriculum through a ruthless and unproven testing and rating mechanism. Teachers, at the risk of their jobs, are held responsible for student performance on standardized tests that no one can see and which have significant financial and political benefits to those who control them. The rating system is structured in such a way that even a tenured teacher may be fired based solely on their students’ performance over a two year period on these covert and highly questionable tests.

Dr. Wool says that research indicates that it takes five years experience, on average, for a teacher to truly achieve competence. He argues that a single test over a two-year period should not be used exclusively to determine teacher “effectiveness” and suggests that multiple observation criteria including numerous, varying assessments must be considered in order to adequately evaluate teachers’ performance and certainly before potential termination. I agree entirely.

But then I must ask, by contrast, why the teachers’ unions continue to insist that the standard for teacher tenure be a minimum of three years? We can’t have it both ways. We can’t say five years is the minimum necessary experience to achieve recognizable competence in the teaching profession and use the criteria to oppose APPR, but then be willing to grant irrevocable tenure after just three years.

Meaningful evaluation and accountability are essential to an effective and successful education system. The objective of any teacher evaluation program should be the development of qualified educators dedicated to the authentic education of our children. The NYSED “Reform” program is nothing of the kind. It is instead, a twisted mutilation of the concept which pits NYSED against the teachers’ unions in a battle to determine who gets to define “accountability.”  The “reform” program is in reality NYSED’s corrupted use of the term “accountability” being used to justify dismantling the teachers’ unions and their tenure program in order to take control of the education system and deliver it into the hands of their greedy corporate cohorts.

And in the epitome of indifference, the children who are supposed to be the singular focus of our education system are barely mentioned. Students are being used; forced to take absurd tests that are driving a highly questionable curriculum and which NYSED intends to use solely as a noose to slip onto the necks of teachers. This entire situation does not get nearly the attention it deserves. But when the discussion finally does come up, the children and what they are facing are barely mentioned except as leverage to back the pressure off of the teachers. NYSED and the unions wrestle over APPR consequences without ever even mentioning the torment to the students and the gutting of their education system. It’s the elephant in the room and it is absolutely crushing our children.
The teachers’ unions’ response to the education reform?  Deflection: “We’ll teach the curriculum, and if we have to, we’ll administer the tests, but we’re drawing the line at the rating system.”

I recognize that teachers are caught in this web.  Some are suffering silently; some are speaking out; too many are quitting.  But the reality is that the ultimate voiceless victims here are the students.

The unions have sold out their teachers by refusing to actively push back against the reform.  It’s not OK for the teachers to respond by leaving the students in the crossfire.  I’m not categorically opposed to tenure.  I’m opposed to the unions selling out the students to hold tight to tenure they’re going to lose to APPR anyway while our children are devastated as collateral damage.

It’s madness.  It needs to stop.

We must start having the real discussion.  The discussion that begins and ends with our children:

What do they really need?

How do we deliver it to them?

How do we truly hold the people we trust to do that accountable?

Stop talking about the teachers.  And the “workforce stakeholders.”

Start talking about the children

Anne LaValle is a trustee-elect of the Wappingers Central School District Board of Education.

CLASS goes to Albany

I recently joined CLASS, or Coalition for Legislative Action Supporting Students, to examine legislation presented by Senator Flanagan (bill S5124) and Assemblywoman Nolan (bill A7303A) in response to Governor Cuomo’s education reforms included in the state budget.  Our goal was to develop a list of parent education issues and suggested revisions to the legislation addressing the key concerns that parents throughout New York State are expressing.

Representatives of United to Counter the Core and CLASS headed to Albany yesterday May 27, 2015 to meet with members of the Senate and Assembly education committees to discuss current education policy.  We wanted to thank the committee members for moving in the right direction on various education issues and ask them to consider additional changes that would further address parental concerns as well as to consider parent issues that are not addressed at all by the proposed legislation.

The recommended changes and legislative initiatives presented by CLASS included:

  • Cease the use of VAM (value added model) in calculating students’ growth and for teacher evaluations
  • Decouple the school district funds from implementation of the education reforms proposed by Governor Cuomo
  • Ensure released test questions accurately and cost effectively reflect the nature of the test
  • Develop fair assessment methods for SPED/ELL teachers and students
  • Make changes to the appointment and terms of New York State Regents restoring local control and parent voice
  • Changes to the comprehensive review of the education standards being used in New York State (Common Core) particularly the make-up of the review committee
  • Support for the Common Core Parental Refusal Act
  • FERPA-HIPPA changes to protect student data privacy and restore parental control

I personally met with representatives from the offices of Assemblymembers Steve Englebright, William Magnarelli and Phil Ramos and Senators Betty Little and Hugh Farley.

  • The aides from Assemblyman Ramos and Senator Little’s offices just took notes and were not able to speak to the issues we raised.
  • In general the aides from the other offices indicated that the legislators were concerned about education issues but I did not get a strong sense that they were willing to act beyond what they have already done regarding education legislation.  I believe they will need to hear from additional constituents to generate legislative action.
  • Assemblyman Englebright voted against his majority party with a “No” vote for the state education budget (very few assemblymembers were willing to stand against Governor Cuomo and vote “No!” so this was a strong statement for the students on Assemblyman Englebright’s part) and he also is a co-sponsor on the Nolan parental test refusal bill A6777.  We asked that he consider an amendment requiring that school districts inform parents of their right to REFUSE the state tests.
  • Assemblyman Magnarelli’s aide indicated that Magnarelli voted to move both of Nolan bills A6777 and A7303A out of the education committee.  The aide has to consult with Asseblyman Magnarelli to determine if he is willing to take any further action on the items CLASS requested.
  • Senator Farley’s aide indicated that the senator is very opposed to Common Core and ran on the Stop Common Core ballot line last fall.  Parents need to continue to be vocal about our concerns – do not stop, “keep it up” the aide said.  In addition to contacting the education committee members, we also need to contact our own assemblymember and senator to share our education concerns and request that our representatives communicate our concerns to their colleagues including those on the education committee.

In total, parents met with 16 of the majority education committee members from the assembly and the senate including: Assemblymembers Cathy Nolan, Carmen Arroyo, Barbara Clark, Barbara Lifton, Shelley Mayer, Amy Paulin, Linda Rosenthal, Sean Ryan and Matthew Titone and Senators Kenneth Lavalle and Joseph Robach.

We ask that you now join CLASS in requesting legislative action to support our students.

Please contact the following legislators to let them know that you agree with the changes presented by CLASS.  Also contact your NYS Assembly member and NYS Senator, even if they are not on the education committee, and ask them to voice support for these educational issues with their colleagues.

Assembly Education Committee Majority Members:
Catherine Nolan – 518-455-4851
Carmen Arroyo – 518-455-5402
Michael Benedetto – 518-455-5296
James Brennan – 518-455-5377
Barbara Clark – 518-455-4711
Steve Englebright – 518-455-4804
Earlene Hooper – 518-455-5861
Ron Kim – 518-455-5411
Barbara Lifton – 518-455-5444
William B. Magnarelli – 518-455-4826
Shelley Mayer – 518 455 3662
Michael Miller – 518-455-4621
Walter Mosley -518-455-5325
Daniel O’Donnell – 518-455-5603
Amy Paulin – 518-455-5585
Phil Ramos – 518-455-5185
Linda Rosenthal – 518-455-5802
Sean Ryan – 518-455-4886
Matthew Titone – 518-455-4677
Michele Titus – 518-455-5668

Senate Education Committee Majority Members:
Hugh Farley – (518) 455-2181
Andrew Lanza – (518) 455-3215
Kenneth Lavalle – (518) 455-3121
Betty Little – (518) 455-2811
Carl Marcellino – (518) 455-2390
Michael Ranzenhofer – (518) 455-3161
Joseph Robach – (518) 455-2909
Sue Serino – (518) 455-2945
James Seward – (518) 455-3131

New York State’s new Commission of Education – MaryEllen Elia

Despite concerns raised by parents and NYS Allies for Public Education today, the NYS Board of Regents appointed MaryEllen Elia as the new Commissioner of Education.

A former school superintendent in Florida who led efforts to tie teacher evaluations and pay to student achievement and was fired after clashing with her board was appointed New York State’s education commissioner on Tuesday.  – “MaryEllen Elia named New York State Education Commissioner” New York Times

Read more about Ms. Elia here and here and here.  This facebook page called for her resignation in Florida and here is NYSED’s glowing press release announcing her appointment today.

I hope and pray that the concerns raised about Ms. Elia are all for naught since she is now the New York State Commissioner of Education.  However I am baffled as to why the Regents decided to appoint a new Commissioner who comes to New York trailing rumors of dissatisfaction from parents in her previous Florida school district when New York is itself in such a state of turmoil.  How will starting with a commissioner that had to be ‘snuck in’ (Regents called in the day after a holiday weekend to vote before anyone got wind of what was going on) because the Regents apparently knew a large portion of the New York population would be unhappy with this appointment get us started on the right foot?

In a totally baffling move, NYSUT has expressed support for Ms. Elia.  Unfortunately we know that NYSUT is not expressing the will of many of the teachers it is supposed to be representing so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that NYSUT is supporting a Common Core supporter from the most highly tested state in the country who has a goal of firing teachers based on standardized tests/VAM (junk science).  Read over 3,000 New York teachers denouncing the selection of Ms. Elia here.

From Valerie Strauss, Washington Post Answer Sheet May 26:

Carol Burris, an award-winning principal in New York, said this about Elia:

“It is now apparent why the Board of Regents did not reach out to stakeholder groups and inform them that she was a candidate–if her support for merit pay, the Common Core, Gates Foundation grants,  the formulaic dismissal of teachers, and school choice were known, certainly there would have been an outcry from New York parents and teachers who have had more than their fill of test-based reforms.  The message of 200,000 Opt Outs has not been heard.”

Regarding teacher appraisal, junk science of VAM and NYSUT’s raving support of bill A7303

After reading a NYSUT press release today applauding NYS Assembly bill A07303 as APPR Reform legislation, I was compelled to write the following letter to NYSUT President Karen Magee and NYSUT VP Catalino Fortino.

Dear Ms. Magee and Ms. Fortino,
 
I am a parent in the Kingston City School District who has been fighting against Common Core and High Stakes Testing for the past three years.  I learned of the problems with testing because two brave teachers, who had permission at the time and didn’t know they might regret it later, shared the Niagara PTA resolution against the excessive testing with our PTO.  I have been fighting because of the damage being done to our children, our teachers and our schools – our entire educational system.  I support the teachers within our district and our local union and am known in the district and actually around the county as an advocate for both the children and the teachers.
 
I know that the excessive testing and the use of standardized test scores for rating is not just bad for children but also for teachers.  That is why I am totally baffled as to why NYSUT is willing to accept the usage of VAM, which is junk science, as even a portion of the teacher appraisal system. 
 
I have been advocating that we need to get rid of this garbage (usage of VAM as part of APPR) with parents and with our legislators and now I read a press release from NYSUT praising the NYS Assembly for putting forth a bill that just delays the usage of this junk science by a year!  Why are you willing to accept this on behalf of the teachers that you represent?  You have not only failed at protecting your teachers, you have invalidated the work of parents who have been saying that VAM is unacceptable (because we want the BEST for our children and our teachers).
 
Your press release also states that bill A7303 takes a ‘significant step toward protecting students by reducing inappropriate state testing.’  I can not find anything in the bill that reduces testing for the children.  In fact I do not find any benefits for the children in the bill.  Maybe the teachers won’t be stressed out in the 2015-2016 school year by a new system but the bill doesn’t specify exactly what is going to be done next year (will the current APPR system be used?  do teachers get to skip a year of rating?) so my guess is that teachers will still be teaching to the test.  I also don’t have a whole lot of trust that the test review system will be in place or working effectively by next year but even if it is, using the results of the test for rating is still junk science!  Children will still be faced with taking high-stakes tests unless they REFUSE the tests.  I was so hoping we could actually deal with the REAL problems NOW and not have to go through another cycle of REFUSALS next year.
 
Why did you stab the parents in the back with your support of this bill that does not help the children and does not really help the individual teachers either?
 

Sincerely,

Jolyn Safron

 

Local teachers, I must now apologize to you.  The changes in bill A7303 benefit the union but not the children. In fact the changes don’t really benefit you the individual teachers either. You will just get an extra year before you get slammed harder by the junk science of VAM.  However if the union is happy with VAM, then so be it.  I can’t keep fighting the APPR battle if your union isn’t willing to fight it.  I apologize to the teachers who are left hanging in the breeze but take it up with Karen Magee.

 

Notes:

What will happen to APPR? Watch Learning Summit LIVE Thursday 5/7/15

Board of Regents LEARNING SUMMIT, Thursday, May 7, 2015, 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM.

The LEARNING SUMMIT has been set up by the Board of Regents to obtain input/advice regarding how to implement the changes to the evaluation system for teachers and principals (APPR) required as a result of the 2015-2016 New York State education budget.

Commissioner Regs on EdEval – 4-22-15 has information about the required changes as well as information about the ‘stakeholders’ who have been asked to participate in the LEARNING SUMMIT.

The public can watch the LEARNING SUMMIT via livestream.  You can connect to the livestream at 8:30am at the nysed.gov homepage.

For members of the public watching the Summit simulcast on the NYSED.gov website, NYSED has set up an email address for Thursday, May 7 ONLY.  That email is summitquestions@nysed.gov

After May 7, the public may submit questions and comments at the following email address: eval2015@nysed.gov

 

Call Albany – NYS Education Committee Chairs Propose Changes

Senator Flanagan and Assemblywoman Nolan have introduced legislation (Senate bill S5124 and Assembly bill A7303) that appears to be an attempt to respond to parent concerns with New York State education reform.

You can read an article about the bills here or read the actual bills linked above.

It seems like a number of issues are still not addressed adequately but maybe this can be made to work?  Trying to be optimistic here.

  • Section 1 and 2:  Looks like APPR is still being based on junk science (VAM) in using the standardized tests to evaluate teachers.  The public has 45 days to comment but I don’t see any indication of expectation of significant change as a result of those comments.  In order for the voice of parents to be ‘heard’, a DIFFERENT method of teacher evaluation has to be determined.  Just giving more time for parents to say that testing is bad but the Regents will move forward to continue using testing is not a solution!  Giving districts longer to come up with how they are going to use the bad methodology doesn’t help either.
  • Section 2:  Schools will have until December 15, 2015 to get their new APPR plan in but they still don’t get any money for the 2015-2016 school year until the plan is in.  By the way, whoever said that the budget didn’t tie money to implementation of Cuomo’s education reforms was sadly misinformed or else lying through their teeth!  Here it is in black and white.
  • Section 3:  A release of ‘some’ of the test questions is NOT going to be satisfactory to parents who are concerned about transparency and bad test questions.  With the awful track record that the tests have had, I don’t think I will trust that the questions released are truly a sampling of all the good or the bad that is on the test. What is to say that the one or two questions not released weren’t the ‘bad’ questions?  NYSED tried to simply ‘do away’ with some bad questions without telling anyone last year – read here and here.
  • Section 5:  More reliance on junk science.  What ‘considerations’ are going to be put in place for teachers who will be hurt by growth scores from students in the ‘problem’ areas (ELL, poverty, prior academic history, disabilities) other than to not use those growth scores?  Seems to me like the growth scores shouldn’t be used for any teachers (see first bullet).
  • Section 6 and 7:  There isn’t already a ‘content review committee’?  Sorry – couldn’t hold back a bit of sarcasm.  What does this committee do if they find problems or if some members of the committee believe there are problems?  Currently various ‘gag orders’ muffle anyone with concerns about the tests.  How will that change just because there is a ‘committee’ to look at the tests?
  • Section 9:  Who is the state education commissioner that is going to be conducting this review of the Common Core standards? Remember we don’t currently have one and honestly until one is appointed, I have no idea if I would trust him/her to oversee such a review or not.
  • Section 9:  How are ‘education stakeholders’ from whom the Commissioner seeks input regarding the review of the Common Core standards going to be selected?  If they are hand-picked as the Regents are doing in who they are inviting to the input session this Thursday May 7 (read here and Commissioner Regs on EdEval – 4-22-15) regarding coming up with what is being done for APPR to meet the June 30 deadline, then this is a no go.  I do not trust that everyone is truly going to be adequately represented at the table.
  • Section 9:  Seems like an awful lot of input has been gathered already via the New York State Assembly (that was then used to create the APPLE Plan and Assembly bill A3656). Will this input be considered? Senator Flanagan also had a number of hearings and although I felt they were more skewed to get what he wanted to hear, some of the concerns of parents/teachers were raised. Again will this input be included by the Commissioner/Regents or continue to be ignored?
  • Section 9:  What do we do with the ‘reforms’ we are stuck with while the review of the Common Core standards is being conducted?

Sorry no optimism left.  Seems to me like there are an awful lot of issues that these bills do NOT deal with adequately.

Things are becoming a bit clearer now:

And despite the unlikelihood that Cuomo will agree to slow implementation of the new evaluations, lawmakers are considering such a change, in part because of the intense pressure they have felt from constituents since passing the unpopular education provisions of the budget.  – Evaluation regs to be adopted without formal comment period capitalnewyork.com  May 1, 2015

The legislators who accepted the budget with Cuomo’s strings attached are now trying to look like they are listening to parents by extending APPR deadlines.  Sorry, this legislation won’t cut it!

This article has sound suggestions for the APPR piece of the problem.  We don’t just need more time to get ready for the new APPR system.  Time is needed for the right people to DESIGN a new APPR system “that would promote classroom instruction and hold teachers accountable.”

As of now, the Regents are required to devise a system that would grade teachers on only two measures: how their students grow on tests; and at least two classroom observations. And that’s it. This absurdly narrow system would not measure most elements of teacher quality or give districts enough information to improve instruction. School districts would be prohibited from considering other evidence of student development, like portfolios of student work, student and parent surveys, or ongoing classroom observations.

The Regents should call on the Legislature to freeze the current system and appoint a group of educators and evaluation experts to recommend the best possible system or, better yet, several models. And talk about setting aside time to pilot them.

Harrison Superintendent Lou Wool, who has pleaded with legislators and Cuomo’s staff to put education before politics, said that parents who boycotted the state tests could focus their frustration by demanding a new evaluation system. “It’s simple,” he said. “Amend these policies now.”

NYSAPE also presented a list of what the NYS legislature and the Board of Regents needs to do to FIX the problems regarding testing, the Common Core Standards and data privacy in a press release on April 23, 2015.

To ensure clarity for all, NYSAPE calls for the following from the NYS Legislature & Board of Regents and will release a more comprehensive list in the near future:

1. A dramatic reduction of testing in grades 3rd – 8th, along with reasserting New York State’s authority to determine the education of its children by calling on the US Congress to reduce testing requirements and return to grade span testing. As former President Bill Clinton said we don’t need annual testing, “I think doing one [test] in elementary school, one in the end of middle school and one before the end of high school is quite enough if you do it right.”

2. Chancellor Tisch must immediately step down.

3. An independent review of the NYS career and college ready standards to ensure that standards are research based and appropriate. Establish a taskforce including parents, educators, and stakeholders to study the Common Core Learning Standards and make recommendations to adjust and adopt NYS standards.

4. Adhere to a public and transparent process for selecting a new NYS Commissioner of Education.

5. Fix the Cuomo budget legislation debacle by passing legislation that decouples student test scores and restores local board of education control over teacher evaluations.

6. Pass legislation that REQUIRES parental consent to share ANY identifiable student data beyond school district administrators.

We want to restore our classrooms with a well-rounded education and drive testing compliance factory reforms out of our classrooms forever.

Time to get on the phone to Albany and tell our legislators to give us legislation that actually FIXES the problems with testing and Common Core.  Bills S5124 and A7303 do NOT cut the mustard.

Cuomo: Remember, teacher evaluation tests don’t count for kids

Governor Cuomo had this to say about the just completed New York State ELA and math tests last Friday April 24, 2015:

“The grades are meaningless to the students,” Cuomo said in a brief press gaggle following an Association for a Better New York breakfast event in New York City.
“They can opt out if they want to, but on the other hand if the child takes the test, it’s practice and the score doesn’t count.”

Cuomo: Remember, teacher evaluations tests don’t count for kids Capital Confidential April 24, 2015

Parents were not impressed by Governor Cuomo’s words:

  • MEANINGLESS!!!! $32 million dollars for “meaningless” assessments for my child! So you can rate a teacher? So you can rate a teacher on standards never piloted or benchmarked? So you can rate a school based on underfunded mandates imposed by idiots who never worked a day in public school? This quote is up there with the most idiotic. (Karen, parent in upstate New York)
  • These children are placed under undue stress and loose valuable time for what? I did not allow my child to opt out because I have concerns about sending him the wrong message about tests in general. However I will be jumping on the band wagon next year as the government does not have a clue. This is not just about teachers IT IS ABOUT THE KIDS and their well being. (posted by nyparent in article online comments)
  • What???? “Grades are meaningless to students?…?..”  My children took the test because Tisch and the Department of Efucation said parents should know where the kids stand,,,now they are meaningless for my kids that spend 9 hours taking the tests?  I know can say to them, ” don’t worry honey the Governor thinks your time, hard work is MEANINGLESS!”  Never again will they take those tests. (nysparent in article comments)
  • So, let’s for one moment consider “nyparent” and the comment made here. Here is a parent who wants what is best for their child and even had them sit for testing this year. But, not next year if this nonsense continues! Yet, it has become increasingly apparent that Albany cares little for kids and their education. Look at the mixed messages coming from the governor and SED over the decree regarding the new evaluation system. This has to stop. The governor and chancellor (and much of the media) has grossly miscalculated the push back here. This is not NYSUT or the UFT/AFT! These are YOUR constituents Mr. Governor telling you that YOU are wrong! These are the parents of YOUR public school students across NYS Madame Chancellor, telling YOU that your infatuation with high stakes testing and Common Core is wrong! Wake up, folks. This is civil disobedience NOT driven by the union. These are angry parents whose children have suffered enough. They are fed up (and rightly so). Members of the NYS Legislature: those of you who have supported the governor’s failed attempts (over and over again) to reform education because of all the money behind the movement … your days are numbered, too. It is time for commonsense in Albany and to change a State of Mind that says, “we are the government and we’ll make decisions for you, our constituents (whether you agree or not).” WRONG! YOU WORK FOR US! WE ELECTED YOU TO REPRESENT US!! START LISTENING AND PAY ATTENTION – DO YOUR JOB!  (TG says  in article comments)

Maybe Governor Cuomo should keep right on talking.  Before we know it, he will talk ALL of the parents into REFUSING the tests next year!

Urge Regents to hold public hearings on APPR

The New York State standardized tests in ELA and Math are over for grades 3-8 (except for those absent for the math test) but the battle for our children’s education is not done.

Huge numbers of parents throughout New York State have expressed their dissatisfaction with some aspect of their child’s education, whether specifically the tests or something much bigger, by REFUSING the state tests.  Read here for comments straight from parents about why they chose to REFUSE the state tests.

APPR is NOT the only thing that needs to be fixed regarding the state tests but if we can get the Board of Regents listening, perhaps we can get a number of the problems addressed.

Based on the rushed and trouble-filled implementation of the Common Core, NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said it is imperative that, this time, the Regents hold public hearings to listen to concerns from parents, teachers and other educators about how they can make a bad evaluation plan better. She said NYSUT members are already emailing individual Regents to press for hearings.

“The governor’s punitive teacher evaluation plan will do nothing to improve the teaching and learning process. Parents are in the midst of a statewide revolt against the over-reliance on standardized testing and the way the governor’s ‘test-and-punish’ agenda is harming teaching and learning,” Magee said. “The Regents have an opportunity to take this mess the governor foisted upon them and mitigate it. We believe it is essential that each Regent do what the governor refuses to do — and that’s listen to parents, educators and school leaders about what they want for their public schools.

NYSUT calls on Regents to hold public hearings to solicit input April 21, 2015

Our Ulster County Board of Regents member is Josephine Victoria Finn. She visited KCSD on Monday April 20, 2015.  Use the TAKE ACTION link above or compose your own comments and e-mail them to Regent Finn.  Contact her via e-mail at RegentFinn@mail.nysed.gov or by phone at (518) 474-5889 to make your voice heard.

Test prep costs more than any lost aid from low testing numbers

Many people talk of ‘lost aid’ if too many parents REFUSE the state tests.  Retired superintendent Kenneth Mitchell is more concerned about another loss.

Any “fiscal consequence” will be less costly than the wasted resources of time, money and quality learning that districts have expended for test prep. There will be costs, but to children whose school experience has been ruined by a test prep culture and eventually to the districts whose legal funds will be exhausted when they must defend a legally indefensible and research-poor accountability system that New York’s leaders have recklessly imposed upon the system.

View:  False threats feed opt-out movement  lohud The Journal News April 23, 2015

He also challenges the talk of ‘lost aid’ because it assumes the aid WILL be lost if 95% of students do not participate, however, this is not true.

On the matter of “real” fiscal implications for failing to make a 95 percent test participation rate because of student test refusals, the New York State Council of School Superintendents issued a statement that included the following:

• There are no provisions in law that would lead to a loss of state aid due to low test participation, unless district officials refused to administer the tests or actively promoted non-participation.

• Districts failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress for a single year, including due to falling short of 95 percent participation, lose eligibility for “Reward School” Grants. These are grants paid for by federal aid and awarded to districts with schools that either have high achievement or have made the most progress in the state and do not have significant gaps in student achievement between subgroups. Only 31 schools were eligible for these grants in 2014-15.

• Schools that fail to make the participation rate target for three consecutive years can be required by the State Education Department to develop a Local Assistance Plan to address low participation.

• The state’s federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act Waiver eliminated the requirement that districts with schools failing to make adequate yearly progress for multiple years set aside Title I funds for specific purposes, such as professional development, extra academic help, or public school choice. Set-aside requirements remain for schools designated as Focus and Priority Schools under the state’s accountability system. Failing to make 95 percent participation this year would not lead to designation as a Focus or Priority School.

• If the state as a whole drops below 95 percent participation in the grades 3-8 assessments required by the No Child Left Behind Act, the U.S. Education Department could impose sanctions on the state, including financial penalties that could filter down to school districts. However, there are no fixed rules to predict what penalties, if any, would be imposed. A consideration could be the extent to which the state acted to promote participation. According to NYSED, “The US Department of Education has made clear that when a district fails to ensure that students participate in required state assessments, the state education agency is expected to consider imposing sanctions on that district, including – in the most egregious cases – withholding programmatic funds. What sanctions to impose must be decided on a case by case basis, taking into account the degree and length of time the district has failed to meet participation rate requirements and the reasons for such failure.”

Kenneth Mitchell is a retired superintendent of the South Orangetown district and wrote about concerns associated with testing and other aspects of Race to the Top in a paper published back in the fall of 2012 as well – Federal Mandates on Local Education:  Costs and Consequences – Yes, it’s a Race, but is it in the Right Direction?  Such a shame that New York State didn’t heed his warning in 2012!

Silencing New York parents and teachers? Reject Senate bill S4709

In addition to the ongoing disrespect for parents that is highlighted in this Curmudgucation post, there is a bad piece of legislation that Mr. Greene discusses. Senate bill S4709-2015, introduced by Senator Jack Martin, relates to annual professional performance review (APPR) plans submitted by the highest performing ten percent of school districts.

The commissioner will determine who the highest performing ten percent of school districts are and since our state is so in love with the tests, one can only assume the ten percent will be determined at least in part by test scores. So essentially the school districts who have the most money, since test scores generally correlate to income of the family, get a by on whatever new teacher appraisal system is developed.

I can come up with many reasons why this legislation is bad. However the most important point seems to me to be that the new annual professional performance review plan is expected to be BAD or why would we need to have a way for the ‘best’ school districts to escape it?

Rather than draft a ‘law of escape’, we need to create an annual professional performance review plan that is fair for all teachers and all school districts!

The only possible reason for a law such as S4709 that I can come up with is to silence a group of parents as Mr. Greene hypothesizes.

Contact your New York State legislators and tell them to reject S4709!