The APPR Debacle: Speeding Up the Treadmill: How Is It Possible to Implement a New Teacher Evaluation System and Convert Teaching/Learning to the Common Core at the Same Time?

In the spring of 2011 the state legislature passed and the Governor signed a statewide procedure to evaluate principals and teachers, the law is referred to as the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR).

Such annual professional performance reviews shall be a significant
factor for employment decisions including but not limited to, promotion,
retention, tenure determination, termination, and supplemental
compensation, which decisions are to be made in accordance with locally
developed procedures negotiated pursuant to the requirements of article
fourteen of the civil service law where applicable

As with all laws the relevant agency issues regulations to implement the law. The regulations are posted for public comment; due to the complexity of the law State Ed (SED) invited a range of organizations, including the teacher and principal unions to serve on a task force to develop the regulations to implement the law.

After months of meetings the task force recommended regulations (read here) to the commissioner which were approved by the Board of Regents (with three dissenting votes: Regents Cashin, Rosa and Tilles) – the regulations are 65 pages long!

SED published “guidance” and a host of aids to assist districts in compiling the plans. (Read here)

Slowly the 700 school districts around the state began to negotiate plans. SED posted model plans – the plans were dense, lengthy and impenetrable – typical of SED documents. (See model plans)

Most of the plans call for one announced and one unannounced observation a year, some allow for peer observations, all the plans require the school district to select an approved teacher assessment rubric (See approved rubrics)

In the fall, 2012, the union and the department conducted on and off negotiating sessions – with a final date, January 17, 2013, established by the Governor. If an agreement was not reached the Governor would penalize the city – in essence a fine of $250 million.

As the date approached the negotiations accelerated – the union called a Delegate Meeting for January 17th, the final date established by the Governor. As is commonplace in negotiations the parties traded items until late into the night until an agreement was reached only to find that the Mayor vetoed the agreement.

Accusations were traded – Commissioner King issued a letter which substantiated the claims of the union.

The Mayor made a political calculation – he will not agree to any plan – his objections to the plan – unlike the other plans in the state, there must be no opportunity for revisions, and rather vague comments about procedures to review unsatisfactory ratings.

Gotham Schools reports that the Governor will introduce legislation to require that Commissioner King be the final arbiter if New York City and the teacher union cannot arrive at an agreement (See here). The Governor’s proposal must be approved by the Assembly and the Senate, and, with a lame duck Mayor with declining favorability ratings and a new Mayor in the wings – the Bloomberg mystique, and pocketbook, no longer has as much clout in the corridors of Albany.

Last year I sat through two days of Danielson training; while the frameworks are intellectually interesting an observer cannot assess teachers in 62 areas (called elements), it is ridiculous. The Department website is replete with Danielson materials, an excellent beginning, only a beginning of a long path.

How do we train supervisors in 1600 schools and 70,000 teachers? How do we create student learning objectives? And, this other little problem – integrating Common Core State Standards into teaching and learning – with new state assessments that are far more difficult than the current assessments.

The light at the end of tunnel looks like an oncoming locomotive.

If the Department and the union had a collaborative relationship, if the APPR was phased in over a number of years, if it was treated as a pilot with the opportunity to make changes, if during the pilot period no high stakes decisions would be made we would probably end up with a new structure that would both support teachers and create a path to discharge ineffective teachers.

With a Mayor tossing hand grenades – directing his “friends” on the editorial boards of the NY Post, the Daily News and the Wall Street Journal to trash any plan, teachers will remain hostile and suspicious.

There is an election in Rome in about a month – think Bloomberg is interested? Very high profile job and you don’t have to worry about unions – and if I understand correctly – all decisions are infallible – and no term limits.

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2 responses to “The APPR Debacle: Speeding Up the Treadmill: How Is It Possible to Implement a New Teacher Evaluation System and Convert Teaching/Learning to the Common Core at the Same Time?

  1. Do you really think “the Bloomberg mystique, and pocketbook, no longer has as much clout in the corridors of Albany?” as the mayor is throwing big sums into a school board election in California? Financing candidates favorable to his position on gun control? Wait til you see the tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions that he and his friends will be putting into City Council races this year. He won’t go quietly into the night until every teacher lives in perpetual fear, there is a bicycle path on every block and sugary drinks are banned from the planet along with the styrofoam cups they come in.

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  2. Any teacher evaluation plan worth the paper it’s written on will simply serve to surface information that is commonplace in every school; namely who are the teachers parents fight to get their kids into those classes, and who do families try to avoid like the plague. You can’t get this knowledge to become public unless each school has the opportunity to customize a plan arrived at by UFT and DOE officials behind closed doors.

    I’m not optimistic about the chances of this happening even if the Commissioner becomes more involved.

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