Teacher Evaluation: Are the APPR and the Common Core a Tsunami? Will a New Evaluation Plan and a New State Test Punish Principals and Teachers?

When the powerful say trust me the ordinary folk get pregnant.

All but four of the seven hundred school districts in New York State have negotiated principal/teacher evaluation plans with their unions and the Governor has placed a binding arbitration procedure in place that will determine a plan for New York City. With a “handshake” agreement between Chancellor Walcott and Union President Mulgrew torpedoed by the Mayor the binding arbitration procedure should be straightforward.

Read the “Guidance on New York’s Annual Professional Performance Review Law and Regulations” here for a detailed description of the law. The plan is a combination of state student test scores, a locally negotiated metric and principal observations. For the 70% of teachers who teach non-tested subjects “student learning objectives” (SLO) will be the metric.

The evaluation system is a growth model – using a complex algorithm – the subject of much debate and sharp criticism – teachers will be measured against anticipated student growth – meaning improvement in test scores and the other metrics. The State projects relatively small percentages of teachers – in 6-7% range will fall in to the lowest (“ineffective”) and the highest (“highly effective”) ranges.

The much hyped Gates-funded three year Methods of Effective Teaching (MET Project) found that,

…only 7.5 percent of teachers scored below a zero and only 4.2% percent of teachers scored above a three, this would suggest a large middle category of effectiveness with two smaller ones at each end.

MET Project teacher classroom observation scores were bunched at the center of the distribution, where 50% of teachers scored within 0.4 points of each other (on a four point scale) using the Charlotte Danielson Frameworks for Teaching.

Both the NYS APPR and the MET Project identified about the same percentages of teachers in the lowest category. The percentage of teachers scoring in the lowest tier for two consecutive years will undoubtedly be well below the percentages in a single year due to the “instability” of the scoring system.

When the dust settles we will probably identify 1-2% of teachers in the “ineffective category” for two consecutive years.

At the very same time New York State is racing down the Common Core State Standards path. Some schools/districts adopted the CCSS immediately while others have tarried. Teachers across the nation are wary and worried,

More than two-thirds said they were not well enough prepared to teach the standards to English-language learners or students with disabilities. More than half said they were not yet ready to teach them to low-income students or those considered at risk of academic failure.

In the 2014-15 school years the PARCC assessments will replace the current state exams – if the state chooses to adopt the exams. The PARCC assessments mean a sharp expansion of the number of tests with a number of interim assessments and the expansion of testing into the 11th grade. The item and task prototypes that PARCC had made available are far more difficult than the current tests.

At the March 11th Regents meeting Kristen Huff, a Regents Research Fund Fellow presented an update on the tests to be administered in April – Pearson-designed along with the State Ed staff. The power point here is a must read!

After the tests are scored the computers will spin and a group of human beings will determine a “base line” and “cut scores.”

The SED power point warns, and reassures,

We anticipate lower percentages of students who will score at or above grade level … we expect that the State-provided growth score will result in similar proportions of educators earning each rating category in 2012-13 compared to 2011-12.

So, I feel unprepared, my students are unprepared, not to worry we’re going to….. what is the State going to do? Set lower cut scores? Jiggle the numbers? Or just mouthing platitudes?

A Regents member explained to reporters

“We’ve changed the curriculum because we believe that’s what is necessary to get to the standards we want to achieve,” Regent James Tallon Jr. said. “We have got to say to people take year one with a grain of salt.”

Principals and teachers ask: If we have to take year one test scores “with a grain of salt,” why are the scores still high stakes? Principals and teachers can still face harsh discipline as a result of year one scores.

Some districts have plenty of dollars to buy Common Core compliant books, provide in depth professional development while others can barely pay their electric and heating bills. The EngageNY website has a plethora of information – great – are teachers on their own? What is the responsibility of the school district? the principal?

The education side of the New York City Department of Education is scrambling to provide supports for principals and teachers, unfortunately the political side of the Department continues to close schools, alienating parents and teachers.

The bipolar Department of Education should be asking the union to partner in providing high quality professional development – unfortunately the reputation of the Department is sullied by the ceaseless school closings.

For teachers the new teacher evaluation plan (APPR), the Common Core and the new testing regimen look like a tsunami – and the more the State and the Department say, “not to we worry,” we worry.

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