ALBANY, N.Y. March 10, 2014 – The Rochester Teachers Association today filed a lawsuit alleging that the Regents and State Education Department failed to adequately account for the effects of severe poverty and, as a result, unfairly penalized Rochester teachers on their APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) evaluations.
The suit, filed in state Supreme Court in Albany by New York State United Teachers on behalf of the RTA and more than 100 Rochester teachers, argues the State Education Department did not adequately account for student poverty in setting student growth scores on state tests in grades 4-8 math and English language arts. In addition, SED imposed rules for Student Learning Objectives and implemented evaluations in a way that made it more difficult for teachers of economically disadvantaged students to achieve a score of “effective” or better. As a result, the lawsuit alleges the Regents and SED violated teachers’ rights to fair evaluations and equal protection under the law.
SED computes a growth score based on student performance on state standardized tests, which is then used in teacher evaluations.
Nearly 90 percent of Rochester students live in poverty. The lawsuit says SED’s failure to appropriately compensate for student poverty when calculating student growth scores resulted in about one-third of Rochester’s teachers receiving overall ratings of “developing” or “ineffective” in 2012-13, even though 98 percent were rated “highly effective” or “effective” by their principals on the 60 points tied to their instructional classroom practices. Statewide, just 5 percent of teachers received “developing” or “ineffective” ratings.
“The State Education Department’s failure to properly factor in the devastating impact of Rochester’s poverty in setting growth scores and providing guidance for developing SLOs resulted in city teachers being unfairly rated in their evaluations,” Iannuzzi said. “Rochester teachers work with some of the most disadvantaged students in the state. They should not face stigmatizing labels based on discredited tests and the state’s inability to adequately account for the impact of extreme poverty when measuring growth.”
RTA President Adam Urbanski said an analysis of Rochester teachers’ evaluations for 2012-13 demonstrated clearly the effects of poverty and student attendance, for example, were not properly factored in for teachers’ evaluations. As a result, “dedicated and effective teachers received unfair ratings based on student outcomes that were beyond their control. The way the State Education Department implemented the state testing portion of APPR adds up to nothing more than junk science.”
Urbanski stressed Rochester teachers embrace accountability, support objective and constructive evaluations, and accept that testing has a place in education. “Tests should be used to inform instruction and can be effective tools to help improve teaching and learning,” he said. “But SED’s obsession with standardized testing and data collection has perverted the goals of testing while, ironically, failing to accurately measure the one impact that matters most: the effects of poverty on student achievement.”
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.
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