NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira
urges BOCES local presidents to
document conditions that could affect
student progress and teacher evaluations.
Photos by Glenn Davenport.
Pending changes in teacher evaluation can look especially daunting for BOCES educators trying to teach students whose documented difficulties in the classroom are increased by too many of them showing up every day hungry and even homeless.
APPR — the state's Annual Professional Performance Review of teachers — was among the topics dissected in workshops, roundtables and mealtime discussions for about 100 local activists at NYSUT's annual BOCES Leadership Conference.
The conference comes as faculty and staff at New York's 37 Boards of Cooperative Educational Services face issues that include continued confusion over arcane Medicaid reimbursement regulations and a loss of unique BOCES programs and services because cash-strapped school districts are less able to financially support them.
But what troubles educators are the living conditions many students endure — and how those hardships can leave them ill-prepared to tackle the work that will ultimately help determine their teachers' evaluation.
"Higher expectations are fine and we have no problem with higher expectations, but you've got to start addressing the basics," Matt Garrity of the United Staff Association of Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES said during a brief Q-and-A session with Kenneth Slentz, the State Education Department's deputy commissioner for P-12 education.
Speaking at a roundtable discussion with more than a dozen BOCES local presidents, NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira urged the leaders to take the initiative in creating a database documenting local social conditions that could affect student progress and teacher evaluations.
"Just make sure that teachers — who are the experts — are at the table making those recommendations," she said.
With teacher evaluations in the new APPR to be based partly on locally selected measures that are collectively bargained, "we don't want to wait for someone else to come in and say how it should be developed," said Neira.
Notwithstanding the problems the programs face, Slentz said BOCES across the state are providing the model for the type of regional education system the Regents believe is needed to help raise student achievement at a time when dwindling education funds must be used more efficiently.