Delegates to NYSUT's Representative Assembly were respectful, yet clearly angry when they grilled State Education Commissioner John King on everything from ridiculous test questions to how quickly the state will review district APPR plans.
In a Q&A session, King pledged to improve the testing system and streamline the APPR approval process. He invited educators to work with him to do what's best for students. He said he and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch "do not believe the publication of teacher evaluations is helpful — publishing data has the effect of turning it into a single measure evaluation and no one believes in that."
A number of delegates voiced concerns over the pain and frustration students and teachers are experiencing over state testing.
"There are certainly things we need to do better," King said. "When we make mistakes we own them and address them. And then we have a shared obligation to move on."
Freeport TA's Stuart Napear asked whether SED would be capable of reviewing district APPR plans fairly and on a timely basis. "Having heard stories from our colleagues in Buffalo, and with the threat to withhold funding, what guarantees do we have that SED can review without being arbitrary and capricious?" Napear asked. (The state budget withholds state aid increases for districts that do not have an SED-approved APPR plan by Jan. 17, 2013.)
King said the recent settlement of NYSUT's lawsuit over teacher evaluation regulations helped clarify what is necessary for evaluation agreements to be approved. In May, SED released a 100-page guidance document along with an online submission system. The APPR law reserves 80 percent of the choices to the local level. "That means many of the questions have to be answered locally at the bargaining table," King said.