July 2014 - APPR/Teacher Evaluation
July 03, 2014

APPR safety net: Deal protects members from misuse of state tests in evaluations

Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
karen magee
Caption: Reporters swarm NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, left, and NYSUT President Karen Magee, center, after the union successfully negotiated a two-year safety net that prevents scores from flawed state tests from being used to punish teachers. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Finally, common sense — and union activism — prevailed.

After the union made a strong case that the state's flawed Common Core-based tests should not be used to punish educators, the Legislature and governor agreed to a two-year safety net for members put in harm's way because of the state standardized tests.

"This protects our members from the worst consequences of the state's broken evaluation system," said NYSUT President Karen Magee. "As in any negotiation, we didn't get everything we wanted, but we fought hard and won an essential safety net for our members. And, most importantly, we established that we will be fierce, proactive and unwavering in defense of our principles."

The APPR safety net legislation, which was among the last pieces negotiated at the end of session, comes after the state budget similarly delayed aspects of the Common Core consequences for students.

The safety net covers educators who are rated "developing" or "ineffective" — the two lowest ratings — during the 2013-14 school year because of the state tests, Magee said. It also covers educators during 2014-15.

For those educators who receive the two lowest ratings, the legislation triggers a second calculation, which excludes portions of the evaluations that are based on grade 3-8 state standardized exams. Depending on locally negotiated APPR agreements, this could cover 20 to 40 percent of the evaluation score.

The remaining subcomponents of the evaluation, such as classroom observations and other locally designed measures, will be used to recalculate the final rating. The highest rating will count.

An educator who is still ineffective or developing based on the non-state testing factors could face consequences under current law, including the expedited hearing process for terminating teachers who are rated ineffective two years in a row.

Teachers whose evaluations don't involve the grade 3-8 Common Core tests in ELA and math are not affected by the legislation.

For the 2012-13 school year, state officials announced 1 percent of teachers were rated "ineffective" and about 5 percent were deemed "developing." It is uncertain how many of the ratings were tied to state standardized tests.

NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta thanked members for their letters and calls to lawmakers on the issue, plus testimony at numerous legislative hearings last fall.

"APPR pause, reset, moratorium ... call it what you will," Pallotta tweeted after the nearly unanimous vote among state lawmakers. "Thank you for your advocacy!"

The final days of intense APPR talks took many twists and turns. During negotiations, some questioned whether the APPR agreement would jeopardize federal Race to the Top funding. That concern faded after U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan issued written support of the legislation.

Considerable work to fix APPR even further still lies ahead and remains a top priority for NYSUT.

"Hitting the pause button on consequences for teachers — as we've already done for students — is a necessary step toward reducing the state's over-testing and restoring our focus on teaching and learning," Magee said.

Over the summer, NYSUT will launch a new task force to examine potential solutions to the state's damaging test-driven system of education.

PROTECTIONS FOR STUDENTS

The agreement to protect teachers from the worst consequences of flawed test scores follows several protections the union gained for students. Lawmakers in April added provisions to the state budget that address some of the serious concerns about testing's effects on students. The provisions:

• ban standardized testing of students in pre-K through second grade;
• limit time devoted to testing and reduce the number of standardized tests schools can use;
•  make sure that results of grade 3-8 ELA and math tests are not used against students during the transition period; and
•  stop the sharing of test data with inBloom, which subsequently closeddown its operations.

NYSUT is also calling for an end of separate field testing of students.