APPR - the state's Annual Professional Performance Review of teachers - was among the topics discussed in workshops and roundtables for about 100 local activists at NYSUT's annual BOCES Leadership Conference in late September.
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 that cash-strapped school districts are less able to financially support.
Educators are even more troubled by 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 with Kenneth Slentz, the State Education Department's deputy commissioner for P-12 education.
NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira urged local presidents 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. "We don't want to wait for someone else to come in and say how it should be developed."
In June, NYSUT sued the Board of Regents, arguing successfully that last-minute changes the Regents approved had increased the role of student test scores in teacher evaluations beyond what was permitted in the 2010 law NYSUT had helped negotiate. SED is appealing the ruling.
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.