Responding to calls for major changes - including more than 30,000 e-mails from NYSUT members - the Regents this week appeared united in calling for a full review and overhaul of state law on Annual Professional Performance Reviews.
A divided Board of Regents also voted to amend the emergency APPR regulations, which would provide some relief of onerous provisions. The amendments also re-set the clock by triggering another 30-day period of required public input before final action.
As NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino made clear in numerous media interviews, NYSUT will not rest until the broken system of testing and evals is overhauled.
"It was heartening to hear the Regents acknowledge that the system doesn't work — and that an overhaul of the APPR system is needed," Fortino said. "Obviously our advocacy and more than 30,000 emails from our members had an effect."
The Regents adopted the following proposed amendments to the APPR regulations:
- SED added an appeals process for the state growth score, beginning with 2014-15 scores and applicable in future years until the growth model has been re-examined.
- For rural districts and districts with only one building, SED added a process allowing for an annual waiver from the state's requirement for an impartial independent trained evaluator, if using one poses an undue burden to the district.
- SED reversed what could have been broad release of a teacher's overall rating, clarifying privacy provisions that stipulate districts can only provide a teacher's final rating to parents when requested.
"These are incremental steps forward, but our work is not complete," Fortino said. "Let me be clear: we will not rest and NYSUT's advocacy will continue until we have a fair evaluation system."
In related developments, State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia committed to a thorough re-examination of the state growth model, along with other aspects of APPR. That will be accompanied by a comprehensive review of the state's standards and assessments, another cause NYSUT has championed.
Elia also announced at the meeting that next spring's state English Language Arts and math assessments will be shorter — the length of state testing was one of the concerns cited in multiple forums held by parents and teachers around the state. NYSUT has been pro-active in challenging the broken testing and APPR system, building on the work of a board of directors task force that documented problems with the growth scores and other mandates.
The vote on the amended regulations came after a lengthy debate, where numerous Regents spoke passionately about the need for the board to assert its rightful role as the state's education policy-making authority.
"We as Regents need to do what's right for our students, to create a learning environment that parents want to opt into," Regent Beverly Ouderkirk.
"This system has too many flaws in it," said Regent Judith Johnson. "All I hear us the joy of teaching is being squeezed out of them as a result of this process."
"We need to empanel a work group to develop changes and get a package to the Legislature by the end of this year," said Regent Roger Tilles of Long Island. "We need to act before (next spring's) exams, or if we don't, there will only be more opt-outs."
"We're encouraged the board wants to own their leadership role. What we want to see is a critical review process," Fortino told reporters after the meeting. "That was the common ground."