Districts will be able to apply for "hardship waivers" to largely avoid the state's requirement that one of two annual observations for teacher evaluations must be done by an outside evaluator.
Acknowledging that the mandate was cumbersome and costly, the Board of Regents in June approved emergency regulations to give every district the opportunity to apply for the reprieve if the requirement creates a burden in any of the following ways:
- compliance with the requirement would result in financial hardship;
- the district lacks professionally trained staff to comply with the requirement;
- the district has a large number of teachers; and/or
- compliance with the requirement could impact safety and management of a building because the principal would be absent from the school building while performing evaluations at other locations.
Districts receiving the waiver will not have to use an independent evaluator for observations of any teacher receiving a highly effective, effective or developing rating in the previous year.
However, any teacher with an ineffective evaluation rating in the previous year will still need to have an observation by an independent evaluator.
NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino noted that, even if the waiver is granted, districts will still need to conduct two observations for each teacher.
The second observation may be conducted by the building principal, supervisor, or an individual selected and trained by the school district or BOCES. Both observations could be performed by the same individual.
When the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) law was approved last year, NYSUT predicted school districts would have a hard time meeting the outside evaluator requirement due to numerous logistical and financial concerns.
Earlier this school year, at the urging of NYSUT, the Regents approved a hardship waiver from the requirement for rural and single-building schools.
"Expanding the waiver and strictly limiting the use of outside evaluators is a smart step," Fortino said.
"Using independent evaluators can be costly and add little, if any, benefit. Research shows that outsiders don't know the students, the teacher or the school culture, so it's hard to see how, after a short observation, they would be able to add anything of substance to the evaluation process."