May 2016 Issue - APPR/Teacher Evaluation, Labor Issues, Professional Development
May 27, 2016

Judge tosses growth score for Great Neck teacher

Author: By Matt Smith
Source: NYSUT United

A veteran Long Island teacher long known in her district as a topflight educator — but who nonetheless was deemed "ineffective" on a portion of her annual evaluation based on the state's convoluted use of "statistical growth models" — has had that rating thrown out by a New York judge.

State Supreme Court Justice Roger McDonough ruled the negative rating and growth score — (also known as a value-added measure or VAM) — received by Great Neck teacher Sheri Lederman in 2013– 14 was "indisputably arbitrary and capricious."

The ruling was immediately hailed by NYSUT, which characterized VAMs as "junk science."

"While there is now a protective moratorium in place shielding teachers from the misuse of state tests in their evaluations, Sheri Lederman's case is Exhibit A of why that moratorium was needed in the first place," said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. "New York teachers statewide have been unfairly labeled by the state's untrustworthy and mysterious mathematical algorithm that took the focus away from what matters most: teaching and learning."

Lederman's case has attracted national attention. In suing the State Education Department and then-State Education Commissioner John King, she said the model used to evaluate teachers was biased against educators whose students consistently scored high on state assessments — making it difficult to demonstrate further progress. That claim was supported by McDonough, who said there was "convincing and detailed evidence of bias" in the state's VAM, including the disproportionate effect on Lederman's rating of small class size and high-performing students.

In light of the state's four-year ban on the use of state tests in teacher evaluations, McDonough's decision made no ruling on the state's overall evaluation process.

NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino noted that NYSUT is an active participant in a task force working closely with Chancellor Betty Rosa and the state Board of Regents on the development of a fair process for evaluating teachers. This work, Fortino said, is being done with deliberation and educators' input as part of the Regents' comprehensive overhaul of New York State standards, curriculum and testing.

"NYSUT is committed to working diligently with the Regents," Fortino said, "to develop a fair and objective evaluation system that provides meaningful support to teachers so they can best serve students."

Lederman's husband, Bruce, who is an attorney, represented his wife in the lawsuit. NYSUT provided research and technical support to the Ledermans.

Since the APPR law was first enacted in 2010, NYSUT has mounted some 17 separate legal challenges to APPR-related actions of SED and various school districts, including pending challenges to the unfavorable impact of the growth model on teachers of impoverished students, and to regulatory limits on collective bargaining rights.