Nothing Has Changed: APPR

Allies: My advocacy has always centered around what is best practice when it comes to meeting the needs of children in our schools.  I firmly believe that a parent is a child’s first, and best, educator and continue to support the opt-out movement as it’s currently the best mechanism by which parents can raise awareness of the flawed reform agenda thrust upon the children of NY.  

As many of you know, I am also an educator currently working in our public schools. Below is an email that I wrote to colleagues to raise awareness of facts pertaining to the Education Transformation Act of 2015 (Education Law 3012-D) and to encourage teachers to support the opt out movement for our children, our profession, and our public schools.  I’m sharing the email so that you can have quick and easy access to facts related to teacher evaluation and correct any misinformation.  Unfortunately, it seems that parents and teachers feel that “things are better” when in fact nothing has changed.  It’s my hope that the notes below can serve to help you re-inform the public of the importance of opting out.  

Please note that my thoughts here pertain to only one part of 3012-D that needs to be repealed, and rest assured that my advocacy is not limited in its scope, but that I continue to address the suite of reforms that are negatively affecting our children.  

1.  Education law 3012-D (passed April 1, 2015) is still law.  As such, please note:

After the 2015-2016 (current) school year, (for which New Hartford CSD has received a waiver from the NYSED to allow the continued use our current 60/20/20 evaluation system), you WILL be evaluated 50% on student test scores and 50% on observations.  

When available, state tests will be used to determine the 50% of the evaluation based on student test scores*  Otherwise, the NYSED will approve the test to be used and the growth targets for each approved test.  In addition, the NYSED will determine the weighting of all observation subcomponents and set the scoring bands for determining the final HEDI ratings for each teacher.

After 2 consecutive years of an ineffective rating, you may face expedited dismissal.  After 3 consecutive years of an ineffective rating, dismissal is mandatory.

The Education Transformation Act of 2015 (Education Law 3012-D) requires that the lowest 5% of schools (based primarily on State test scores and graduation rates) will be identified for state takeover.  In 2015, 144 schools were placed on that list and granted one or two years to show demonstrable improvement or face a complete takeover by an outside receiver (i.e. Charter School Operator).  The number of schools on the list will increase to over 220 for 2016.  Since there will always be a lowest 5%, eventually every school will be faced with the prospect of state takeover.

*2.  Following the recommendation of Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Task force, in December of 2015 the Board of Regents approved a four year moratorium on the use of Common Core aligned State test scores in the evaluation of teachers.  NOTE:

It is important to note that this moratorium did NOT alter the requirement that teachers be evaluated based 50% on student test scores as noted above and Education Law 3012-D remains unchanged.

During the moratorium, teachers in grades 3-8 and in the High School who teach a Common Core aligned course are now required to be evaluated based on some other assessment or measure of student performance (the NYSED has approved STAR for grades 3-8 in other districts)

Teachers in the 3-8 and High School Common Core testing subjects will continue to receive an ‘Advisory Score’ from the NYSED based on the State tests.  While this score will not count towards teacher evaluations for the next four years, there is nothing in law or regulation that would prevent the NYSED from using those scores for evaluative purposes after the four year moratorium expires.  The question follows: why create an advisory score if it isn’t going to be used?

The gist: high stakes remain for both kids and teachers, the punishment model based on student test scores is still in place, local control is still lost, and schools still face takeover-it’s just based on different tests for the next 4 years.   

The good news is that there is plenty we can do.  At the local level, we must first acknowledge that testing and teacher evaluation based on student test scores still drive decisions that affect our classrooms on a daily basis.  This fact is a major reason why over half of New Hartford students in grades 3-8 did not participate in tests last year.  We must ask ourselves: If the NYS tests did not exist, if STAR did not exist, if SLOs and backup SLOs weren’t required, would we be proceeding on our current course?  Are we doing what is best for students?  Is this what our community supports?  I encourage you to share your opinions by writing letters, attending meetings, and continuing the dialogue within our schools and community because whatever your opinion, dialogue and advocacy for students is necessary for us to find solutions that are legitimate and meaningful to all parties involved.  

Like you, I am always willing to learn, grow, and work together for our students.  That’s why when I was asked to serve as a technical advisor to the Governor’s Common Core Task Force this fall I willingly did so in hopes of helping to make real change happen.  Unfortunately, as seen above, the recommendations released by the Task Force fall far short from true change and do not accurately reflect the advice that was offered by practitioners and educators in the field.  I have therefore applied to serve on the Board of Regents as representative of the 5th Judicial District.  With both the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor stepping down, there is an opportunity for meaningful change to take place- but only if the Regents turn to research proven strategies and experts like you, classroom teachers, to meet the needs of students.  Fortunately, I am one of at least 3 educators who have applied for the opportunity to serve our region.  One way to make a difference at the state level is to stay informed of the Board of Regents selection process over the next month and support a candidate that will advocate for students and teachers.  

Lastly, I urge you to think critically, sift through the rhetoric and understand that sound bytes passed off as “improvements” or “change” are just that-sound bytes and rhetoric meant to appease, offer false hope, and distract. Students, parents, and teachers must understand that the high stakes test and punish culture is alive and well in New York State.  To date the only effort that has been successful in moving the needle towards true change is the parent led opt out movement.  Surpassing the 2015 level of opt outs is a necessary next step we must support if we believe in our students, colleagues, schools and communities.  There will be a forum about opting out at the Whitestown Rec Center on February 4th from 6-7:30 if you’d like to learn more or invite family & friends to become involved.  

I am honored to work with each of you, appreciate the opportunity to share pertinent information, and thankful for our union and those who serve in leadership roles, especially our devoted President, XXX XXXXXXX.  

Respectfully yours in solidarity,

Jess

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Nothing Has Changed: APPR