NYSSBA wants changes to teacher performance reviews

Jan 11, 2019

The New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) has issued five proposed changes for teacher performance reviews.  WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the Association is making these recommendations as state lawmakers look at legislation to change teacher evaluations.  

“We're trying to weigh in early in the session because we expect that legislators are going to consider what we can once about Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR),”said Timothy Kremer, NYSBA executive director.

Kremer tells WBFO News his organization has drafted five key principles that would change APPR. The first calls to eliminate the requirement to use state assessments to rate a student’s performance, unless a school district wants to keep measurement in place.

Students in a West Seneca school classroom.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

“And we think this would reduce a whole bunch of the anxiety around the APPR that has existed now for several years. The second thing we said is if you are going to change the APPR, the last few years we’ve had do it by a deadline or we risk getting our state aid increase. Well that forced us into negotiations and to maybe agree to somethings that were flawed,” remarked Kremer.

Kremer said even with the moratorium in place that untying student tests to teacher evaluations, he’s hopeful state lawmakers will change the legislation in this new session.

“The tests are still going to be given. We’re not abandoning a high quality educational program. There’s still going to be the requirement that students meet the learning standards and test will be in place – they are federally mandated – but just don’t use them for APPR purposes,” Kremer stated.

The other proposal call to eliminate the requirement to include outside, independent evaluators to evaluate staffers in school districts.

Kremer said it's also time to differentiate between experience teachers, with successful track records, and other educators. And finally, the School Boards Association proposes not to expand collective bargaining obligations beyond those already in place.        

Teacher at Lafayette International High School.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

WBFO News asked Kremer what he believes would be the best way to evaluate school teachers. 

“You could have a student performance measure in there, but I’ve been told that really the best thing that could happen is having a high quality observation, where you have people who know what teaching is supposed to look like – what good teaching looks like – principals, trained supervisors, who themselves have been teachers, coming in, spending time in the classroom, observing the teachers, using a rubric that has been approved by State Ed and there emphasis is on what teachers should know and be able to do,” answered Kremer.

The following are the full five proposals from NYSSBA:

Five Key Principles for APPR Reform

1. Eliminate the requirement to use state assessments as the student performance measure. Rather than being limited to scores on state tests, school districts should be able to select the measure of student performance, such as student portfolios or work samples. This would help reduce the possibility that APPR reform legislation could unintentionally lead to additional testing requirements in some school districts.

2.  Remove the state aid penalty. The aid penalty prescribed in New York’s APPR law punishes students if a district is unable to adopt an APPR plan and gain approval from the state education commissioner by an arbitrary state-imposed deadline. The effect is to push school districts to approve flawed evaluation deals that may restrict local opportunities for improvement and innovation, simply to meet the state’s timetable.

3. Eliminate the requirement to include observations by "independent" outside evaluators. Principals or other trained administrators should remain the primary individuals who conduct teacher evaluations. School districts should have the option to allow observations by impartial outside evaluators and/or peers, but they should not be required to expend resources to bring in outside evaluators.

4. Enable districts to differentiate between experienced teachers with a track record of success and other educators. Right now, when it comes to teacher observations, APPR is a one-size-fits-all model that does not distinguish between teachers who have a demonstrated record of success (such as three or more consecutive "effective" or "highly effective" ratings), and those who are less experienced or need more support. Providing more flexibility regarding the structure of observations – such as length, scope and other details – for teachers with documented histories of effectiveness would allow administrators to focus more on providing assistance to developing teachers.

5. Do not expand collective bargaining obligations beyond those already in place.  At a minimum, school districts should have the authority to select a student performance measure, determine whether to use an independent evaluator or modify the observation protocols for teachers who have a track record of success.