APPR: Education game changer or annual obligation?
FOR RELEASE: August 17, 2016
CONTACT: David Albert
Multiple legislative and regulatory changes to law have left some to question the value of evaluation plans
Once hailed as a game changer for public education by linking student achievement to teacher and principal evaluations, New York's teacher and principal evaluation law today largely represents for school officials an obligation to bargain, according to a new research report from the New York State School Boards Association.
NYSSBA's report, "Building Trust at the Table," is based on interviews with school officials and an analysis of 100 approved Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) evaluation plans. The report offers an inside look at the state of APPR, offered by those on the front lines of negotiations, as well as key takeaways for districts negotiating APPR plans.
New York's current APPR law, first enacted in 2010, has undergone seven statutory changes and multiple regulatory amendments over a six-year period.
According to the report, the law has spawned at least one positive development: smoother working relationships between many school district and union officials as they meet to hammer out an evaluation plan. But navigating the multiple statutory and regulatory revisions to the law – and the requirement to submit an evaluation plan or risk losing state aid – has taken its toll.
School officials cite the pace of revisions to the law, changing expectations, and the use of student tests in ways for which they were not designed as sources of frustration and stumbling blocks to successful negotiations.
"The good news is, based on our research, school administrators and union leaders are working together in good faith to discuss a shared vision and more effective teacher evaluation plans," said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. "The bad news is, the process school officials must use to evaluate teachers changes frequently, leaving many of them to wonder if they are engaged in an exercise in futility."
The release of the report comes as the December deadline for school districts to complete another evaluation plan approaches. To date, nearly 60 percent of districts do not yet have approved APPR plans and risk losing their state aid increases. The previous deadline of September 1 was extended by state lawmakers in June.
The NYSSBA report offers five key lessons for those districts still working on their APPR plans:
- Don't assume you have to reinvent the wheel. Build off portions of previous evaluation plans that are still valid.
- Avoid tying evaluation plans to larger collective bargaining agreements. Keep APPR plans separate.
- Evaluate teachers based on how well all students within a building perform, rather than on how well an individual teacher's students perform.
- Use the observation method that yields the best measure of teacher effectiveness.
- Do not succumb to "initiative fatigue."
The report is available at http://www.nyssba.org/news/2016/08/16/reports/appr-education-game-changer-or-annual-obligation/.
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