As state lawmakers prepare to tackle reforms to the state’s Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) system for teachers and principals, the New York State School Boards Association today released five key principles that lawmakers should incorporate into APPR reforms.
"By all accounts, the state Legislature will fast-track legislation to change the state’s system for evaluating teachers and principals," said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. "NYSSBA urges lawmakers to consider these principles before taking any action on this issue."
The key principles below were established in order to guide development of a more effective educator evaluation system:
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.
"Legislation conceived with these principles in mind will help move the focus of evaluations back to the practice of teaching and learning," Kremer said. "We believe that adoption of APPR reforms in line with these principles will produce a much improved evaluation system – one that teachers, administrators, parents, school boards and members of the community at large will embrace."