Divided Regents to vote on value-added

by Cathy Woodruff

On Board Online • June 10, 2013

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior writer

Some members of the Board of Regents are expressing strong reservations about a plan to boost the weight given to standardized student test scores in evaluating teachers and principals under New York’s Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) program.

Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. is scheduled to ask the Regents to make the change during their next meeting on June 17 and 18.

“I’m very much opposed to having that go into effect this year,” Regent Roger Tilles said in an interview with On Board.

Other Regents including Kathleen Cashin have also expressed concerns about the plan, which involves using a more sophisticated formula, known as “value-added,” when student test score data is used in teacher and principal evaluations. Under APPR legislation approved in 2010, adoption of the new value-added model by the Regents would trigger an increase in the weight of state test scores to 25 percent, up from the 20 percent share allotted under the current model, which is called growth.

Both algorithms aim to help neutralize the influence of variables beyond an educator’s control that can affect student test performance. The goal is to make test scores a more reliable indicator of the “value” actually added to a student’s academic achievement by the teacher (see related story).

The value-added model designed for New York accounts for many more variables, especially among characteristics of a classroom or school, than the growth model does.

“This would be an enhancement to add these variables” and should add confidence to the student performance portions of APPR ratings, King told the Regents in April. “It is a measure of growth, not achievement. There is fear that teachers of students in poverty or with poor academic history are at a disadvantage, but that is not the case.”

But Tilles and other members still expressed reservations at that meeting, and Tilles told On Board he hopes the Regents will decide to wait a year before giving  more weight to the tests at a time when teachers and schools are still adjusting to the new demands of Common Core learning standards.

“I don’t want to see the Common Core lost for the sake of too speedy an implementation” of APPR and elements related to student testing, Tilles said during the telephone interview.

While Tilles said he recognizes that the value-added model proposed for New York is an improvement over the current method, he said he remains uncomfortable with APPR’s use of student standardized test scores as part of the system for rating teachers and principals.

He pointed to the certification credential offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, where he is on the Board of Directors. “It’s the most rigorous evaluation of any I know of,” he said. “We don’t use a state assessment test as the vehicle for evaluating teaching.”

King frequently stresses that state standardized tests are just one of several elements of APPR, which gives greater weight to other factors including observations of teachers at work.

However, measurements of student achievement were a required element of teacher evaluation programs for states to qualify for federal Race to the Top funding. Student performance on standardized tests also is a key element in the federal No Child Left Behind law passed in 2001, which remains in effect.

Meanwhile, New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi is urging the Regents to delay implementation of the value-added model. He contends that growing opposition to student testing is eroding support for the worthy Common Core learning standards, which he said NYSUT supports.

“Common sense has been lacking” in the implementation of APPR, Iannuzzi said during an interview with Susan Arbetter on WCNY’s Capitol Pressroom. “It’s a good framework,” he said, but “it’s the implementation of that framework that has gone down the wrong path.”

NYSUT argues that test scores – and value-added techniques – cannot be used fairly in APPR until more teachers are trained in using teaching methods tied to the Common Core and the related curriculum is fully in place.

“We gave assessments this spring before most teachers were in a position to teach the Common Core,” Iannuzzi said on Capitol Pressroom. Measuring value-added “is a good concept, but it requires, again, that you have a baseline that makes sense … It has potential, (but) it only can work if you have a baseline of successful growth scores …We have no growth scores.”

King, however, has sought to ease concerns that the tests will be too difficult too soon, and he said the time is right now to start using tests based on Common Core standards in order to get a better picture of improvement as it occurs.

“It is true that the tests will be more challenging because the Common Core standards are more challenging than our existing state standards,” King said in a video presentation posted on SED’s website. “But we’ve been moving our curriculum since 2010 toward the Common Core. It wouldn’t make any sense to have our assessments not reflect the curriculum that we’re teaching.”

Discussion at the April Regents meeting revealed differing levels of comfort with increasing the weight of the state test scores in APPR teacher and administrator evaluations.

“Not everyone agrees about value-added,” said Regent Kathleen Cashin. “I’m very concerned about any extension of this approach.”

Regents Charles Bendit and Robert Bennett questioned King and his deputies about the reliability of “scoring bands” developed for tests under the new rubric and questioned whether the results would properly account for differing levels of implementation of curriculum based on Common Core standards.

“Value-added is not the panacea that some people say it is,” Tilles argued. “I just think we ought to take a pause.”

Chancellor Merryl Tisch expressed concern, however, about changing the pace now, after individual districts have negotiated APPR agreements with the understanding that the value-added technique will be introduced.

“It’s a funny message to say, ‘Sorry, we were just kidding. Go back and re-negotiate,’” Tisch said.

“We are at a very significant crossroads,” she said.

Send Page to a Friend

Show Other Stories

Back to top