New York State School Boards Association

Regents create APPR waiver on independent evaluators

by Cathy Woodruff

On Board Online • July 4, 2016

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The Board of Regents has approved a waiver option for school districts and BOCES facing hardships because of a new Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) requirement that all teachers and principals undergo observations by independent evaluators.

With a waiver in place, any teacher or principal who did not receive a rating of "ineffective" in the previous year can receive a second required observation or school visit from the building principal, supervisor or from another individual selected and trained by the school district or BOCES, rather than an outside or "independent" evaluator.

The additional flexibility aims to help more districts meet a looming deadline to have new APPR plans in place or lose scheduled state aid increases, State Education Department officials said.

"Traveling across the state, I've heard over and over again that the independent evaluator requirement of the APPR law is cause for great concern in our schools," Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said. "We believe this (waiver plan) would help our districts identify what they need to be in compliance with APPR."

Elia said problems stemming from the independent evaluator requirement include: high costs for hiring and training people who are not district employees to do the evaluation work, a lack of professionally trained staff at other school buildings within the district or BOCES to conduct the evaluations, a large number of teachers and principals requiring evaluations, and management and safety issues created by the extended absence of a principal or administrator from his or her own building while conducting independent observations elsewhere.

Last year, the Regents approved similar hardship waivers for rural and single-building school districts. As more districts have tried to craft APPR agreements that comply with the new law, Elia said, some high-need urban districts also have found that the requirement would seriously strain their budgets.

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