The current president of the FTA is Darrin Paschke. Darrin is a former student whom I had the pleasure of watching as he turned into a wonderful math teacher. He has been FTA president for several years.
Darrin posted a comment on the latest blog post (The reality of publishing teacher evaluation scores.) It's information worth sharing with all of you. Here's what Darrin had to say:
"As my twentieth year of teaching draws to a close, I live with the sad reality that education (brought to us by our state education department, governor, and unbelievably NYSUT to some extent) is no longer about learning or students. As the principal in this article clearly makes her point about the inaccuracies of the data reports, it is the tip of the iceberg.
According to NYSUT, nearly 80% of our members do not have state exams to generate this data. School by school and teacher by teacher, Student Learning Objectives (SLO's) must be created and approved between each teacher and their principal. For smaller schools who have only one principal per building, this is an amazing time commitment for both the teachers and especially the principal. The possibility exists for some teachers to have up to five different SLO's that need to be developed or purchased from a list of state-approved choices. Once an SLO is created or purchased, the teacher and the district will need to set goals for the SLO. There are no consistent guidelines from the state for the goals of the SLO other than the goals need to be "sufficiently rigorous". Ultimately, all of the SLO’s in a district must certified as rigorous by its superintendent. Thank goodness our superintendents across the state are specialists in every discipline! The goals will need to be adjusted and customized for each teacher because what is an appropriate goal in a classroom of high-achieving students may not be appropriate for a class consisting of lower-achieving or remedial students.
At least the teachers who do not have state exams have this flexibility in their goals. Teachers who give state exams will have their scores reported to the state and have a number assigned to them based on a formula generated by the state. What is this formula? It will not be shared - but we should be comforted knowing that the state will be comparing our students to similar students across the state to make their judgment. Whether the teacher gives state exams or uses and SLO, this data will produce what we call the "first 20%" of our composite score.
Never mind that some students have already figured out how to "beat" the system on some of the state-approved computer-based programs to measure student growth. The savvy students in grades 3-8 realize that if they continue to choose wrong answers, the questions don't get more difficult. Students who may have a dislike of a particular teacher can sabotage their growth to make the teacher appear ineffective. Since these tests and measures do not affect the students' grades, the only deterrent is that student who perform below certain levels will receive additional academic intervention services (AIS) the following year. If the students show sufficient growth in the AIS class after a few weeks, they no longer have to take this class.
Finally we get to the bulk of the APPR... "the 60%" evaluation. Apparently 31 out of 60 of these points need to come from observations. Each tenured teacher must be observed a minimum of two times per year with at least one of those observations unannounced. Each observation now comes with a handy pre-observation conference and a post-observation conference between the teacher and the observer (hopefully your principal and not someone the district is allowed to hire to perform the observation). The observation process alone will require the principal at our high school to conduct 300 meetings with teachers per year. Throw in the SLO’s and this number of meetings exceeds 450. We have 184 teaching days per year at our school.
The other 29 of the 60 points will be based on a comprehensive evaluation rubric that will be completed by the principals with teacher collaboration. Some of the items on the evaluation rubric are not directly observable and require the teachers to provide "artifacts" to demonstrate that they are meeting the expectation. More meetings.
Obviously, in Fredonia, we do not have the administrative staff to accomplish all of what is being asked. At a time when the state has decimated what our district receives in state aid and capped the taxes (our two sources of income)our union agreed (last year) to a two-year concessions package in exchange for a guarantee that no teachers would be cut for two years. We agreed to keep the same salary schedule for two years, essentially freezing the top step. Those below the top step were not frozen at their step and were allowed to move up each year. We took a 20% cut in all extra-curricular, co-curricular, and coaching salaries, and gave up the 5 paid summer in-service days. It is crucial to understand that NONE of these concessions were permanent givebacks and that after the end of the two-year agreement, all is returned to the way it was before, and we begin negotiating a new contract.
At recent Board of Education meetings, our Board has projected that our fund balance will be gone in 2 to 3 years. After that, we will be forced to make devastating cuts to our programs and hence lose many fine teachers. Our district is also forced to hire additional administration to cover the gigantically unfunded mandates of the APPR - further eroding our fund balance. Ultimately, the APPR - even if it self-destructs in the next few years - will do irreparable damage to our students and to the protection our union has fought to provide our teachers. After a teacher receives two-ineffective ratings in a row, the district can initiate an expedited 3020-a dismissal for that teacher. Most districts will be unable to afford the legal fees associated with the 3020-a and will not remove the ineffective teacher. Governor Cuomo will quickly point out that something needs to be done to get rid of these “ineffective” teachers. This is the data our governor is looking for to pass legislation eliminating tenure and seniority in New York State. "