Cuomo’s Evaluation Regs in Randolph

Of 700 districts in NYS, we are the 9th district who negotiated, submitted and received approval for our APPR plan under the new regulations, 3012-d. After the usual back and forth with the attorney at NYSED who reviewed the plan and gave us 10-15 wordsmith-ed changes to make, our plan was approved on Tuesday. Most of the school districts in NYS are submitting for a hardship waiver for various reasons including more time to negotiate and hoping the wait will indicate a revision of the regulations of some sort. We made a conscious decision to move forward, but it is most assuredly NOT because we embrace these new regulations as better than the old.

We submitted under the new regs because it lessens the workload on our teachers, principals, and students. We wanted to eliminate pre-assessments, teacher portfolio reviews, our interim/formative assessments being tied to evaluation, and mandated pre-evaluation meetings. Our students, teachers, and principals work incredibly hard every day–they’ve been involved in unbelievable school improvement efforts and they’ve proven, repeatedly, that Randolph Central is an outstanding school district because of the collective work of every member of our team. If we can eliminate what’s become meaningless work within our system to allow them time to concentrate on what matters most–the education of our children–then that’s what we need to do.

We decided to trade one act of compliance—meeting the requirements of the old APPR regulations—for a new act of compliance—meeting the requirements of this new law.

For a glittering moment in time, back in 2011, I honestly believed that the APPR regulations were designed to improve our educational systems. As a veteran school administrator, I accepted responsibility and acknowledged that we’ve historically not done a good enough job of evaluating teachers or terminating bad teachers or principals. I truly believed that was the reason we were seeing Annual Professional Performance Regulations. Now I know that any good intentions of the regulations if there ever were any, have just become mandates dictated by a governor who uses public schools as a pawn in whatever political game he’s playing.

The downside to moving to the new plan? The regs are so incredibly flawed that 50% of a teacher or principal’s composite evaluation score is based on NYS assessments and how our students supposedly grew or didn’t grow on some ridiculous calculation someone somewhere created to measure if our teachers and principals are getting as much growth out of our Randolph students as those ‘similar’ students across the state. And this is exactly the wrong reason for testing. Thank you, Governor Cuomo. Yes, these regulations are from the Governor’s office despite the fact that he’s an expert at blaming things on NYSED or NYSUT or whoever is convenient.  

Our school district is perfectly poised to clearly illustrate the absolute absurdity of these regulations. Why? Because we have had the sharpest three-year gains on NYS 3-8 tests of any district in Western New York.  Yet under these new regulations, many of our teachers are likely to receive an ineffective rating on the 50% of their evaluation score that is the building growth score. A score of 0-12/20 is ineffective.

Our dedicated teachers and administrators have aligned our curriculum to the NYS common core standards and raised our expectations for all children. We have used a systemic team approach to developing a consistent, comprehensive curriculum–aligned to rigorous standards that you can call whatever you like. You see, our teachers have always worked hard, been well intended and had the best interest of our students at heart–since long before this Governor deemed them ineffective or developing on the HEDI scale. We use the common core standards and the NYS 3-8 assessments as a system check. And this is exactly the right reason for testing. We need standards and assessments. What we do not need is a state mandated noose around our necks through arbitrary regulations designed to marginalize our state’s teachers and administrators.

But hey, we just work here. I guarantee we will exercise whatever local control we have to make it work for our teachers, principals, and students. If you believe that NYS regulations resulting in countless teachers and principals labeled ineffective or developing are going to do anything to improve public education then you should give Governor Cuomo a call.  He’s forming a review committee so that they can tell him he’s right and everyone else is wrong.

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