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Faced with the highly unpopular law on teacher evaluations rushed through the Legislature by Governor Cuomo with minimal consideration or debate, seven members of the 17-member New York State Board of Regents issued a vigorous dissent. The law requires that 50% of teacher evaluations be based on test scores, a number that is not supported by research or experience. Unlike the Governor and the Legislature, these seven members of the Regents have demonstrated respect for research and concern for the consequences of this hastily-passed law on teachers, children, principals, schools, and communities. They are courageous, they are wise, and they are visionaries. They have shown the leadership that our society so desperately needs. All New Yorkers are in their debt.

I place these wise leaders on the blog honor roll.

The dissident Regents issued the following statement:

Position Paper Amendments
to Current APPR Proposed Regulations

BY SIGNATORIES BELOW JUNE 2, 2015

We. the undersigned, have been empowered by the Constitution of the State of New York and appointed by the New York State Legislature to serve as the policy makers and guardians of educational goals for the residents of New York State. As Regents, we are obligated to determine the best contemporary approaches to meeting the educational needs of the state’s three million P-12 students as well as all students enrolled in our post secondary schools and the entire community of participants who use and value our cultural institutions.

We hold ourselves accountable to the public for the trust they have in our ability to represent and educate them about the outcomes of our actions which requires that we engage in ongoing evaluations of our efforts. The results of our efforts must be transparent and invite public comment.

We recognize that we must strengthen the accountability systems intended to ensure our students benefit from the most effective teaching practices identified in research.

After extensive deliberation that included a review of research and information gained from listening tours, we have determined that the current proposed amendments to the APPR system are based on an incomplete and inadequate understanding of how to address the task of continuously improving our educational system.

Therefore, we have determined that the following amendments are essential, and thus required, in the proposed emergency regulations to remedy the current malfunctioning APPR system.

What we seek is a well thought out, comprehensive evaluation plan which sets the framework for establishing a sound professional learning community for educators. To that end we offer these carefully considered amendments to the emergency regulations.

I. Delay implementation of district APPR plans based on April 1, 2015 legislative action until September 1, 2016.

A system that has integrity, fidelity and reliability cannot be developed absent time to review research on best practices. We must have in place a process for evaluating the evaluation system. There is insufficient evidence to support using test measures that were never meant to be used to evaluate teacher performance.

We need a large scale study, that collects rigorous evidence for fairness and reliability and the results need to be published annually. The current system should not be simply repeated with a greater emphasis on a single test score. We do not understand and do not support the elimination of the instructional evidence that defines the teaching, learning, achievement process as an element of the observation process.

Revise the submission date. Allow all districts to submit by November 15, 2015 a letter of intent regarding how they will utilize the time to review/revise their current APPR Plan.

II. A. Base the teacher evaluation process on student standardized test scores, consistent with research; the scores will account for a maximum of no more than 20% on the matrix.

B. Base 80% of teacher evaluation on student performance, leaving the following options for local school districts to select from: keeping the current local measures generating new assessments with performance –driven student activities, (performance-assessments, portfolios, scientific experiments, research projects) utilizing options like NYC Measures of Student Learning, and corresponding student growth measures.

C. Base the teacher observation category on NYSUT and UFT’s scoring ranges using their rounding up process rather than the percentage process.

III. Base no more than 10% of the teacher observation score on the work of external/peer evaluators, an option to be decided at the local district level where the decisions as to what training is needed, will also be made.

IV. Develop weighting algorithms that accommodate the developmental stages for English Language Learners (ELL) and special needs (SWD) students. Testing of ELL students who have less than 3 years of English language instruction should be prohibited.

V. Establish a work group that includes respected experts and practitioners who are to be charged with constructing an accountability system that reflects research and identifies the most effective practices. In addition, the committee will be charged with identifying rubrics and a guide for assessing our progress annually against expected outcomes.

Our recommendations should allow flexibility which allows school systems to submit locally developed accountability plans that offer evidence of rigor, validity and a theory of action that defines the system.

VI. Establish a work group to analyze the elements of the Common Core Learning Standards and Assessments to determine levels of validity, reliability, rigor and appropriateness of the developmental aspiration levels embedded in the assessment items.

No one argues against the notion of a rigorous, fair accountability system. We disagree on the implied theory of action that frames its tenet such as firing educators instead of promoting a professional learning community that attracts and retains talented educators committed to ensuring our educational goals include preparing students to be contributing members committed to sustaining and improving the standards that represent a democratic society.

We find it important to note that researchers, who often represent opposing views about the characteristics that define effective teaching, do agree on the dangers of using the VAM student growth model to measure teacher effectiveness. They agree that effectiveness can depend on a number of variables that are not constant from school year to school year. Chetty, a professor at Harvard University, often quoted as the expert in the interpretation of VAM along with co-researchers Friedman & Rockoff, offers the following two cautions: “First, using VAM for high-stakes evaluation could lead to unproductive responses such as teaching to the test or cheating; to date, there is insufficient evidence to assess the importance of this concern. Second, other measures of teacher performance, such as principal evaluations, student ratings, or classroom observations, may ultimately prove to be better predictors of teachers’ long-term impacts on students than VAMs. While we have learned much about VAM through statistical research, further work is needed to understand how VAM estimates should (or should not) be combined with other metrics to identify and retain effective teachers.”i Linda Darling Hammond agrees, in a Phi Delta Kappan March 2012 article and cautions that “none of the assumptions for the use of VAM to measure teacher effectiveness are well supported by evidence.”ii

We recommend that while the system is under review we minimize the disruption to local school districts for the 2015/16 school year and allow for a continuation of approved plans in light of the phasing in of the amended regulations.

Last year, Vicki Phillips, Executive Director for the Gates Foundation, cautioned districts to move slowly in the rollout of an accountability system based on Common Core Systems and advised a two year moratorium before using the system for high stakes outcomes. Her cautions were endorsed by Bill Gates.

We, the undersigned, wish to reach a collaborative solution to the many issues before us, specifically at this moment, the revisions to APPR. However, as we struggle with the limitations of the new law, we also wish to state that we are unwilling to forsake the ethics we value, thus this list of amendments.

Kathleen Cashin

Judith Chin

Catherine Collins

*Josephine Finn

Judith Johnson

Beverly L. Ouderkirk

Betty A. Rosa

Regent Josephine Finn said: *”I support the intent of the position paper”

i Raj Chetty, John Friedman, Jonah Rockoff, “Discussion of the American Statistical Association’s Statement (2014) on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment,” May 2014, retrieved from:

http://obs.rc.fas.harvard.edu/chetty/value_added.html. The American Statistical Association (ASA) concurs with Chetty et al. (2014): “It is unknown how full implementation of an accountability system incorporating test-based indicators, such as those derived from VAMs, will affect the actions and dispositions of teachers, principals and other educators. Perceptions of transparency, fairness and credibility will be crucial in determining the degree of success of the system as a whole in achieving its goals of improving the quality of teaching. Given the unpredictability of such complex interacting forces, it is difficult to anticipate how the education system as a whole will be affected and how the educator labor market will respond. We know from experience with other quality improvement undertakings that changes in evaluation strategy have unintended consequences. A decision to use VAMs for teacher evaluations might change the way the tests are viewed and lead to changes in the school environment. For example, more classroom time might be spent on test preparation and on specific content from the test at the exclusion of content that may lead to better long-term learning gains or motivation for students. Certain schools may be hard to staff if there is a perception that it is harder for teachers to achieve good VAM scores when working in them. Overreliance on VAM scores may foster a competitive environment, discouraging collaboration and efforts to improve the educational system as a whole. David Morganstein & Ron Wasserstein, “ASA Statement on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment,” Published with license by American Statistical Association, April 8 2014, published online November 7, 2014: http://amstat.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/2330443X.2014.956906. Bachman-Hicks, Kane and Staiger (2014), likewise admit, “we know very little about how the validity of the value-added estimates may change when they are put to high stakes use. All of the available studies have relied primarily on data drawn from periods when there were no stakes attached to the teacher value-added measures.” Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Thomas J. Kane, Douglas O. Staiger, “Validating Teacher Effect Estimates Using Changes in Teacher Assignments in Los Angeles,” NBER Working Paper No. 20657, Issued in November 2014, 24-5: http://www.nber.org/papers/w20657.

ii Linda Darling-Hammond, “Can Value Added Add Value to Teacher Evaluation?” Educational Researcher, March 2015 44, 132-37: http://edr.sagepub.com/content/44/2/132.full.pdf+html?ijkey=jEZWtoEsiWg92&keytype=ref&siteid=spedr.

This is a letter from a reader who learned that Sheri Lederman’s case against the New York State teacher evaluation system is going forward in court, despite the New York State Education Department’s effort to quash her lawsuit.

 

He writes:

 

 

My situation is very similar to Sheri’s. I am a reading teacher in a small rural district in upstate New York along the Pennsylvania border. Every year I receive an Effective rating on my APPR [the “annual professional performance review” for teachers and principals], though my Growth score is a perfect 20 and my Teacher Evaluation score is a perfect 60. However my Achievement score is a zero every year. I work with struggling readers. They generally receive scores in the teens on the pre-tests, and generally score in the 50’s on the post tests (thus the excellent Growth score). However scores in the 50’s are still failing, so my Achievement score is always a zero. I tried to get my union and administrators to help, but no one has come up with a solution.

 

My administrators, coworkers, students, and I all know I am a more than effective teacher, but in the state of New York, I am just a few points away from being ineffective. I hope this court case goes quickly and helps end this inaccurate and unfair system.

The Albany Times-Union reports that Albany’s biggest charter chain is burdened with crushing debt after the closure of two of its schools with poor academic results.

 

 

“The closure of the Brighter Choice middle schools will eventually leave the foundation on the hook for a $15.1 million construction debt it guaranteed that Wall Street doubts it can pay for more than three years. The 30-year bonds were issued in 2012 through the Industrial Development Authority of the City of Phoenix; in March, Fitch Ratings called the schools’ default “inevitable. The foundation has also guaranteed another $1.35 million in related loans for the schools. A default by the schools would force the foundation to find a way to pay the bondholders — Chicago-based Nuveen Asset Management — without the $14,072 per-student revenue that is the core of the Brighter Choice business model, or face having the building sold out from under it.”

 

 

The founder of the Brighter Choice Foundation is Tom Carroll. Carroll is a leading advocate for charter schools in New York state. He is also president of the “Coalition for Opportunity in Education” and the “Foundation for Education Opportunity,” which is advertising and promoting Governor Cuomo’s Education Tax Credit. The ETC would funnel at least $150 million to nonpublic (religious and private) schools.

 

This financial disaster is happening in Albany. Surely Governor Cuomo knows about it. Yet he continues to promote charter schools as a panacea for children in schools with low test scores. He doesn’t seem to realize that schools don’t have low test scores; children do. They need help: smaller classes, guidance counselors, social workers, a full curriculum, not charter schools of unknown quality.

Superintendent Roy Montesano wrote a powerful letter describing the dangers of Governor Cuomo’s education plan.

He warned that the plan would create a permanent culture of high-stakes over testing; good teachers will be fired, and the judgments of their principals will be disregarded; local control will be eroded (he adds that no one could possibly believe that more control by Albany will improve the performance of the schools of Hastings-on-Hudson); the loss of local control will drag down high-performing districts like his own.

He invites everyone who agrees to sign the petition calling for the repeal of the Cuomo law. The link is included in his letter.

Download the full letter here.

Master teacher Sheri Lederman is suing the State of New York after having received a low rating on the state’s “growth” measure. Her husband Bruce is her lawyer. She has been teaching for 18 years and has earned her doctorate. While only 31% of the students in the state “passed” the Common Core tests as proficient, 66% of the students in Dr. Lederman’s class were proficient. But the state gave her a low rating because, by the state’s convoluted formula, the students did not “grow” enough in their test scores.

The New York State Education Department tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, but their effort was rejected and the case is moving forward.

One of the strengths of the Lederman’s case is the excellent affidavits submitted by experts, as well as by parents and students. You can read the affidavits here. You will be informed by the expert statements of Linda Darling-Hammond, Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, Carol Burris, Aaron Pallas, and Brad Lindell.

Darling-Hammond says that Lederman’s rating is “utterly irrational.”

Amrein-Beardsley says that no VAM rating–given the current state of knowledge or lack thereof– is sufficient valid or fair to rate individual teachers.

You will find the testimony of parents and former students enlightening.

Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, and David Sciarra of the Education Law Center, have written an excellent opinion piece about why the East Ramapo school board needs a state fiscal monitor. Frankly, in light of the facts they lay out, they make a good case for a state takeover of the district.

They write:

East Ramapo is a divided community. Of the roughly 32,000 school-age children enrolled in schools in the district, about 24,000 attend private schools, nearly all of them Orthodox Jewish yeshivas. Of the more than 8,000 children in the public schools, 43 percent are African-American and 46 percent are Latino; 83 percent are poor and 27 percent are English-language learners.

The East Ramapo school board, dominated by private-school parents since 2005, has utterly failed them. Faced with a fiscal and educational crisis, the State Education Department last June appointed a former federal prosecutor, Henry M. Greenberg, to investigate the district’s finances.

Mr. Greenberg’s report, released in November, documented the impact of the board’s gross mismanagement and neglect. Since 2009, the board has eliminated hundreds of staff members, including over 100 teachers, dozens of teaching assistants, guidance counselors and social workers, and many key administrators. Full-day kindergarten, and high-school electives have been eliminated or scaled back. Music, athletics, professional development and extracurricular activities were cut.

The Greenberg report also detailed dismal outcomes for East Ramapo students. In 2013-14, only 14 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 were proficient in English Language Arts, and only 15 percent were proficient in math, according to the most recent statistics from the State Education Department. The graduation rate, 64 percent, is far below the state average of 76 percent.

While slashing resources in its public schools, the school board vastly increased public spending on private schools. The cost of transporting children, including gender-segregated busing, rose to $27.3 million in 2013-14 from $22 million in 2009-10, a 24 percent increase. Public spending on private school placement for special education students grew by 33 percent between 2010-11 and 2013-14, and the district placed students in private schools when appropriate spaces were available in public ones.

The report also exposed disturbing practices by board members. The board conducts 60 to 70 percent of its meetings in closed-door executive session. It does not tolerate, and is overtly hostile to, the complaints of public school parents, students and community members. Public protests against the board are now commonplace.

There is now a bill that has been introduced in the legislature to enable the appointment of a fiscal monitor to make sure that the children in public schools in East Ramapo to ensure that public money is spent appropriately in the best interests of the children in the district.

Critics of the legislation have said that those who want to limit and supervise the East Ramapo school board are anti-Semitic. This is ridiculous. The authors say that the legislation is not about acting against the interests of one group, but “acting to make sure that the civil rights of a community of overwhelmingly low-income minority children are not denied and that their constitutional right to a sound basic education is enforced.”

The legislature must act by June 17, when the session ends, or nothing will happen, and the minority children in the East Ramapo district will continue to be denied their right to equal opportunity in education.

The editorial board of the Albany Times-Union explains the economics behind Governor Cuomo’s proposal for “Education Tax Credits.”

 

It is a voucher plan with a different name, usually offered by rightwing Republicans, not Democrats who claim to be progressive.

 

The rhetoric is about “parental choice,” but the big beneficiaries would be wealthy donors to private and religious schools.

 

For those who support private and parochial education systems, with a true spirit of generosity, we say good for them. But tax revenue shouldn’t be diverted away from state coffers – which is what tax credits end up doing – so more money makes its way to private schools.

 

 

One controversial part of the bill includes access to tax credits –75 percent of any gift up to $1 million – for donors. The pool of money for the tax credits is limited; the dollars would be doled out on a first-come, first-served basis. Large corporations with fancy accounting firms can quickly grab the tax credits, and mom-and-pop donors would likely be left wanting.

 

 

Especially for high-income corporations, a tax credit is exponentially more valuable than the current tax deductions available for charitable giving to nonprofit institutions, including private or parochial schools.

 

 

There’s a big difference between a tax deduction and a tax credit: A tax deduction reduces your taxable income, so your taxes are based on a lower amount; a tax credit comes off your tax liability, so it’s cut off the bottom line of what you owe in taxes….

 

 

A similar education tax credit bill failed to pass last year, and the year before, for good reason. It’s a thinly disguised voucher system that’s being touted as “fair” even as the state continues to use out-of-whack funding formulas to provide constitutionally mandated support for public schools, and to squelch on past funding owed to districts across New York.

 

 

Regardless of Cuomo’s best efforts to push “options” to public education and weaken his newest political nemesis, public-school teachers, the state’s Constitutional mandate continues to be the financial support of a public school system, with state funding of specific services provided to private schools. Not the other way around.

 

 

 

 

 

Bruce Lederman, an attorney acting on behalf of his wife, experienced elementary school teacher Sheri Lederman, filed suit to challenge the state’s teacher evaluation system. The New York State Education Department sought to have the case thrown out. Today, the New York Supreme Court ruled that the lawsuit can go forward. Good for the Ledermans!

From Bruce Lederman:

The NY Supreme Court has denied a motion by the NY Education Department to dismiss the Lederman v. King lawsuit, in which an 18 year veteran Great Neck teacher has challenged a rating of “ineffective” based upon a growth score of 1 out of 20 points, even though her students performed exceptionally well on standardized tests.

This means that the NY Education Department must now answer to a Judge and explain why a rating which is irrational by any reasonable standard should be permitted to remain. The NY Education Department argued that Sheri Lederman lacked standing to challenge an “ineffective” rating on her growth score since her overall rating was still effective and she was not fired. A judge disagreed and determined that an ineffective rating on a growth score is an injury which she is entitled to challenge in Court.

Now, Sheri will have her day in Court. A hearing will likely be scheduled in August.

In an article in Long Island Business News, three members of the New York State Board of Regents criticized the state tests, on which 70% of the state’s students failed to meet “proficiency.” They said, the students didn’t fail, the tests failed. The tests have questions that are above the students’ understanding, there is not enough time to finish, they have questions that are confusing and intended to lure students to the wrong answer.

Regent Kathleen Cashin, an experienced educator, said the tests may be neither valid nor reliable. Regent Judith Johnson, an experienced educator, said that students are fearful that their teachers will be fired if they do poorly on the tests.

Members of the Board of Regents at their meeting last Monday said the tests, due to poor design and process, may be doing damage. Rather than setting high standards, they may simply be failing to measure education, progress and skills.
“I’ve heard horror stories that, as I said to teachers, we did not hear in previous years,” Regent Judith Johnson said. “We’ve been testing forever. There are new stories that are coming out in greater numbers than ever before.
She said students are worried their teachers will be fired, if and when they do poorly on these tests – raising the stakes even higher than anticipated.
“How do we convert this notion that children have now acquired that their teachers’ livelihood depends on children’s performance in a classroom?” Johnson said, referring to the state’s comments regarding the use of results.”

Ken Wagner of the state education department defended the tests.

He said:

“He also suffers over the pain some students feel.
“If there’s anything I struggle with around assessments, it is the notion that students are crying or getting sick over the idea of taking tests,” he said. “That is s antithetical to my philosophy of how to work with children and to my assessment about what assessments are supposed to do.”
Wagner said the tests themselves are not necessarily the source of this stress, but rather the perception of them as an unrelenting and difficult master.
“It’s just an opportunity, an opportunity for them to come to the testing moment and show us what they can do and what they can’t yet do,” he said, “so the adults can help figure out how to move them from point A to point B.”

Regent Betty Rosa, an experienced educator, “said that these tests, far from being rigorous, fail to measure progress, but do damage by creating a pervasive aura of perceived failure – when the tests themselves may be what are failing.

The exams have become a failure factory, finding 70 percent of students falling short of what the test maker describes as the acceptable standard.
“At the end of it, try to pick them up. Tell them, ‘Don’t worry. You failed. But don’t worry. Next year you’ll have another opportunity,” Rosa said. “I think it’s a disservice. I think we are not being honest. I think we are not facing reality.”
Read more: http://libn.com/2015/05/26/reading-writing-and-reality-regents-assail-testing-rhetoric/#ixzz3biOGqHOi

A group of education leaders in New York have drafted an appeal to suspend implementation of the “Education Transformation Act of 2015″ and to convene a panel of educators and educational experts to design a research-based teacher evaluation system.

 

They hope to get 10,000 signatures. They have gathered nearly half that number. If you are a New Yorker, please sign so the Legislature and the Regents will begin the process of revising a truly terrible program that is guaranteed to demoralize teachers, discourage students, and produce more teaching to the test.

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