On Mucking It Up

Yesterday, I had the questionable pleasure of sitting in a meeting at District Office, wherein the most recent thoughts from the state regarding changes to the evaluation process for teachers (and Principals, though we focused mostly on teachers).  These guidelines are still being developed, but the state feels they are far enough along to release an FAQ regarding what they think will be the process.  

The discussion was very interesting, and incredibly frustrating.  All of the later came from the document linked above, and the fact that a room full of teachers and administrators was at a total loss as to how things are going to work in this brave new world.  Here, for you, are the highlights:

  • 20% of the new annual evaluation will be computed by the state.  In the case of those of us who teach subjects that culminate in a Regents exam, this will be determined by taking our scores and comparing us to other, similar situations in the district.  From this comparison, according to formulae and prognostications that are not, to my knowledge, in the public domain, the state will determine what portion of that 20% we should be awarded.  The state is still deciding how to determine this 20% for teachers who teach classes that do not end in a Regents.
  • 20% of the new annual evaluation will be computed by the district.  This will be based on locally-established measures of student growth, though the determination of just how much growth has occurred during a year will be accomplished by rubrics that the state is currently deciding who to pay to create.  Our district is proposing the administration of an exam on day one, followed by the midterm at mid-year, and culminating with a final.  
  • The remaining 60% will be determined through the completion of a new Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR).  I can’t find an online copy to link to here, but I can tell you that the new version is a 21-page checklist (modeled on the "common core" state standards) that replaces the current 1-page checklist that my district uses. 
  • The state is requiring implementation of this process for all core-subject area teachers in grades 4-8 starting in 2011-2012, but recommends implementation for all levels during that year, so that’s what we are looking to do.

I don’t think it takes too much imagination to understand just how stupid this plan is.  I’ll withhold judgement on the magic formulae that are used to calculate my effectiveness until I see them in action, but I have a hard time believing that any formula is going to do the job the state thinks this one will do.  I also have to think that moving to a 21-page end-of-year evaluation is going to be a tremendous headache for administrators.  Ours are already overburdened with responsibilities.  Throwing this on the pile just seems insulting (especially when we consider the fact that the governor is in the process of capping taxes and limiting salaries to no more than he makes).  How this is going to bring the kinds of folks in to school administration and teaching who are going to move the ball forward is a bit beyone me, but I’m clearly not of a mind that can understand these kinds of ideas about school improvement.

All of this comes from an attempt by New York to comply with regulations developed by the federal Department of Education to participate in their “competitive” process to receive money from the “Race to The Top” program.  Money that we didn’t particularly receive.  So now the state finds itself in a position of shrinking budgets, diminishing enthusiasm for the profession among the professionals who staff our schools, and now spending time and money on formulae and rubrics to be in compliance with a program that we are barely participating in.  Stay classy, State Ed.

Unsurprisingly, Rick Santorum is not acceptable.