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    New York's costly experiment in test-based educator evaluation is crashing
    Ohanian Comment: Kudos to North Country
    Public Radio, not one of your affluent, totally
    corporate Public Radio stations.

    For every finger pointed at Gov Cuomo a dozen
    others should point at NYSUT. Thank you, AFT.

    By Valerie Strauss N

    On September 30, 2011, Carol Burris, then the
    award-winning principal of South Side High
    School in New York, wrote about the creation of
    a new New York State teacher and principal
    evaluation system in an Answer Sheet post
    titled, The dangers of building a plane in the air.
    That piece, one of many about the system known
    as APPR, detailed the problems with the way New
    York State education officials were designing
    and intending to implement it -- and she
    predicted that it would ultimately fail. Her
    predictions, not surprisingly, have now
    officially come true.

    This is how that 2011 post started:

    Buckle your seat belts and hold on for your
    life. Teachers and principals, welcome to APPR
    Airlines flight 2011. Your journey on the 'plane
    to be built in the air' just took off from New
    York's Albany airport.

    This description of the New York teacher and
    principal evaluation system known as APPR is not
    my critique of an incomplete and untested
    evaluation system. Rather, it is the description
    provided by the state Education Department
    itself. Across New York State, all of the school
    and district leaders who evaluate teachers are
    being pulled out of their schools for mandated,
    taxpayer-funded training in this APPR teacher
    and principal evaluation system.

    The scripted curriculum given to local trainers
    by the Education Department begins with a
    bizarre video of smiling mechanics wearing
    unopened parachutes, building an unfinished
    plane in flight--all of which the trainers liken
    to APPR, which means Annual Professional
    Performance Review. As the narrator tells us,
    'Some people like to climb mountains. I like to
    build planes--in the air.'

    It is labeled a 'funny video' on YouTube. Not a
    school leader in the room laughed. Likening a
    system that is now driving professional
    evaluations and student testing to what could
    have been an episode of the Three Stooges did
    not amuse. I felt sad. Leaders of integrity and
    courage do not let unfinished planes with
    students and teachers aboard off the ground.

    As the day progressed, we learned just how
    unfinished that plane is.

    Here is a new post about the fate of APPR
    across New York from Burris, who retired as
    principal this past June and is now the
    executive director of the nonprofit Network for
    Public Education Fund. She was named New York's
    2013 High School Principal of the Year by the
    School Administrators Association of New York
    and the National Association of Secondary School
    Principals. In 2010, she was selected as the
    2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the
    School Administrators Association of New York

    By Carol Burris

    The controversial 2015 New York teacher
    evaluation system rushed into law by Gov. Andrew
    Cuomo, will be put, for all practical purposes,
    on hold for the 2015-16 school year. According
    to report from
    North Country Public Radio, 90 percent of all
    school districts in New York State were granted
    hardship waivers by the State Education
    Department because they were unable to
    successfully negotiate new evaluation systems by
    the November 15th deadline. And so the Board of
    Regents is expected to punt the deadline still
    further into the future, making it nearly
    impossible to evaluate teachers and principals
    using the new system this school year.

    You can expect that within a week or so, the
    governor will have his new education adviser,
    Jere Hochman, draft a statement that will
    attempt to mitigate the damage. You can hear it
    now--"we need to get this right," "the Common
    Core," "parents are telling me"--everything will
    be said but this truth: that he did not listen
    to educators but rather to his reformer advisers
    and the teacher-bashing, hedge fund guys who
    financed his campaigns.

    Last year, Cuomo was in a pique because not enough
    teachers had bad ratings from his 2011
    evaluation plan. Cuomo referred to it as
    "baloney," even though he put the system in
    place. This was the same system he called "one
    of the toughest in the country" and

    After the baloney declaration, Cuomo's aide, Jim
    Malatras, asked Chancellor Merryl Tisch, how the
    law should be changed. Tisch urged the governor
    to toughen the law and increase the weight of
    test scores in teacher evaluations. Cuomo then
    held the budget hostage until the legislature

    The new law required that teachers and
    principals be evaluated by two components--one
    based on "student performance" and a second
    based on observations. This raised the weight of
    the Common Core standardized test scores to 50

    The law also mandated that at least one
    observation of the teacher or principal be done
    by an "independent" evaluator from outside the
    building. When school officials complained this
    was an unfunded mandate, the glib reply was to
    swap administrators among schools--regardless of
    whether or not they were qualified to observe
    the teacher, or had any vested interested in the
    principal's or teacher's professional growth.

    After the bill was passed, the legislature was
    bombarded with phone calls and emails from
    educators and public school parents. They called
    the new system what it was--nonsense that would
    further promote teaching to the test.

    The legislature, especially members of the
    Democratic Assembly, immediately began back-
    pedaling, claiming that test scores were not 50
    percent of the new evaluation at all. This
    further angered the education community, which
    seemed to have a far better understanding of the
    system than did the legislature that passed it.

    For New York parents, already disgusted by the
    Common Core and its excessively long and
    difficult tests, the new evaluation system was a
    last straw. Parents in New York's robust Opt Out
    movement had become increasingly vocal in
    opposition to the evaluation of teachers by test
    scores. The stress on kids was enormous as
    teachers frantically taught to the test.

    A few weeks after the new law was passed, over
    200,000 New York students in Grades 3-8 opted
    out of the Common Core exams.

    Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo who once declared
    himself the "advocate for students," saw his
    education ratings drop like a stone. The latest
    Siena poll, released in October, reports that
    only 27 percent of New Yorkers approve of the
    job he is doing to improve education.

    Chancellor Tisch, who is up for reappointment
    this coming spring, recently announced that she
    will not seek another term. Tisch has long
    promoted and championed the New York reform
    agenda, which is increasingly under attack. She
    would have faced an uphill battle if she had
    sought to maintain her position.

    In a telephone conversation last evening, Regent
    Betty Rosa told me that the Regents were "taken
    off guard" by the North Country Public Radio
    report about APPR. "We will certainly be asking
    questions at tomorrow's meeting," she said. The
    new commissioner, Mary Ellen Elia, apparently
    has not made the Regents aware of the extent of
    the waivers. Meanwhile, the Gates-funded teacher
    evaluation system that Elia put in place in
    Hillborough County, Florida has been abandoned
    due to huge cost overruns and no apparent
    beneficial results.

    In 2011, I attended an administrators' training
    in the new evaluation system. It began with a
    viewing of a bizarre video of smiling
    mechanics wearing unopened parachutes, while
    building an unfinished plane in flight. The
    video ended with the mechanics safely
    parachuting off the plane, leaving behind a
    child staring out the window.

    The state-funded trainers likened APPR to a
    plane being built in the air. One of them told
    me that he first saw the airplane video during
    his own State Education Department training. For
    a short time, it was even posted on the
    department's website.

    Four years have passed since I first saw the
    video of the plane being built in the air. At
    the time I was horrified that a Department of
    Education believed that this capricious, hastily
    designed evaluation system was amusing. David
    Steiner, who was commissioner when APPR was
    enacted, "parachuted off" shortly, returning to
    a university post. John King, commissioner
    during implementation, left earlier this year to
    join Arne Duncan at the U.S. Education
    Department. Deputy commissioners, Slentz and
    Wagner, who praised and supported APPR are also
    long gone. And now the chancellor is bailing
    this spring.

    Hundreds of millions of tax dollars from
    districts, the state, and the federal government
    have been wasted "building a plane" that never
    should have left the ground.

    New York is not alone in this folly. Over half
    of all states adopted evaluation systems that
    give student test scores an oversized role, of
    up to 50 percent in teacher evaluations. Even
    those states that have minimized tests scores
    have created enormous paperwork for teachers and
    principals, forcing them to be the collectors of
    evidence rather than the instructors of

    These tedious and ineffective teacher evaluation
    systems were funded in some school districts by
    the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and
    Duncan's Education Department coerced states to
    adopt them with Race to the Top dollars and No
    Child Left Behind waivers. But there was never
    any evidence that they would work, or serve the
    best interest of kids. It has been nothing more
    than a costly, experimental plane being flown,
    even as it was being built. It is time to send
    it to the scrap heap where it belongs.

    — Valerie Strauss & Carol Burris & Ohanian comment
    Washington Post Answer Sheet
    November 17, 2015

    Index of Data Command Force

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