Dear Commissioner: It’s Me Again

I’ve done some more research since Monday’s post about the composite score based on guidance from the NYSED website. According to the website the,

The field guidance previously available on this page is being revised and will be reposted as soon as possible.

Luckily, Richard Iannuzzi, President, New York State United Teachers issued two guidance docs on the subject, “Setting the Record Straight: New York’s Teacher and Principal Evaluation Law” and “NYSUT and State Education Department (SED) Settlement FAQ”. As Dick says, he was personally at the table throughout the negotiations, so I’m hoping it’s good information. If you’re wondering why I don’t just sit back and wait for NYSED to issue more guidance, remember we have to implement this in the 2012-13 school year. And at RCS, we have a contract expiring June, 2012. That means I’ve got some preparation to do, need to know what I’m talking about, consider the District position, plan… you know, just generally do my job. Maybe it’s my learning style, I am analytical and I tend to over-prepare, but that clock’s ticking (Plans submitted by July 1 if possible) and I want us to make good decisions about all of this. For that, I need solid information and guidance. Now.

So here’s where I’m at since reading Mr. Iannuzzi’s guidance docs. The composite score will be 80% locally negotiated–60% for the other measures, at RCS we’ve agreed that’s evaluations and portfolio review. And 20% iReady as our locally selected student achievement measure and we don’t know yet what that local measure’s going to be for teachers other than K-8 Math and ELA.

I’ve no idea how we’ll measure this 80% to fit into a scoring band and contribute to the composite score. Will there be more guidance on how the iReady results will equal the 20 points? Or will we decide that ourselves? And here’s my point, if we negotiate that individually in districts, won’t it look very different from district to district? And if so, how will these composite scores be a fair comparison across districts? Couldn’t one district set a scoring range that indicates something like, I don’t know, if 50% of students are at grade level by the end of the school year on iReady the teacher achieves a 20/20? And could another district negotiate and set a scoring range that indicates 100% of students must be on grade level to achieve a 20/20? Now consider the evaluation tool in the same way–one district could set a range that says all teachers who achieve a 2.5 or better on the rubric receive 31 points while another sets a range that says teachers must achieve a 3.8 or better on the rubric to receive 31 points.

Doesn’t this cause you to conclude that the public use of this composite score business is lunacy? I hope Mr. Ianuzzi is right when he says  in the FAQ document,

We will take legal action in an effort to prevent the public release of APPRs, as such release would be contrary to the purposes of the APPR law.

I’m guessing he means the public release of the teacher’s composite scores not APPRs. Can you imagine the parent phone calls when they can look to see that one of our fourth grade teachers has a composite score of 88 while another has an 84 and a third has a 78—guess which teacher every parent may insist upon? This cannot happen, it will not help us to improve. But I digress, that was yesterday’s post.

What about this? How do I make good decisions in negotiating this 80% that strikes the balance between holding safe from a Teacher Improvement Plan the vast majority of our teachers who are effective, while still holding everyone accountable for greater student achievement (which we’re all working on collectively), AND that affords me the latitude to use this information effectively for the small minority of teachers who may need to be removed? How does it not become overly punitive and humiliating in one district while being a shallow farce of compliance in another? And what are we accomplishing with all of this at the end of the day?

Please note: If this is your first time reading my posts, PLEASE review previous posts, in which I’ve shown how much work we’ve done in implementing the changes from NYSED and how on board I am with aligning to the common core curriculum, giving teachers the time and skill to study data and work together to problem solve in data inquiry teams, learning the new evaluation system and in school improvement. My point? I’m not an anarchist (not completely anyway), just a district leader trying to do just that: lead in a time of change and uncertainty when people are looking to me for answers I don’t have.  I’m plugged into the network team, I talk to colleagues in two different BOCES regions and I’m not hearing the answers anywhere.  If someone’s got the answers I’m looking for or knows where to find them, please speak up.

And all of this during budget preparation season. . . but that’s another subject.

  1. Another great post. A little further north in Hamburg we are already having problems because of the points you made in your previous post about the scoring ranges. Teachers are now stressed over 1 point lost on a classroom observation. Every point counts and who knows what the state test score points will be.

  2. You are on target once again. I hate to depress you further, but yes, the composite score will be subject to FOIA. Changing the FOIA law can work, but not legal action. And don’t think for one moment that SED and NYSUT do not know that.

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