The Education Transformation Act passed in 2015 requires that teachers be evaluated by student growth scores in conjunction with classroom observations. In order to decouple test scores from the teacher evaluation plan (referred to here as APPR or 3012-d), the law must be changed. While we are currently under a moratorium on the use of state test scores in evaluations, once the moratorium ends teachers MUST be evaluated using student growth scores derived from volatile value-added modeling (VAM). Again, this cannot be changed without a change to the law.
On March 6th and 7th, teachers will descend on Albany as part of Committee of 100, NYSUT’s annual lobbying event. Teachers will visit with lawmakers and share stories from the frontline in an effort to lobby legislators to support important initiatives and enact critical changes that will benefit NYSUT members and their professions.
Every year NYSUT leadership distributes lobbying materials to be distributed to lawmakers and used as talking points by members. Notably absent from the 2016 talking points were any suggestions that teachers urge lawmakers to decouple test scores from teacher evaluations. This year, many hoped that NYSUT leaders would take a stronger stand against the test based teacher evaluation system, especially as the incumbent NYSUT leaders running for re-election are currently campaigning on their commitment to “fight to completely eliminate ties between testing and APPR, permanently decoupling all testing from teacher evaluation ratings.” See The Unity Slate’s position on APPR/3012d:
Given the circumstances, it was surprising to see that not only is NYSUT’s legislative leadership once again failing to mobilize teachers to fight the current test and punish system, they did not even bother to write new talking points. Instead they recycle last year’s weak APPR lobbying point:
In their 2017 lobbying materials for Committee of 100 NYSUT leadership urges the legislature to:
Enact any and all necessary statutory changes to New York’s laws (Ed.Law, Section 3012-d)….once the work by the Regents….is completed.
Exactly what work are they referring to?
At no time has the Board of Regents been charged with making or suggesting changes to 3012-d. A search of the minutes from every Board of Regents meeting over the past six months confirms that the Board of Regents is not engaged in any efforts to recommend statutory changes to 3012-d. In order to confirm and triple check this I contacted the Board of Regents directly.
These statutory changes should conform with the 21 recommendations made by the Common Core Task Force.
Given the context of this statement and the heading it falls under, it would seem that NYSUT is implying that there is something in the 21 Task Force recommendations that addresses the misuse of test scores in teacher evaluations. This is not the case. The recommendation of the Task Force pertaining to teacher evaluations only suggests a temporary moratorium while new standards are rolled out and makes absolutely no mention of decoupling or even revising the way in which test scores are misused.
NYSUT leadership also refers to “groundbreaking changes in federal law” that will “delink federal funding from student test scores” and pave the way for “permanent remedies” to our broken system.
This is a reference to the Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the work of NYSED and the Board of Regents to create a new State accountability plan that conforms to the new federal law. Unlike the Race to the Top grant, ESSA does not require the use of test scores in teacher evaluations. However, ESSA has NO bearing on 3012-d as the use of test scores in teacher evaluations in New York State is based solely on the State law passed by Governor Cuomo in 2015 and is not required by any federal statutes.
This begs the question, what exactly are the current NYSUT officers running on the Unity Slate urging legislators do in order to facilitate the decoupling of test scores from teacher evaluations? The answer is simple, nothing. Absolutely nothing.
When it comes to APPR, we must urge elected officials to reject junk science by amending or repealing the Education Transformation Act and immediately ending the misuse of assessment data by decoupling student growth scores from teacher evaluations. This practice narrows the curriculum, discourages creativity in the classroom, unfairly labels excellent teachers ineffective, and discourages strong teachers from working with the most vulnerable students. I urge educators to inform lawmakers that the Board of Regents has not been charged with suggesting changes to the current teacher evaluation system, nor are they currently engaged in any work that can alter, modify, or improve this broken system because this requires a change to the law, something entirely outside of their purview.
If the current NYSUT leaders running on the Unity slate do not think it is wise to advocate for a change to the law, they must be upfront about this and they must be transparent in their thinking. True leaders educate their constituency, they present the facts and allow their members to make informed decisions. True leaders say what they mean and mean what they say.
Rank and file teachers must demand the repeal of the Education Transformation now, because our profession cannot afford another wasted opportunity.