Just two teachers overall deemed ‘ineffective’ in Riverhead, SWR schools

schoolsOnly two teachers in the Riverhead and Shoreham-Wading River school districts combined received “ineffective” ratings under the controversial new education evaluation systems now being implemented in public schools across New York State.

Overall results from the state-mandated annual professional performance review plans, known as APPR, were released by the education department last week. Evaluations for some teachers depended in part on how students performed on new, tougher English Language Arts and math assessments under the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

In Riverhead, the lone teacher received a low score because there “wasn’t enough data” about that teacher provided to the state, Superintendent Nancy Carney said. Of the district’s 321 teachers, Ms. Carney said 46 percent received a “highly effective” rating and 53 percent received an “effective” rating.

Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen said the state’s report reflects that the teachers evaluated have shown the utmost professionalism, because they were able to take “a badly broken system and used it to generate some healthy discussion about how to improve instruction.”

“We are improving despite a system that thwarts good teaching and student engagement in learning,” Mr. Cohen said. “That seems like a good thing, but the bottom line is that APPR has all the virtues of using an atomic bomb to open a walnut.”

Last school year, students in grades 3 through 8 took ELA and math assessments that included elements of the Common Core for the first time, and the results showed a significant drop in test scores compared to the 2011-12 school year.

The state did not release district-by-district results of the teacher evaluations. The local numbers were supplied to the News-Review by the superintendents.

The Common Core initiative primarily requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and more rigorous math to students at a younger age and is a set of national standards designed to raise the bar for classroom instruction. It’s also designed to help prepare students for college and careers upon graduating from high school.

Earlier this year, New York school districts were mandated to develop their own APPR plans or risk losing additional state aid for noncompliance.

For the most part, APPR evaluation systems rely on a combination of classroom observations, “locally bargained, locally determined objective measures” and state test scores.

Statewide, 91.5 percent of teachers were rated “highly effective” (49.7 percent) or “effective” (41.8 percent). About 4.4 percent were rated “developing,” and 1 percent was rated “ineffective.”

State education officials have come under fire from districts across New York for rolling out the more rigorous state assessments last year under the Commmon Core without allowing the time or providing the resources needed to implement a matching curriculum.

As for the evaluation systems, Mr. Cohen said he believes there are more effective ways to assess teachers’ work.

He suggests replacing the APPR programs with committees that would conduct audits to identify problems within a district and determine how the schools and its teachers are functioning.

Another solution, he said, would be to extend the current probationary period for teachers seeking tenure from three years to six years. During the first three years, teachers would have an “apprenticeship period” under the guidance of a master teacher.

Also, Mr. Cohen said, administrators should be required to teach for at least 10 years before taking on administrative duties.

Ms. Carney has said she believes the state should set aside the new student assessments and the APPR program until Common Core has been properly implemented.

State officials say the APPR will provide the additional data needed to more effectively analyze teachers’ performance relative to Common Core requirements.

New York education department commissioner John King said in a statement released last week that he believes the latest APPR results prove the new Common Core assessments “did not negatively affect teacher ratings.”

“It’s clear that teachers are rising to the challenge of teaching the Common Core,” he said. “It’s also clear that it’s time to put aside talk about a moratorium on the use of state assessments in educator evaluations and focus on ensuring all students receive the rigorous and engaging instruction that will help them to prepare for college and careers.”