Federal Legislative Update

As reported a few weeks ago, The Senate Education Panel unanimously approved a re-write of the ESEA, to be known as the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015. Some of the highlights of the bill are that is eliminates AYP (annual yearly progress) requirements as well as federal requirements that teacher evaluations be tied to test scores and that it specifically limits the role of the Secretary of Education in dictating local education policy, It does, however, maintain the mandate for annual testing in grades 3-8.

For a much more detailed (and I mean MUCH more detailed) summary, please this post (and the links included) on Mercedes Schneider’s Blog.

There are flaws in this bill, but it is a vast improvement over NCLB and Race to the Top, Help support it by sending a letter to your Senator and Representative using this form.


NY Legislative Updates

Legislation proposed by Senator John Flanagan and Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan would make some changes to the recently passed education laws. But while these legislators (and various journalists) assert that the changes are significant, the fact is that the bill is little more than a diversion to make it appear that they are responding to the outcry from voters who feel betrayed by their approval of the budget, while not actually accomplishing very much.

Some of the positives of the bill include releasing more test questions and answers, and releasing them sooner  – as well as a requirement that NYSED investigate the quality of state administered tests. A few steps in the right direction, but not really very meaningful.

But what’s being talked about most is that the bill would extend the deadlines for the Regents to adopt regulations and for school districts to revise their APPR plans based on those new regulations (currently July 1, and November 15 respectively). One good thing about this is that it would allow for a public comment period, which the current schedule does not. However, while it adds as much as 45 days to the Regents’ schedule, it only pushes back the deadline for schools by one month, effectively giving schools even less time to develop new plans. It also could have the effect of reducing the push for extending the deadline to September 2016.

What is most dangerous about this bill is it leaves intact all of the detrimental changes brought about by the new laws but gives the appearance that problems are being fixed. It gives cover to politicians, while attempting to divide parent-teacher coalitions.

Please let your legislators know that they should reject “S5124-2015” and instead pass real legislation that undoes the damage inflicted by the Governor’s anti-public school budget.

To make it simple, you can use this form. The form letter that is there does not specifically mention S5124-2015, but you can easily add that in.

If you’d rather call or write a letter on your own, remember that you can find contact info for our elected officials on our political action page.

Suggestions for APPR Comments

Per the education laws passed last month, NYSED is required to solicit public input regarding the new regulations they are crafting for the the teacher evaluation system. They have set up an email address specifically for this purpose: eval2015@nysed.gov.  It is crucial that each and every one of us take the time to respond and do so within the next day or two (See this post for more detail on why).

I was asked to provide some thoughts on possible ways to frame responses. With the usual caveat that everyone should write whatever they personally believe, I’ve included both topline talking points and a sample longer response (see below). Please feel free to use these as a starting point, cut and paste as you see fit, or write whatever your feel.

What is up for review?
The first thing to keep in mind is that there is a very limited scope of what NYSED has been given charge of. Their work will only address items related to APPR; Issues such as tenure, due process, reducing testing, etc. are not part of this discussion. Even within that, they have only limited discretion. Most aspects of the plan are set in stone:
Teachers must be evaluated based on the specific “matrix model” which bases a teacher’s rating on two factors: student performance and observations. NYSED does not have authority to change this matrix.

  • The use of outside evaluators is mandated. NYSED will be deciding what weight outside evaluators will have versus local administrators.
  • NYSED will be developing the observation rubric, but is prohibited from including “lesson plans, artifacts of teacher practice, and student portfolios; instruments of parent or student feedback; or use of professional goal-setting.”
  • This document from NYSED gives more background and details about the range of what they will be deciding

What to Write: Talking points

(courtesy of Emily Puccio, RCFA)

  • Teacher evaluation plans should be determined by local school boards in collaboration with the collective bargaining unit representing the teachers in the district
  • Evaluations should be conducted by district personnel with supervisory responsibilities for the teacher
  • Evaluations should not be based on standardized testing, or any other arbitrary or third-party-developed mechanisms
  • NYSED’s role should be limited to that of providing guidelines,but certainly not forcing mandates or developing any “one-size-fits-all” approach – NYS’s school districts are as varied as our student populations

What to Write  Sample response

To Whom it May Concern,

As a parent and a teacher, I have great concerns about the changes being made to the teacher evaluation system. I appreciate the opportunity to offer the following comments and am hopeful that you will take them into consideration as you proceed.

To begin, I recognize that you do have not control over certain elements, such as the use of outside evaluators, the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers, and the level of emphasis given to those tests. Nonetheless, it is critical that you do two things. First, you need to speak out loudly against the usurping of your authority and the micromanagement of your duties – especially when the ideas being forced upon you are bad ones. Second, within the confines of the law, you must work to mitigate the required elements that you know are counter to the best interests of education in New York and are opposed by the majority of New Yorkers.

If you are interested in getting an honest, authentic measure of how well teachers are performing, you cannot ignore the planning that they do and the physical work produced by students. It is incumbent upon you to find a way, within the restrictions given, to address this.

Effective teaching comprises a huge variety of ideas, strategies, tactics, and methods that are applied differently day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute. Any observation rubric must recognize this and not penalize teachers for choosing to – or choosing not to – use a particular element or aspect of good teaching that does not apply in a particular lesson.

And, because the full breadth of what takes place in a classroom to help grow well-rounded, inquisitive, and self-directed learners does not always involve the teacher at the front of the classroom, the use of unannounced observations should be minimized. If observers require evidence of specific teaching skills or use of particular strategies, etc., teachers must know in advance in order to insure that observers are will be in on days when those elements will be used in authentic contexts.

Many of the decisions made and actions taken by a teacher, as well as the reactions and responses from students, are based on factors that may not be observable during a given lesson, but require deeper knowledge and understanding of the individual students and classes involved as well as other factors that might impact the class or school. As such, it is very difficult for a person without intimate knowledge of the children, the class, the teacher, and the school, to accurately judge what the teacher is doing and why they are doing it. Therefore, it is essential that observations by local administrators be given substantially greater weight than those done by outside evaluators.

Thank you,


What else you can do

  • Pass this information on to EVERYONE. Don’t just ask colleagues, friends, family to write – implore, beg, and insist that they do it.
  • If you’ve already written but then think of something else to say, write another email.
  • In addition to sending an email to the above address, you can also write to Regent Tilles, who is the Regent for our area, and send the same message. 

Lorber Hall, Room 211
LIU Post
720 Northern Blvd. 
Brookville, NY 11548-1300

Email: Regent.Tilles@nysed.gov
Phone: 516-364-2533

Everyone Must Give Input On APPR

Everyone MUST take a few minutes and send an email to NYSED about the new APPR regulations. Do it today.

The budget passed on April 1st included significant changes to how teachers are evaluated. The framework and various details were specifically dictated, while certain specifics were delegated to the Board of Regents / State Ed Department (NYSED). The law directs the Board of Regents to solicit input from experts and collect public comments and recommendations, and have new regulations adopted by June 30th. School districts must have new plans approved by NYSED by November 15th or lose state aid. 
Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch expressed concerns about the ability of districts to get this done on time and directed NYSED to find a solution for extending the deadline until the following school year. The Governor’s office acknowledged that exemptions for hardship are allowed, but says that this should be the exception, not the rule. This is still up in the air.
Why We Must Act Now
As directed, NYSED is seeking input on the new regulations. They have set up a dedicated email address for this purpose (eval2015@nysed.gov). It is essential that everyone take advantage of this immediately, for three important reasons.
  • NYSED has convened a summit on May 7th to discuss the issue. They have assembled a team of experts to advise, and it doesn’t look good. While there are some in that group who have opposed these types of reforms, the majority favor the heavy use of test scores for evaluations. We need to get our message across to add more balance.
  • Because of the short timeframe for producing these regulations, the usual 45-day public comment period is beingwaived. Once the regulations are released, it will be too late to give feedback, so the time is now.
  • If what they produce is a travesty, we want to be able to say they ignored our input. WE DO NOT WANT them to be able to say they received input from only a small percentage of teachers.
I was asked to give some suggestions on how to frame responses, and have posted that here.

Kudos to Josh and RampShot

Two years ago, Miller Ave P.E. teacher Josh Bonventre came up with the idea for a new outdoor game – sort of in the vein of  corn hole or Kan Jam, but definitely something unique. Last year, Josh and a partner got the game, called RampShot, into a crowd funding project contest with A&E, where it was selected as startup company to support, and the game has started to take off.

Most recently, RampShot received some fantastic news. The game was named one of the top ten new sporting good products by the National Sporting Goods Association. This is a tremendous honor and we hope you will join us in congratulating Josh on this accomplishment.  

To learn more about the game, you can visit the website

This is not intended as an ad for the game, but it is such a great thing to be able to use the SWRTA website to share positive news about one of own and take a short break from the usual stuff.

LI Spring Sports Heroes Video Challenge – Voting Ends 8PM tonight

The following is re-posted from SWR Weekly’s Facebook Page. We’ve supported the event, we support the cause, so let’s support their work on this video. Do it now, as voting ends at 8PM tonight (Sunday 5/3):
URGENT! Please Re-Share – SWR is now in 6th place for the finals on voting for our Lax Out Cancer video. We have til 8pm tonight – the community with the most votes wins $3,000. We want to win that $3,000 for our 4 recipients.

Please vote now, and have your whole family, extended family, friends and co workers VOTE- If you have questions just comment here . No excuses please – Let’s win this for SWR and Kait, Harrison, Zachary and Sean

VOTE HERE:(use a desktop if you need to)