Preliminary APPR Regulations

The Board of Regents has released their preliminary recommendations for the New APPR regulations. Unless the bills currently in the Senate or Assembly go through, the final draft of these regulations are due June 30th and must be put into place by November 15th.

I don’t have a full summary yet, but you can see the full presentation here.

Some quick points:

  • It requires two observations of at least 20 minutes in duration for un-tenured teachers or teachers who were previously low rated.
  • Observations for tenured teachers who were previously rated effective must be at least 10 minutes in duration 
  • At least one observation must be unanounced
  • It sets the “outside evaluator” portion of the observation component at 20%
  • Observations can be live or via video (live or recorded)

Read more about it from Capital New York, and read NYSUT’s response here.


New Bills in the Assembly and Senate

We previously mentioned a senate bill introduced by John Flanagan that is ostensibly designed to undo some of the April 1st education law, but is actually useless, distracting, and potentially damaging

Another bill, A7303, being promoted by Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Cathy Nolan, goes a bit further, but does it go far enough? 

You can read the text of the bill here, but the highlights are:

  • It pushes the deadline for the Regents to finalize APPR regulations to November 15th
  • It pushes the deadline for districts to revise their APPR plans to the following year.
  • It separates state aid from approval of APPR plans
  • It requires more test questions to be released
  • It would require the formation of a committee to insure that test questions are grade level appropriate and appropriately measure the standards
  • It makes the outside evaluator optional rather than required.*

These are all positive things. And NYSUT has endorsed the bill, saying it “takes a significant step toward protecting students by reducing inappropriate state testing while recognizing that teacher evaluations must be fair and objective.”

But critics of the bill, such as this parent and blogger, point out that the bill does nothing to actually reduce testing, and doesn’t fix, but simply pushes off, the use of VAM junk science to rate teachers. 

On the one hand, pushing the deadline back a year give more time to work toward the goal of overturning the whole thing. However, it may also be that once another year has passed, what has been put into place here will become the new normal and the fight will have shifted to staving off the next, new, even worse thing. 

Tax Cap
Getting back to newly anointed appointed State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a bill now in front of the Senate would make the tax cap permanent.

Unfortunately, polls show that a majority of New Yorkers favor the tax cap. Is this because they haven’t yet seen the incredibly corrosive damage that this will do to the public school system once it’s been in place for a few years (especially if inflation heats up in the future)? Or do they just not care? Probably a combination of the two.

* None of the articles I’ve read mention that this law would make the outside evaluators optional, but that’s what I’m reading from section 3, lines 34-45

Off With Their Heads! (But first sharpen the blade)

Merryl Tisch has earned some positive press for suggesting that she’d like to delay implementation of the new evaluation system. While this is a positive step, let’s put it in perspective:  this isn’t a stay of execution to figure out if the prisoner is actually innocent, it’s a postponement to make sure that the guillotine is functioning properly.

The Facts
The new education law passed on April 1st, includes a provision that all districts must submit revised APPR plans by November 15th or lose state funding. Two weeks ago, Tisch expressed concern that it is unrealistic for school districts to have new plans done by that date. Initially it was stated that extending this deadline would require legislative change, and the Governor’s office insisted they would not budge. 
Earlier this week, Tisch took it a step further, saying she was directing the State Ed Department to find a solution to extend the deadline to the following September. The response from the Governor’s office was that doing so “would be disregarding the law.” They acknowledged that there is a “a hardship exemption for districts that can’t get the evaluations in place by the deadline,”  but insist that it is supposed to be the “exception, not the rule.”
Ultimately, this will come down to a bit of a power struggle between the Governor’s office and the Regents and the definition of what “hardship” means. 
It certainly is a good thing if the deadline is extended globally. As it stands, districts will need to work over the Summer and into the first 10 weeks of school completely re-writing APPR plans, trying to make them fair and reasonable while fitting within the criteria established by the new laws and whatever guidelines the Regents produces by July 1st. Having the extra time will help. A global extension will also allow for more time for push back against the legislature in the hopes that they will find the courage to fix what they’ve done.
If the extension is only provided to districts that can prove hardship (regardless of generously hardship is applied), then it still causes a tremendous drain on everyone, as districts will have to assume the deadline is in place until hearing otherwise. 
It’s important to note that this only applies to the creation of a new APPR plan, not the education laws in general. In other words, if extensions are given, districts will use the APPR plans they have in place, but the new regulations regarding tenure and due process will still go into effect. 
Everyone has a different opinion about what’s behind this. It’s a power struggle, it’s a sign that Tisch is giving in to pressure, or it’s just theater designed to provide a distraction. One thing it is NOT is an indication that Tisch is starting to soften in her anti-public school stance. We can’t forget that nearly all of the ideas in the new laws reflect what was in her letter. 
Tisch is clearly not trying to delay the enactment of these harsh regulations because they’re bad for public education. Far more likely, she is driven by a fear that Cuomo’s haste in pushing the ideas too quickly will cause them to fail, ruining her plans and, when Cuomo throws her under the bus, destroying her legacy.