EDUCATION: RCSD submits new evaluation plan


The latest evolution in teacher evaluations ironed out between the Rochester Teachers Association and the city school district is extremely complex. And it’s hard to tell if it will provide much clarity about teacher performance.

“It makes a bad system less bad,” says RTA President Adam Urbanski.

But failure to reach agreement to implement the state’s Annual Professional Performance Review law would have put $40 million in funding and more than 400 teacher positions at risk in the 2012-2013 school year, he says.

In a July 6 letter to RTA members, Urbanski says that the APPR “is neither our idea nor a good law.”

The toughest negotiations between the RTA and the Rochester school district were over the impact of student absenteeism on teacher evaluations.

New York State United Teachers, the state’s largest union, has argued for months that in a fair evaluation system, teachers can’t be held accountable for students who haven’t been in school at least 80 percent of the year. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, they say, that those students aren’t likely to pass state tests.

The latest plan, which still has to be approved by the State Education Department, addresses some of the union’s concerns. The APPR is basically divided into three main components, with 20 percent of the evaluation based on how students perform on standardized state tests. The state has not indicated that adjustments will be made to this portion of the APPR, Urbanski says, regardless of a student’s attendance record.

But another 20 percent of the evaluation is based on tests used at the local level. The RTA and the district have agreed on a set of formulas that will adjust the teacher’s evaluation in proportion to the student’s attendance and other issues.

The formulas do not alter students’ test scores. But they do factor in student attendance, poverty level, English language skills, and special education classification when measuring teacher performance against test scores.

The local tests will also be what educators call “authentic and performance-based.” Unlike multiple choice tests, which are designed to test the student’s ability to find correct answers to questions, authentic assessment examines whether the student understands how to use the information.

For example, instead of asking a kindergarten student to mark the picture of a shoe tied correctly, the student might be asked to tie a shoe, Urbanski says. The latter, according to some educators, provides a deeper understanding of the student’s skills.

The remaining 60 percent of the APPR is based on observations of teacher performance. And teachers have a say in how this portion will be conducted. They can choose to have their supervisor, typically the school principal or vice principal, evaluate and score them. A second option is to split the evaluation between a supervisor and a master teacher. This would allow a teacher to be observed by another teacher who is highly skilled in the same subject area.

The third option is to split the evaluation with a supervisor, and for the remaining portion, a teacher can work as part of a team of teachers on a special project. The entire team, not the individual teacher, would be evaluated on the success of the project.

Teachers would also be required to work with teachers and parents in their schools to come up with a plan to reduce student absenteeism.

The average absenteeism rate for the district last year was about 10 percent, Urbanski says. “But some schools have much higher absentee rates and other schools have lower rates,” he says.



  1. More than likely, this entire debacle will turn out to be nothing more or less than another big, political con-game — an unfortunate distraction away from critically important issues that really do matter relative to the possibility of widespread, fundamental change and academic improvement for our students.

    No one, and I do mean no one (not the Governor, nor the Legislature, Commissioner of Education, Board of Regents, parent “leaders,” unions or anyone else has put forth any thing that even resembles a logical, coherent explanation regarding the method by which a “new” evaluation system will somehow magical translate into widespread academic improvement for students. The whole idea is simply ludicrous. I guarantee (without hesitation) that in 5 or 6, or 7 or 8 years from now — we will look back, and necessarily conclude that the “new” evaluation system (in and of itself) has not been any more meaningful or effective than the old.

    If the pervasive, urban education crisis revolved mainly around an evaluation system – – – the one currently used in the Rochester City School District (if properly and consistently implemented) would be more than adequate.

    The real, objective truth of the matter is that there are so many deep-seated issues and problems faced by huge numbers of urban students (not only in Rochester and other parts of New York, but throughout this thoroughly racist, nation-state) — that it’s going to take far more than tinkering around the edges and silly notions about evaluating people — in order to effectively address the crisis, which in Dr. Jonathan Kozol’s words represents “The Shame of the Nation.”

    In fact, many are unequivocally convinced that nothing less than a full-fledged movement (focused, consistent, constant cooperative, collaborative activities/action by substantial numbers of parents, grandparents, guardians, students, educators, activists, politicians, including Board members and superintendents, and anyone else who is serious about widespread change and improvement), which must center around agreed-upon, specific, concrete, measurable goals, strategies and tactics. All else is merely rhetoric and noise.

    The true essence of the recently approved, paper-tiger, so-called :”state-wide evaluation system for New York teachers was summed up perfectly by Assemblyman Joel Miller, who was quoted by one news source as having said that “the bill was pointless. He said he didn’t think the evaluations would provide much valuable information. He pointed out that the evaluation standards haven’t even been finalized. The evaluations are required to be in place for the coming school year. I doubt if there’s a single person in this room [the New York Sate Legislative chambers] right now that believes that the system, which still hasn’t been described because it doesn’t exist yet, will produce data that is worth knowing, Miller said.”

    I just hope that parents, particularly those whose children are suffering the most, won’t fall for the o-kee-doke — won’t end up being bamboozled and hoodwinked into believing that the so-called “new” evaluation system represents some type of magical panacea for change and progress. It clearly does not.

  2. I could not have said it better, myself, walkthewalk1.

    This “reform” is pointed in the wrong direction. If the results of the East High experiment this year were analyzed properly, they would say the same thing. East High teachers were offered financial compensation if test scores and graduation rates went up… they didn’t. I am quite certain that the teachers were working their tails off to try to earn that extra cash. However, they were teaching the same students (who were not offered compensation).

    Every reform aimed at teachers, administrators, or anyone else in the school building is wasted energy. However, it’s far easier to do that than to do the things that will actually make a change: end social promotions, improve the living conditions in neighborhoods, provide a regional environment that creates viable jobs at living wages for people who do not have a college education.

    Unfortunately, some very good teachers will lose their jobs for quite invalid reasons before this new system collapses of its own weight. (It’s unwieldy and takes too much valuable time away from administrators doing the work they’re supposed to be doing – keeping schools running as smoothly as possible.)

    Reforms NEED to be directed at the students, their parents and environments if they are going to have real, tangible results. Reforms aimed at teachers will not.

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