Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, November 9, 2012

How Will School Accountability Measures Be Affected By Sandy?

The NYSED has a slate of resources for school districts dealing with the consequences of Hurricane Sandy - from how to handle mold growth to how to handle the education of students made homeless by the storm.

But you know what is never mentioned?

What will happen with APPR - the new teacher evaluation system that requires 40% of a teacher's evaluation come from student test scores - now that Sandy has caused so much havoc across the state.

You know what else is never mentioned?

How the displacement of students from their school will affect the accountability measures that will be used to evaluate and grade those schools.

Many students have been displaced from their regular schools, some because their own homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm, some because the schools they attended have been damaged or destroyed.

NY 1 reports nearly 200,000 students in NYC have not returned to school since the storm.  While most NYC schools are now reopened post-Sandy (except for the 43 that were severely damaged by the storm), the NYCDOE has not been able to provide adequate transportation for students affected by the storm.

The NYCDOE is allowing students displaced from their homes by the storm to attend the nearest school to them without having to provide proof of address. 

The idea is to get these students displaced by the storm back into school as soon as possible.

But NY1 found that this decree only counts for students displaced from their homes by the storm, not students whose schools have been damaged by the storm and are currently closed.

After a NY1 reporter brought this problem to the attention of the NYCDOE, Chancellor Walcott clarified the NYCDOE policy by saying both students displaced from their homes and students whose schools are closed due to damage can attend the school nearest them.

I think Walcott's move to make things easier to get students back to school - even if it is not the school they are supposed to be attending - is a good move and good policy.

Walcott said  "As chancellor, I would never advocate for anyone to keep their child home, even one extra day. If there is a school that is open and near you, then you should be doing that, plain and simple."

I think that's an excellent policy.

But the displacement of 200,000+ students from their normal school routines is going to really wreak havoc now that the accountability measures used on schools and individual teachers are so high stakes.

It would be nice if the NYSED or the Regents would issue some guidelines about what will happen to schools affected by the storm in one of three ways

1. Losing students as a result of the storm
2. Gaining new students as a result of the storm
3. Being closed because of damage from the storm

I suspect that the NYCDOE, known for it's ruthless efficiency at closing schools and using the Teacher Data Reports to bludgeon teachers publicly in the press, will be less than thoughtful or reflective on how to handle all of this student and school displacement when it comes time to evaluate schools and teachers.

While I think we have many more pressing issues to worry about than school report cards, closures and teacher evaluations right now - namely helping students and their families who have been displaced by the storm rebuild their homes and their lives - you can bet the geniuses at the NYCDOE, the NYSED and the Regents have not put the accountability measures on the back burner.

This is Mayor Bloomberg's last full year in office and he plans on going out in a blaze of glory when it comes to school closures.

Rumor has it 60 schools are slated for closure this year.  Many of these will be replaced by new charter schools next year.

In addition, this is NYSED Commissioner John King's first year where he can hold individual teachers accountable using value-added measurements of student test scores via the APPR teacher evaluation system.

You can bet he is not going to let the opportunity pass to use this "tool" to promote his education agenda.

The same goes for Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch.

Given that both of these officials refused to acknowledge how last year's error-riddled 4th-8th grade Pearson tests rendered the high stakes accountability measures on teachers and schools seriously flawed, I wouldn't expect them to view the chaos caused by Sandy as much of a problem in the accountability regime either.

It would be nice if we could get some clarification on how Sandy will affect schools and teachers, however.

I lost five days of teaching.

That's five fewer days preparing for the ELA Regents exam - one of two exams that mean the difference between keeping my school open or seeing it close and reopen as something else.

What about those schools that are closed longer?

What about the students who are still out of school and may not return for weeks or months?

What about the schools that take in students displaced by the storm?

What about the schools that lose students displaced by the storm?

How will the NYSED, the Regents and the NYCDOE handle the accountability measures that are being affected by the chaos in the system?

As I said earlier, it would be nice to not have to worry about this stuff given the more elemental problems facing New York City residents these days.

But given the people in power and their ruthlessness in carrying out their education agenda no matter what, I think it behooves us to ask these questions right now.


  1. Albany will be voting soon for school in session during either the Winter and/or Easter break to make up instructional time.

  2. And in places like Rockaway, with no public transportation (A train down like forever) and buses stop running at 4:30 (not safe for bus drivers in the dark), how are students supposed to get to schools closest to them?
    Maybe in the Five Towns (they already got their electricity back).