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Friday, January 9, 2015

Cuomo And Tisch Double Down On Test-Based Evaluations As The Insanity Of APPR Goes National

Here is the best pushback against the coming reform effort from Governor Andrew Cuomo and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch - the story of Sheri Lederman, a teacher declared ineffective on New York's APPR teacher evaluation system despite her students exceeding state averages on their state tests.

Lederman's story has gone national and makes it to The Atlantic, via The Hechinger Report:

Following a statewide ranking system put into place in 2012, for the first time 20 percent of her evaluation score was tied to local tests and 20 percent was based on whether students progressed on state tests administered every spring. The rest of the rating was based on classroom evaluations. Depending on the final percentage, teachers in New York receive ratings of highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective. Teachers who receive ineffective ratings for two consecutive years may face an expedited dismissal process.

The same year the new test-based evaluations went into effect, New York State launched the Common Core State Standards, which aim to deepen critical thinking and enhance problem-solving skills. And along with the new standards came much more difficult tests, which sent student test scores plummeting.

This was a problem for teachers now dependent on good scores to achieve a rating that didn’t also put their job in jeopardy.

Lederman was an early believer in the Common Core. With a doctorate in human development and educational psychology, she was drawn to the idea that students in different states would possess a similar knowledge base and skill set across an array of different subject areas. But the concurrent rollout of new standards on top of harder tests, not to mention the addition of a high-stakes teacher evaluation system, has more than soured her on the new standards.

Among educators, Lederman is hardly alone in her belief that that the one-two punch of Common Core and new test-based accountability systems is too much to handle and leaves teachers — and students — overwhelmed.

At first Lederman was fine. Nearly 70 percent of Lederman’s fourth-grade students met or exceeded reading and math standards on the new Common Core tests, far above the state average. With a perfect score on her classroom observations and local district tests, she easily achieved an effective rating.

But this year, the state awarded her only 1 out of 20 possible points on the state test ranking, because a new class of students didn’t do significantly better than her group from the year before. Instead, they dropped two percentage points in reading and increased slightly in math. Her 18 students far surpassed state averages in both subjects (often by more than double), and she once again did well on the district scores, but not well enough to overcome the low score on the state portion of the evaluation.

So, Lederman did what any frustrated educator, armed with a litigator spouse, would do. In late October, she filed a lawsuit against the New York State Education Department. The lawsuit alleges that such metrics punish rather than reward excellence, with educators whose students outperform state averages unable to show sufficient progress from year to year. A hearing is scheduled for March 20.

 Lederman’s lawsuit is one part of a major backlash that’s erupted in the last year against both teacher evaluations and the Common Core. The backlash has become mainstream, no longer relegated to teachers and administrators, and has fueled legislation and multiple lawsuits aimed at dialing back the new policies.

Lederman's story can be easily summed up into this bar graph:

The Hechinger Article attempts to rewrite the history of the Common Core and test-based teacher evaluations by making believe they weren't meant to be implemented at the same time - they were.

The Common Core and test-based teacher evaluations were part of a Shock and Awe education policy to scare parents into believing their children's teachers and schools were failing and the public education system was in need of dramatic reform.

The Board of Regents and NYSED purposely set the CCSS test scores so that 70% of students would "fail" them in the hope that parents around the state would rise up and demand dramatic reform of the public education system.

It didn't happen - parents instead rose up against the Common Core and the Common Core tests, with the state educrats getting earfuls wherever they went for their Common Core town halls.

As a result of the parent backlash, Common Core supporter Andrew Cuomo had to agree to a statewide slowdown on using the CCSS test scores for promotion decisions for students.

But now he and his compatriot in education reform, Regents Chancellor Tisch, are pointing to the "failure" rate on the Common Core tests and the "effective" and "highly effective" ratings of teachers on the APPR evaluation system and saying the two should look similar.

Why should 70% of students be "failing" their tests while 90%+ of teachers are deemed "effective" or "highly effective" by the APPR evaluation system goes their argument?

On the face of it, that argument can sound reasonable to people outside the system - until you see a story like Sheri Lederman's that exposes the APPR system as a sham.

How could a teacher whose students performed so well on their state tests be declared "ineffective" by APPR?

Cuomo and Tisch are going to demand that APPR be revised so that 40% of a teacher's evaluations are linked to the state tests.

They are going to demand that any teacher who comes up ineffective on that 40% must be declared ineffective overall.

And they are going to demand that any teacher rated ineffective two years running be removed from the classroom and slated for firing by her/his district.

As The Hechinger article makes clear, other states are slowing down tying test scores to teacher evals for fear of the backlash that unfair evaluations will cause among teachers and parents.

But not Andrew Cuomo's New York State - he's all in on test-based teacher evaluations, saying publicly that APPR done right will be an "objective" way to assess teacher effectiveness.

The big problem he's got is Sheri Lederman and other teachers like her - well-respected teachers, good teachers - who are getting unfairly dinged by the APPR teacher evaluation system as currently constituted and will get it even worse if Cuomo and Tisch get the "reforms" they want.

That bar graph exposes the Cuomo and Tisch evaluation system as the sham it is, as will the lawsuits that Lederman and other teachers file against the state.

Teacher evaluations, particularly the way the merry men and women in reform are developing them these days, are complicated things, but there's nothing complicated about Sheri Lederman's story.

She's gotten screwed by the system and now she's got a case winding through the courts to prove it.


  1. This was a problem for teachers now dependent on good scores to achieve a rating that didn’t also put their job in jeopardy.

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  2. I hope Ledermans story goes VIRAL when the courts rule in her favor