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Person, Rosa deliver APPR reform bill to lawmakers


t’s been a long time coming, but the Annual Professional Performance Review fixes educators have been waiting for are within sight. On March 20, NYSUT President Melinda Person and NYSED Commissioner Betty Rosa walked from the State Education Department building to the Legislative Office Building to hand-deliver a new bill rewriting New York’s flawed teacher evaluation system. The pair met with legislative Education Committee Chairs Sen. Shelley Mayer and Assemblymember Michael Benedetto.

If the legislation is approved, as expected, the revamped APPR system would end the current requirement that student test scores be included in teacher assessments and return teacher evaluations to local control.

“For too many years we’ve lived under this onerous system that uses test scores to intimidate educators,” said Person. “We want a locally controlled system that actually supports, mentors and aids in the growth and development of our educators.”

Person thanked the union’s partners in bringing the measure to fruition, SED, the NYS Council of School Superintendents, the NYS School Boards Association, School Administrators Association of NYS, the NYS Parent Teacher Association and the Conference of Big Five School Districts. “We worked collaboratively to put this bill together and we are so proud to deliver it to lawmakers today.”

Melinda Person and Betty Rosa walking with a bill in hand with two men walking behind them
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NYSUT President Melinda Person and State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa hand-deliver to lawmakers a bill reforming the flawed APPR system.
The current test-and-punish system imposed in the 2015–16 state budget by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, substantially altered APPR, relying on student test scores on grades 3–8 English language arts and math assessments and a state-approved, one-size-fits-all teacher observation rubric to rate educators.

“It was an accountability system focused on accounting, not ability,” said Rosa, noting that the new system shifts the focus to developing and nurturing educators. “It’s the feedback, the constructive feedback that helps you become a better professional.”

All felt strongly that the measure would be enacted this legislative session. “We wanted this done sessions ago; it will be done by the end of the year, that’s for sure, and even quicker than that,” said Benedetto, who hopes the revamp will give educators the space they need to teach without the distraction of feeling someone is constantly looking over their shoulders.

“The one thing we know for a fact is that [the governor] is committed to teacher quality and teacher development,” said Rosa. “I do believe this is something she will stand behind.”

Sen. Mayer thanked Person and Rosa for their dedicated work spearheading the bill’s development. “Thank you for reaching agreement … who can do that? It’s very hard to do that around here,” she said of the nearly-50-page bill’s creation and submission.

Under the new proposal, APPR plans would not require student test scores, would have to be bargained collectively and locally developed, and would include multiple measures aligned with state teaching and leadership standards. Current HEDI scores would be replaced with a four-level numbered rating system with four indicating exemplary performance. Districts would have up to eight years to institute the new evaluation system.

“Our teachers welcome fair evaluations, and they love feedback on their performance and their practice … but the current practice is hurting the profession,” said Person, explaining that de-linking student test scores will allow educators to focus on supporting student growth and mentoring new educators rather than preparing for high-stakes tests. “This will create space for student curiosity and love of learning … and support them in becoming better educators, which is ultimately what we want.”