As it is almost a routine, the New York State department of education changed regulations on how it evaluates schools and teachers. For the next 4 years, the results of state standardized assessments administered in grades 3 through 8 will not count toward HEDI, the supposed “measurement of teacher effectiveness.”
This fact forced every school district in NYS to rewrite their APPR contract. As a result, the Malverne UFSD has a much simpler contract now. The original 100-page contract of 2012 shrank to about 40 pages. About 20 pages are dedicated to the administration of the state/Regents assessments. The remaining pages explain how the results of those assessments, combined with classroom observations, measure the “effectiveness” of all personnel breathing in the school district. So, let’s delve into the part that is imposed on students directly—the assessments administered in the classroom.
By compiling data found on the 20 pages, I arrived at a table that, after further simplification, looks like the one below. The table shows what type of assessment will affect given course and grade.
Parents will notice immediately the huge improvement compared to the tables of last year, found here (specific to Malverne SD). The table is easy to read. For example, take line 1. The Kindergarteners study math and ELA, rigorously of course. But it’s the students who take Regents who will determine 50% of the “effectiveness” of the ELA and math teachers. Not an ELA or math teacher? Then line 2 applies, and so on. The remaining 50% of the evaluation will come from classroom observations.
There is an exception to the Regents “grit.” The lines 3 and 4 show the state tests will be administered in grades 3-8. The NYSED claims the data will be collected for “advisory purpose.” This requirement raised opposition from parents immediately, as it perpetuates the “take the test just for practice” mentality. In addition, parents are highly skeptical of the department’s intentions. They are concerned about rules changing again in the near future and using the “advisory” data retroactively for evaluation. Some are also concerned about the privacy issues in relation to the federal P20 program.
The parents claim that the data collected by Regents assessments (line 9) that count toward teachers evaluations is as sufficient as in the other instances of Regents assessments. Therefore, the parents are resolute in their decision to continue refusing the standardized tests until the law changes. The 2016-17 refusal letter is available here (at the bottom of the page).
The HEDI matrix
To illustrate how the 50/50 HEDI “effectiveness” system works, let’s follow up on the scenario from the line 1 above. Consider the teacher applying her supernatural teaching skills when effectively dealing daily with personal crises of 21-28 kindergarteners. Her classroom “highly effective” observations merge with the other 50%, the Regents assessments. If a cohort of Regents takers has one bad day yielding just “effective” results, the teacher can’t score higher than “effective.” Parents insist that such system is unjust. There is no option to refuse Regents assessments, as they are necessary for graduation from the HS.
So, what is the improvement this year? There is a big one—no local tests are included in the table! It means, for example, the computer-based STAR tests (used in Malverne) will not “measure the effectiveness” of the personnel. They’ll “only” mine the child’s and family’s data. The data is sent to the BOCES that contracted Data Warehouse to analyze and store the data. Due to the unclear regulations, as to what data is being collected, who has access to the data, parents continue to refuse these local tests as well (STAR, NWEA, AimsWeb, i-Ready, MAP, and about a dozen more). Hopefully, this issue will get addressed by the newly appointed Chief Privacy Officer.
Also, thanks to the absence of high-stakes tests in grades 3-8, parents should expect less test prep, fewer students to be directed to the AIS or RTI. Instead, they should expect much more diversified learning. All the discussions about foreign languages, maker education, genius hour, boxels, Breakout EDU, STREAM, and many other enrichment programs may, finally, come to fruition. —For the next 4 years, or until parents influence the politicians to change the current law.
To conclude, I need to mention that the Malverne school district management deserves a “high five” for getting the assessment system (APPR) approved before the school year. From conversations with networking out of district parents, it was clear that many districts didn’t manage to get their contracts approved in time, leaving parents and teachers speculating about the possible outcomes.
Looking at the table above, the Malverne school district parents can see that the brunt of the “effective nonsense” crossed the street (Ocean Avenue) to the high school. While in previous years the HS teachers were observing the common core initiatives and “flourishing” elementary schools, now they find themselves in the spotlight of the proponents of “excellence and equity” and “gem seekers” from the Gates-funded Education Trust. And they may stay there for the next 4 years unless the advocates for a sound education influence the NY legislature to change the law sooner.