On December 10th the Governor’s Common Core Commission issued 21 recommendations about the Common Core and related issues. The 21st recommendation targeted the use of Common Core-based assessments for teacher evaluation and suggested a four-year moratorium on the use of Common Core assessments, Common Core-derived growth scores, and other applications of Common Core-based assessments. From the report:
Recommendation 21: Until the new system is fully phased in, the results from assessments aligned to the current Common Core Standards, as well as the updated standards, shall only be advisory and not be used to evaluate the performance of individual teachers or students.
Given the amount of work needed to get the new system right, the Task Force recommends that until the transition to a new system is complete, i.e. New York State-specific standards are fully developed along with corresponding curriculum and tests, State-administered standardized ELA and Mathematics assessments for grades three through eight aligned to the Common Core or updated standards shall not have consequences for individual students or teachers. Further, any growth model based on these Common Core tests or other state assessments shall not have consequences and shall only be used on an advisory basis for teachers. The transition phase shall last until the start of the 2019-2020 school year.
On December 14th, just a few days later, the State Education Department suggested several emergency regulatory changes to the Board of Regents in order to implement the Commission’s 21st recommendation. These regulatory changes label the interregnum between now and the 2019-2020 school year as a “transition period.” From the Regents item:
During the transition period, transition scores and HEDI ratings will replace the scores and HEDI ratings for teachers and principals whose HEDI scores are based, in whole or in part, on State assessments in grades 3-8 ELA or mathematics (including where State-provided growth scores are used) or on State-provided growth scores on Regents examinations.
Transition scores and ratings will be determined based upon the remaining subcomponents of the annual professional performance review that are not based on the grade 3-8 ELA or mathematics State assessments and/or a State-provided growth score on Regents examinations.
Back-up SLO[s] shall be developed by the district/BOCES consistent with guidelines prescribed by the Commissioner using assessments approved by the Department that are not State assessments.
State provided growth scores will continue to be computed for advisory purposes.
These sudden changes upset all of the APPR plans of districts across New York State. Districts who went ahead and negotiated a new APPR system under §3012-d will have to make changes to their recently approved plan. Districts that had waiver-approval to allow them to continue their work on a 3012-d plan will have to change their old plan while also negotiating a new plan with rules that are changing as they negotiate. Whether or not these changes are a good idea doesn’t matter at the moment; districts will now have to scramble to understand these emergency regulatory changes and to make the necessary changes to remain compliant.
Let’s take stock of what we know right now:
- The Board of regents has passed emergency action that will subsequently be confirmed in February (according to their procedures).
- The changes apply this year to districts operating under §3012-c or §3012-d.
- Scores that are derived from 3-8 Common Core-based tests will not be allowed to be used, until at least 2019-2020, for teacher evaluation purposes.
- Scores that are derived from Common Core-based Regents examinations will not be allowed to be used, until at least 2019-2020, for teacher evaluation purposes. Note: this is not completely certain at this point.
- During the “transition period,” summative evaluation scores or labels will be based on remaining subcomponents.
- Guidance is promised.
What we don’t know but need to know before any next steps:
- How do we make back-up SLOs in the middle of the school year that are in alignment with the Common Core-based prohibition?
- Can we use the observation component (§3012-d) or multiple measures components (§2012-c), alone, for the summative score?
- Are any school-based or district-based measures that include any Common Core-based Regents examination scores prohibited?
Potential consequences we would want to avoid:
- An actual increase in the amount of assessment for APPR purposes, which is possible because we will still administer state assessments but not be able to use them for APPR, thus potentially pressuring districts to add assessments which is contrary to other recommendations from the Commission.
- A continued emphasis on human capital over social capital and professional capital as drivers of improved teaching and learning.
In the meantime districts will have to wait for the guidance. Negotiations and APPR committee meetings should probably focus solely on the observation aspects of a 3012-d plan and wait, for now, before worrying about any student performance measures. Leaders will have to continue to do as they’ve done for five years, trying to downplay the drama and distractions while encouraging good, collaborative teaching and that might actually result in increased learning. Every additional act in the ongoing drama sucks time and energy from our finite capacity to teach and learn.