APPR “Help” that Actually Helps

At their June meeting, the Board of Regents approved another change to the §3012-d APPR regulations. This time, they expanded conditions for a waiver to the independent evaluator requirement.

Since the fall, a waiver has been available to smaller, more rural districts who could meet certain size of number of building requirements. The waiver had no impact on the required number of minimum observations, it just waived the requirement that an independent observer (someone from a different BEDS code) had to do an observation in addition to the observations that the Lead Evaluator conducted.

With their action at the June meeting, the reasons to seek a waiver to the independent evaluator requirement have been greatly expanded, to include these circumstances:

  1. Compliance with the independent evaluator requirement would result in financial hardship to the district or BOCES;
  2. The district or BOCES lacks professionally trained staff to comply with the independent evaluator requirement;
  3. The district or BOCES has a large number of teachers and principals; and/or
  4. Compliance with the independent evaluator requirement could impact safety and management of a building because the principal would be absent from the school building while performing evaluations at other locations.

“Traveling across the state, I’ve heard over and over again that the independent evaluator requirement of the APPR law is cause for great concern in our schools,” said Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “The Regents acted last year to provide a hardship waiver from that requirement for rural and single-building schools, but today the Board is going even further by providing an expansion of the waiver to all school districts.” It is important to note that teachers who were rated as ineffective will still be required to have the independent evaluator conduct at least one evaluation.

Unlike some of the other adjustments that have been made to the laws and regulations governing APPR, this change is a good one, although perhaps not for any of the reasons detailed above. The fundamental problem of having an independent evaluator is that it places great pressure on the system for the independent evaluator to rate the teacher on the rubric right after the observation, rather than a rating that occurs at the end of the year and takes into consideration a whole year’s worth of evidence. It is in no one’s interest to rate an observation on a rubric based on one brief classroom visit. It is too small of a sample size to bear any resemblance to the overall patterns of instruction. Kim Marshall made this clear in his book, Rethinking Supervision and Evaluation, when he characterized a short, single observation as missing more than 99.9% of a teacher’s instruction. Who would ever want to be rated based on 0.1 % (or less)? Better to play the lottery!

So, instead of rating a single, short observation, this waiver opportunity lets us avoid the unfortunate pressure to rate based on a single observation rather than the body of evidence and a percentage far larger that 0.1%.

Craig_Jeff_150pxJeff Craig, Ed.D.

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