Posts Tagged 'Teacher evaluation'

Is APPR a Public Health Hazard?

Is APPR a Public Health Hazard?

Even on a good day, our APPR system is heavily flawed. During a pandemic, it’s frankly a public health hazard. 

As all teachers who have worked in an NYC school anytime in the last decade knows well, lectures are out, and groupwork is in. Though we can debate the merits of forcing teachers to impose jarring ‘collaborative structures’ on their students (especially older students) on a daily basis, some amount of  student-student interaction is undoubtedly a good thing. But groupwork as envisioned by many of the APs writing our observations is almost impossible to do at a safe distance during an airborne pandemic. 

During the 2020-2021 school year, this problem presented itself, but with 6 feet of distance required between students, competent administrators had no choice but to be somewhat flexible with scoring. Enter the 2021-22 school year: New Action has received reports of teachers being mandated or ‘strongly encouraged’ to seat students facing each other in adjoined groups of four. Even with the DOE’s dubiously ‘generous’ interpretation of the CDC’s suspiciously halved ‘3 feet rule’, this sort of seating arrangement is a disaster waiting to happen. As teachers well know, students aren’t stationary. And groupwork in close quarters pushes students to get closer to each other for interaction.  Moreover, given that the DOE mandates students be facing away from each other when masks are off during meals, you’d think administrators wouldn’t de facto encourage the reverse. But with limited mask compliance, and with eating/drinking occurring throughout the day in most classrooms, this means that–realistically–some administrators are asking for precisely that.

Many students, a large fraction of whom are unvaccinated, are terrified of COVID. They don’t want to be put at further risk than they have to be. But, even when given this argument, administrators have reportedly doubled down on the packed group seating expectation. At least one school we know of that was pushing groupwork is currently under investigation to potentially close due to growing COVID-rates. An astute observer might think there’s a connection. Some New Action chapter leaders have pushed to get groupwork mandates thrown out. But the fact remains that our APPR system is written for a pre-pandemic era. Thus, even in schools with good union representation, teachers–especially probationary teachers–feel the carrot of higher scores on their observations and a better chance at tenure. Seat your students in densely packed groups and watch your MOTP scores soar from 1 or 2 to 3 or 4. 

Our current APPR system, at least as executed by some administrators, has therefore become a public health issue. Teachers shouldn’t have to choose between their observation scores and their students’ health. In districts like Los Angeles, where the union is strong, teachers don’t have to make that choice this year. Teachers in New York deserve the same. As part of its platform, United For Change–the coalition of caucuses (including New Action) running against Unity this year–supports dramatic reforms to both our observation system and our safety protocols. Remember to vote United for Change on your ballot in the next UFT election.


Report from UFT Executive Board September 8 2014

This was the first Exec Board of the year.

There was no speaker for the open mike.

After minutes were approved they moved to the Staff Director’s report, as Mulgrew had not arrived. LeRoy Barr mentioned the Labor Day parade and thanked those who turned out, mentioned the ATR meetings that are happening in the borough offices all this week, and spoke about the Citywide Chapter Leader Meeting this Wednesday, at 52 Broadway, at 4:15 PM. Secretary Emil Pietromonico announced vacancies for VP- Educational Issues (Catalina Fortino moving to NYSUT) and Asst Treasurer (Mona Romain). He spoke about two meetings for members who had been rated ineffective – seventy or eighty members came to each.

Question Period:

Kate Martin-Bridge (New Action) asked for the number of current teachers in the Absent Teachers Reserve (Excessed Teachers, often referred to as ATRs). Emil said the person who answers the question was currently meeting with ATRs, and he would get back to us.

Jonathan Halabi (me, New Action) asked, what someone like Robert Jackson, who has been a hero for public education in NYC, had to do to get the UFT’s support (NYSUT endorsed his opponent in the primary). Paul Egan responded that Jackson had challenged an incumbent, and that they had equally stellar legislative records, and that state endorsements are handled by NYSUT.

Michael Shulman (New Action) asked how many probationers were discontinued or had their probations extended last year. They will get back to us.

William Goldman (New Action) asked how many Ineffective and Developing ratings there were. Jackie Bennett was called on, but said the numbers won’t be finalized for a few weeks. Emil Pietromonico reported about 650 – 700 Ineffectives and about 4800 Developings.

Presidents report (Mulgrew arrived during the question period). #1 Issue for us is contract implementation. Surveys went out to chapter leaders. Very smooth opening to the school year. Glad de Blasio is getting kudos on the pre-k. It means our kindergarten teachers will get better-prepared kids next year. Primary election is tomorrow, please vote. A big issue with implementation will be PD. When we used to do PD we didn’t like it because it was not ours. Over 6000 new teachers this year. Extra people retired in June. Speaking about the reaction in Staten Island, he said that the shirts that we’ve seen (supporting NYPD) have been appropriate.

On evaluation, the DoE offered a fourth option:  for teachers rated E: four informal observations and nothing else.

At that point he ended the president’s report, and Emil moved the agenda to vote on approving this fourth option (actually a contract change). Ellen Driessen (DR, District 20, Brooklyn) asked if, while we are it, we could get the Highly Effective 3 + open your classroom reduced to just 3 informals (answer, we asked, this was all they were offering). Passed unanimously.

Reports from Districts – Shelvy Abrams, Anthony Harmon, Vince Gaglione, Michael Freedman, George Altomare

Legislative Repor – Paul Egan

Special Orders of Business

1. Peoples Climate March. Sterling Roberson motivated. Michael Shulman (New Action) asked if literature would be distributed at the Chapter Leaders meeting Wednesday (while acknowledging that there is a conflict with a Chapter Leaders weekend, so attendance might be lower). LeRoy Barr answered positively. The resolution was unanimously adopted.

2. Endorse Zephyr Teachout for governor. Regina Gori (New Action) motivated. LeRoy Barr rose to oppose. Paul Egan rose to oppose. Jonathan Halabi (New Action) rose in support. Sandra March rose to oppose.

We will edit this section to include some of the debate.

The vote was overwhelmingly against endorsing. Yet we do not believe that every Unity Exec Board member voted.

New Action Caucus has ten seats on the UFT Executive Board – the only ten seats that do not belong to Unity Caucus.

Ten is not enough to win anything – but it allows our voice to be heard, it allows us to put forward resolutions, and when there is agreement, to put forward resolutions the leadership signs onto. It allows us to offer amendments. It allows us to bring issues to the leadership.

At Exec after Exec, Unity members sit and listen. Some never speak. Most rarely speak. But New Action usually has questions, comments, resolutions, or amendments.

This year we will publish reports – sometimes on the entire Exec Board, sometimes just on New Action’s contribution.


(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the November 2013 Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: November 2013 Leaflet

The Teacher Evaluation Train Wreck is Unfolding Before Us


From Requirements of Education Law Section 3012-c:

“Teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective assessments must be rated ineffective overall. Teachers who are developing or ineffective will get assistance and support to improve performance. Teachers who remain ineffective can be removed from classrooms.”

This means that a teacher rated “ineffective” on both State tests and Local Measures must be rated “ineffective,” even if the principal finds them exceptional in the classroom.

New Action has opposed the Teacher Evaluation System since its inception.

Rating teachers based on using some form of the Danielson model is one thing. To tie our evaluation to student test scores is unacceptable. To have in State Law that a teacher’s rating can be based entirely on test scores is outrageous.

On Oct. 21, 2013, the 10 New Action members of the UFT Executive Board proposed:

Resolved the UFT will make it a legislative priority to remove from NY State Law any provision that makes it possible to rate a teacher ineffective entirely on test scores.

Resolved that the UFT will discuss this priority with the Mayor-Elect, in order that we might jointly lobby the New York State Legislature to effect this change.

The UFT Should Address State Education Law, 3012-c

This reasonable position was tabled by the rest of the union leadership. Their substitute resolution calls for expanding MOSL to include student work, including projects and portfolios, calls for a review process for teachers who get “Ineffectives” on local and state measures to see if the local measures were “appropriate,” “fair” and “reliable,” and calls for a moratorium on “high-stakes consequences” for state tests.

This does not go far enough. While these proposals, if negotiated with the DOE, would bring some relief from this evaluation system, they do not address the real problem: ANY EVALUATION BASED ON STUDENT TEST SCORES will not improve teaching. It will not improve our schools. It will not improve the education of our students.

The biggest difference between the New Action resolution (tabled) and the substitute resolution?  The substitute does not address necessary changes to the State Law that established this evaluation system. The legislation itself must be changed.

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March 2023