APPR: An overview of New York’s new teacher/principal evaluation system
In the midst of a variety of changing laws and regulations surrounding public school districts – from new school lunch requirements, to harassment and discrimination policies and a tax levy cap – one of the largest undertakings New York’s schools are involved in right now are new Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) plans for teachers and school principals.
All school districts in New York are required to adopt
and submit to the state
an APPR plan for teachers and school principals or risk losing a portion of their state aid. View GCSD's most recently approved APPR plan (PDF)
Where did APPR come from?
The program driving the changes in New York’s schools is the federal Race to the Top initiative, a multi-billion dollar federal aid initiative to align curriculum, instruction, and student achievement, growth and performance. This new program – championed by President Obama and the U.S. Department of Education – is a three-pronged initiative that aims to improve the quality of instruction and, in turn, student performance statewide. The ultimate goal is have all students be college and career ready when they graduate from high school. The implementation of Race to the Top (RTTT) includes new ways to analyze student data to make classroom instruction more effective; more rigorous curriculum content, assessment and skills application with the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards and a variety of new state and local assessments; and, finally, new regulations governing the evaluation of teachers and school leaders.
Why are APPR plans important?
While all districts currently have teacher and principal evaluation plans in place, this new system is much more complicated – and, for the first time ever, a portion of the evaluation is tied to student performance on state exams. The new guidelines aim to enhance existing evaluation systems by providing more standardized, objective results, which can be used to better focus professional development. As a result of APPR and other aspects of RTTT, students will participate in more local “benchmark” assessments designed to track student progress in the classroom throughout the year. These new exams, administered for the first time during the 2012-13 school year, are designed to help teachers target content areas that may need further attention or students who need extra help.
Teachers, principals and other school administrators have the tremendous responsibility of designing and implementing APPR plans so they meet the new guidelines. This involves ongoing training, in some cases creating the new assessments, and working together to create student and building-wide learning targets/goals – all at the same time they are working to implement the other pieces of this new, complex federal education program. In short, APPR plans are changing the way teachers and administrators operate in more ways than one.
In schools throughout New York state, going forward:
• Each teacher/principal in grades K-12 will receive a rating (highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective) every year.
Teacher ratings will be based on a 100-point score, arrived at through
evaluation in three separate components:
• A student growth score, which is determined by state-provided student assessment data or
district-developed student learning objectives;
• Locally selected measures for student growth or achievement; and,
• Other measures of teacher effectiveness, which must include required classroom observations.
• Scoring is similar for principals.
• State-assigned student growth scores will be available for teachers in grades 3-8, as they are based on the English language arts and math exams taken by students in these grades. To arrive at this score, the state is comparing student progress from year to year to that of similar students across New York state (this is known as a growth model).
• Teachers in subject areas for which there is no state exam will create Student Learning Objectives, or SLOs, for their students. These are academic goals established by the district at the start of a course that measure progress made toward meeting student-learning targets. Each SLO must follow guidelines set by the state; they must be measurable, based on prior student learning data, and they must be aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards.
• Principal ratings will be based on overall student achievement on state exams, as well as student progress toward meeting building goals/targets.
• All APPR plans must include guidelines for improvement plans and an appeals process for those who are rated as ineffective.
• All evaluators must be trained in the evaluation rubric and certified by the district superintendent.
• District leaders must fully disclose and release to the parents and legal guardians of a student the final quality rating and composite effectiveness score for each of the teachers and for the principal of the school building to which the student is assigned for the current school year upon the request of such parents and legal guardians.
Improving performance through data, standards and assessments
While the new APPR plans have received much attention
within school districts and in the media, they represent just one of the new
regulations that are changing the ways schools develop, deliver and evaluate
Each district in the state is required to develop inquiry teams (one at each school) – teams of teachers and administrators who are trained in collecting, analyzing and then using data to adapt classroom instruction to meet students’ needs. These individual inquiry teams are supported by network teams, which are groups of experts (often through BOCES) in the field of educational data. Their work will go hand-in-hand with the work districts must also do to implement the new Common Core Learning Standards – new national learning standards, which are replacing the current New York state learning standards that govern what is taught in the state’s public schools.
Teachers and administrators in districts across the state have been working, and will continue to work, to rewrite curriculum and lesson plans to meet the new standards. In addition, state exams will now be aligned with the new standards – meaning that students will be tested on both new knowledge and new skill sets.