03/13/15 6:00am
03/13/2015 6:00 AM

To the editor:

In last week’s “The flaws with scores, evaluations” opinion piece, Southold and Greenport Superintendent David Gamberg uses a false analogy (a parody?) to argue against objective measurement. He proposed physicians of all specialties be judged by community weight loss, even though most don’t treat obesity! In reality, physicians with board certification in a specialty must pass lengthy written tests every 10 years for re-certification. Teachers don’t!  (more…)

01/13/14 11:30am
01/13/2014 11:30 AM
COURTESY PHOTO | Gov. Andrew Cuomo at last week's State of the State address.

COURTESY PHOTO | Gov. Andrew Cuomo at last week’s State of the State address.

Last week in his 2014 State of the State speech, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pitched a teacher incentive plan, which could total more than $6 million for “highly effective” teachers from Riverhead to Oysterponds.

Calling the incentive program the Teacher Excellence Fund, Mr. Cuomo stated that any teacher in New York rated “highly effective” under the state-mandated evaluation system would receive a $20,000 bonus, which he described as the first of its kind that offers, on average, 27 percent of a teacher’s salary.

Of 610 teachers in Riverhead, Mattituck-Cutchogue, Southold, Greenport and Oysterponds School Districts, 320 teachers received “highly effective” ratings last year.

Read a transcript of the governor’s address here

If 320 teachers received $20,000 bonuses, it could cost $6.4 million. The governor left out details in his speech noting how the bonuses would be funded.

“You want teachers who can perform and do perform?” he said during his speech. “Then incentivize performance with a performance bonus and pay them like the professionals they are.”

Local superintendents provided The Suffolk Times with their districts’ teacher evaluation results. Shoreham-Wading River’s ratings weren’t immediately available, and due to the small staff at New Suffolk School, results were not released.

School district Total teachers evaluated
Teachers rated ‘highly effective’
Percentage Cost, at $20,000 bonuses
Riverhead 321 148 46 $2.95 million
Mattituck-Cutchogue 137 90 66 $1.81 million
Southold 83 59 71 $1.17 million
Greenport 56 18 33 $369,600
Oysterponds 13 5 39 $101,400
Totals 610 320 52 $6.4 million
10/31/13 12:00pm
10/31/2013 12:00 PM

Big-jump-in-state-aid-for-North-Fork-school-districts-March-20131No teacher in any Southold Town school district received an “ineffective” rating under the controversial new education evaluation system now being implemented in public schools across New York State.

Overall results from the state-mandated annual professional performance review plans, known as APPR, were released by the education department last week.

Evaluations for some teachers depended in part on how students performed on new, tougher English Language Arts and math assessments under the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

In the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District, nearly 66 percent of the 137 teachers evaluated received a “highly effective” rating and 34 percent received an “effective” rating.

In the Southold School District, 71 percent of 83 teachers received a “highly effective” rating and 29 percent received an “effective” rating.

Over in the Greenport School District, 33 percent of the 56 teachers were rated “highly effective,” 64 percent were rated “effective” and 3 percent were rated “developing.”

And in the Oysterponds Elementary School District, 39 percent of the 13 teachers received a “highly effective” rating and 61 percent received an “effective” rating.

No Southold Town school district reported an “ineffective” rating, the lowest on the scale.

The tiny New Suffolk’s school district often does not see its numbers made public, due to privacy concerns.

Oysterponds Superintendent Richard Malone said although he likes the Common Core standards, he believes the state gave schools too little time to implement Common Core and the new assessments, as well as an APPR plan. It was “too quick and contributed to the lack of positive reaction and acceptance,” he said.

As for APPR’s effectiveness, Southold Superintendent David Gamberg said he believes the system is based on a “faulty premise of mistrust and will not produce the desired results of improving student learning.

“Look at educational systems throughout the country and the world that are effective,” he said. “None tie student test results to improvement, and virtually all have a culture that is respectful.”

Last school year, students in grades 3 through 8 took English Language Arts and math assessments that included elements of the Common Core for the first time, and the results showed a significant drop in test scores compared to the 2011-12 school year.

The state did not release district-by-district results of the teacher evaluations. The local numbers were supplied to The Suffolk Times by the superintendents.

The Common Core initiative, which primarily requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and more rigorous math to students at a younger age, is a set of national standards designed to raise the bar for classroom instruction. It’s also designed to help prepare students for college and careers upon graduating from high school.

Earlier this year, New York school districts were mandated to develop their own APPR plans or risk losing additional state aid for noncompliance.

For the most part, APPR evaluation systems rely on a combination of classroom observations, “locally bargained, locally determined objective measures” and state test scores, according to state officials.

Statewide, 91.5 percent of teachers were rated “highly effective” (49.7 percent) or “effective” (41.8 percent). About 4.4 percent were rated “developing,” and 1 percent was rated “ineffective.”

Greenport Elementary School principal Joseph Tsaveras said although the APPR plan is helpful in showing the community how the district is performing, he believes the system needs to include funding for professional development to promote progress.

“When we first heard the preliminary results, we were excited to see that we were above the state percentage of highly effective and effective teachers,” he said. “Our staff has always looked to advance their skills so that they can support our students [and] works extremely hard for our students every day.”

State education officials have come under fire from districts across New York for rolling out the more rigorous state assessments last year under the Common Core without allowing the time or providing the resources needed to implement a matching curriculum.

As for the teacher evaluation systems, Mr. McKenna said each district developed its own APPR plan with little guidance from the state. He said he believes the APPR needs to be streamlined because the amount of time and labor needed to calculate scores is “enormous.”

In addition, he described APPR as the “epitome of an unfunded mandate” because implementing it cost the district more than $75,000 during the 2012-13 school year and the district anticipates receiving only $14,500 in Race to the Top funding over three years.

Mr. McKenna also questioned the equity in evaluating students and teachers based on Common Core assessments when the state is still introducing lesson plans.

“The analogy of flying an airplane while the plane is being built is an accurate one when applied to this aspect of the APPR plan,” he said. “How valid can these state assessment scores be?”

State officials say the APPR will provide the additional data needed to more effectively analyze teachers’ performance relative to Common Core requirements.

New York education department commissioner John King said in a statement released last week that he believes the latest APPR results prove the new Common Core assessments “did not negatively affect teacher ratings.”

“It’s clear that teachers are rising to the challenge of teaching the Common Core,” he said. “It’s also clear that it’s time to put aside talk about a moratorium on the use of state assessments in educator evaluations and focus on ensuring all students receive the rigorous and engaging instruction that will help them to prepare for college and careers.”

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