Local Educators Oppose Evaluation System

All five Wantagh building principals and one in Seaford sign open later saying that new process that began in September is flawed.

Hundreds of Long Island public school principals including six in Wantagh and  Seaford are challenging the state Education Department and criticizing new standards for evaluating educators.

The new rules went into effect in September as New York State worked to win federal money under the Race to the Top program, which the White House said is designed to promote  "innovation, reform, and excellence in America’s public schools."

Teachers and principals are evaluated, in part, on student performance on standardized tests. In an open letter regarding New York State's APPR legislation, all five building principals in the Wantagh School District and Seaford Middle School Principal Daniel Smith were part of 368 principals across Long Island to address the concerns over the new rules.

 “As building principals, we applaud efforts aimed towards excellence for all of our students. We cannot, however, stand by while untested practices are put in place without any meaningful discussion or proven research,” they say on a new website.

“At first glance, using test scores might seem like a reasonable approach to accountability. As designed, however, these regulations carry unintended negative consequences for our schools and students that simply cannot be ignored,” the principals say.

Teachers and principals receive a rating of 0-100 with 20 to 40 percent of their score coming from their students’ test performance.

“I applaud all those principals for taking a stand,” said Tom Vereline, president of Wantagh United Teachers. “Most districts feel as if they are being rushed into the new evaluation system.”

Vereline emphasized that “the vast majority of educators support some sort of new system” but the implementation of it needs to be reviewed more before proceeding.

“We realize that given the high property taxes Long Islanders pay, they want to know their children are being taught by qualified educators,” said Vereline. “However, there are just too many uncertainties in the new system and if we don’t proceed carefully, implementation of it may do more harm than good.”

The website, which includes a copy of an open letter, lists several objections to the system, arguing that tax dollars are being diverted from schools to testing companies, trainers and outside vendors; that the emphasis on evaluations will damage children as schools put too much focus on test results, and that educational experts say there is no evidence that such a system improves students’ education.

“We, principals of Long Island schools, conclude that the proposed APPR process is an unproven system that is wasteful of increasingly limited resources. More importantly, it will prove to be deeply demoralizing to educators and harmful to the children in our care,” the website says.

The letter was written by Dr. Sean Feeney, principal of The Wheatley School in East Williston and president of the Nassau County High School Principals Association, and Carol Corbett Burris of South Side High School in Rockville Centre. In July, Burris sent a memo to U. S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in July, outlining her objections to poor evaluation systems.

The state Board of Regents approved the evaluation system in May. “These evaluations will play a significant role in a wide array of employment decisions, including promotion, retention, tenure determinations, termination, and supplemental compensation, and will be a significant factor in teacher and principal professional development,” the state Education Department said at the time.

Educators are rated on this basis, the department said.

  • 20% -- student growth on state assessments or a comparable measure of student achievement growth (increases to 25% upon implementation of a value-added growth model);
  • 20% -- locally-selected measures of student achievement that are determined to be rigorous and comparable across classrooms (decreases to 15% upon implementation of a value-added growth model); and
  • 60% -- other measures of teacher/principal effectiveness.
Lorraine DeVita November 14, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Then and ONLY then can we beging to see some significant changes in the CLASSROOM k-12. So they can have an epophonic "calling" it just now will be whether they are QUALIFED to be to follow it.
Lorraine DeVita November 14, 2011 at 02:29 PM
Now to address my statement regarding salary- you claim only 27% is benefits , i claim compound that annually, Not only are we paying for our current teaching staff we are also paying through the NOSE for our retired teaching staff. In Seaford alone the cost rose an alarming 11%! If we implement effective immediately for all new hires a program where they contribute 50% to the medical, offer a 401k matching program and a lump sum pension payout , increasing the AGE at which they are pension eligible to 62. If they retired @ 62 They would then only be covered by Medical Benefits for THREE years until medicaid kicked in with the option of the employee using their current medical coverage as a secondary provider at a small additional cost. Again substancially reducing the cost to the district. There are a plethura of ways in which to reduce costs while continueing to give them the financial secruity they DESERVE allowing the SD some breathing room and reduce the cost to the TAX payer. However the UNION is adamant that the unrealistic fiancial burden to the taxpayer remain status quo with NO thought to the financial impact /EFFECT it is having on the EDUCATION of the student & the communities which PAY. By restructuring our pension obligations we would THEN have the ability to offer the cream of the crop MORE money.
Lorraine DeVita November 14, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Additonaly if we eliminated step increases for all , only rewarded the best with annual non pension contributing bonuses. These bonunes DO contribute to their SS earnings but would NOT be considered for pension calculation. another option is to KEEP step increases re catorgorize them as annual bonus however do NOt take them into consideration for pension calculation. Allowing only the contract negotiated raises to be considered Pension elegible SALARY.. THIS ALONE would save MILLIONs of dollars in retirement costs.
Lorraine DeVita November 14, 2011 at 04:29 PM
Chris you Stated "I disagree with your recital on why tenure came about, and thus on its even greater relevance today." Tenure was insitituted in the late 1800's intitaly to protect College professors when it was deemed neccessary due to the UNDUE influence, prejudices and BIAS administrative, sponsors ,parents and collegues had upon a professor retaining employment.because of gender, nationaltiy or teaching methodologies. It Was Never initally intended for TEACHERS. However it rolled down the educational path and was indoctrinated to encompass Public school teachers The intent was to eliminate from the process for rentention , Administrative & individual BIAS along with any undue outside influences. Tenure was NEVER intended to guarantee a job for life, its sole premise to insure an individul (PRIOR TO CURRENT FEDERAL AND STATE LAWS) had a objective process in place to insure DUE CAUSE. So Chris, if you leave a sole individual in charge( a principal) to determine who is or is not a good teacher without any documented objective standards and guidleines to judge by then we are REVERTING to WHY tenure was institued in the first place. Personal assumptions, and bias lead to subjectivity and in no book i know of is that a fair method of evaluating ANYONE. So to continue to leave the process to the prinicpals discretion as you suggest isnt effective it HASNT been effective because basically thats a form we have in place now and it OBVIOUSLY isnt working.
Chris Wendt November 14, 2011 at 04:55 PM
Our discourse (sort of rhymes with discord), reflects appropriately the fact that all five (5) of Wantagh's principals signed the letter objecting to the new program, while only one (1) of Seaford's principals signed the letter, (See teaser copy at top of article, above). I guess one all-American way to solve this would be for Seaford to embrace and implement the new evaluation system, as a pilot or trial program, and meanwhile Wantagh and many other LI school districts can wait, watch, and evaluate the results (cost-benefit and pedagoical efficacy) of the pilot program in Seaford...for about 5 years. What do you say? More important, what do your Superintendent and your school board say? Go ahead and ask them.
Wayne Smith November 14, 2011 at 05:04 PM
For whatever it's worth, statements have been made at Seaford Board meetings, both by Mr. Conboy and board members, that they are moving ahead with plans to implement the new evaluation system (which is not necessarily to say that they are "embracing" it.) Personally, I'll stand by my prior statement that this whole situation will end up being much sound and fury signifying nothing.
Lorraine DeVita November 14, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Gentlemen, Regardless of who did or didnt sign,the protest letter, the fact remains ALL NYS School Districts MUST abide, comply and participate and if i am NOT mistaken if a SD decides it will NOT or can not implement with in the time frame the District will be penalized a % of state aid.
Chris Wendt November 14, 2011 at 09:22 PM
I am chuckling, almost laughing, but not at you nor at what you wrote, which happens to be the hilarious truth. Now, HOW is THE STATE going to force school boards and teacher unions, how are they going to MANDATE school boards and administrator (principals) unions to ""NE-GO-TI-ATE"" a workable, productive, affordable imnplementation of anything that even remotely resembles all those tried-and-true private sector evaluation programs you have been so valiantly striving for? Huh?
Lorraine DeVita November 14, 2011 at 09:48 PM
WELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL there is one VERy nasty way of solving this whole thing. Have every parent tell their child to FAIL the state test. After the school is declared totaly unfit missing EVERY measurement under the Race to the top The school CAN then close it doors fire EVERY teacher LEGALLY This SUPERRCEEDS any and ALL union and LOCAL legislative laws regulations etc. SEVERAL schools in RI did it,, Except the didnt fail on purpose. I am sure there is MUCH more to it then that BUT hey it IS an option Drastic but an option...
Wayne Smith November 14, 2011 at 10:49 PM
Chris - You're right, which is why this won't amount to much except for a lot of "make work" administrative tasks. What it will do is allow certain political leaders to take credit for having addressed the issue of teacher evaluation when in fact this is just so much window-dressing
Chris Wendt November 15, 2011 at 12:45 AM
Come on, Lorraine. You're not helping your cause with this kind of talk. What parent is his/her right mind is going to tell their child to deliberately fail a test? In Wantagh, parents are pouring over test results to see which school out-scored the others, an unintended competition for sure, but the polar opposite of what you are suggesting. Close a school to prove a point and fire the staff? Nobody wants anything like that to ever happen. And if it did, then where do you put the kids, you know, for their education? Or, are you really all about hurting school employees and so what if the kids in Seaford don't get an education? PS - they have not closed Roosevelt Middle or High School. They (NYS) did give Roosevelt $208 million of YOUR tax money to fix their problems. It didn't work, but, it seemed a better alternative to closing the two secondary schools in Roosevelt and farming-out the students to the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District.
Lorraine DeVita November 15, 2011 at 08:59 PM
I WAS ONLY KIDDING CHRIS! Giving you an extreme case scenario, which i DONT support. Everyones assumption is that Nothing good is going to come from APPR. I think APPR is STEP in the right direction not the BEST perhaps step but a Step in a direction where we havent tread in decades ..is it perfect ? no but it is a beginning.. If collectively we all dont support steps however small to identify and correct problems in education (and yes Chris there IS a problem in Education) , then we are as BAD as the problem itself. Lets see where this APPR leads us before we beat it to death !
Chris Wendt November 16, 2011 at 02:24 AM
Okay, I am pretty literal and sometimes slow on the uptake, you know, with kidding. Sure APPR is going to happen, and then eveyone will then think, believe, understand, expect that, as in Lake Wobegon, where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average" that all of our teachers are positively the best (as a result of APPR). The upside of this folderal will be that 'last-in, first-out will again be a publicly & parentally acceptable practice for excessing teachers.
Chris Wendt November 16, 2011 at 11:27 AM
...unless they negotiate a "spunk" factor or a "brightness index" into the teacher evaluation criteria, you know, to protect those bright, spunky (they can't say 'young') teachers the Board hired in the last three years.
Wayne Smith November 16, 2011 at 01:55 PM
Much as I've been cynical about just how effective this APPR program is going to be, I also think we need to remember why it's important and should be viewed in a broader context. Remember that "Race to the Top" got started in part because of a concern about how we rate as a country when it comes to educating our kids; this is not a Seaford or Wantagh issue or just New York State. The bad news is that we actually don't rate very well at all. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, which compares test scores among the 34 nations in the OECD, the US is ranked 14th in literacy; 17th in science; and a woeful 25th in math. Secretary Duncan has regularly referred to this data in advocating for more stringent teacher evaluation. So kids enterintg the workforce, find themselves burdened with the challenge of a weak labor market, competing against better educated workers from other nations willing to work for much less than it takes to maintain a decent of standard of living in the US, and suffering the reputational damage that comes from having received an education that the world sees as mediocre. Any wonder why unemployment disproportionately impacts those in their twenties? When you read or hear comments about APPR being made by education administrators, it's clear that there's much resistance. But I'm not hearing a coherent vision that convinces me that there exists a meaningful systemic improvement plan either and that's disturbing.
Lorraine DeVita November 16, 2011 at 08:22 PM
A lot of the issues we all have been discussing need to be addressed at the State level Tenure, first in first out, QUALITY, pension costs, Mandates,, Accountability. These are all either laws or union negotiated neither of which we have ANY control of on the local level except for SOME portions of the local contracts. Even then WE the public have absolutely NO say on what transpires locally. Even the BOE members as you can contest to Chris dont actually do the negotiation. We can bitch and moan and make all sorts of suggestions but until the STATE gets its act together and decides to make DRASTIC changes to existing laws then nothing we say here really matters except allowing us a method of venting. Albany has to take the bull by the horns , ignore the teachers lobby machine called the Union and make substantive changes to exisiting laws to ALLOW us to place the STUDENT first, not the employee and we all realize That means hell can freeze over before it happens. Money talks gentlemen,, and the Teachers union has VERY deep pockets. I wonder what would happen if PARENTs and taxpayers filed a class action suit against the Local school districts, the State AND the Union itself! Now THAT would be interesting!
Chris Wendt November 16, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Wayne, if we had a coherent anything, then we, meaning Wantagh and Seaford would be just like NY City, Yonkers, and Rochester; we, meaning NY State, would be just like Arkansas, Mississippi, or Florida. We should resist all attempts to lump our state, our region, our small hamlets into some big dumbed-down national educational morasse. That is where mediocrity comes from. The axiom, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" applies here, especially to Wantagh and Seaford and most of the rest of Long Island schools. If it ain't broke, don't go throwing money at a problem that does not warrant having money thrown at it. FIx the serious, glaring problems is Roosevelt, in Hempstead, New York City, Rochester and Yonkers, They need fixing. Wantagh and Seaford and Half Hollow Hills, Jericho, Port Washington and Syosset kids will be able to compete successfully with kids from any other nation, no "woeful" excuses needed. No, I do not "wonder why unemployment disproportionately impacts those in their twenties". I know the reason. I and hundreds of thousands of people like me at the leading edge of the Baby Boom cannot afford to retire "on-scheduel", and WE are occupying the very jobs which those in their twenties should be filling, insteasd of living off of their parents in their childhood homes, unemployed or 'woefully' under-employed.
Wayne Smith November 16, 2011 at 08:49 PM
Well, let me first say that as a proud graduate of Hemptead High School (quite a few years removed) I'll cut you some slack for dissing my alma mater. Let me also make the obvious point that when companies move jobs overseas it's game over. We might think we have a good educational system, but that's not unique in this world anymore and when companies can find comparable and much cheaper skilled labor elsewhere, where do you think they're going to locate jobs? Unless our educational system becomes demonstrably superior I think our kids really will be at a competitive disadvantage - whether they come from Seaford, Wantagh or Hempstead.
JG November 17, 2011 at 04:19 AM
I am so tired of hearing how far below other countries our education system is. We are definitely not the best. But here in the NE'rn part of the US we have a strongeducation system. Wantagh has fine, effective teachers, for the most part. We surely need some curriculum restructuring and regulating. We need administrators to stick around, administrators who are WORTH sticking around. I am hopeful that some of our newest appointees will bring our district back to where it thinks it is!! But my point here is that we offer a free public education to everyone. To many, up until the age of 21. I don't know if China, and these other nations who are "outscoring us" are providing free, public education to all students, with and without with disabilities AND count everyone in their rankings the way we do. (I am sure someone here will clarify this for me if I am wrong, and I thank them in advance if and when they do) I am proud of our schools.
Lorraine DeVita November 17, 2011 at 04:25 AM
Chris, it IS Broke, what planet or time warp are you in? YOU the Chaminade Graduate of ALL people should realize the decline of education in the US AND in NY is more glaring then it was when our age group graduated. Because of the economy Students need to be better armed better educated to compete for the few jobs there are. We DO NOT compete on par on ANY level with a Jericho and I dare you to statiscally prove otherwise.! Wayne is 100% correct we are woefully falling behind other countries educationaly in this GLOBAL economy. Neither you nor my husband or anyone else in our age group is preventing a 20 something yr old from getting a job, companies have downsized and will continue to downsize forced retirements are an annual occurance in most major companies the one problem is they are not replacing the retiree's. Those that ARE hiring are only taking the best and brightest. By stating "we dont need to improve" "that it isnt broken" is doing the youth of our communities a GRAVE misjustice. By remaining stagnat and NOT striving for improvement constantly we are handicapping them. Chaminade taught you better, it taught you always strive to be better to improve, to reach higher to BE the BEST YOU can be, to GIVE the best you can give ... There is aLWAYS room for improvement Chris. Take your head out of the South Shore muck and wake up!
Lorraine DeVita November 17, 2011 at 04:51 AM
Be careful, Chris of what you state. FLORIDA HAS higher ranking HS's then NY and certainly more then LI / / http://education.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-high-schools/rankings/gold-medal-list Also newsweeks rankings http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/features/2011/americas-best-high-schools. Tell me WHERE are Seaford and Wantagh ranked on the list as compared to Jericho, Syosett, Port Washington, ETC..? Facts not wishful fantasy....
JG November 17, 2011 at 11:20 AM
The Newsday article was written to sell papers, not inform. The way they chose to point the finger at Special Education as the reason why so many schools are on the "Needs Improvement" is offensive.
Lorraine DeVita November 17, 2011 at 11:33 AM
JG The referenced article is from NEWSWEEK not Newsday. I DONT read Newsday for some of the Same reasons you reference Newsday is Offensive on so many levels and typically not a reliable unbiased source since it was purchased by Cablevision.
Lorraine DeVita November 17, 2011 at 02:10 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_State_United_Teachers " The 1982 Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law prohibits a public employer from altering any provision of an expired labor agreement until a new agreement is reached. This amendment, which was originally approved with the strong support of unions, has the effect of requiring automatic pay increases where a salary step schedule or longevity schedule exists, even though the labor agreement has expired. Consequently, a public employer's salary costs continue to rise even when labor negotiations have reached an impasse.The Triborough Amendment also undermines the collective bargaining process by discouraging unions from offering concessions or givebacks since, as long as no agreement is reached, the terms of the current contract remain in effect. Not only is New York the only state in the nation known to have such a requirement, but in the private sector, where collective bargaining has existed for more than 60 years under the National Labor Relations Act, no similar obligation is imposed upon employers who are parties to a labor contract. The dramatic impact that the Triborough Amendment has on collective bargaining translates into a negotiations process that discourages compromise, putting New York's taxpayers at an extreme disadvantage. The Triborough Amendment should be repealed so that public employers and employees can be encouraged to work together to achieve labor contracts that are both fair and affordable."
Lorraine DeVita November 17, 2011 at 02:13 PM
A few points of interest in the above post which all should comptemplate. Especially Wikipedia's history of the NYSTU. Interesting read
Chris Wendt November 18, 2011 at 07:52 PM
Consider Wayne's point of view: "...when companies move jobs overseas it's game over. We might think we have a good educational system, but that's not unique in this world anymore and when companies can find comparable and much cheaper skilled labor elsewhere, where do you think they're going to locate jobs? Unless our educational system becomes demonstrably superior I think our kids really will be at a competitive disadvantage - whether they come from Seaford, Wantagh or Hempstead." Perspective: companies move jobs overseas to take advantage of lower labor costs. American (as well as other countries') engineers design and refine manufacturing processes, replication, and packaging systems for products to be idiot proof, enabling US manufacturers to move jobs offshore for lower labor costs and reduced skill levels. With the exception maybe of software developers and digital systems analysis, there are not huge cadres of highly skilled yound people staffing the sweat shops and child- and prison-labor mills of China and India. They are largely peasants-turned-production-workers performing dumbed-down, mindless, repetitive tasks for a pittance and a crappy gray uniform with a little matching peaked cap. Education in Wantagh and Seaford is superior in many way to many places. Our kids get a better than fair shake at good jobs. But good jobs get more scarce every day. They will never disappear, however, just harder to get. A crisis looms that education can't fix.
Lorraine DeVita November 18, 2011 at 09:10 PM
Jobs moving overseas are typically call center, manufacturing and assembly. with some cross hire in Finance & IT. The Stereotypical ENTRY job in the US as We knew it in the 70's and 80's (clerical & entry level management) are no longer plentiful in the corp mkt. IF they exisit at all. Companies have Reclassifide and re defined positions, broader and/or more specialized skill sets are needed. the point I am trying to get across is everyone is satisfied or seems to be with the big fish little pond syndrom. However reality hits VERY hard when those same BIG fish enter college become little fish and then go into the job market and become ZYGOTS! IF you read the info i posted we are NOt preparing our kids adequately. Seaford, Wantagh even LI are but small specks on the map our kids need to be prepared to compete within a Global arena for jobs right here in the US.
Lorraine DeVita November 18, 2011 at 09:32 PM
That is one of the reasons so many college students are chosing Education as a major. It is not because they are "called" it is because they are weighing their options , they are aware of the competition in other job markets and are picking a solution that will get them employed in the most secure fashion out there right now.(even THIS is changing) Reality is, Jobs are NOT plentiful, experienced &unexperienced are competing for the same positions. Salaries are LOWER in most markets, Competition is FIERCE for even the most mundane run of the mill jobs. Companies are downsizing! Your claim that Education is Superior in Wantagh and Seaford to many places is just the type of statement that will come to backfire not in your face but in the faces of the students. IT is NOT superior to the group they will be competting with in the job markets here unless they are seeking jobs as cashiers, fast food servers or gas station attendents( our equal to chinas labor mills) It may be adequate at best but superior no, not until we collectively recognize that we need to give these kids the tools and education to prepare them for TODAYS global and highly competitve job markets ,not the job market WE encountered in what seems a lifetime ago.
Lorraine DeVita November 18, 2011 at 09:33 PM
When we dont strive for continued growth and excellence as indivduals , as caretakers of education, as parents and as business 's when we grow complacent, sit back on previous laurels, and are satisifed with the status quo we do ourselves ,the future of this country and our youth a great disservice and harm. Remember Seaford and Wantagh did NOT even make the top 500 HS's in the US . However some of our neighbors did... MaCarthur, Calhoun, South Side, to name a few. Seaford & Wantagh for all your claims of Superior didnt ! Your attitude is similiar to the Emperors New Clothes syndrom which unfortunately is VERY prevelant in this community and the kids suffer for it...because they are unprepared for the reality and rigors of today.
Wayne Smith November 19, 2011 at 11:44 AM
You're right - companies do move jobs to save money. As a country we've become a net exporter of jobs. But the real action has to do not just with the jobs we've lost, but the jobs that were never established here in the first place. Despite your characterization, these are not jobs performed in "sweat shops and prison-labor mills" but skilled positions performed by an educated work force. The Programme for International Assessment rankings I cited above are empirically based. In other words, it's based on how our students perform on tests relative to students from other countries. We might be opposed to that kind of methodology; we might even find it objectionable. But the point is it actually doesn't matter much what we think; it's what the players in a world economy think that matters and they do look at stuff like this. That's why there is pressure coming out of Washington being applied to all states - even the ones where we might think we have a "good" school system, albeit in a U.S. context. My personal opinion is that by far the biggest risk we face is our own complacency. I think assuming that the only jobs we've lost are positons that are relatively unattractive is a dangerous premise.


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