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Friday, July 15, 2011

A Picture Or A Movie?

We've all heard the adage - "A picture is worth a 1,000 words." That may be true. But, if a single picture is worth 1,000 words then 180 pictures would be worth 180,000 words. I realize that 180,000 words can be overwhelming, and perhaps even unnecessary. But, wouldn't you agree that you are likely to obtain a far better grasp and context of a subject if you had 180,000 words rather than 1,000?

Let me get to the point I want to offer in this Blog entry. New York state is about to embark on a system of evaluating teachers and principals that attributes 40% of the individual's overall rating to the test performance of the learners of whom they are responsible. The test used for determining this assessment is the state mandated and state produced test assigned to a particular grade and/or subject. For instance, the state Math test administered in 4th grade. These tests are designed to measure the performance of learners against the state's learning standards for respective grade levels or subject areas - i.e. the high school Regents exam in Algebra.

All told, the tests employed as decision points in evaluating the teachers and principals (the evaluation of principals encompasses test score results from all of the grades within the school of their responsibility) are single administrations. That is, each test may consume an hour or two, depending on the grade and subject. That makes it a data point extracted from a single day instead of data collected over the 180 days of a school year. In that small amount of time, the performance of the learners will collectively factor into 40% of the overall determination of the evaluation status of the teacher and principal associated with the test takers.

That represents a single picture - a snapshot. This is very different than a movie that uses countless frames of pictures to create and express a story. A single picture does not reveal the full plot, the back-story, the character development, the foreshadowing, the motives, and many other elements that combine to offer a complete story. So it is with the APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) that the state is prepared to embark upon this coming September. It should be noted that NYSUT, (New York State United Teachers) the largest teachers union in the state, recently filed a court order seeking an injunction to prevent the implementation of the legislated measure. That legal intervention places training exercises for evaluators in limbo this summer as people are left to wonder what we will be doing, when we will be doing it, and how we will be doing it. There has not really been a question of why we are doing it - teachers and principals alike accept and expect yearly evaluations. They have reason to also assume that the process of evaluation is research based, credible, and performed with integrity. Furthermore, the process should be one that provides skill specific feedback, appropriate and supportive resources intended to buttress any areas of deficiency, and sufficient time to generate and demonstrate the improvement necessary to realize effective standards of performance.

Florida will also be unveiling a similar evaluation system for the upcoming school year. In that system, the tests taken by learners will account for 50% of the teacher's evaluation. Here's what one of the teachers said about the new evaluation program in Florida:

Beth Weatherstone, president of the Indian River County Education Association and an algebra teacher , said test scores making up such a large portion of the evaluation is a concern.
"It's one test on one day of (students') life and is 50 percent of my evaluation," Weatherstone said. "There are factors that affect students that have nothing to do with my classroom."

I suspect that her remarks will be echoed throughout the Empire State as we move forward in implementing the newly adopted evaluation system here (assuming the legal wrangling is resolved in time).

Stay tuned....

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