The Greater Good: APPR, P’pal letter, Latest from Commish

You may have seen some press in recent weeks (Dec. 6 Post Standard Article) generated by an articulate position paper opposing NY State’s teacher/principal evaluation system.  The letter, originating in Long Island, has been signed by over 850 principals across the state.  The paper (read it here) is well written and outlines strong opposition to the new evaluation system.  The authors have taken the commissioner of education to task at his own game, citing research and statistics in support of their argument.  NYSUT, however, has not publicly supported the the LI Principals letter.  Here’s an excerpt from an email I received from NYSUT president Dick Ianuzzi earlier this week:

First and foremost, please recall that NYSUT engaged in negotiations regarding the new APPR process in order to (1) protect the due process rights of our members from unilateral diminishment by the State Education Department or by the State Legislature and (2) enhance the role of local collective bargaining in defining best practices to benefit our students and our members as part of a fair APPR process.

NYSUT is encouraging leaders and members not to sign the “principals’ sign-on letter” because it opens the door to weakening the legislative provisions we strategically negotiated to protect our members and because, as a matter of policy:

1.    NYSUT opposes school-wide ratings for teacher evaluations:  school-wide ratings (group metrics) are completely inappropriate.  Such ratings would result in physical education and music teachers’ evaluations being based on math and ELA scores over which the teacher had no influence or control.  While we appreciate the principals’ angst at being treated that way, there is no need to “share” their pain.

2.    NYSUT opposes the very idea that teachers will avoid educating ELL students or special needs students in order to enhance their evaluation scores or that they will refuse to engage in collaborative activity to improve student performance.  These false assumptions completely ignore our roles as professionals, our commitment to our students and, in fact, denigrate the entire teaching profession.

3.    NYSUT continues to support and, in fact, was the first and most vocal advocate for the adoption of a one-year “hold harmless” or “pilot program” provision for all districts as they implement APPR in order for them to learn from and build upon their individual experiences and make necessary modifications for a fair and valid system.

NYSUT continues to forcefully challenge the system of testing students that is currently in place in New York.  The APPR legislation that we advocated removed the Board of Regents’ ability to unilaterally set the percentage at which testing is weighed as part of a teacher’s evaluation and replaced it with a reasonable limit set by law.

The matter of teacher-of-record (1) is an important one.  Most of us don’t have a state test attached to our teaching.  It would be fundamentally unfair to hang a teacher’s rating on a test not related to their teaching.  But most important to note is NYSUT’s focus on the collective bargaining rights of its members.  Make no mistake, we are currently at the table with the district discussing APPR revisions for one reason only, because that right has been given to us by the State Legislature expressly written into law.  That is a direct result of the involvement NYSUT has had in the design of the new system.  

Unfortunately, some of the press surrounding this issue, the principal letter, and NYSUT’s response has resulted in a smoke screen clouding the real problem in Albany.  That is the commissioner of education, a mid-level bureaucrat, has incredible power at SED and influence with the Gov and ligislature.  His recommendations (most recently changes to the testing schedule, expansion of the gr. 4 ELA exam to nearly 4 hours in some cases, and school consolidation) have been described as SCUD missile bureaucracy, not very accurate but can do a lot of damage.  He has a razor sharp agenda to further limit local control of schools and engineer the dismantling of much of the progress schools have seen in recent years under the guise of cost cutting and efficiency.  Most recently he and the Board of Regents have suggested diluting special education services and creating regional high schools across Upstate.  Read more: http://bit.ly/sM2NPO

As we enter into the teacher bashing season, we’ll keep you updated on the Governor’s proposed budget, the progress we are making on the APPR and contract negotiations (set to begin in January), and the latest from SED.  Let’s keep the dialogue going, keep asking tough questions, and keep in mind that you, as teachers, are part of the solution, not part of the problem in the NY State education system.

Regents Budget Proposal Falls $900mil Short

The Regents approved a 2012-13 budget proposal calling for an $805 million (4 percent) increase in state aid ($755 million to schools) even though schools and higher education are still reeling from $1.7 billion in cuts in this year’s state budget.  That means next year’s proposal is still nearly $900 million less that last year’s budget.  To ease the expected budget pain, the plan recommends expanded use of BOCES, multi-district reorganizations, regional high schools, “mandate” relief and support for options addressing health insurance costs for school district employees. The Regents recommended 73 percent of the $755 million increase in school aid would be targeted to high-need schools. Click here for the Regents plan. The governor is expected to present his proposed budget Jan. 17. Lawmakers have until March 31 to approve a new budget. NYSUT will continue to strongly advocate for more than the 4 percent increase.

Giving Tree Disaster Relief a HUGE Success!

Special thanks go out to all of our members and our sisters and brothers in the WEU for supporting the WDEA/WEU Giving Tree project to support two union families devastated by the flooding in Owego.  As I type this, Sue Demski and Kori Smith are loading up a truck full of gifts, household supplies, clothes, cash, and gift certificates headed downstate Saturday morning.  We raised over $1000 in donations to help make this Holiday season more bearable for two families in need.  Look for pictures and more details on our website, www.wdea3115.org.  The flooding in the Southern Tier was but a headline in September in our region, but the devastation brought by those storms is still being felt by families across the state.  These people literally lost everything.  With your help, they can begin to rebuild.  Our next goal is to organize a regional work-group that will help our adoptive families rebuild.  If you’d be interested in donating a weekend of your time to a rebuilding effort, please contact Jeremie Auge or Sue Demski.  Our goal is to muster our best weekend warriors and tackle projects in their homes this spring.  Locals helping locals, it’s what makes our union and our communities strong.  Thank you.

View some of the Owego flood damage here: http://youtu.be/2nk4lD-DTYk

NYSUT Drive Boosts Voter Registration

NYSUT’s “You Hold the Power” voter registration drive this fall was a tremendous success. Of all the new and reregistered voters across the state, 29 percent were NYSUT members. This success occurred in the 45 day period between the beginning of school and Oct. 14. Local unions can be sure their voice is heard when their members maintain their voter registration and exercise their right to vote in each and every election.

Save the Date: 2012 Relay for Life June 8th

The books have been closed on the 2011 Relay for Life and we are happy to report that the final total raised was $106,693.  This past year, 34 teams with over 500 participants went above and beyond the event’s fundraising goals.  Save the date, next year’s relay is scheduled for June 8th, 2012 at the Solvay HS track.  We hope you can join our team and help the WDEA/WEU/Teamsters team reach new heights in our fight against cancer. 

Website Revsions: Stay Connected

We’re planning revisions to our website, www.wdea3115.org.  The additions will include a retirement page with links to NYSUT  and NYSTRS resources as well as our local notification deadlines etc. which can be found in our WDEA contract.  We’re also adding a classified page which will highlight goods and services provided by our members and their relatives as well as items for sale or trade.  Do you have a small business on the side selling jewelry, clearing trees, teaching music lessons, or preparing taxes?  Looking to buy or sell a used car?  Your first stop should be our WDEA3115 classifieds page.  Emailwdea3115@gmail.com with your ad today.

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About cnyteacher

News and notes on education, labor, politics and the arts from CNY teacher Greg McCrea.
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