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Teachers to Get Report Cards Under New State-Mandated Common Core Curriculum

Elwood administrators explained the new state-issued report cards, which will lead to increased data management and higher costs for the district.

The latest unfunded mandate to come from Albany involves the grading of teachers beginning in June 2012. Under the state’s new Common Core Standards, an ambitious set of requirements designed to ensure that students are college- and career-ready, teachers will now be graded as part of their Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR).

Elwood Chief Information Officer Tracey Benfante explained the new grading system at the Oct. 6 Board of Ed meeting. Twenty percent of the grade will be based on student growth on state assessments or other comparable measures; another twenty percent on locally selected tests; and the remaining sixty percent on multiple criteria such as observations and other local measures to be determined within the district.

Teachers will receive an overall composite grade of Ineffective, Developing, Effective, or Highly Effective.

The ambitious program comes with a price tag. Districts will get to choose from a list of localized tests, for instance, but will have to pay for them.  Every minute spent teaching in classrooms will now have to be tracked. Benfante said that task will require an enormous amount of data management by staff who will also have to accurately track those minutes when a child is pulled out of a classroom for such things as a music lesson or AIS services. 

Contacted after the meeting, Benfante confirmed that the teacher report cards coming out in June are just for English Language Arts and Math assessments and for those teachers in grades 4-8. The grades will be sent electronically to the district but Benfante isn’t sure if they will be made public.

Still unclear is how teachers in subjects such as physical education or home and career would be graded in the absence of state assessment tests.

Superintendent Peter Scordo said the probationary process for teachers will also change. In the past, the district determined tenure but under the new system, probationary teachers would be graded under the same rules and guidelines as tenured teachers. Costs for professional development for underperforming teachers will also increase, and teachers who challenge their grade will be allowed to go to a mediator which could lead to a lengthier appeals process and additional legal costs. 

Scordo said the district will be keeping a close eye on how students do on the state assessments in comparison to their classroom grade. Gone will be all the extra credit opportunities that some teachers give which can elevate a student’s grade. “We’re looking to do whatever we can to raise the bar to ensure that the delta (between the state test and the classroom grade) is small.”

Board members and residents at the meeting expressed disbelief and frustration at the sheer volume of detail involved in managing the data, as well as the added pressure that some students might feel in knowing that their performance could affect a teacher’s employment.

Parent Julie Badlato asked if the district could just say no to the new mandates, citing the additional costs and lack of clerical staff.  

Saying he would check with legal counsel, Scordo remained resolute. “We’re going to do it, we’re going to do it well, and we’ll succeed.”

Edward B Ryder October 11, 2011 at 07:30 PM
I have every confidence that the administration of Elwood will "make the grade" with this newest unfunded state mandate. Elwood can successfully navigate this new edict, and will do so as unubtrusively as is possible at the lowest cost to the taxpayer possible. Now as for the buffoons we continuously elect and re-elect to "serve" us in Albany, we should expect nothing but a continuation of these types of unfunded mandates from a state government that is arguably incapable of delivering services at the lowest cost possible while jurisdictions like the Elwood UFSD bear the burden of administering policies and procedures mandated by our Albany based "leaders."
East N'ptr October 12, 2011 at 12:41 PM
I appreciate the concern over the cost of administering these performance reviews, but the current system in place to evaluate teacher performance is sub par, and the union protections for ineffective teachers will ultimately harm students. If "costs for development of underperforming teachers" is really a concern, consider the alternative. If this teacher cannot be fired due to tenure, what do you propose they do? Continue doing a poor job teaching the kids? This is one state mandate that makes sense.
Tom October 12, 2011 at 01:28 PM
Tenure does not protect poor teachers. It protects teachers from dismissal due to factors such as their salary, political views, skin color and the like. It is the job of the administration to weed out ineffectual teachers BEFORE they get tenure. In many cases they do a poor job at this. Thus the question: Who oversees the administration in their duties and effectiveness? As a retired administrator the answer unfortunately is almost no one. Better administrators=better teachers.
East N'ptr October 12, 2011 at 02:26 PM
Tom, I agree with you that its the job of the administration to weed out poor teachers before giving tenure. It may not be tenure, it could be lack of administrative oversight, the power of the union, whatever the reason, it is extremely difficult to remove underachieving teachers once they receive tenure. The state mandated APPR is a step closer towards accountability. The accountability needs to be raised at every level, from teachers up through administrators, superintendents and school boards.
Tom October 12, 2011 at 03:05 PM
East N'ptr I was a teacher for 14 years before I was an administrator. I was a good teacher. I was observed two or three times a year by an administrator. Once in a while an administrator would walk into my classroom unannounced for a few minutes to see what was going on. When I became an administrator it was my duty to raise the bar for those who wanted tenure. My best observations of teachers came unannounced and for the most part most teachers were right on the mark doing what we all expect of them. In my 20 years as an administrator never was I ever questioned or was I observed while I was doing a formal or informal observation. I could have been dreaming of a warm sandy beach or a cozy warm fire and written anything I wanted to. The times I had problems with teachers I can say for the most part those problems worked themselves out either by the teacher adjusting their performance/professionalism or the teacher moving on to someplace else and becoming someone else's problem. Not on my watch was my attitude. Point being that administrators need to do so many more things today that have little to do with teacher/classroom performance. Standardized testing, bullying and for crying out loud no peanut butter tables at lunch. How can they spend time in the classrooms of young teachers and try to help them improve as they should? Administrators today are more a global manager than what the job was like just 10 years ago. Maybe cutting back on the red tape might help.
Jerry Hannon October 12, 2011 at 04:16 PM
A few posters may be laboring under misimpressions about what the State is doing, or perhaps simply not thinking all the way through the issue. For a more thorough analysis, I would invite you to consider a commentary based upon the same meeting which Debbie Sullivan attended, and posted on the blog Elwood Illuminations: http://elwoodilluminations.blogspot.com/2011/10/agreed-good-idea-but-bad-design-by-ny.html I appreciate the fact that Debbie is reporting on what she hears, and is not engaged to provide her own analysis, but i am happy to do that for Elwood residents and others interested in the issue. Among the key points would be the following: First of all, the data which would be required to be gathered, managed, and submitted to the State by each school district, in addition to what is presently submitted, would require a dedication of district resources that will not be paid for by the State. Second, the use of State student assessment data as 20% of the performance appraisal calculation will place, perhaps in unintended ways, an increased burden upon students themselves, whose scores on such specific tests will now be part of a process which could determine which teachers will subsequently be subject to dismissal if that teacher's overall score is below a certain level for a specified period of time. [more follows]
Jerry Hannon October 12, 2011 at 04:16 PM
[continued] Third, the State has set itself up, and in so doing has set school districts up, for what would seem to be a perpetuated challenge process whereby an unhappy teacher, and/or union representatives, could delay any appropriate significant action by a school district for years longer (and it seems beyond definition at this point) than the theoretical appraisal process would allow. As the old line goes, justice delayed is justice denied. Fourth, the State's new process would even seem to make it more difficult for school districts to determine the suitability of one of the very, very few areas of a school district's current ability to manage quality control among its teaching staff, namely, with probationary teachers. Right now a district has discretion with this class of new hires, but it seems that the new State structure could even make a district subject to delaying tactics and possibly challenges from new hires.
Jerry Hannon October 12, 2011 at 04:31 PM
Finally, and this is not covered in the previously mentioned commentary, I am no longer tolerant of efforts to obfuscate the issue of accountability and performance enhancement of either teachers or administrators. Please do not suggest that any school district, making a one-time decision about tenure for a teacher, is able to insure that such teacher will be at the top of his/her game over the next twenty or thirty years of his/her career. Until such time as school districts are allowed by the State to have staff reductions -- when economically necessary -- on the basis of actual performance by staff members, rather than on the present system of whomever-is-in-place-the-longest-is-protected, we will not be able to improve our education system. It becomes nothing more than a game of rewarding time spent, rather than rewarding quality given. If a longer tenured teacher is truly good (as some suggest simple experience will provide), then their performance appraisals -- when finally properly designed by the State -- will insure that they are retained during times of layoffs. Right now some of the best and brightest are being laid off simply because they have less time in grade in their positions. That allows mediocrity to be tolerated, if not cherished, and it is the wrong thing to do for our kids, for our taxpayers, and for those younger teachers who have done such a fine and promising job, only to find themselves out of a position in tough economic times.

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