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.”