By Michelle Miller
---- — Cooperstown Central School students in kindergarten through 12th grade began the school year taking tests.
It may seem a little early since they had yet to learn any new material, but according to Superintendent C.J. Hebert, the scores are needed to compare with similar tests the students will take later in the school year.
These students are not alone. It is all part of New York state’s new annual professional performance review. In 2010, New York, along with most other states, adopted the new standards, called the Common Core — the product of a national state-led effort to create learning goals that encourage complex thinking and prepare students for college-level classwork and careers.
Not only do students still have Regents to contend with, but now schools are testing more so there is data to measure growth in learning. The state has been moving toward a new way to improve student achievement by phasing out ineffective teachers using student performance as part of the yardstick for annual performance reviews.
The tests will not just be used to evaluate student performance, but will be used to measure teacher and curriculum effectiveness, according to Hebert.
The Annual Professional Performance Review law and regulations are specific as to how school districts and their teachers’ unions must agree on a measuring rubric for teachers, negotiate it on an annual basis into the teachers’ contract and submit the plan to the state Education Department. Besides teachers, building principals and administrators in charge of Board of Cooperative Educational Services instructional programs will also be evaluated under APPR. Student achievement will account for 40 percent of an educator’s score on the review, and results from the reviews will influence professional development for staff.
The law makes it possible to remove teachers and principals who get “ineffective” scores on their reviews for two consecutive years. Other than the rating of “ineffective,” there are three other rating categories into which teachers can be placed based on reviews: “developing,” “effective” and “highly effective.”
According to the state, each teacher’s total score on the review will be composed of the following elements: student growth data from state tests (20 percent of the score); other locally selected (and negotiated with unions) measures of student achievement (20 percent of the score); and locally negotiated (through unions) evaluations, ratings and effectiveness scores (60 percent of the score). Hebert said CCS will require a professional binder as part of its local component.
This spring, the state will debut math and English exams for third through eighth-grade students that test their mastery of these more-challenging standards. Some high school Regents tests will incorporate the standards the following year.
Hebert said it is hard to compare apples to oranges, and essentially there are two types of tests — Regents exams, which are exit outcome tests (meaning student have to pass that to graduate), and program tests, which examine how well students are being prepared.
“This change to focus on growth makes sense because if you are measuring how much teachers are providing growth for students, even at the Regents level, then you are comparing apples to apples that way,” he said.
CCS is using a third party, Northwest Evaluation Association, to help with assessments and testing. Hebert said once students are retested in May or June, using the NWEA testing, teachers will be required to write a student learning objective to equate to the scores for the APPR.
“With the third party assessment we will be doing an interim testing round as well, probably in January so that the teachers will get feedback on how well their students are doing and be able to adjust their instruction accordingly,” Hebert said.
There is also a built-in appeals procedure, negotiated between districts and unions, so that teachers who do not agree with their review outcomes may appeal.
Districts and unions must come to an agreement on an APPR plan and submit it to the state Education Department by Jan. 16, or risk losing any increase in state aid they may have coming to them.
Hebert said CCS has submitted its plan and anticipates a response within four to five weeks.
The CCS inquiry team, composed of the building principals and teachers, was scheduled to present at the board of education meeting on Wednesday.
“I feel we have a very strong team that has been working on all of this,” Hebert said. “They have all been through extensive training, they have worked with department chairs and grade-level chairs and are really focused on using this data to drive instruction at every level and assist teachers where they need it.”
Has the process been rigorous and demanding?
“Yes,” Hebert said. “I would like to thank everyone who had a hand in this; for all their hard work and efforts in making sure this will be a success.”
‘Core of the Core’ workshop set
CCS is going to host a “Core of the Core” workshop for speech pathologists and special education teachers. The workshop will be held from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 19 in the Bullpen Theater at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The cost is $100 plus an optional $80 fee for manuals and materials.
According to the district’s website, the workshop will be presented by Sheila Moreau of MindWing Concepts and will focus on oral language development as the “core” of the Common Core State Standards because it provides the foundation for literacy. The website states, “Through collaboration, speech pathologists, teachers and specialists can bridge the gap for those students with identified learning difficulties and for those ‘at risk’ of not meeting grade level standards. With an emphasis on the Discourse Level of language, this workshop is designed to be hands-on and practical with small and large groups as well as individual activities directly related to supporting specific CCSS.”
For more information or to register, call 547-4449.