Niagara Gazette

Local News

December 22, 2012

Local districts get state approval to evaluate teachers

Niagara Gazette — The New York State Education Department has given the go-ahead to three local school districts to conduct teacher evaluations.

Lewiston-Porter, Niagara-Wheatfield and Niagara Falls have all received department Commissioner John B. King's seal of approval to implement Annual Professional Performance Reviews for the 2012-13 school year.

"This is a big thing for the school district," Niagara-Wheatfield Interim Superintendent James Knowles said during the district's school board meeting Wednesday. "If this plan wouldn't have been approved, it would have been devastating to this school district. But we're operating now. We're moving forward with it."

"Thanks to teamwork on the part of our negotiating team, the Niagara Falls Teachers Union and our administrators union, we are confident that we have fair plans in place," Falls Superintendent Cynthia Bianco said. "We feel certain that these plans will benefit educators and, ultimately, students."

APPR is designed to be a formulaic system which evaluates the effectiveness of teachers by examining not just in-class work, but also student performance on state exams and other, negotiated standards.

Negotiated is the key to the process. Each of the districts sat down with their two top bargaining units – teachers and principals – to design plans based on their specific standards.

Once each district submitted their plans, NYSED evaluated them and sent back lists of corrections they felt needed to be addressed. Lew-Port Superintendent Christopher Roser said its plan came with nine pages of corrections, though the number is a bit misleading.

"It seems like a lot, but it really isn't," he said. "In your plans, you repeat things, like names of tests. The state marks each individual correction, so it's the same corrections over again. So nine pages might actually be nine or 10 items."

APPR, despite local compliance, is still a work in progress elsewhere throughout the state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stuck with a Jan. 17 deadline for approval of the plans, which are required to receive an extra 4 percent in funding through the federal Race to the Top initiative.

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