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Teacher evaluation top the list of 2015 education issues

Thomas Favre-Bulle
via Flickr

What to do with New York state's controversial teacher evaluation program is going to be one of the top education issues facing state officials in 2015.

More than 95 percent of teachers in New York state were rated effective or highly effective, according to the New York State Education Department. Those numbers are a far contrast from student performance. Proficiency in math and English Language Arts among students statewide averages less than 35 percent. Only one-third of graduating students are considered career or college ready.

Everyone from the Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the head of the Board of Regents say the evaluation system needs to be reformed.

The executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, Tim Kremer agrees, calling the Annual Professional Performance Review, known as APPR, overly complex, bureaucratic and easily manipulated.

“I really do think that we’re at a point in time, we have to say, ‘Look, this is not working. Whatever we’ve got is not working,’” said Kremer. “I don’t know who’s right, I don’t know who’s wrong. The teachers hate this thing. The administrators hate this thing. I know most of the school board members aren’t happy about it. I have not heard anybody who is advocating for continuation of the APPR as we know it.”

On December 18, Cuomo sent outgoing state Education Commissioner John King and the Board of Regents a letter asking for answers to what he called critical issues in education. The first question on this list asked how the evaluation system could be considered credible.

Kremer believes state officials should go back to the drawing board to come up with new ways to rate teachers.

But Kremer does admit these new evaluations are better than the old system in one way.

“It has caused conversations among supervisors and employees, among principals and teachers that are really focusing in on student achievement,” he said. “And ways in which we can improve and develop our craft. And that’s comforting.”