Archive for category APPR

APPR Gone Astray

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I have been challenged by my buddy, Lisa Meade, to write about the new APPR direction in New York State.  Another good buddy, Christina Luce, wrote about APPR too, so the pressure is on! I have been rather quiet about this, due to the fact that first, I am a little miffed with what is happening in our state with public education.  I guess you would say, SHOCKED is a better word.  The other is that yes, I am a little “gun shy” in that I will get my hands slapped, but I know that I need to do this for our children and for our future.  Let’s face it, our kids need to be productive citizens, not widgets and autobots taking bubble tests.  It’s killing innovation and creativity.

Where did we lose it?  I have been in education for 27 years, 15 of them as a building leader, and I haven’t experienced anything like we are experiencing not only in New York, but within the nation.  Heck, Diane Ravitch called for a national teacher strike last week at the NPE conference in Chicago.  That will go over well.  I totally remember the teacher strike at the Centennial School District in Warminster PA in 1976.  I was in 6th grade and we missed 3 months of prime instruction.  NOT good for a 6th grader who had reading difficulties.  Educators are angry, and boy, so are the parents.  A rally call has been put out to parents, students and retired teachers to not give up and continue the civil disobedience because they are the ones that can really change the landscape because they won’t be fired!  Only in America can we do this and that is the beauty of this wonderful nation. (Check out Yong Zhao’s funny speech at the NPE conference in Chicago here.  It’s worth the time!)

The legislation of our new APPR system has gone astray.  What has happened is that we have lost our compass, what truly matters in education, and that is creating a society of children, who will not be creative and innovative, who will have the opportunity to be entrepreneurial, and who will not have a moral compass.  Bubble tests do not do this AND only focusing on Math and ELA will not be the end all be all.  What about the arts, science, civic curriculum, and social and emotional curriculum?

Before I go on, let me be very clear.  I believe in an APPR system that is what it is, an Annual Professional Performance Review that is fair and that will be a coaching model for our teachers and principals.  New York State has had this regulation in place for a long time, but what happened with Race To The Top initiatives has driven New York State education on a spiral path of FAILURE!  It’s time to listen to the wake up call! (Wakey, wakey!!)

So how can we improve this system?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Make the test available to teachers, administrators and parents.  Why such a secret?  Do we really think that the ELA and Math 3-8 tests are driving instruction?   Not when we get results back so late.  Even a July 1st release will be worthless because we had so many opt outs, let alone ONLY releasing 50% of the test..  Stop with the insanity of using these high stakes tests for teacher evaluations.  It was NEVER designed for this purpose.  What it is doing now is sorting our kids and schools.  Keep doing the same thing over and over again, and you create insanity.  Oh, and why so tricky and high levels of reading? I would like to see some Regents and State legislatures take a 5th grade Math and ELA test, see if they could pass it, let alone a 3rd grade test.  Why are we tricking our kids?  Give back the test design to our teachers.  We had a system in place, but maybe special interests got in the way. (AKA – Pearson and the $$! Cha-ching!)
  2. Let principals lead their schools.  As a building principal, I am burning out from evaluations and compliance.  Don’t get me wrong, I love walk through’s and the ability to have conversations and coach.  That is my job  as a lead learner, to spark conversation and reflections with my teachers and help them grow.  But we are burning out with the evaluation process.  Like Fullan stated, carrots and sticks don’t work.  The gotchya’s aren’t the answer – teacher capital and capacity is the answer.  Build the core and the group and develop leadership with our professionals!  What we are doing now is wasting time to  hurry up and meet the compliance deadline.  I do it, but I am wondering if it is meaningful for my staff.  They say it is, but I have been doing this for 10 years.  How are my colleagues fairing?
  3. Bring back trust and listen to the “experts”.  The Board of Regents asked to bring in “experts” to their May 7th forum.  What about teachers and principals who are in the trenches?  I love Linda Darling-Hammond and heard she was asked to be on “the panel,” but had declined. (That’s a shame or a sham?)  Why not ask those educators who are recognized as the Middle School principal of the year (Lisa Meade) or teacher of the year?  What about their voices?  Bring trust back – we are educators and we are professionals!
  4. Bringing in independent evaluators is cause for concern, and personally, a slap in the face of a building leader.  Basically, we are feeling that we are not trustworthy in leading our schools, so bring someone in who doesn’t work with the teachers, the kids, the students, the parents, and evaluate.  This is NOT a great coaching model for our teachers.
  5. And then, within all of this craziness and anger with the education system, we truly are having a big problem with the teacher education system and not being able to recruit aspiring educators to the profession.  We want the best of the best in education.  The cream of the crop should be applying for teacher education programs in colleges, but who wants to go into teaching with so much disrespect and such a big morale problem, let alone trying to pass the edTPA that costs $1,000.00.  The profession isn’t really enticing, and this sure isn’t the way to recruit the top students, when they can make much more in the private sector or industry and get much more respect.  I think it’s time to listen and hear the wake up call!

I had the good fortune to sit with a team of educators from our district in a two hour meeting with Regent Ouderkirk.  (A side note – Regent Ouderkirk had my position as East Side Principal in the early 80’s.  Kind of neat I thought.)  She impressed me with traveling her area on a listening tour to get feedback from the trenches –  parents, teachers, administrators, tax payers, you name it.  She heard what I listed above from this team and much more, and I assume, will get the same thoughts while she makes her rounds.  I applaud her for making the time to “listen to her constituents”.  A common theme during our conversation was this – we may have gone in the wrong direction and now, it’s time for a refresh or restart button.  Let’s take what we have in place and make it better!  Adjust and correct.  We know what doesn’t work and let’s improve on what is working.  

I am optimistic that something good can come from the “civil disobedience” from our parents and “friends of public education”.  I know these folks won’t let it go because they believe in public education and believe that our kids are more than a score.  Let’s stop the madness, move back to our moral obligation of teaching our kids, and get back to trusting the professionals who are in the trenches.  They know what our kids need to be the best they can be.  Stop the insanity and let’s get back to teaching our kids!

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The APPR Insanity Continues – From All Directions

Love this! Everyone needs to read this by Jeff Craig from OCM BOCES!

OCM BOCES Instructional Support

Last month, this column described the political discourse about teacher evaluation and the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) as insanity, citing the definition of insanity as doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. During the last month, the battle between Governor Cuomo and the teacher’s association, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), has escalated with both sides taking shots at each other. As previously observed, the insanity shows no signs of abating.

The Governor is arguing that inflated teacher evaluation results means change to the APPR system is necessary.

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Top Ten Thing to Remember in Times of Change

APPR has created a tremendous amount of change in our districts and buildings.  It has also increased the amount of work principals have to do on a daily basis, let alone the amount of stress. Staying positive is key to the success and survival of these demands.  As a 13 year administrative veteran, here are some top tens I would like to share (In no particular order!)

1.  Keep Your Door Open and Be Visible:  Your staff, students and parents need to see you as the leader and you need to be accessible.  Keep your door open, listen, listen, and listen even more.  Give encouragement to your staff who are working hard to embrace a new curriculum and create engaging lessons for students.  Be in their classroom, the hallways, the lunch room and the playground.  Greet the buses and parents in the morning.  Get on the announcements daily and say the pledge, your school pledge and your belief statement.  It’s powerful, it resonates, and starts the day on a positive note.

2.  Use a Scheduler:  If you don’t write it down on your schedule to do a walk through, be visible, or do that observation, then it will not get done!  I use Google Calendar and live by it.  I have shared the calendar with my secretary who schedules my observations and meetings with staff when needed.  Using an online calendar such as Google Calendar, iCal, or Outlook will help you organize YOU. The best part is that it notifies me of my schedule in the morning, and notifies me 10 minutes in advance.

3.  Provide Mini-Observations: Teachers want feedback on how they are doing.  When you do a walk through or mini-observation give them honest, constructive feedback.  I like what Kim Marshall has listed in how to do mini-observations the right way:  Unannounced, Frequent, Short, Face-to-face, Perceptive, Humble, Courageous, Systematic, Documented, Linked to teacher teamwork and schoolwide improvement, Linked to end-of-year teacher evaluation, and Explained well. (Kim Marshall, Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation, 2nd Edition, 2013.) Marshall suggests to do 10 mini-observations on each teacher, throughout the school year..  That would be 1 mini-observation per month.  In our district, we do 5 mini observations for tenured, 2 formal observations and 3 mini-observations for 1st year teachers, and 1 formal observation and 4 mini-observations for 2nd and 3rd year non-tenured teachers.  What it has accomplished for me is having powerful, professional conversations about what is occurring in the classroom, asking questions of the staff, and coaching best practice.  It is also building trust and it is so important to have those face-to-face conversations about what is working and what needs to be refined.  It’s about growth and should not be about a “gotcha”.

4.  Share The Leadership:  I am the sole administrator/lead learner at East Side, with a student population of 463 and about 60 staff members.  There is no way I can do this job alone and I rely on the staff to help run the school.  Give leadership roles to your teacher’s.  Give them opportunities to work together so they can manage the Common Core.  They are the ones in the trenches and will help boost school morale and provide great education for our students.

5.  Be the Lead Learner:  Rather than being “the principal”, be the Lead Learner.  Joe Mazza, Lead Learner of Knapp Elementary School in the North Penn School District, PA, coined this term and it means to talk the talk and walk the walk.  Say what you mean, mean what you say.  Join your teachers in professional development.  Share your learning and what you find.  Get on Twitter people!  (Social media networking is huge and you should be embracing this venue.)  Gone are the days of the principal sitting in the office, managing discipline and minutia. We need to be visible, be a part of what is happening in our schools, and be in the classrooms.

6.  Your Hour of Power:  Tony Robbins says that we have to have a daily ritual of physical and emotional conditioning.  This means having time for you.  Are you experiencing an extraordinary life?  He also says to put in some type of physical activity.   I try to power walk the hallways of my school and examine student work displayed and in turn, see the pride in our students’ accomplishments.  This also gives me an hour to reflect on the day and plan.  Give yourself this hour to rejuvenate and reflect.

7.  Stop Those Boring Staff Meetings:  Are you regurgitating information that can be shared via email or a blog?  Stop that type of staff meeting where it is you up there, giving information and share it with your staff.  Don’t waste their time by giving unnecessary information that can be shared via email or better yet, flip your staff meeting as Peter DeWitt  shared in his blog Finding Common Ground.

8. Climate and Culture:  How is the climate of your building?  Have you given a culture survey?  Are you dealing with lots of discipline issues that boggle you down?  Maybe it is time to implement a social and emotional curriculum such as Responsive Classroom or PBIS.  If you don’t address the social and emotional aspects of students and get to know your kids, forget about the academics.  Programs such as these change the culture of your building not only for students, but for the adults.  The social and emotional curriculum is just as important as the academic curriculum.  Once you have the social and emotional curriculum in place, academics are a breeze.  It is about the relationships we develop not only with our students, but also with adults.

9.  Celebrate:  Celebrate the joys of being a team, a school family.  We just finished our Holiday stocking stuffing exchange and what a hit it made for the staff.  We also celebrate baby showers, weddings, birthdays, you name it.  Again, as adults, it’s about the relationships and working together to be the best we can be.  I always say to the staff, “You are the best of the best.” You say it often, and it starts to become a part of you, and we show our pride.

10.  It’s People, Not Programs:  Todd Whitaker says it best that it’s about the teachers, the people, not the programs.  “We can spend a great deal of time and energy looking for programs that will solve our problems.  Too often, these programs do not bring the improvement or growth we need. Instead, we must focus on what really matters.  It is never about’ programs; it is always about people.”  (Todd Whitaker, What Great Principals Do Differently, 2003.) Yes we have new Common Core State Standards and those modules, but if you are not putting the time into your people, your staff and teachers, giving them time to plan, collaborate, reflect and giving them ownership, then it will be a tough road ahead.  Empower your teachers and your staff, and you will have a better school.  You know that if you have great teachers, you will have a great school.  “The program itself is never the solution nor the problem.”  (Todd Whitaker)

In the end, it is all about teamwork.  As the lead learner, create those opportunities for collaboration, leadership, reflection and rejuvenation.  You are the lead leaner and remember to remain positive!

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Is the NYS Education Department Listening Now?


Sometimes I don’t know why I take two hours on a Sunday evening to watch and listen to the NY State Senate Education Committee meet with the New York Education Commissioner John B. King Jr on Thursday, January 23rd.  You can view it on Senator Flanagan’s website here. Two hours of over 5 to 6 state senators saying to the education commissioner to delay the implementation of the Common Core Standards.  Senator LaValle opened the meeting slamming his hand to “push the delay button.”  “It’s not working and we need to stop.  The roll out was bad and children are being hurt.”  

Dr, King’s response was that there is a confusion about the CCSS and APPR and requirements of the state test.  He kept going back to how the department requires certain tests mandated by the US Education Department.

Senator Marcellino  reiterated saying, “When we talk about a delay, we’re talking about giving educators time.  Parents are very concerned.  Give the professionals a chance to catch-up.  It takes time.”  He went on to say that the State Education Department “changes requirements like I change my socks.”  

Commissioner Kings stated that we have phased in the Common Core since 2010 and with Class of 2017, we will see a 7 year implementation of the Common Core.  Senator Martins corrected the commissioner, saying that implementation was started in 2013-2014 and we only have three years of a poor implementation process.  Senator Seward referenced the “building and plane in the air” and that scenarios has been a failure and referenced to hit the pause button.

Senator Latimer got really emotional in his remarks and slammed his hand on the table in reference to “hit the delay button.”  Senator Flanagan, the head of the education committee, ended the meeting asking, why doesn’t the Education Department just say that “we made a mistake and we know it hasn’t gone as smoothly as it should and we apologize.”  He referenced how the mayor of NYC apologized for the poor plowing after the snow storm.  

That is a great question.  Why can’t the NYS Education Department just says, “We are so sorry folks for rushing into this process.”  Is it because of federal money?  Is it because we have to be one of the first to do it, and in the end have our kids suffer?  Is it because of the sense of pride?  It is okay to say, “Whoa, let’s slow down some here.” 

To me, this two hour meeting was a  warning to Commissioner King and the Board of Regents.  Senator Flanagan puts it bluntly as well as Senator Martins, that if something isn’t done, and soon, then the NY State legislative body will do something because their constituents will not stop.  As Senator Flanagan stated, “If this gets put off until June, the public will go nuts.”  I think the Board of Regents has their work cut out for them in February.  Good luck! I’m optimistic as always!

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Dr. King, Don’t Ignore St. Lawrence County and Senator Ritchie’s Plea

Media preview
4th grade East Side teachers giving a presentation on Common Core Math to parents
November 13, 2013, Gouverneur NY

Dear Dr. King:

We are parents, educator, students, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and concern citizens working hard to provide the best education we can in Northern and Central New York.  Our students and staff are toiling to meet the demands of the new common core curriculum.  Teachers are putting in a lot of time every night, trying to work through the modules and planning engaging lessons for our children.  They are working hard to make sure that we are doing the right things for our children and making the right decisions.  Our teachers are working side-by-side with parents, inviting them into the classroom to help with math, giving parent workshops as you can see above, and hosting review lessons for parents.  Administrators are hosting parent nights to review the direction of NY State education and Common Core.  What we are missing is the opportunity that you are giving to other areas of New York State, a chance to hear you present and a chance to ask questions.

We are asking that you take some time out of your schedule and come and make a stop in our region for one of your forums.  Our parents and educators want to have a voice too.  The only area that is the closest to us is Plattsburgh or Syracuse.  This is at least an hour or two drive for our community members and should not be the only “chance” for them to have an opportunity to hear and see a presentation about the Common Core from the State Education Commissioner.  Our county is the largest, in area, east of the Mississippi, and it has been ignored on the schedule of forums.  Our NY State Senator, Patty Ritchie, has pleaded for you to make room in your schedule here and here, but still, there is no room for us.  We don’t understand why we are ignored, and our parents and educators should have the opportunity and the right to have a chance to be a part of what is happening throughout the state.  We can even host you at our school.  Our staff would be more than willing to help!

Please Dr. King, don’t ignore our region.  Let our region have a chance to hear what you say and have a voice!

Sincerely,

Vicki Day, East Side Elementary Principal and concerned educator

 

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