It's hard to say, actually. I'm assuming readers of this blog know the APPR regulation passed yesterday in both the Assembly and the newly-blue Senate of New York State. Cuomo will certainly sign it.
I've read and heard advocates on both sides, and both make points of varying quality. I see this a marginal improvement, but only time will tell. Of course we're still stuck with Danielson, but that's not the focus of this particular bill. I'd like to move past our inane one-size-fits-all rubric, but we're gonna need something better before we can do that.
Personally, I'm not sure what that will look like. We could go back to the S and U system, for example. The best advantage there would be getting rid of the unconscionable provision of having burden of proof on teachers rated ineffective. I'm no longer as sure as I used to be that we'd see much of further benefit. There are way too many wasteful and stupid observations going on nowadays. We fixed that to some extent with the new contract, but we can certainly go further.
The main issue I have with S and U is that it's all too easy for a crazy supervisor to capriciously rate teachers unsatisfactory. Appealing U ratings was almost a universal waste of time until the UFT instituted a 13% window of appeals going to arbitrators. Of course that's not perfect either. In fact, arbitrators aren't perfect but I'd rather take a chance with an arbitrator than some DOE hack. (Make no mistake, rigged hearings of every stripe are a lingering stench of Bloomberg, and it's on de Blasio for failing to clean house.)
A lot of teachers are pulled up by the junk science. Eliminating it outright would result in a spike of negative ratings. I'm very much against taking an action like that without doing something to mitigate it. But what could it be? We have this system that tacitly acknowledges the fallibility of supervisors. The test scores, more often than not, act as a check on the worst of them. On the other hand, with test scores pretty much out of our control, and very possibly for reasons having nothing to do with us, getting rated poorly by test scores is nuts. (That's without even taking into account the rampant manipulation by the geniuses in Albany, or the fact that every working teacher with a memory knows this system was designed to fire us. The best thing I can say about it is that it's mostly failed at that task.)
Not only that, but if you have a terrible supervisor degrading everything and everyone on a daily basis, that could certainly factor in plunging test scores (not to mention teacher and student morale). It's kind of a vicious cycle that perpetuates itself. In that case, you need to hope the test scores save you, but what with death hanging in the halls of your school building, it could certainly lead students to be as as uninspired as everyone else. Yet teachers I know with awful supervisors tell me they count on the junk science to bring up their ratings.
Those of us who teach ELLs often see our ratings fall as a result of our students, who, you know, don't speak English. I have friends who teach core content, and if their classes are ELL heavy, or specifically for ELLs, their numbers come down. Of course that's no excuse. Educators 4 Excellence don't want to hear that nonsense, and if its leaders were working as teachers instead of Gates acolytes, they'd surely be able to come in and make them write like Nabokov in a New York minute (or two).
I'm rated on the NYSESLAT, the worst test in the history of human civilization, and thus far my junk science evaluation has been effective. I can only suppose it's because the test is a worthless piece of crap that measures nothing whatsoever. This hinders my ability to take any pride in my performance. Of course, if I have eleven students who are taking the NY State English Regents exam, I could be rated on that, and that may be the case this year. I could certainly see talking a ratings plunge this year.
I'd like to see an alternative to that. I'd like to see alternatives for every teacher who's rated on the basis of his or her students only. I'd like ever larger junk science pools. With this new regulation, that option could be open to me and many of my colleagues stuck on this ratings treadmill. In my building, at least, being rated by whole department or whole school scores is an advantage. We don't have any PE teachers with bad MOSL ratings, as they're rated on whole school test measures. I'm glad for them, even though the ratings are inherently absurd.
Is the system crap? Well yes, of course it's crap. Is it improved with the new law? I certainly hope so. Of course, only time will tell. While this is not the change we need, it appears to be a minor tweak that's unlikely to hurt anyone. It won't hurt to make this crappy system a little better for now, and keep an eye toward replacing it with something not insane ASAP in the future.