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New Teacher Reviews Cause Concern in Sleepy Hollow

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. – New regulations from the state are changing the way the Union Free School District of the Tarrytowns will be conducting annual professional reviews (APPRs) for teachers and principals.

The regulations are in effect statewide as of July 1 for teachers and supervisors in math and English-language arts in grades 4 through 8, but Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Personnel Barbarann Tantillo noted during a recent Board of Education meeting that the new APPR language only takes effect after a new collective bargaining contract is struck with the teachers' union. TUFSD has not yet done so.

Tantillo noted that next year the state will “allegedly” apply the regulations to all subjects and teachers, but she couldn't say exactly how this would be done because there aren't state assessments in some subjects and the state hasn't said how other grades will be assessed.

“We understand that there's a plan for getting this together, but it's difficult for any of us to understand how this all can be in place for the 2012-13 year,” she said.

Under the new guidelines, evaluations will be divided into three parts: 20 percent of the evaluation will be on student growth on state assessments; 20 percent will be locally determined measures of student achievement; and 60 percent will be on state teaching standards.

The three parts will be combined to form a composite score, which will be available to the public. Scores will be divided into four categories: highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective. Teachers and principals will be able to appeal their score through an appeals process.

The regulations also mandate teacher improvement plans for teachers who don't meet standards and training for evaluators.

"The district and the union are working very closely to create, negotiate and facilitate an APPR plan that is both equitable to the parties involved and follows the legal mandates of the state Department of Education," Ellen Kaplan said. Kaplan is the president of the teachers' union. "Most importantly, we are looking out for our students."

During a recent Board of Education meeting, the feeling on the new APPR was negative.

Trustee Mimi Godwin questioned the score-based system, asking what would happen if one child was assigned to a teacher with a lower score than another teacher.

“Why wouldn't I be at your doorstep saying 'I want my kid out of this class?'” she asked.

Tantillo agreed that that could be a possibility and noted that it was possible for a teacher to get a lower score simply because of the make-up of the class' students.

“For a teacher the composition in each class in vastly different and changes each year,” Tantillo said, meaning that two teachers could be equally skilled yet get different scores.

Trustee Sheila Conklin said she was concerned that the new performance review system might case the school district to create classrooms that provide equal weight to every teacher for assessment purposes.

“The challenge is that we've worked really hard over the years to develop classes that take into account both academic strenghts and challenges, personalities and styles,” she said.

Tarrytown resident John Payne's daughter receives services in special education. He said he was glad that certain provisions in the APPR would take into account students with disabilities, but he wanted to express a concern that his daughter would not get the best possible education.

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