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Buffalo teachers are in a pitched battle with their school district and state over whether student absenteeism should be factored into their evaluations. Teachers say it’s unreasonable to judge their teaching skills on the performance of students who don’t show up to class. The state disagrees and is threatening to withhold millions of dollars from the district.

The Buffalo News editorial board continuously calls the teachers selfish. But the teachers say this is about fairness and common sense.

Get ready for the same fight in Rochester. It could very well happen, as Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski warned members in an email yesterday:


The Buffalo News article, below, is an omen of things to come. Here in Rochester, unlike in Buffalo, we have agreements for this year that student attendance will be factored in and that no teacher will be adversely affected by APPR (see attached). Nonetheless, we stand in solidarity with Buffalo teachers and may have APPR-related struggles ahead of us, too.

Our negotiated agreements with the RCSD about APPR are for this year only. We are in negotiations for next year and beyond. We are determined that consideration of student absenteeism, and other factors, would have to be part of any eventual tentative agreement. More about all this at next week’s meeting of the RTA Representative Assembly. Adam

As recently as March, Urbanski thought he had a deal with Superintendent Bolgen Vargas to weight student attendance in evaluations. If a student is absent 90 percent of the time, only 10 percent of his performance would count toward the teacher’s evaluation. Urbanski and Vargas were under the impression the state allowed weighted attendance.

But last week, Urbanski said the state informed the district all students must count, whether they show up to class or not. This doesn’t affect Rochester teachers for the current school year, because the union has a hold-harmless clause. Teachers’ evaluations can’t be used against them this year only.

Next year is a different story. Urbanski plans to fight the state. “If they want to have a showdown with Rochester as well, I’m willing to have that fight with them.”

Even if it means the RCSD loses gobs of money.

“I will not agree no matter how much money is at stake,” Urbanski said. “A billion dollars could be at stake.”

There’s a chance the state will relent by next school year.

“They have to blink,” Urbanski said. “Because they are wrong.”

10 Responses to Next Stop, Rochester?

  1. May 8, 2012 at 9:48 pm Matt responds:

    That’s like dentists being held accountable for patients who don’t brush their teeth. What a ridiculous thought process.

  2. May 9, 2012 at 6:12 am Sharon responds:

    Why should teachers like me be evaluated on par w/ teachers who have 90%attendance in more affluent districts? I CHOOSE to educate kids who are “at risk” because they are the children I love. They fail often due to low attendance. But many of them succeed in other ways. Making stronger personal decisions, often due to my (& other teachers’ mentoring So should I instead choose to educate the kids who come? Should I change districts? Unless there is some repercussion for parents who choose not to send their child to school, then there should be no repercussion for the teacher either. How can I educate children who are absent? I’ve strongly held to the principle for years that if my students attend 90% of the time then I can prepare them for the rigorous state tests. if I don’t see them I can’t educate them. Pure and simple. Oh… And before you say it’s my responsibility to get the, to call via phone calls and letters… That doesn’t work. If we have their correct information (which is rare) the parents basically tell us they have no control over their child’s attendance (high school). Perhaps THIS is where the state and/ or federal government should step in. Require welfare recipients to send their children to school. You will witness a national rise in student achievement. Teachers have been the scapegoat for far too long. It’s about time society starts looking at parenting a little differently.

  3. Yyyyyyeah. This one’s kind of a no brainer. Attendance should definitely be taken into account. Also, are they going to tell us with the many six figure salaries among upper level administrators that there is no one with the skills in statistics to come up with a formula that accounts for attendance when evaluating teachers?

  4. May 9, 2012 at 8:07 am Michele responds:

    Teachers should not be held accountable for those students who do not attend school, responsibility needs to fall on the parents/guardians of said students. How can a teacher teach to an empty seat?

  5. May 9, 2012 at 8:27 am Todd responds:

    This assessment wave is getting out of control. I am glad that teachers and the unions are standing up and taking a stand. Moral of the story: this is what happens when you have politicians and technocrats with no educational training set education policy.

  6. The worst is yet to come… wait till the litigation/arbitrations begin over appeals of evaluations… especially, when tests scores are used without controlling for the many socioeconomic and educational factors cited by the makers of NAEP… could be Evalmageddon…

  7. May 9, 2012 at 10:29 am Peking Humonculous responds:

    Absolutely agree with these comments. When will the state of New York just let teachers do their jobs without these ridiculous rules and structures they put in place thinking one size fits all?

  8. May 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm Jim Webster responds:

    It’s not often I agree with Urbanski on anything, but he’s dead right on this issue.
    The state bureaucracy needs to get out of the way on this one.

  9. May 9, 2012 at 8:30 pm Matt B responds:

    What difference does it make if all teachers are being considered on the same scale? Ratings will be relative to others on the same scale. On the flip side of that coin it brings to question “why” this scale is being considered. Is this a way to weight and discipline (fire) poor performing teachers? To that I say BS. Let us consider all circumstances including home-life as it relates to a student’s performance. Let us consider parental engagement and challenges. Let us measure the success or failure of teachers as it relates to students that are both actively engaged as well as willing to work hard. Students that do not show up often have extenuating circumstances precluding their involvment in school–extreme and concentrated poverty can yield seemingly bizzar behavior until all circumstances are considered. If we are not considering these special circumstances, how can we accurately measure success or failure of our teachers?

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