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RCSD high school teacher's APPR rating.

RCSD high school teacher’s APPR rating.


Rochester City School District teachers received their ratings in the mail, just a few days before school starts. They are not happy. The scores are referred to as “Annual Professional Performance Review” or APPR. They won’t be used against teachers or schools this academic year, but teachers are upset this could be a sign of what’s ahead.

Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski wrote to his membership an email called, “APPR (be)rating:”

In all too many cases, these flawed assessments are a gross misrepresentation of the work that teachers do…

While a small percentage of teachers received the “Ineffective” rating, altogether too many dedicated and excellent teachers were rated as “Developing.” Even some teachers who received a perfect (60 points) or near perfect score for their Professional Practice were dismayed to find out that they were “developing.” But what they were in fact developing was a realization that APPR is patently unfair. It is neither good for students nor fair to teachers. But unfortunately, in New York State, APPR is embedded in legislation. Our first priority, therefore, must be to either improve or abolish this bad law.

Michael Occhino was among the teachers rated “developing.” The All City High science teacher has been teaching in the district for 23 years. He is one of only about 60 nationally board-certified teachers in the district. He’s a lead teacher and mentor. Occhino is also a visiting instructor of education at the University of Rochester. He’s now been labeled as needing help and must come up with an individualized improvement plan.

“It is impossible for me to tell how my scores were computed,” Occhino said. “It’s thoroughly opaque. I don’t know how my pre and post-tests were utilized.”

A longtime teacher who is at School of the Arts and doesn’t want to be named, is not yet aware of any colleagues who scored “highly effective.” This teacher was rated “developing,” despite getting a perfect score from her administrator. SOTA is one of the best schools in the district. This person teachers special education and other students.

“Our kids’ scores are so low,” the SOTA teacher said. “To me, it’s not possible to score highly effective.”

A teacher at a high-needs elementary school who did not want to be named and was rated developing said, “I should be able to learn and grow from any rating. The scores are a composite of my children’s math and ELA scores. I don’t even know where I need to improve…It’s not going to help me be a better teacher. It’s just going to make me feel bad.”

This elementary school teacher feels powerless. The teacher can’t control which children are assigned to a class and “all children learn at a different rate.” This teacher can’t control parental involvement. This teacher also thinks these 90-minute tests are developmentally inappropriate. The teacher’s students didn’t finish the tests. The teacher thinks the tests are not good tests.

There’s a lot we need to know about the teacher scores that came out. Good luck understanding the rubrics. Beyond getting into the nitty gritty of how scores were calculated, I’d like to know the percentages of teachers who fell into each category. If the likelihood of being rated effective corresponds with teaching at more affluent schools and schools with higher parental involvement, there could be something very wrong with this measurement.

“You name any other profession and this never would happen,” said Occhino, who is off this semester to work on his dissertation. “Why are teachers being labeled as something they are not? I am a great teacher. It wouldn’t change what I did in the classroom, but it sure would be demoralizing. I would feel like I wasn’t valued.”

Update: An RCSD elective teacher contacted me who received a “highly effective” rating. This teacher and colleagues in the subject area wrote their own tests.


Links of the Day:


– Schools will be very different this year because of Common Core.

– State law now allows schools to discipline cyberbullies, even if the bullying takes place off of school grounds.

– This is a great map that shows the dominant immigrant group that settled each part of the United States.

15 Responses to Teachers (Be)Rating

  1. September 2, 2013 at 8:44 pm Mary Adams responds:

    Rachel, If you want to go deeper into questions of methodology, error and bias (are affluent districts likely to have higher proportions rated effective or highly effective?) one good resource is Bruce Baker. You can search student growth percentiles on his blog http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/

  2. September 2, 2013 at 10:36 pm Coolbeauty42 responds:

    I received an 85 which was an effective score and have talked to several of my colleagues who also received an effective. While there are many problems with the tests, the students did not necessary have to pass the tests for the teacher to get a passing score. The state and local tests are measuring growth from one year to the next. After working with a student for 10 months they may not reach grade level standards but they should move in a positive direction. If my students showed no growth I’d be satisfied with a low score and would find a way to improve the next year.

  3. My thoughts….EVERY day in the News media their is some article about the performance of students in the RCSD. This is not new. It has probably been going on for over 20+ years if not longer. Yet during this time, it is NEVER the fault of the teachers. They continue to get pay increases that surpass most lines of work. So my question is….at what point in time does it become a realization that perhaps what you have been doing all these years is not effective? At what point in time does the teacher have to ask if they are capable or willing to do what is necessary to succeed? At what point in time does the teacher have to ask if it is worth it to work in the RCSD if they are not making an impact And are not happy with their assessment? Lets be honest here….results are what will be assessed. Your own self assessment is biased. My suggestion would be to leave RCSD if you are not happy. If you are a good teacher, some other district or charter school will hire you in a second.

  4. The purpose of school is to educate children so that they are capable of various skills (reading, writing and math – to rename the three R’s). From that can come sciences, history, global studies, etc. Education’s purpose is to teach students how to exist and become a contributing member of society.

    In order to tell if someone is capable in an area, they must be tested in it. Many parents and educators complain about testing. How else can you tell if someone is capable?

    With the low percentage of students from RCSD prepared for college (less than 10%) it seems that students were passed along even if they were not capable of performing at the next grade level. This is a disservice to the students.

    If a student is not quite capable in the skills taught in grade x, but is passed on to grade x+1, it is nearly certain the student will be unsuccessful. That will lead to frustration and discouragement which could lead to either the student dropping out or attending and being a disruption.

    If students were kept in the proper grade and not just automatically passed on, they would do better when they were capable of advancing and overall we would have more students ready for college. There would be fewer dropouts and students who wanted to learn would be in less disruptive classrooms.

  5. September 3, 2013 at 1:39 pm theodore kumlander responds:

    The Democrat & Chronicle has had a long time grudge against public employee unions. This latest trick. APPR rating of the teachers is just another scam to blame the teachers while the administrators draw huge salaries and when they get fired get glowing recommendations. This is how corporate run public education works and the man behind it all is Eli Broad. The private sector guru who trains public administrators how to blame everybody they can find for everything that goes wrong with unrealistic impossible policies.

  6. Urbanski said
    “Our first priority, therefore, must be to either improve or abolish this bad law”

    Gee Adam, I think your first priority should be the “Education of Children” and since you’ve been heading the RCSD NYSTU – for 20 plus years- the performance in city schools “Children” has declined.

    I hope your proud of your leadership.

    I also love of No One in this whole system has or takes responsibility. They complain about parents or students not being responsible .. to go to class, to learn, to attend meetings, but on a Teacher, Union or union leader taking responsibility … no they don’t want to do that.

    City schools have been putting in the least in classroom hours of education for the last 30yrs of any area school district. With the highest failing results by far of any area district, the response to more time in the classroom from many in the union is to look for more pay.

    Talk about being responsible. IN business no matter what the difficulties of a job are, we take responsibility to get it done. IF we don’t we are gone. Join the real world. Take responsibility for your work and the results or work at something else.

  7. The problem will never be resolved given the current conditions. Some refuse to put any blame on teachers or admit that some are incompetent, while at the other end of the spectrum some place too much blame on the teachers and refuse to accept that teachers, especially in urban districts have children who face great adversity outside of the classroom. It’s a multifaceted problem and we need a multifaceted solution. However given the current attitude towards public employees, elected officials will continue to blame teachers and teachers will become overly defensive.

  8. September 4, 2013 at 10:09 pm Craig Ludwig responds:

    Bill: excellent post. O’reilley: stick to the business world, it’s obvious you have no understanding of urban education.

  9. In many ways the problems are bigger than just the ratings. The district is highly mobile, teachers being reassigned classrooms being moved, student schedules being created, all the day before kids arrive. not to mention the building not being ready for teachers, copiers not working, having to hunt down paper waiting for next week to get our gift bags of supplies. The one topic the district and the state fail to mention is trust. The superintendent whats a TIP because of the district, he says it is an opportunity to grow, but the building level views it as paper work and punitive… especially as it has not been shared how or what these documents will look like.

    The key to having a good program or classroom is confidence and being prepared. I wish we could have the same philosophy with the district. i am not sure what happened over the summer, but I dont think it was getting ready for this week!

  10. https://www.facebook.com/VisionQuestCommunitySchool
    tell the district its time for a new model

  11. Pingback: The Negative Ratings Will Continue Until Morale Improves » Balloon Juice

  12. October 18, 2013 at 2:07 am La Moore responds:

    I attended rochester’s inner-city schools from pre-k to 8th, then did high-school in the burbs. I can only speak for myself, but from what I saw, the city teachers did the best they could with what they had, and who they had. The burbs? ha! pre-retired, all-white, entitled republicans who were, yes there for a “paycheck” show up, give their lessons (to better-behaved students) and then went home (exception: the social studies teachers, those liberals). They weren’t bad people, it’s just that these ratings can’t be fair.

  13. Pingback: Day of Action » Balloon Juice

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