A Lesson Learned?

By Kevin Casey, SAANYS Executive Director

Anyone familiar with the APPR can point to numerous practical difficulties
in its implementation, untested assumptions in its premise, and a slew of
unfunded or under-funded mandates imposed upon districts at a time when
districts are suffering unprecedented financial stress. It is beyond the
scope and intent of this column to cite all of the problems informed
educators can identify in the APPR law. Instead, especially since current
litigation has put the legality of many of the critical implementing
regulations in doubt, it seems appropriate to slow down and reflect upon
where we are now, and if we should adjust some of our implementation goals.
We can readily draw parallels with the NCLB implementation.

When NCLB was introduced, many educators said that the inexorable graduated
climb to the academic nirvana of 100 percent proficiency of all students in
all districts (including all sub-groups) was a fallacy. Politically, it was
easier to say every child would be proficient than to say 100 percent
proficiency is not a realistic goal. It was overly simplistic posturing. The
hard truth is that we don’t know how to make every child proficient, for if
we did, well-meaning educators would not need the threat of sanctions to
implement an educational plan that would serve all children well. Good
politics trumped realistic analysis and the law was implemented.

As we move closer to the date when 100 percent proficiency is supposed to be
attained, the politicians realize they need to backpedal. Absent statutory
and regulatory change, the number of schools that will fall into
accountability status is about to explode because AYP is no longer
realistically attainable for most. For many, sanctions will be triggered,
such as mandatory school choice, 20 percent SES set-aside and Title I
penalties. We are now hearing about NCLB waiver applications from the states
being accepted by the United States Department of Education. The cynical
part of me characterizes this as a solicitation by the feds for political
cover of their earlier folly.

I think there is a lesson here for the hurried implementation of an
evaluation system that is clearly unsettled. The APPR law says it is to
begin to be applied in the 2011-12 school year, but also says it is subject
to collective bargaining in many critical areas. Current bargaining efforts
are stymied because the legality of the implementing regulations are
unsettled. On the state law side, let the bargaining process run its course
once it is known what may be bargained. As for New York’s RTTT plan for
submission to the feds, follow Delaware’s lead and apply for a one-year
extension of the APPR component of the RTTT plan. Delaware’s application was
granted. Could it be that the DOE (or the politicians) learned a lesson from
the NCLB implementation?  One can only hope.