On the 2013-2014 NYS APPR Evaluations and Why They Violated Women’s Rights

women

I sat down today to refute my APPR score that will come out at the end of the summer. I am challenging all parts of the score based on the fact that I was out on maternity leave and, at the time I left, no one could tell me what my score would look like.

You read that right.

No one accounted for a teacher in her 30’s, in one of the most pink collar jobs in our country, to have a baby.

At the beginning of the school year, I was concerned that my leave would impact my APPR score on the local and state level. I was concerned because being labeled an “ineffective” teacher sets off a chain reaction that causes my administration and myself to prove that I can handle my classroom. If I wasn’t there, I wanted to make sure that my score was adjusted for the time I was out. I am confident I am good at my job, that I am a highly effective teacher. I also have the evidence to back me up. BUT… these evaluation systems were rolled out without any concrete parameters.

You would think that being pregnant would be a reasonable scenario to consider.

First I went to my building supervisors and they didn’t know (because in all fairness they hadn’t been told). So, in order to be informed and to advocate for myself, I took every available opportunity to ask my question to people directly connected to the APPR evaluation system.

Here’s what I did:

In late October, my Union offered a seminar on their APPR scores. I went 6 months pregnant, swollen, uncomfortable and throwing up in the parking lot, because I figured this would be the best way to get an answer about how I was to be evaluated.

After sitting through the presentation and seeing that no medical conditions were accounted for in the new scoring, I got up and was second in line to ask a question to the APPR panel.

These were my exact words:

“How am I to be evaluated by New York State based on the fact that I am obviously going to be on leave? (Motioning to my stomach) I ask not just for me, but any teacher out on leave, because maybe, they are having nervous breakdowns because of this stuff (laughter) and we can not be promised that there will be a highly qualified, certified teacher or even the same substitute in our classrooms.”

The head of the APPR team and a former State Ed employee who helped write the APPR process answered. She said “Your score will be adjusted for the time that you were out of your classroom.” I asked her ” How many days to a person have to be out of their classroom for their time to be adjusted?” She said she didn’t know but to email her and she promised to get back to me.

In early November I emailed her and her whole team three times. I got no answer. You would think that someone who helped write the APPR process at the state level, who I called out in front of three hundred people, would get back to me.

But she didn’t. And then she left the job.

Women aren’t new to schools. Teaching is currently a woman dominated profession. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of 2007–08 (the most current data they had) , some 76 percent of public school teachers were female, 44% were under age 40.

44% were under the age of 40. That’s a lot of childbearing aged women to ignore.

If someone told me in writing that they didn’t know what to do with a pregnant woman is a violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which protects your right to work during pregnancy at the federal level and the Prohibition against Pregnancy Discrimination New York State laws. No wonder the APPR team wouldn’t send me an email.

Or she just didn’t know, and it was easier to leave.

This type of scenario is what makes me question the entire APPR Evaluation system.

In December I went on maternity leave and New York State still hadn’t gotten its’ act together.

In fact, they didn’t even approve the APPR Evaluation process until a week after I was gone.

My questions are these: Why did our teachers, principals and unions agree to this APPR process if they state hadn’t figured out basic medical scenarios that would impact teachers? Who benefits from labeling teachers with medical conditions ineffective?

Do I benefit?

Do my students?

To women who are thinking about getting pregnant. I encourage you to think about this as your state rolls out the APPR formats. Know your rights and protect yourself.

Copyright: ©Kelly LaLonde, and urbanesl, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

On East High

photo (11)I walked outside to sit in the sun during my lunch yesterday. I needed a break from giving the NYS test that measures the progress of non-English speaking students. There are no benches in front of the school, but that’s where the sun was, so I sat down on the concrete sidewalk. I noticed two things as I was sitting there; a dandelion growing in the crack in the path, and a dead rat.

I sat there thinking about that flower and that rat and how appropriately those two things seemed to reflect what was going on at East.

There are a lot of dead rats, literally and figuratively, in the RCSD.

I have worked for the district for the past five years. In those five years I have worked out of three different schools. The first was closed, the second was re-organized and finally I was placed at East. Who knows where I’ll be next year.

In those five years I was never paid the correct salary. Every year, come September, I spent a month fighting my way through multiple offices downtown to get my pay scale readjusted.

This year I had a baby, which you would think would be a fairly normal occurrence in the teaching profession. Somehow my paperwork didn’t get processed correctly at Central Office and I was not allowed to be out on “medical leave”, so my health insurance was terminated. I received thousands of dollars in bills from the hospital for simply having my daughter while I was employed with health insurance. In a weird twist of fate that I couldn’t make up, the RCSD also continued to pay me while I was out on whatever leave I was on. I had to tell them to stop paying me.

Those are just my personal issues. Multiply that by the 200+ teachers and staff at East.

Did you know that there are students who attend other schools in the district full time that are included in our New York State “report card”? Students who attend RIA (Jefferson), WEP (Edison), Young Mothers, and incarceration programs all are linked to East through NYS data. These students never step foot on East’s campus, are not taught by East’s teachers, yet are part of our state numbers to determine if we are failing or not? How can you measure the effectiveness of the administration or staff if we literally do not see these students?

Did you know that many of us in federally mandated positions – namely special education and English language teachers – are routinely laid off, then rehired, but placed at different schools? Look at the fact that East alone has almost 25% special needs students and another 25% ELL students. That means that almost 50% of the school is in need of specialty teachers – teachers who are routinely transient through no fault of East’s administration. How can you expect the district’s neediest populations to thrive when their teachers have no idea what or where they’ll be teaching from year to year? Or even if they will be teaching? How can we “fail” or “save” East if we can’t even figure out who works there?

Lots and lots of dead rats… although next to that rat was the dandelion.

Have you ever heard the story of the rose that grew from the crack in the concrete? The rose that struggled through the pavement to reach the sun?

There are dandelions and roses growing all through the cracks at East.

One sprouted up this morning when I got called “Mom” by two different kids in the same class, and another when East held its 5th annual Iron Chef competition in partnership with Wegmans last week.

A dandelion bloomed when I graded my classes’ practice ELA exams and 80% of them passed.

A rose grew when my student ran in to show me the MVP trophy he won pitching last night’s baseball game and when the boys’ basketball team competed in the NYSPHSAA Class A Finals in March.

More grew this afternoon when one of my students emailed me to ask when he could come in to take his NYS test; because even though he was home sick, he knew it was important.

You see, East isn’t failing, it’s doing the best it can in a system that is so broken, no one knows how to fix it. In all of this chaos, 80% of students are showing up to school on a regular basis. 43% of them are graduating. 100% of East’s Teaching and Learning Institute and Culinary graduates are going to college. We put on plays, staff clubs, and put in hour after hour making our classrooms safe places. We show up day after day believing that we can make a difference; even when they take away our insurance, don’t pay us correctly, or lay us off every year. We show up. We make a difference.

You see, you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals – on the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love its will to reach the sun.

Long live the dandelions and roses that grow in the cracks at East. #grownintheconcrete

Copyright: ©Kelly LaLonde, and urbanesl, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.