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   Since the 2011-2012 school year we have heard time and again about the Regents Reform Agenda and the APPR.  The APPR is the State’s attempt to develop a new evaluation system tying together student achievement with teacher and principal evaluations. This system is entirely new to educators and continues to develop and change as the State refines and revises the processes, often times in the middle of the school year. At the same time, state tests are changing with the goal of increasing student performance.  We all knew grades 3-8 assessments were changing this year, but much to everyone’s surprise, the State also changed how some of the Regents were scored, raising the bar so that what once would have been a passing score was not a passing score this past year.

   There is a tremendous amount of change connected to this agenda. This necessitated a tremendous amount of new information, rules and procedures. Educators across the state have been attempting to keep pace and learn how to navigate through the many new expectations and complexities of this new evaluation process. Beacon is no different. It takes the work of the entire educational community, not only to understand, but also to be able to implement this massive change.  As we know, Beacon is a Focus District and has two Focus schools.  The State is investing additional resources of time and oversight into these identified schools and districts. There is no question that the State will continue to pay close attention to Beacon as long as we remain a focus district. For example, most of us know the story of how the State intervened and revised our APPR plan, particularly in the goal setting process.

   Since the opening day of school, the APPR has been the topic of discussion creating speculation, disappointment, anxiety, fear and stress across each of our schools.  I share and understand the frustration with my colleagues and therefore, I would like to take a few moments to clarify the efforts of the faculty regarding the APPR.

   For certain, there is one thing that remains clear to me...last year our teachers took on the challenges of the APPR with vigor and integrity.  No district, that I am aware of, worked harder or more diligently than we did.  The Beacon Teachers along with our administrative team worked as professionals; understanding and accepting the challenges we faced class by class on a daily and weekly basis. Through a collaborative process, we reached agreement on a plan by which teachers would be judged, in part, based upon how the students in their building performed on certain state assessments. In doing so, we assumed that the manner of measuring student performance on such State assessments would remain the same from one year to the next. We were wrong. I am not here tonight to challenge the actions of the State; however, by increasing the rigor by which student performance would be assessed in 2012-2013, the State removed any valid basis by which such scores could be compared to the 2011-2012 scores.

   The data shows that although we did not meet the targets set forth by the State, we did grow and increase our student performance in many areas throughout the district.  Without question, ratings that resulted from the flawed system are not a reflection of who we are as teachers, nor are they reflective of the hard work we put forth last year on behalf of our students. We are not defined, nor will we ever be solely identified, by just a number or a rating, particularly when the number was arrived at through a flawed and constantly-changing process.

   It will be easy to remain angry and deflated, to blame and deflect or to acquiesce and disengage as the current system challenges our true focus, our moral purpose and our reason for being here. We cannot allow this political system to define us, but we must understand, accept and work through the obstacles and challenges that every APPR plan in every district is facing without sacrificing our integrity and without ever compromising our responsibility to every one of our students who rely on us every single day.

   I look to my fellow educators to stand tall and be proud of our accomplishments, knowing that we need to continue to improve for our Beacon students who deserve nothing but the best. You may wonder if we had a bad plan, the answer is clearly no, our results come from the constantly changing system.  As reflected in the teachings of Edward Deming and his colleagues, “if we don’t like the results we have to change the system”. The Beacon Teachers know we need to stay resilient and we will ultimately prevail and solve not only the APPR puzzle, but also the disputed evaluation system.  We all know that in order to be successful in Beacon, one needs strength, passion, commitment, courage and resiliency...and that my friends we have!

   We will get it right,  we will remain strong, I urge every one of my colleagues to stay united, stay informed and join together to continue the good work we do for our students  each and every day! They need us and we need each other! In the interim, we will continue to work with the District administration and our Board of Education towards the goal of improving the system, recognizing excellence in education, supporting teaching staff and doing all that we can do to improve student achievement in Beacon.

   We invite the BOE, fellow educators and the broader community to join with us, keeping our eyes on the big picture and taking the longer view for student success.  We all must work together, openly and collaboratively to do what is best for our students. Let us move beyond the flaws in the APPR system and dig deeply into the new challenges for this school year. 

   I thank our Board of Education for your support and trust and look forward to your continued partnership with the BTA as we remain focused on teaching and learning.                                                                                Thank you,
                                                                              Kim Atwell
                                                                              BTA President