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Is APPR fair?

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The Annual Professional Performance Review for teachers and principals is a key component of education reform. And the state Education Department's recent release of statewide teacher and principal evaluations is supposed to help answer the question asked by many parents: How effective are the teachers in my child's school?

But the evaluations are controversial. In Rochester, teachers in the city school district scored much lower than teachers statewide. The SED's preliminary evaluations showed that 49.7 percent and 41.8 percent of New York's public school teachers are highly effective and effective, respectively. (New York City's scores are not included.)

But only 2 percent of Rochester school teachers are rated highly effective and 58.3 percent are rated effective. Nearly 40 percent are scored as still developing, and 2.3 percent are rated ineffective. That raises the question, are Rochester's teachers inferior?

Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association, says that the current evaluation system is not accurate. And he says that the evaluations unfairly penalize urban teachers who are often working with students who come from extremely poor households and have multiple academic challenges.

But state Education Commissioner John King points out that 80 percent of the evaluation was developed at the local level with union agreement. Only 20 percent includes students' state test scores, he says. And the evaluations compensate for concerns like poverty, King says.

Urbanski says that King is being disingenuous. Only two points out of 100 are used in Rochester's evaluations to compensate for a student's hardships, such as poverty and learning disabilities, he says.

"You need 75 points just to be rated effective," Urbanski says.

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