Earlier this year, Governor David Paterson signed into law Chapter 103 of the Laws of 2010 which, among other things, drastically alters the way classroom teachers and building principals are evaluated and the procedures for disciplining tenured teachers. These changes will take effect over the course of the next several years. Many key provisions were effective on July 1, 2010. The changes have significant implications for collective bargaining between school districts and the unions representing teachers and principals.

The impetus for these far reaching changes was New York State’s application for Phase II of the Federal Government’s Race to the Top Program (“RTT”). RTT was created as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“ARRA”), and authorizes the United States Department of Education to award up to $4.3 billion in grant money to encourage and reward States that create conditions for education innovation and reform. New York was one of several states to win Phase II of RTT. As a result, New York will receive approximately $700 million to help implement changes RTT was designed to foster, including how the performance of teachers and principals is measured.

The most widely publicized aspect of the new legislation is Section 3012 c of the Education Law (“3012-c”), which contains the new comprehensive Annual Professional Performance Review (“APPR”) system for teachers and principals. For the 2011-2012 school year, the new APPR system applies only to evaluations of teachers in the common branch subjects or English Language Arts, and Math in grades four through eight, as well as building principals. The new APPR system will apply to all teachers and principals effective in the 2012-2013 school year. The APPR system requires teacher and principal evaluations to result in a single composite score made up of the following components.

  • Forty percent of the composite score must be based on student achievement measures; with 20 percent based on student improvement on state exams (or other comparable local exams), and the other 20 percent based on local measures of student achievement which must be established through the collective bargaining process.
  • The remaining 60 percent of the APPR score must be based on evidence of overall teacher effectiveness, as determined through locally developed measures (established through the collective bargaining process), and in accordance with standards determined by the Commissioner of Education. As of the date of this post, those standards have not been promulgated.

The composite score must be a significant factor in employment decisions, including, but not limited to, promotion, retention, tenure, termination, and supplemental compensation. The APPR composite score will result in teachers and principals receiving a rating of either: (1) Highly Effective; (2) Effective; (3) Developing; or (4) Ineffective. In connection with this rating system, Districts are required to create Teacher Improvement Plans (“TIP”) and Principal Improvement Plans (“PIP”) for those teachers and principals who receive ratings of either Developing or Ineffective. Two consecutive annual ratings of “Ineffective,” will be deemed to establish a “pattern of ineffective teaching or performance” which may be a basis for just cause removal of a teacher or principal.

From a labor relations perspective, one of the more controversial aspects of 3012-c is the requirement of a locally developed (negotiated) appeals process under which the teacher or principal has the right to challenge the substance of the evaluation, adherence to standards and procedures for reviews, and implementation of a TIP/PIP. In fact, evaluations conducted pursuant to 3012-c cannot even be introduced during a disciplinary proceeding under Section 3020-a of the Education Law prior the expiration of the appeals process.

The legislation also establishes an expedited Section 3020-a disciplinary process for teachers and principals charged with demonstrating a “pattern of ineffective teaching or performance.” The expedited process requires completion of the hearing before a single hearing officer within sixty (60) days of the pre-hearing conference. When a tenured teacher is charged with a “pattern of ineffective teaching or performance” the District must establish that it has negotiated and agreed to a TIP/PIP applicable to that individual.

All collective bargaining agreements covering teachers and building principals entered into after July 1, 2010 must be consistent with 3012-c. Those provisions of collective bargaining agreements that were entered into prior to July 1, 2010 and conflict with 3012-c remain in effect until a successor agreement is entered into, at which time the parties must negotiate over the issues implicated by 3012-c.