Cost-Detriment Analysis

After spending countless hours and resources working with the state to get their Annual Professional Performance Review plans approved, New York state school districts can expect to spend an average of $155,355 on their implementation.

This is what the New York State School Boards Association stated in a press release from last month. The number is based on an analysis of 80 districts that submitted the cost data from their new teacher and principal evaluation systems to the NYSSBA.

Despite the goals that the state has for improving student achievement through this evaluation system, Timothy Kremer, executive director of NYSSBA, said that the payoff for implementing the system is not sufficient.

“Our analysis shows that the cost of this state initiative falls heavily on school districts,” Kremer said. “This seriously jeopardizes school districts’ ability to meet other state and federal requirements and properly serve students.”

The mandatory evaluation comes on the heels of New York state’s receival of $697 million in federal Race to the Top funds. About half of the funding is to be distributed to school districts over a period of four years. These districts worked feverishly through the summer and autumn months in order to have their APPR plans squared away with the state by the Jan. 17 deadline, knowing that the only other option was to miss out on their state aid for the upcoming school year.

Now that the systems are being put in place, the problem for districts lies with the fact that the money they will receive for implementing their new APPR plans has been severely outpaced by the money that was spent on negotiations and the approval process.

According to the NYSSBA press release, the average Race to the Top grant for districts, excluding the “Big Five” city school districts, is $100,670. This was calculated to be $54,685 shy of school districts’ average implementation costs. The 80-district analysis showed an APPR implementation cost range from $15,500 to $626,583 in categories including salaries, training, assessments, software, technology and other miscellaneous expenses.

A CLOSER LOOK

Although it’s too early to tell the exact cost amounts that have occurred as a result of APPR implementation, administrative staff of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus county schools say that the NYSSBA report is relevant to their districts.

According to Jessie Joy, director of curriculum instruction and assessment for Jamestown Public Schools, it is a matter of redirecting current resources to make up for the funding gap.

“Our administrators are stretched very thin,” said Joy. “We do not have a sufficient number of administrators that we would need to successfully implement the observation and evaluation (system) the way it’s designed. We’ve had to prioritize the use of funds for professional development and, to be honest, our teachers need more support than our administrators have the capacity to give. As we’ve faced significant budget gaps that we’ve had to close, our priority has been to preserve as many teaching positions as we can – and we’ve eliminated a number of administrative positions.”

She added: “The most critical thing schools can do to improve learning is improve teaching. So, we’ve hit the ground running and we’re doing the best we can.”

Maureen Donahue, Southwestern Central School’s superintendent, said that Southwestern could be expecting an above average funding gap as the result of a latent function of the Race to the Top program.

“It’s going to be hard to tell until the end of the school year, but I think (a $54,685 gap) is a low number,” she said. “The (APPR implementation) has been a significant cost factor and time commitment for our teachers and administrators. I can’t begin to quantify the amount of time that they have had to dedicate.

“I think there are unintended consequences of the whole Race to the Top (program) that nobody has studied, and one is financial for the districts,” she added.

According to Kimberly Moritz, Randolph Central School superintendent, Randolph began its APPR implementation process during the 2011-12 school year, submitted its plan for approval before July 1 and has been fully implemented since the beginning of the 2012-13 school year.

“I would say (APPR implementation) has definitely impacted school budgets well beyond the Race to the Top funds that we get, which for us, is $15,000 a year,” said Moritz. “Smaller schools had to hire someone to help with evaluations and do managerial disciplinary functions that principals used to do. I would guess $55,000 is a low number.”

In fact, in its two years of APPR implementation, Randolph has spent a total of $110,000 in areas such as: professional development; a software program called “Teachscape,” which includes training and testing for administrators as well as a repository and communication tool for recording evaluations; a program called “iReady,” which includes pre- and post-assessments for grades K-8, math and ELA and interim testing, as well as skills preparation for grades K-8, math and ELA; substitute teachers, to cover while teachers develop and score pre- and post-assessments, and work on data analysis teams; and the hiring of a new assistant principal/dean of students, to take care of discipline and assist the district with the additional volume of evaluations.

To date, the amount of Race to the Top funding that Randolph has received to cover this $110,000 in costs is $25,493 -which is a $84,507 discrepancy.