Beginning with the 2012-2013 school year, New York State requires school districts to perform annual professional performance reviews (known as APPR) for teachers and principals.
Bedford Central Schools have had a teacher evaluation system for years but have been working on aligning their own standards to the new state requirements—created in 2010 and amended this year.
BCSD has submitted their plans to the state education department, according to Superintendent Jere Hochman, and they include a "homegrown" approach.
"We've created evaluation plans that are tightly aligned to our own pedagogy, methodology and staff development," he said. The district has also included a unique solution to the state's requirements that districts create or buy tests for subjects for which there is no state test, he added.
The state mandates that two of the three components of the new teacher evaluation plan are based on students' test results: 20 percent is based on state tests and 20 percent is based on local assessments or other measures. The remaining 60 percent is based on classroom observations—at least two per year and at least one unannounced.
The resulting rating is on a 100-point scale.
Hochman explained that for some classes—art, music and physical education are just a few examples—there is no equivalent to the annual state test in ELA and math that has become standard.
For these subjects, districts can use a comparable measure of growth—another test.
When faced with the prospect of spending thousands of dollars in creating new tests or trying to find time to have current staff write new tests, a district committee—composed of administrators and teachers including union representatives—instead decided to focus on a school-wide goal: literacy.
"Literacy is the basis of everything we do," explained Hochman. "There is language in every subject, from science to physical education. So those non-state-test subject teachers will now work toward improving their students' ELA scores."
He added that literacy goals were suitable for every kind of student—from those most successful to struggling to students with disabilities.
Hochman said the planning and collective bargaining process—required under the law's amendment—went smoothly.
"We're all in this together," he said. "It's the right thing to do as the basis for all learning with our students, and it's keeping us from spending thousands of hours on creating new tests."
As for state approval of Bedford's plan, a spokesperson in the education department said Friday that they couldn't comment on plans under review.
Hochman said in developing the plans he was in close contact with the officials in the education commissioner's office. He served for the past two years on a teacher evaluation task force for the Board of Regents and on a similar sub-committee for the New York Council of Superintendents.