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Statewide View of APPR Appeals Process

Statewide View

Scheinman Institute researches how schools frame teacher rating appeal processes

Varying appeal procedures in the controversial performance review for teachers in New York state are examined in a research brief published by the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution this month.

The Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) evaluation for teachers adopted by New York state in 2012 allows for dismissal – even for tenured teachers – after two consecutive ratings of “ineffective,” the lowest level of the four-level rating system.

Each of the state’s 696 public school districts has a locally negotiated appeals system. The Scheinman Institute report, produced through its Bargaining for Better Schools project with the Worker Institute at Cornell, quantifies how district appeals procedures statewide have been structured.

Its findings include:

  • Tenured teachers have broad appeal rights, though in 14.3 percent of agreements, tenured teachers are only able to appeal “ineffective” (lowest level) ratings, but not “developing” (second lowest level) ratings;
  • Non-tenured teachers have broad appeal rights in most procedures, but in 29.8 percent of procedures, they are unable to file an appeal about an improvement plan and in 35 percent of procedures, they are unable to appeal the plan’s implementation process; 
  • Non-tenured teachers are unable to appeal an “ineffective” rating in 26.5 percent of procedures and unable to appeal a “developing” rating in 46.7 percent; 
  • District superintendents have the final say on appeals for tenured teachers in 77 percent of districts and, for non-tenured teachers, in 76 percent of districts; 
  • A panel jointly appointed by the district administration and teacher and/or union is the final decision-maker in 15 percent of appeal procedures for tenured teachers and 14 percent of procedures for non-tenured teachers; 
  • Arbitrators are the final decision makers, for both tenured and non-tenured teachers, in only two percent of districts; 
  • The mean maximum time limit for the appeals process is 64 days for tenured teachers and 63 days for non-tenured teachers. 

The research also compares how appeal processes interact with procedures established through teachers’ contracts. Sixty-six percent of districts appeals processes do not allow use of grievance procedures spelled out in contracts to be used to appeal the teacher rating.

In nearly 10 percent of procedures, there is a special appeal procedure for a teacher who has received back-to-back “ineffective” ratings; consecutive “ineffective” ratings lead to a hearing that can result in termination of the teacher.

The final decision maker in the special appeal procedures is most commonly an arbitrator (64 percent of districts), followed by the superintendent (21 percent), a joint teacher-administrator panel (9 percent) and the school board (3 percent).

Co-author Professor Alex Colvin, the ILR School’s Martin F. Scheinman Professor of Conflict Resolution, said the upshot of the report is that “appeal procedures vary substantially across districts around the state.”

Although tenured teachers have more rights to appeal performance reviews than non-tenured teachers, non-tenured teachers may have more rights to due process than they had before appeals processes were established through the evaluation system that began in 2012.

“School districts and local teacher unions have had to scramble to develop appeal procedures for the new performance review system. Our results show that they have experimented with a range of different options in designing these procedures,” Colvin said.

“Going forward, our data will help inform efforts to improve these appeal procedures to the benefit of both teachers and school districts,” he said.

More information about Bargaining for Better Schools and its research is available at

Guest Blog – Is the Impact of Education Reformers on the Wane?

Is the Impact of Education Reformers on the Wane?

Lee H. Adler, J.D. 
School of Industrial and Labor Relations
Cornell University

It’s been a curious few months on the policy and politics side of Public Education and its “reformers”. The variegated critics, ranging from thoughtful policy intelligentsia to opportunistic politicians and venture philanthropists like the Walton and Gates foundations, seem to be having a tougher time. It is unclear whether events of this recent period and the past year signal a shift in the power equation of the public education battleground from the private back to the public interests. Regardless, this brief note will look at some national and local occurrences and attempt to make some sense of them.

The backdrop is well known by readers of this Blog- the loss of our country’s wealth has been skillfully used by all sorts of actors to point to fire fighters, police officers, school teachers, and our communities’ public education efforts as taking and having more than our fair share. Carefully targeted political attacks by Rightist forces have succeeded in having police and fire pensions curtailed in San Jose and San Diego, California.  New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo even managed to pile on this year by attacking and then restricting police and firefighters’ ability to resolve contract disputes everywhere but in his political stronghold in New York City.

Meanwhile, our school teachers, administrators, and local school boards have been reeling from severe cuts in funding, although this past year saw a modest increase. When one adds Governor Cuomo’s misnamed 2% property tax cap, which again excludes his New York City base, Upstate administrators and their unions have an extraordinary burden keeping our schools running.

These economic difficulties matter little to the education reformers who have offered vast economic incentives and “philanthropic gifts” to those states or school districts who commit to untested “teacher accountability” and introduction of privatized initiatives into their class rooms.

Instead of spending their billions to remediate aspects of our poverty and convince law makers to more fairly tax the well-to-do and their astounding levels of accumulated wealth, the Gates, Bloomberg, Waltons’, and others have used their money and influence to install mayoral control of public schools in New York, Chicago, and to a lesser degree in Los Angeles.  These billionaires’ and their corporate allies’ educational reform efforts have accomplished very little, but they have created havoc for administrators, uncertainty and fear in teachers, and frightening confusion for parents of school age children.[i]

All of what I describe is both then and now. In the past year, there have been noticeable pushback and stirrings. The first of these was the Chicago Teachers Strike wherein the union’s remarkable community organizing strategy thwarted some of the corporate school power wielded by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

We next saw Bill DeBlasio, in winning the election for NYC’s next mayor, directly confront and attack the Bloomberg- Klein corporate/charter school strategy, arguing that parents and their kids’ teachers know better what needs to be done. Despite the nation-wide ballyhooing of Bloomberg’s remarkable success in “turning around” NYC’s schools, a public relations ploy that only the corporate-minded amongst the education reformers believed, the voters in New York knew much better. A similarly constructed progressive coalition to DiBlasio’s seized the educational reins in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on the same day, heralding dramatic changes in public education in Bridgeport and other Connecticut cities who are pushing back against the so-called reformers.

And presently we have the Common Core debacle in New York, where the fear and misery suffered by parents and their children by the state’s hurried up implementation has caused near political disaster for Commissioner John King. Parents across New York are up in arms by the State’s botched and thoughtless approach, and they join the impoverished parents in Chicago and the hard hit New York City and anti-testing Long Island families who are letting their angry voices known- “Enough is enough”!

Just as telling is the hope that our teacher unions have found their voice in this educational debate. In early November, Education Commissioner King accepted NYSUT’s demand to halt all testing of our youngest children, and a few weeks ago Mr. King concurred with NYSUT that maybe the state and local school districts are “testing too much”.

If the state will listen to parents and their teacher union allies, we may well be looking at a turn in these education wars where common sense, regular folks, unions and local administrators, and parents will drive the necessary changes needed in our schools. It’s well-nigh time to wrest control of public education back from those who see our valuable treasure, our public schools, as a free economic market to use for profit.

Lee H. Adler, J.D. 
Teacher of public sector labor law and a course on the clash between public education unions and educational reformers. 
School of Industrial and Labor Relations
Cornell University

[i] A recent study does conclude that in Washington DC certain reforms instituted by former Superintendent Michelle Rhee had created a positive increase in students’ test scores.

Shared Service Research Brief

Shared School Services: 
A Common Response to Fiscal Stress 

(Download: School District Shared Services Brief)
(Download: Municipality Shared Service Brief)

John W. Sipple
Associate Professor, Cornell University

Shared Logo

Much has been made recently about the practice of shared municipal and school district services. Shared services are argued to promote enhanced efficiency and cost savings, better quality service and expertise, improved access to limited services, and now a key provision in a proposal by Governor Cuomo: “It requires them to get past their turf and get past their silo..if you want the people in your district to get a tax credit from the state — you’re going to have to take concrete steps vis-a-vis shared services and consolidation.” (Gov. Andrew Cuomo, 1/6/2014)

This research brief, “Shared School Services: A Common Response to Fiscal Stress“, aims to contribute to these discussions using 2013 data from across New York State. This brief illustrates, for the first time, the prevalence and proportion of school districts engaged in 28 distinct services across the state, including a breakdown of practices across urbanicity (e.g., urban, rural) and wealth CRS logo(e.g., low & high need). Highlighting the motivators, obstacles, outcomes and prevalence of shared service arrangements, this brief illustrates the common practices of shared services. Some services are reported to drive efficiency while other services are much more geared toward enhancing service quality without any claims of cost savings (We offer a similar analysis of shared municipal services in a separate brief listed below).

We hope this information promotes local discussions and analyses to identify opportunities and understandings for why a decision may be made to initiate or end a shared service. We also hope that as property tax policy conversations continue, this data will serve as a baseline for the current status of shared service provision across NYS.

We want to thank the NYS Council of School Superintendents for helping us gather the data from School Superintendents across NYS. This brief is part of a broader research project on Inter-municipal Cooperation, which includes a companion brief on shared municipal services using data from counties, cities, towns, villages:

Homsy, G.; B. Qian, Y. Wang and M. Warner (2013). Shared Services in New York State: A Reform that Works, Summary of Municipal Survey in NYS, 2013, Shared Services Project, Dept of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. (

Please contact us should you have any questions or comments about this work. 
(Download: School District Shared Services Brief)
(Download: Municipality Shared Service Brief)

John W. Sipple, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Development Sociology
Cornell University