Category Archives: Research

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

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

November Guest Blog: College and Career Readiness

College and Career Readiness: Clarifying the Connection

Stephen F. Hamilton#
Department of Human Development
Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research
Cornell University
#This essay is based on a paper written by the author for the New York State Department of Education with William Symonds and Pradeep Kotamraju.

New York State’s Board of Regents has adopted the goal of making all high school graduates college and career ready. The combination connotes opportunity and capacity without implying destiny. When we aim to make young people ready, we allow for their personal preferences and the twists and turns they may take along their paths to adulthood. Putting the college and career readiness together is important because some young people go directly from secondary school into the workforce without college and others who enroll in college will almost all go on to careers.

Is preparing students for college and career readiness one goal, or two? Some advocates assert that students who are ready for college are, as a result, also ready for careers. They correctly point out that nearly all jobs that pay enough to support a family and offer prospects for continued learning and advancement require some form of post-secondary education.

If we assume that career readiness is closely related to college readiness, we have a long way to go. By definition, high school graduates are college ready if they can pass credit-bearing college courses without having to enroll first in non-credit developmental or remedial courses. ACT (2011) found that only 25 percent of high school graduates were prepared to take college-level courses in English, reading, math, and science. The gap between college enrollment and college readiness is demonstrated by the proportion of college students who never earn a degree or credential: 56 percent of those enrolled in four-year colleges, 30 percent in two-year colleges (Symonds et al., p. 6, & Figure 1, p. 3).

Does college readiness really equal career readiness? The Career Readiness Partner Council concluded that in addition to academic proficiency, a career-ready person must achieve a “level of technical-skill proficiency aligned to (their) chosen career field and pathway.” They must also master what are sometimes called “21st century skills,” such as clear and effective communications; critical thinking; effective use of technology; and the ability work productively in teams. This same combination of academic with technical, personal and social competencies has been identified with career readiness by several other reports (Lippman, Atienza, Rivers, & Keith, 2008; ConnectEd, 2012; Stone & Lewis, 2012; Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, 1991).

After reviewing many different versions of college and career readiness and a wide range of research on the topic, a panel of the National Research Council (NRC, 2012) labeled these three categories of competencies cognitive, intra-personal, and inter-personal. Cognitive competencies include: cognitive processes and strategies (e.g., critical thinking, problem solving); knowledge; and creativity. Intra-personal competencies include: intellectual openness (e.g., flexibility, continuous learning); work ethic/conscientiousness (e.g., initiative, grit, productivity); and positive core self-evaluation (e.g., physical and psychological health). Inter-personal competencies include teamwork and collaboration (e.g., communication, cooperation, and empathy); and leadership. They noted that these are not really new competencies; they have been valuable for centuries. However, these competencies are now needed in a wider range of occupations as relatively low-skill farm and factory jobs have receded.

For all their limitations, schools are better at teaching cognitive knowledge than at teaching character. Much more research has been done on both promoting and measuring cognitive knowledge. But research confirms that character can be taught (Tough, 2010). The research on this topic converges on the value of experiential and project-based learning, especially for intra-personal and inter-personal competencies, but for cognitive competencies as well (Bransford, Brown, Cocking, Donovan, & Pellegrino, 2000; Hoffman, 2011; NRC, 2004 & 2012).

College readiness can be defined as mastery of cognitive competencies that are measured by standardized tests, notably knowledge, but also some that are not measured easily, including problem solving and creativity. Moreover, there is growing recognition that being academically prepared is only part of college success. Persistence, time management, goal-directedness, and other intra-personal competencies are at least as important. However it is defined, college readiness is necessary to career readiness, but not sufficient. Contrary to conventional perceptions, career readiness is a higher standard than college readiness. It includes mastery of some specific workplace skills and of generic workplace competencies that the best schools, the strongest families, and the most supportive communities teach. Helping all youth become college and career ready means committing to teaching the whole range of competencies they need to become productive workers, active citizens, and nurturing family members.

ACT (2011). The condition of college and career readiness. Accessed at:

Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., Cocking, R. R., Donovan, M. S., & Pellegrino, J. W. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Career Readiness Partner Council (no date). Building blocks for change: What it means to be career ready. Accessed at:

ConnectEd (2012). College and career readiness: What do we Mean? A proposed framework. Revised draft version 1.2: April 12, 2012. Accessed at:

Hoffman, N. (2011). Schooling in the workplace: How six of the world’s best vocational education systems prepare young people for jobs and life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University press.

Lippman, L., Atienza, A., Rivers, A., & Keith, J. (2008). College and workplace readiness: A developmental perspective. Washington, DC: ChildTrends. Accessed at:

National Research Council (2004). Engaging schools: Fostering high school students’ motivation to learn. Committee on Increasing High School Students’ Engagement and Motivation to Learn. Board on Children, Youth, and Families, Division on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.

National Research Council. (2012). Education for life and work: Developing transferable knowledge and skills in the 21st century. Committee on Defining Deeper Learning and 21st Century Skills; Center for Education, Division on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Stone, J. R., III, & Lewis, M. V. (2012). College and career ready in the 21st century: Making high school matter. New York: Teachers College Press.

Symonds, W. C., Schwartz, R. B., & Ferguson, R. (2011). Pathways to prosperity: Meeting the challenge of preparing young Americans for the 21st century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Graduate School of Education. Accessed at:

Tough, P. (2012). How children succeed: Grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.