Education propagandists: Do it for the children

In New York, school districts across the state have been scrambling to complete and revise their agreements to a new teacher evaluation system.  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a wannabe Presidential Candidate, has used the now common carrot and stick approach to education policy by threatening to withhold a district’s state aid increase for this year unless a new teacher evaluation plan is approved by January 17th.  Of the approximately seven hundred districts in New York, only nine have not submitted their plans as of January 2nd.  A press release about the evaluation deadline which appeared on NYSED’s website and made print and television media reports contains so much nonsense that it shows the ignorance of state education officials or just proves the leaders have clear anti-teacher motives.

“Teacher evaluations are vital to help identify struggling teachers and provide them with the professional development they need.  And they help identify excellent teachers who can serve as mentors and role models. These plans are a critical tool to ensure all of our kids have a high quality teacher at the front of the classroom.  ~Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch

Yes, Ms. Tisch, we need quality educators in every classroom but the evaluation plan you support will not accomplish that goal.  The random invalid results that will occur because of the emphasis on test scores will not determine who is a quality educator.  Many districts around the state(and country) have tremendous models of teacher evaluation that contribute to maintaining high-quality educators in our classrooms, but you ignore those facts and perpetuate the myth of widespread teacher incompetence. The growth and VAM models that the New York plans emphasize are prone to wild swings from year to year and will not produce accurate determinations of teacher effectiveness.

“It is urgent that those districts that have not submitted evaluation plans or need to resubmit plans do so immediately.  Our students are waiting.” ~Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch

Our students are waiting“? Seriously? Our students want more test prep and high-stakes tests?  The madness of test preparation may reach a new level now that educators are being directly judged by assessment results.  When the “ed deformers” try to spew their nonsense, they resort to saying “it is for the children”.

“This is not just about the increase in aid.  It’s about helping students.  APPR plans focus on effective teaching.  The plans will help principals and teachers improve their practice and help students graduate ready for college and careers.  But the clock is ticking.”  ~State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr.

Does Commissioner King base this statement on any research? How exactly do the vague results teachers receive from state assessment help improve their practice? If I had a dime for every time I hear oft repeated mantra of”college and career ready” we could fund schools properly.  The sad irony is the policy of using high-stakes tests to evaluate our teachers will not prepare our children for either post graduate goal.

Commissioner King says it is not just about the state aid, but that is why most districts approved the plans.  Many schools reluctantly approved their evaluation plans for fear of losing money in an era of scarce funding. Some districts that have complied with the evaluation plan are holding out hope that the ridiculous evaluation policies coming from Albany would fall apart in short order. Failure is possible, but I would not count on the current ed reformers backing down even when proven wrong. The profit and power motives are too high for the use of high-stakes assessment to end easily.   Testing companies are making millions and the anti-union forces are using the new evaluation systems to chip away at teacher rights.

Yes Commissioner King, “the clock is ticking”- on my children’s education.  How many years of their schooling will be ruined by the high-stakes testing mania that results from the policies you advocate?  Who benefits? Not the children.

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  1. Excellent post, Chris, as always. I hope you guys hold strong over there. In my finger lakes district, we of course caved like a house of cards in a tornado. Didn’t question anything, but like you said, it’s because of the funding. Many teachers in my district think this is going away soon… but I agree with you. It’s not. Too many politicians are making a name for themselves in this battle against middle class workers and unions to back down now. I just can’t see a reversal in policies from these same people who are tough on “bad teachers” and think they know what’s good for kids. How would that speech go? “Well, maybe those teachers aren’t so bad and the kids don’t really deserve better ones.” Nope, won’t happen. We’re stuck with this c*&p for a long time. Best we can do is undermine it, educate our fellow educators (most in my district don’t seem to care or want to know more, despite my efforts twice to hold after school meetings about this and other issues), and do whatever we can to continue to point out the idiocies of the ed reformers’ arguments. Our union did, however, send a letter signed by a vast majority of us to Governor Cuomo asking for a moratorium on testing. I wish every district would do that.


  2. Well said Chris. Forcing districts into APPR which only harm our public education system by dangling money and bullying into adopting these policies… It makes me sick. What’s worse, they have the ear of the media which becomes the general public’s understanding of the issue. Grrr…. I could go on and on…


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