Monday, May 25, 2015

Some Common Sense for Governor Cuomo

Warning: I have never intended for this site to be any sort of political commentary, but every once in awhile I have to share something that I feel is pertinent to the conversation about education today.  A teacher friend of mine just shared something on my Facebook wall that has been put out by a group named Take Back New York.  It's a long read, but it definitely gives a straight up picture of just exactly is going on in the Albany concerning the ongoing teacher witch hunt using standardized tests as weapons to declare teachers ineffective.  If you want to be in the know, here are some highlights that I found pretty pertinent:


The Governor’s plan will fail because he is trying to attain the impossible. He wants all students to succeed at a
predetermined level. While we would all like to see that happen, it is time to admit that it cannot and will not happen.

(By Dr. John Metallo, Slingerlands, NY (The author is a retired teacher and administrator. Among the positions he has held are principal of Albany High School and adjunct instructor at the University at Albany and SUNY Plattsburgh.)

The debate surrounding public education in New York State has pitted parents, students, teachers and school administrators against the Governor, State Education Department and legislature. Parents kept nearly 200,000 students out of state testing on the elementary level as a form of civil disobedience to protest the governor’s plan to evaluate teachers and schools using the results of student tests in his quest to “take on the education bureaucracy” in the state. The “opt out” movement as it has become known has less to do with the tests themselves and more to do with parents supporting their local teachers and schools. Thus, the battle lines have been drawn, and the governor has started a war that he cannot win.

It is instantly obvious that the governor’s motivation is not school or teacher improvement. He is trying to break the teacher’s union which is a very powerful lobby in the state. His rhetoric about improving teacher effectiveness and student performance is nothing more than that. He wants 50% of teacher evaluations in the state to be based upon the results of standardized tests students take once per year. If the student scores do not hit a predetermined level, the teacher will be deemed ineffective. There is NO RESEARCH to back any of that scenario. In truth, he wants to use test scores to punish public school teachers and schools in an attempt to advance charter schools and the privatization of education across the state. This will not work. His attack on public schools will ultimately fail. The reason? Because public schools and public school teachers are really doing quite well across New York State...

...Teacher evaluation based upon test scores without controlling for student readiness and preparation is meaningless. A quick look at the medical practice model will clarify this point. The most skilled doctor is useless if the patient will not follow the doctor’s orders. No physician can heal a patient who will not cooperate. Similarly, the teacher can guide and provide instruction, but the attitude and cooperation of the student (and when appropriate, parents) are key elements to success. Education or teaching and learning is a two way street. Student attitude and cooperation are not measured by the tests being used across the state. Further, the results are not manipulated to control for student attitude, attendance, ability, etc. Thus we have a one size fits all scenario regardless of the fact that no test, curriculum or teaching style can fit all students...

...Some [students] cannot or will not attain the highest levels of success depending on their situations in life or their attitudes toward learning. While the Governor wants to blame teachers for the lack of student achievement, he is patently missing the mark. The teacher is only part of the teaching/learning experience, albeit a very important part, but the teacher only teaches. The other side of the equation is the student or learner. That person is as important, if not more important than the teacher. In order to avoid a fire-storm, the Governor and other politicos are quick to never mention students or parents as part of the achievement gap problem. Thus, their attempts at school improvement are doomed to failure. Schools cannot do it alone…ever...

...On a positive note, New York’s public schools, overall, are among the best in the U.S. and always have been. Teacher certification requirements in New York have always been among the most stringent in the nation, and New York is home to some of the finest education schools in America including the entire SUNY system along with a number of outstanding private colleges and universities across the state. It is important to realize that schools and teachers provide the opportunity for learning. They do not provide learning in and of itself or a guarantee that all students will be successful. ..

...As noted above schools provide the opportunity for learning, however they cannot guarantee learning without the cooperation of the student and family. In addition to educational opportunity, schools provide also provide support to overcome any factors which may hinder learning in order to provide opportunity for all students...

...The idea that teaching efficacy can be measured by the results of one test given per year flies in the face of any research conducted on the topic. The thought that a school operates in a vacuum and that teachers pour knowledge into student’s heads is daft. The practice of judging schools and teachers on test results rather than comprehensive, reliable and valid metrics is odious at best. It is time for the politicians to study education a bit more before they try to make policy that will guide it. Right now, they are all going down a path that will lead them, not the students, to failure… once again...

I couldn't have said it better myself!  For the entire post, check out Take Back New York's Facebook page.

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