Cuomo’s approach to education bad for kids, teachers, taxpayers
One of Gov. Cuomo’s recent educational reform goals has been to base 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on the results of the new Common Core state assessments. The goal is to discern who are the strongest teachers by the scores their students receive on these exams. Such a policy would not only be disastrous, but hypocritical and absurd.
Consider the real effect of basing 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on test scores. In many school districts in New York, more than 50 percent of students do not pass these state exams. In fact, there are many school districts, especially rural ones, where not a single student received a passing score. This means huge swaths of teachers would be deemed ineffective. A teacher that is ineffective for two years is put on a Teacher Improvement Plan, which requires administrators to conduct more regular observations and provide more consistent feedback. This would require administrators, who are already stretched to the breaking point, to conduct at least twice as many evaluations as they already do. This is an impossible task. School districts would be required to hire additional evaluators, which they cannot afford to do because Cuomo has repeatedly slashed public education funding.
This reveals the hypocrisy of Cuomo’s policy; he wants educators to do more, but continually gives them less. Indeed, if the amount of money Cuomo would release if his education bill is accepted, it would be far less than the amount lost over the past four years due to state budget cuts.
What is more, Cuomo desires consolidation among school districts to save money by slashing the administrative overhead, but ignores the fact that the implementation of his policy would not require fewer administrators, but more. Indeed, the deployment of additional evaluations simply bloats bureaucracy.
And in such a political malaise of misguided and underfunded policies is revealed the essential absurdity: Will Cuomo fire 50 percent of the teachers in New York state? Will he close smaller underperforming schools and send children to mega-schools, where failure will become even more of the norm? Will he demand the impossible of administrators, who could not possibly fulfill the monumental tasks that are being given them? Such absurdity shows that Cuomo’s education policy is not one of “what is best for kids,” but rather, what is best for his political image.
Governor, not teachers, the cause of New York’s poor state of education
For years, teachers have been blamed, by the public and the state government, for failing schools and low student performance on state tests. Recently, a report issued by the Fiscal Policy Institute, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his report on “failing schools” in New York state, places the blame where it belongs; at the feet of Gov. Cuomo.
The report cites New York state, not individual school districts, unions or teachers, as the real cause of the struggling and failing schools across the state. “Due to a continued lack of adequate funding and the high ratio of students living in poverty, the institute said it should come as no surprise to the governor that these schools continue to perform at low levels.”
School districts and teachers should not be blamed for factors that they cannot control. “Teachers cannot control the backgrounds of their students, and they cannot overcome the resulting disadvantages on their own.”
Based on this report, there are two factors that have a significant impact on the success of students and schools; funding and poverty. Schools that have appropriate levels of funding and low poverty will be successful. Schools that have inappropriate levels of funding and high poverty are less likely to be successful and will fail. We see this playing out throughout New York state.
If you look at the list of failing schools released by Gov. Cuomo, you would see that the failing schools are located in areas with high poverty.
So, what has the state done to correct this situation? The state has done several things: blamed teachers and their unions and implemented programs, such as Common Core, APPR [Annual Professional Performance Review], and state testing, that are “designed to fail.” Common Core State Standards, although a noble idea, was implemented without giving teachers the time, resources, training and support needed to properly implement it. APPR, a program designed to evaluate teachers, partially evaluates teachers on student test scores based on tests that have been proven to be invalid, unreliable and developmentally inappropriate for the students taking them.
All of this comes at a time when the state has cut school funding by millions of dollars. Do more with much less. It sounds like the state wants schools to fail. The Fiscal Policy Institute report went on to say “Proposals such as requiring teacher evaluations to be based on test scores and the promotion of charter schools fail to directly address the educational challenges faced by low-income students.”
So what can be done? First, give school districts, and students, the funding that they need and deserve in order to implement programs and services to begin to counteract the impact of poverty on young students. The state needs to eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment and restore funding to the pre-recession levels. Second, stop the madness with regard to testing. The only result of testing is that our children are being hurt; physically and emotionally. We are losing a whole generation of children to this nonsense.
I demand that New York state cease Common Core, APPR, and state testing until full funding is restored and time has been given to determine the effectiveness of these programs.
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Categories: Letters to the Editor