Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul says the state is looking to reduce testing on students and alleviate stress while relying on performance for teacher evaluations.
“The stress and the tests have always been there,” she said during a meeting Tuesday with The Gazette’s editorial board. “All of a sudden people are worried about over-testing on the kids. But Common Core test scores do not count for the children.”
The scores do count toward teacher evaluations. Hochul said right now about 20 percent of the overall evaluations are based on student performance. The governor is looking to increase that percentage as part of the budget.
In the 2015-16 state budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo tied a $1.8 billion increase in education aid to reforms that include redesigning the teacher evaluation system to rely more heavily on student test scores.
“We have to do a better job linking outcomes to teacher evaluations,” Hochul said. “That will give us more information and critical data to determine how teachers and schools are doing.”
Hochul said she believes teacher evaluations are fair assessments because the state is evaluating children with similar backgrounds and focusing on performance over time. The evaluations, however, should rely more on state test scores to accurately measure a teacher’s performance, she said.
“We find ourselves in the middle of the pack in terms of our math scores and English scores,” she said. “But 98 percent of teachers were rated effective or highly effective. There’s a disconnect there.”
Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and the state Education Department will present recommendations to the governor and the state Legislature by the end of June on how to decrease the amount of state and local testing, Hochul said.
In the Capital Region, districts saw at least 40 percent of students in grades 3-8 opt out of the state English test and more than 40 percent opt out of the math test. Opposition to the tests has been strong with some education advocates and teachers pushing back against their role in evaluations. Others have criticized the tests as too difficult.
Hochul dismissed the criticism as “not exactly factual” and “a lightning rod” to gain support.
“To get support of their position, people point to extreme views and positions,” she said. “Competing interests have dominated. They are very loud and very vocal. But there’s a story here that’s lost because it’s not controversial. We are representing the children, no one else.”
Hochul also stressed the importance of uniform laws to address sexual assault on college campuses. She said the governor’s proposal to extend SUNY’s policy to also cover private schools is a priority.
The initiative would establish a system-wide definition of what consent is. Hochul said consent is “yes means yes.”
“Sometimes women are not in a position to say no,” she said. “But that is the current rule. We flipped that upside-down.”
Hochul said the plan is to get the measures passed this legislative session. The governor’s campaign to combat sexual assault on college campuses has garnered support from 42 city mayors, 17 county executives and more than 100 elected officials.
“Why don’t we say New York is No. 1 in the nation?” Hochul said. “We want the toughest laws in the nation.”
Hochul took a tour of a couple businesses in downtown Schenectady with Mayor Gary McCarthy on Tuesday. She stopped by tech company Transfinder and Paul Mitchell the School on State Street.
She lauded the city’s revitalization of downtown — she visited downtown before, stopping at Villa Italia in August — and said she believes a casino off Erie Boulevard would create a synergy that doesn’t exist yet in Schenectady.
“People will visit and not just stay on the site with the casino, but will also come downtown and see the amazing character of the downtown corridor, which has gone through an amazing transformation,” she said. “There is so much life and vitality here, so I believe people will take a second look and young people will be drawn here.”
Hochul said she anticipates the casino will create opportunities for more housing downtown. She also touted the Galesi Group’s plans to create a harbor on the site to increase access to the Mohawk River.
“This will be transformative, and I think it’s very positive,” she said. “I think when this opens it will be a magnet for people outside the area and also a source of pride for residents.”