By CHRIS EBERHART
Lawmakers and educators are saying the Common Core reforms included in the recently passed state budget eased some of the tension around the new education standards, but failed to address the teachers’ side of the issue.
As part of the Common Core, which seeks to provide a universal set of education standards across the country and better prepare students in grades 2 through 12 for college, 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is based on how the teacher’s students perform on state tests. Teachers are rated as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective.
If a teacher receives an ineffective rating for two consecutive years, a school district can oust the teacher under an expedited process.
The state budget, which passed on March 31, included the state’s withdrawal from inBloom—the controversial statewide database that would have held personally identifiable student information. Just days after New York’s withdrawal, inBloom’s CEO Iwan Streichenberger posted a letter on the company’s web site announcing it will be “winding down” over the coming months.
The budget also included a two-year delay for the Common Core’s implementation, which prompted Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, to say the state tests will not count for students.
But the same state tests will count towards the teachers’ evaluations.
In essence, teachers will be held responsible for the students that take the test lightly and, for instance, answer “C” for every question.
State Sen. George Latimer, a Rye Democrat, said, “To me [delaying the Common Core’s implementation] is half the job…If the tests don’t count for students, they shouldn’t count for the teachers either. You can’t tell students [the tests] don’t matter but hold the teachers accountable for how they perform. That’s ridiculous.”
Karen Magee, a Harrison elementary school teacher for nearly 30 years who recently took over the position of president of the New York State United Teachers—the largest teacher union in the in the state, said her first priority will be pushing the state for a delay in the teacher evaluations based on student test scores and ultimately pushing for a complete overhaul of the APPR—Annual Professional Performance Review—system, which is used to judge a teacher’s performance.
“First and foremost, we will continue to press for a moratorium on the use of faulty student test scores to evaluate teachers,” Magee said. “We’ll also be looking for a complete overhaul of the APPR system, which is not an effective tool for assessing teachers…The goal of [the APPR] was to increase teacher performance and achievement. That was the intent. That has not been the result. It’s been punitive in nature and doesn’t serve the profession well and doesn’t serve the students well. It’s taking an art that is teaching and turning it into a science.”
According to a PDK/Gallup poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, which compiled data from 2013, 58 percent of people reject using student scores on state tests to evaluate teachers, which is up from 47 percent from the prior year.
Cuomo said the evaluations were kept in place to hold teachers accountable, but the poll indicates an already
established state-wide trust in the state’s teachers with 72 percent of people saying they have confidence in the men and women teaching in the state’s schools.
Both Latimer, who is part of the state Senate’s Education Committee, and Magee agree input on the Common Core needs to be harvested from the grassroots level with superintendents and teachers.
“We need to hear from the people that are on the frontlines every day,” Latimer said. “Bring in school superintendents and teachers during the planning process. They’re well educated in education. The state should be asking them how they think the Common Core should be done and accept the fact that the people in the field know what they’re talking about.”
Latimer said it’s also important to include the parents in the planning process.
Magee advocated for the same grassroots input, saying she will make sure NYSUT will be heard.
“We’re going to turn this into a bottom-up, grassroots organization where our members will be engaged and we identify their needs,” Magee said. “From now on, when we speak, we speak with a collective voice that is representative of our members and backed by the data and understanding of what our members are going through in the trenches every day.”