I’m a New Yorker and therefore a B-Ball fan – trash talk, elbows, grabs of jerseys, the subtle push off as you spin to the hoop – builds character. The British aristocracy proudly exhort, “The battle of Waterloo was won on the fields of Eton”? I prefer that the ability to thrive and prosper originates with lessons learned on the basketball courts in the schoolyards of New York City.
Amazing! Arne Duncan was playing in the celebrity basketball game at the NBA weekend. He hoisted up a few clinkers, a teacher called, “If I was only in that game – I’d abuse him.”
One of the worst decisions of President Obama was to select Duncan as Education Secretary. The massive testing industry is costing tens, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars: test creation, test prep in schools is rampant, art, music and physical education classes fading away, reductions in numbers of psychologists, social workers and guidance counselors, all to identify the same number of “bad” teachers that we identified under the former system (See Education Week here)
Every expert has decried the use of complex value-added measurements, (see Aaron Pallas here), apparently to no avail.
With the exception of the iconoclast governor of California, Jerry Brown, state, city and school district leaders have hopped onboard the Duncan bandwagon. The lure of billions of federal dollars and staying in the good graces of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is powerful.
Assemblyman Jim Brennan is one of the really “good guys.” He represents his constituents (Brooklyn: Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights) with a passion. The parents and principal at PS 321, an “A” school, have been adamant – they do not want their school turned into a “test prep” mill, and, they have actively organized like-minded parents around the city.
The testing system is deeply flawed.
“Testing and education experts have expressed serious concerns about the validity of the model, pointing to the inability of this methodology to identify the most effective teachers. As an Economic Policy Institute briefing paper mentions, one study found that across five large urban districts, among teachers rated in the top 20% of effectiveness in the first year, less than a third were in the highest rated group the following year, and another third moved all the way down to the bottom 40%.”
Nineteen legislators signed a letter to Governor Cuomo asking that he support legislation to turn the Principal/Teacher Evaluation law into a 3-year pilot program
The unintended consequences of this model extend beyond the teaching profession. This model creates incentives for an increased focus on test preparation and a corresponding narrowing of the curriculum. “The high-stakes testing model could have a direct, negative impact on the quality of the education our students receive. We must ensure that we do not mistakenly damage the teaching profession and our school system in a flawed attempt to increase accountability,”
Brennan plans to reintroduce legislation to turn the APPR into a three-year pilot program. In this three-year period, the Commissioner would be required to review and evaluate the APPR system and report to the Governor on the validity of the evaluations. High-stakes decisions, such as termination of employment and compensation based on student test data, would be suspended during this time.
The nineteen legislators deserve high praise – the governor has run roughshod over both houses of the legislature with very little opposition.
Hopefully the nineteen will turn into ninety and more.
(Assemblymember James Brennan, Assemblymember Steve Englebright, Assemblymember William Magnarelli, Assemblymember Alan Maisel, Assemblymember Joan Millman, Assemblymember Amy Paulin, Assemblymember Robert Sweeney, Assemblymember Matthew Titone, Assemblymember Addie Russell, Assemblymember Annette Robinson, Assemblymember Barbara Lifton, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee, Assemblymember Vanessa Gibson, Assemblymember William Magee, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, Assemblymember Margaret Markey, Senator Liz Krueger and Senator Velmanette Montgomery)
Actually the proposed switch to a pilot is a win-win – school districts would implement the system, data would be generated, the specter of firing principals/teachers based on faulty data removed, space to tweak and adjust and improve a system without any history of effectiveness, and the anger of principals and teachers and parents eased.
The pilot concept would allow the governor, the legislature and the Regents to concentrate on far more pressing problems:
* how do we change the state funding formula to support “low tax” districts lurching toward insolvency?
* can we create a formula that is not based on year-to-year fixes but on longer term certainty?
* how do we address the appalling College/Career Readiness rates for Afro-American and English Language Learners across the state? (See Report on CUNY/SUNY Remediation)
* do the Regents and the Commissioner need expanded authority to intervene directly in low functioning schools and school districts? If so, do they have the capacity?
The Principal/Teacher Evaluation system is a distraction – when the dust settles very little will have changed except that the crucial issues confronting families, students, teachers, principals and schools will have been put on a back burner as this foolish and fruitless struggle continues.