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As you read these complaints about Cuomo's policy, think about the fact that teachers could have defeated him in recent election. His education policy was no secret.]

Published in New York Times
03/27/2015

To the editor

Re Clash Over Cuomo's Plan for Grading Teachers (front page, March 23), about the dispute over Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposal to use state testing for 50 percent of public school teachers̢۪ evaluation:



The "growth model" used to evaluate teachers is based on an arcane formula that tries to measure student academic growth under a particular teacher̢۪s tutelage. The formula is so flawed that if every one of a teacher̢۪s students failed the state assessments, that teacher could still have a "highly effective" growth score. Conversely, a teacher could have every student achieve a perfect score and still be considered "ineffective."



A 2011 On Education column by Michael Winerip, Evaluating New York Teachers, Perhaps the Numbers Do Lie, focused on a New York City teacher, Stacey Isaacson, who was among the lowest-ranked teachers in the city because of poor growth scores on state assessments, though her students scored extremely well. She taught all honors classes, where students' scores were already near-perfect, with little room for growth. She was lauded as an outstanding and dedicated teacher. Still, she was expected to be denied tenure.



Dismissing good teachers is not going to make public education better. The overemphasis on a statistical model that doesn't work, based on poorly conceived assessments, may, in a special bit of irony, enable some truly incompetent educators to keep their jobs. Additionally, charter schools, with which the governor is closely allied, should not be exempt from teacher evaluation system requirements imposed on public schools.



Outside of the governor's office and the State Education Department, this is not anyone̢۪s idea of an effective evaluation process for teachers.



ROD DRISCOLL

Peru, N.Y.



The writer, a teacher, is a former school board president and president of a local teachers union.



To the Editor:



An important point needs to be stressed: The tests administered to the students last year were "atrocious," Bob Bender, the principal for P.S. 11 in Manhattan, wrote in a letter to parents.



The new tests "were confusing, developmentally inappropriate and not well aligned with the Common Core standards," Elizabeth Phillips, the principal of the high-performing P.S. 321 in Brooklyn, wrote in an April 10 Op-Ed essay in your paper.



How can Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo evaluate teachers based on flawed, atrocious tests? This should be the first order of business to discuss!



DEBBIE DEANE

Brooklyn



To the Editor:



Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has repeated his absurd contention that "99 percent of the teachers were rated effective while only 38 percent of high school graduates are ready for college or careers" so many times that one could believe that the entire education reform agenda in New York was designed just to provide him with this one sound bite.



Everyone in the state, including the governor, knows perfectly well that new tests given in grades three through eight are far more difficult than the ones they replaced. A steep decline in English and math test scores was fully expected, even in consistently high-performing schools.



Moreover, a direct connection between teacher excellence and test scores is utterly unproved, and there is deep and widespread skepticism about the validity of both the current tests and the curriculum on which they are based.



It seems clear that Governor Cuomo is making a scapegoat of New York's teachers, whose union coincidentally declined to endorse his election or re-election as governor.



BARRY EDELSON

Roslyn, N.Y.



The writer is director of community relations for the Roslyn Public Schools.



To the Editor:



In Relying on Tests in Grading the Teacher (Economic Scene, March 25), Eduardo Porter quotes James Liebman of Columbia Law School as saying, "If the evaluation is to have any meaning, it must have stakes." Mr. Liebman was referring to the already high stakes for teachers, not students. If the economic logic of test-based incentives is believed to potentially compel better teaching, then why aren't these tests also used to incentivize better student learning?



If incentives were applied to students, test performance would be used to determine retention, summer remediation or advancement. If students know that their poor performance on a test will not determine their advancement or retention, then there is no incentive for them to take the test seriously, try hard or develop the learning and thinking behaviors students need to be successful. As such, any measure of a teacher's added value through these tests is incomplete, and potentially skewed to the point of misinformation.



If market logic is invoked to justify policing of teachers, then it must also be applied to students. Only then can testing be seen as one reasonable measure (among many others) of a student's and teacher̢۪s performance. Until then, all of this talk is folly.



JUSTIN R. HARBOUR

Philadelphia



The writer teaches world history and government at a charter school.

multiple authors


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