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[Susan notes: Here you can see a variety of letters responding to the New York Times front page story on the Bloomberg/Klein teacher rating plan. You can see for yourself who blows hot air and who speaks from direct experience.]

Published in New York Times
01/25/2008

To the editor

To the Editor:



Re âNew York Measuring Teachers by Student Progress on Testsâ (front page, Jan. 21):



There is both good and bad in many decisions that are made for the âpublic good.â The experiment by the New York City Department of Education in which teachers at 140 schools are rated based on standardized test scores is no exception.



While using tests to rate teachers goes back to the mid-1800s, this new plan will ensure that teachers are inclined to âteach to the test.â This is not educationally sound.



On the other hand, keeping professionals accountable for their responsibilities is good. Ideally, a standard of measurement would assess performance but prevent teaching to the test.



While the Department of Education appears to be creating a thorough statistical design, it is of paramount importance that we create a student assessment that prevents teachers from compromising wholesome education for a test-directed classroom. Developing such an instrument would have a major effect on the education of our youth and would resonate nationally.



Alfred S. Posamentier

New York, Jan. 21, 2008



The writer is dean of the School of Education, City College, CUNY.



â¢



To the Editor:



As if it were not antiquated and erroneous enough to judge our students by how well they fill in bubbles, now an entire school system is considering judging teachers by how well they prepare children to fill in bubbles.



How will New York officials measure the success of a teacher who challenges her students to think critically, shows them how to analyze the world and the curriculum, and motivates them to be change agents in our society?



If there are standardized tests for this, I have yet to see them appear in my classroom.



Alyssa Dunn

Atlanta, Jan. 21, 2008



The writer is a high school English teacher.



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To the Editor:



Teacher accountability is absolutely necessary, but test scores cannot provide it. We can ensure that dedicated, young and inexperienced teachers are effective by providing them with highly qualified mentors and reforming No Child Left Behind.



Research has proved, and educators know, that all children learn differently. In our teaching experiences we do our best to individualize instruction so that each of our students is successful. Yet as a nation, we still measure a childâs success on his or her ability to take a bubble test.



Suzanne Cilli

Philadelphia, Jan. 21, 2008



The writer is a teacher.



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To the Editor:



Having taught at a Los Angeles public school for 12 years, I know that classes differ dramatically from year to year. The demographics in big cities are diverse, the needs of individual children are varied, and each class presents different priorities.



This year I have mostly eager, happy children, highly motivated to learn. Three years ago a full third of my class had severe learning or emotional problems and tremendous amounts of time were spent keeping order. Compare the test scores for these two classes and you would have no idea what kind of a teacher I am.



Test scores are only one indication of progress. The needs of todayâs schools are complex, and success depends upon sophisticated, varied solutions to a multitude of issues. A wise observer said, âTaking your temperature is useful but provides no cure.â



Susan Cohn Stockhammer

Los Angeles, Jan. 21, 2008



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To the Editor:



In my work as a teacher and school psychologist for 35 years, I found that poor school performance tended to correlate with foster care placement, involvement of the family with the prison system or drugs, chronic student absence, living apart from siblings, being burned out of homes and parental neglect, in addition to a teacherâs skills.



If the out-of-school circumstances of students are not factored in, any measure of teachers will be inaccurate.



Charles Merrill

New York, Jan. 21, 2008



To the Editor:



Teachers (especially those, like me, who teach math) know that statistically, students who are high achievers will have the greatest chance of significant improvement. This means that New York Cityâs new program will create a disincentive for those teachers who care the most to volunteer to teach classes of students who are struggling, and who most need the small steps toward success that such teachers can provide.



Lenny Gucciardi

San Francisco, Jan. 21, 2008



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To the Editor:



Having taught in one of the most challenging areas of South Central Los Angeles for six years, I have seen some young, inexperienced teachers as well as some cynical, burned-out ones. But I have seen many more skilled, dynamic individuals who have the insurmountable task of overcoming the culture of poverty, violence, fear and racism.



Added to this is a grim reality that is often not mentioned: there are many parents and students who do not understand the value of education or simply do not care. Testing to determine a teacherâs performance may work for some schools, but where I teach, it would just be another burden.



Deirdre Higgins

Los Angeles, Jan. 21, 2008

multiple authors


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