City Journal Summer 2014

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Summer 2014
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Marcus A. Winters
Cuomo’s Teaching Moment « Back to Story

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Watch, Mr. Winters. This breakthrough will be heralded as the reason why teachers should get that pay increase and pension protection they've been demanding.

Also, the unions are opposed to standardized tests such as the SAT because of their "inherent racism," "patriarchal standards," and "materialistic bias." So these arbitrators of Cuomo's meritocratic reforms, themselves, are suspect.

Don't be fooled Marcus. The taxpayers of NYC, and us in "flyover" country who help to subsidize NYC's port protections, her first responders, and who underwrite federal bailouts to NY financial firms, all of us are tired of the Democrats/AFT game of pretend concessions followed up by demands for pay increases.

Until NY's citizens get serious about education and de-unionize this key civil service, they can only expect more of these games to come. And, in the end, the kids trapped in the unions' delapidated credential-mills are the victims: their heads get stuffed with trivia about Thomas Jefferson's slaves, while they test lower and lower relative to America's economic competitors' students.
"But we can’t rely entirely on principal assessments of a teacher’s performance. "

Why not?

Presumably the Principal is an experienced educator and as the senior 'manager' of a school, ultimately responsible for the quality of education all attendees receive. If you think this concept is flawed, then explain all of private industry where a manager's evaluation impacts not only your salary but if you have a job at all.

These folks live in a different world.
I am a retired Professor of Education in Ontario Canada. I applaud this innovation in New York. For too many years the Teachers' Unions in the U.S. have been the brick wall that stopped improvement and innovation in education. They were entrenched and not to be moved. Good Luck with the new rules for evaluation.
I read articles such as this one about the great results to be gained from teacher evaluations, from increased spending on public schools, and on the importance of advanced training for teachers, and I must wonder: those of us who are a generation or two removed from the current crop of public school students, how in Heaven's name did we ever manage to learn anything? We graduated from high school, went on to the military, or jobs, or higher education - we became generals, and foremen, and businessmen and doctors and lawyers and engineers and software programmers. Yet our teachers were largely underpaid, mostly female, and most of them with nothing more than a Bachelor's degree from a third-tier college or state Normal School (what they called teachers' colleges back then).
There were no standardized tests for the students apart from the SAT's, the College Boards. And most of our teachers gained tenure merely by staying on the job a certain number of years and managing to avoid public scandal or prison.
There have always been good teachers, average teachers and mediocre teachers. And there have always been, and always will be, smart students, average students, and dumb students. And no amount of testing and evaluating and spending will ever change either.
And that's the truth.
Student improvement on standardized tests, or the lack thereof, a function of teacher competence? Certainly possible, though one would not want to generalize. What about students' ability, motivation, parental support, cultural influences? These are largely not under a teacher's control. No teacher should be punished on the grounds that his students' tests scores show no improvement, or even if they fall, for the simple reason that IT MAY NOT BE HIS FAULT! Nor is it a necessarily a measure of his competence if his students' scores compare poorly with some average or "mandated" number.

Hey, here's a solution to "lack of improvement" on standardized tests! Dumb down the tests! Oops, that's been going on for years in New York, and the rate of failure is still way too high. So it MUST be teacher's fault.

Then there's the principal's observation, which is supposed to make up for the weaknesses embodied in evaluating based on test scores. Hmmm. Suppose you're a principal struggling with a "failing" school. Might be a tad tempting to pin blame onto "bad teachers", don't you think? Or are we to assume that all principals are pillars of integrity and sound judgment? Cuis custodiet ipsos custodies? Incidentally, how did they arrive at "13% are allowed to appeal"? Unlucky number 13?

I don't claim that principals should NOT evaluate teachers, I merely question the assumptions that such a process is bound to be objective, and that tougher evaluations will make education any better on the whole than it is. Evaluations that are constructive and collegial can help. But what Mr. Winters describes sound more like, "Improve, or else!"

This insanity will not make the bedrock problems in education go away. Meanwhile, it will drive away talented people who don't want to be treated like factory workers turning out "product."

The administrators DO know who the useless teachers are--they always have known. The first three years of a teacher's career are probationary and he or she can easily be sacked. But the administrators are loath to act simply because it would mean more work for them: spending time observing and documenting the sub par performance and then the time and effort to interview and hire the replacement.
In before liberal sophisticate Montrealman and his inane views.
Before you get to excited you better wait and see how many subpar teachers are removed. My bet will be.few or none.