Teachers fight back against Cuomo’s new evaluation system

February 26, 2015 Anna Spivak
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Local educators angry about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to revamp the teacher evaluation system in a way that would increase reliance on standardized test scores and decrease the impact of local observation by educators have taken to social media to make their case.

Teachers at David Boody Junior High School (I.S. 228) in Gravesend recently put out a collaborative video on vimeo directed at Cuomo—featuring teachers explaining why the reform announced during the governor’s State of the State address last month is the wrong move.

What particularly infuriates the educators is that, in what amounts to a seismic shift that includes a heavy increase in the importance of high-stakes testing, 50 percent of a teacher’s rating would be based on student scores on state standardized tests.

The remaining 50 percent would be based on observation of the teachers in action. But, in another shift, instead of school supervisory personnel doing the in-classroom evaluations, 35 percent of evaluations would be done by “independent” observers.

“We were very angry,” said Marianna Emilio, an English teacher at Boody about hearing the news. “Teachers are bound to feel angry because [Governor Cuomo] is supposed to be our leader and we just don’t feel supported.”

“Our governor is attempting to make the teaching career extremely difficult for all educators and this will negatively affect all New York students,” said Marlena Salubro, one of the teachers behind the video that has already reached over 7,000 views. “Our hope is to teach people about what really goes on in a New York public school classroom. Like some people, our governor has a false impression about the teaching field. We’re hoping that our video will make a difference.”

Community Education Council-District 20 (CEC20) has also attempted to combat the change by passing a resolution to support “New York City Public Schools against Governor Cuomo’s politically-driven attack on public education,” and contending that the increased emphasis on standardized test scores “goes against research showing that using test scores as a primary basis for evaluating teachers is invalid; high-stakes testing wastes our precious school funds and falsely treats a single test taken on one day of the school year as more important than what happens on the other 180 days.”

“We did pass the resolution about supporting NYC public schools,” said Laurie Windsor, president of CEC20. “Basically it would just be stripping the school of any kind of power. At the local school level, it’s kind of scary to do that.”

According to Cuomo’s office, the change was part of the state’s commitment to implement a “real” and “effective” teacher evaluation system as “a condition of the $700 million granted through the federal Race to the Top program.”

Cuomo called the new evaluation system “groundbreaking” in the official announcement and expressed confidence that it would help the state “transform” the education system.

“[The] new statewide teacher evaluation system will put students first and make New York a national leader in holding teachers accountable for student achievement,” said Cuomo. “This agreement is exactly what is needed to transform our state’s public education system, and I am pleased that by working together and putting the needs of students ahead of politics we were able to reach this agreement.”

To view the video, go to https://vimeo.com/119415619.

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