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Teachers Offer Plea to NYC Parents: ‘Help Us Fight Cuomo’s Plans’

Teachers Offer Plea to NYC Parents: ‘Help Us Fight Cuomo’s Plans’

Many parents and teachers are angered by proposed changes to the way teacher evaluations are performed, giving even more weight to standardized test scores and less to the input of school principals. Protests are planned for next week, and parents can help spread the word.

Two weeks ago teachers at the coveted Park Slope elementary school PS 321 posted an open letter to school families that clearly explains the impact that a new teacher evaluation system would have on their job security, and of course, their ability to teach their students.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed giving greater weight to standardized test results in teacher evaluations. While this may sound like an obvious criteria to consider when evaluating a teacher’s performance, according to the detailed letter from PS 321, giving it undue weight can have the effect of punishing teachers who have indeed done their job. They write:

“Realistically, many of us could be fired. Every year. And many more of us would be pushed away from the profession we love.

   Here’s something parents need to understand. Even though, when our students take the standardized tests, most of them do just fine… many PS 321 teachers do not. Teachers’ ratings are not based on their students’ raw scores for the year, but whether their students improved from one year to the next. If a student with a ‘3’ gets one fewer question correct in 4th grade than she did in 3rd, that student might not have demonstrated the 'added value' their teacher is expected to have instilled. Even though the student has mastered that grade’s content. Even though it’s just one question. And that teacher might, therefore, be rated in the bottom percentile of teachers.

   That may sound patently absurd. However, that has already happened here.”

 

A Math Problem Gone Wrong?

The teachers go on to explain in their letter the full breakdown of how they would be evaluated under the Governor’s new plan. They break it out as follows:

• 50% of a teacher’s rating would be based on state test scores.
(Currently it is 20%).

• 35% of a teacher’s rating would be based on the findings of an outside “independent observer” who will conduct a one time visit to the classroom.
("This has never been done before. Currently our principal and assistant principals’ observations count for 60%").

• 15% of a teacher’s rating would be based on observations by the principal or assistant principals. "The very people who know our work best would have the least input into our evaluation."

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50% + 35% = "85% of [teacher] evaluations would be removed from the hands of our community and placed in the hands of the state."

 

Impact of Teacher Evaluation Changes on Students 

One of the biggest effects parents face—other than possibly losing effective, beloved teachers in their children’s schools—is a narrowing of curriculums across the city so schools can put even more focus on test prep. 

Mayor Bill DeBlasio agrees with Governor Cuomo on some aspects of his proposed education reform, but he has expressed that he does not think this is the best way to roll out teacher evaluation reform.

 

protect our schools illustration

How to Voice Your Opinions and Protest Proposed Changes

The New York State Legislature is set to vote on the budget on March 31.  

Various protests to this and other aspects of Cuomo’s proposed legislation are in the planning stages. NYC Public School Parents—who say “Our public schools are under attack”—invites concerned parents throughout New York City boroughs to “form a ring around your [school] building to symbolically protect your school” on Thursday, March 12. The March 12 protests are sponsored by Class Size Matters, NYS Allies for Public Education, the Alliance for Quality Education, and the United Federation of Teachers.

In communities surrounding the city in other parts of NY state, protests are taking place on other dates, including March 26.

PS 321 teachers and NYC Public School Parents both request that anyone opposed to the measures share news of the protests and details of the letter on social media—post to Facebook, Twitter, and email your friends. #protectourschools

Find out how to contact state Assembly members at http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/. Find out how to contact State Senate members at http://www.nysenate.gov/senators.