If NCLB is finally left in the dust – just as New York’s participation in the Race to the Top program is expiring – will Albany take advantage of its newfound freedoms to rethink its testing programs? The clear answer is … maybe.
Newly arrived state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has said she will appoint task forces to review the Common Core standards, New York’s 3-to-8 tests that are now tied to Common Core, and how test results are used to evaluate teachers. Elia has a track record of supporting the standards-testing-evaluations approach to improving education, but seems keenly aware that many New Yorkers have little faith in our testing obsession. She’ll soon realize that a whole new group of parents are now irritated because of the recent Regents exam in algebra, which left even top students scratching their heads.
The state may have bought some time with its critics by dropping mega-corp Pearson for grade 3-8 test development. But Pearson’s replacement, Questar, will also get its marching orders from the Education Department.
Then there’s the Cuomo problem. Our governor is the driving force behind New York’s brutish teacher-evaluation system, which will increasingly rely on test scores to label teachers (even though we won’t use the same scores to evaluate students because the tests are unproven). Many classroom teachers and the parents who appreciate them will remain peeved until the system is changed. Elia will have to confront this problem pronto and figure out a way to circumvent Cuomo’s stubbornness, driven largely by his animus for teachers unions.
We hope that Congress will let states decide how to use test data for their own purposes. But it would be up to New York’s leaders to recognize what even those in Washington see: testing should not drive education policy. Many teachers will spend too much time next year trying to protect their jobs by preparing students for tests. This must not continue.
Indeed, Cuomo and his hedge fund backers are huge impediments to any positive change to public education in New York, though they certainly are both squarely behind damaging changes to it, like making test scores 50% of a teacher's evaluation.
Fred LeBrun, writing about Cuomo's unworkable SAFE Act and the ridiculous MOU that Cuomo and Senate Republicans agreed to earlier in the month that said the state would not enforce the unenforceable parts of the law, wrote this about Cuomo:
Cuomo has proved to be a politician with an uncanny knack for poisoning the well at every oasis he visits. Except those where hedge fund managers gather to squat.
That LeBrun statement certainly applies to public education, the quality of which Cuomo has made much worse since he became governor.
The system is test-obsessed, teachers are held accountable for test scores that don't count for their students, some teachers are evaluated based upon test scores in subjects they don't teach and/or of students they don't teach.
What does all this test obsession do for schools?
As the LoHud editorial notes, it means teachers have to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to protect their jobs by preparing students for the state tests.
With the new receivership program shoved through by Cuomo in the last budget, so do schools.
All it takes is a couple of years of being deemed "persistently struggling" via the state's test score data to have NYSED swoop in and hand a school over to an "independent receiver" (i.e., charter operator.)
The public education system is fear-fueled, in large measure because Cuomo wants it that way - he wants to pay back his hedge fundie donors who started giving him suitcases full of cash before he was elected governor and have continued to do so ever since.
As with the SAFE Act, much of the "change" Cuomo has imposed was meant to become part of Cuomo's political record that he would use to run for president in the future - the governor who got gun control before anybody else after the Sandy Hook tragedy, the Dem governor who took it to the teachers unions and "busted" the public school monopoly.
Given Cuomo's plummeting poll numbers, it's doubtful he'll get the chance to run nationally for anything, but that hasn't stopped him from continuing to do damage with his policies.
As Fred LeBrun says, he poisons everything he touches.