Less than a year ago, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York proclaimed that the key to transforming the state’s education system was tougher evaluations for teachers, and he pushed through changes that increased the weight of student test scores in teachers’ ratings.
Now, facing a parents’ revolt against testing, the state is poised to change course and reduce the role of test scores in evaluations. And according to two people involved in making state education policy, Mr. Cuomo has been quietly pushing for a reduction, even to zero. That would represent an about-face from January, when the governor called for test scores to determine 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.
There's some conjecture on just what this "reduction" will be:
The idea that Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, is pushing for the changes comes from several different avenues. According to one of the education policy makers, Mr. Malatras said in a conversation that the administration wanted to decouple test scores and evaluations. The other person reported having spoken with people who had similar conversations with the administration.Two members of the Board of Regents, the body that sets state education policy, said they had heard that Mr. Cuomo was pushing for a moratorium on the use of test scores in evaluations. The two board members, Kathleen M. Cashin and Betty A. Rosa, both said they would heartily support such a change.
There's a big difference between "decoupling" tests scores from evaluations and having a "moratorium" on test scores being used in evaluations, so as always with this stuff, the devil is in the details.
Cuomo, through shill Malatras, is claiming nothing has been determined yet, that they're waiting for findings from the vaunted Common Core Review task force that Cuomo announced in September - but that's jive of course.
Cuomo has controlled every commission, panel and task force he's put together, from the two Moreland Commissions (one after Sandy on utilities, one on corruption that has him under federal investigation for witness tampering and possible obstruction) to the other two education commissions he put together (just ask Todd Hathaway who disagreed with the findings of the task force he sat on but had his name signed to the pre-determined report nonetheless!)
So what Cuomo wants, Cuomo's Common Core Review task force will find.
And it looks as if the governor, reeling from the bad press and bad polling on education, has perhaps decided the suitcases full of cash he gets from ed deformers aren't enough to keep him pushing ed deform policies in toto:
In New York, Mr. Cuomo’s push to give test scores more weight in evaluations helped propel a widespread test refusal movement this year, centered on Long Island. More than 200,000 of the nearly 1.2 million students expected to take the annual reading and math tests did not sit for them in 2015. At some schools, as many as 75 percent of students opted out.Long Islanders tend to be swing voters, and education is a top concern of theirs, given the high percentage of school-age children and the role that local schools’ reputations have on real estate values, said Lawrence Levy, the executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.“Considering how his numbers fell off in suburban communities in the last election, I thought that the governor had to pay close attention to the desires and the demands of these suburban swing constituencies,” Mr. Levy said.
One final point to make on this - there's a likelihood that all they're going to do is call for a "moratorium" on test score use in APPR or a "moratorium" on the "penalties" teachers would suffer for low scores:
“A moratorium is under consideration,” said State Senator Carl L. Marcellino, a Long Island Republican, chairman of the Education Committee and a member of the task force.The Board of Regents would quite likely approve a moratorium or any other step to reduce the role of test scores in evaluations. Until recently, a majority of the board supported tying test scores to evaluations, but the Legislature elected several new members this year who are critical of that policy.
This "moratorium" could come based upon the 50% test score criteria Cuomo imposed in the budget or it could be lowered to something like 20% (which is apparently what NYSED MaryEllen Elia thinks it ought to be.)
In any case, the "big changes" to education policy Cuomo promised look to be coming.
Whether they're substantive changes or more jive made to look like substantive changes remains to be seen.
Having watched Cuomo closely now for a few years, I remain skeptical.
But the low approval numbers in the polling, the especially low education numbers in those polls, the high opt out rates (with the numbers set to go even higher this year if the status quo continues) and the even higher "hardship waivers" districts got on Cuomo's vaunted new APPR teacher evaluation system with the 50% test score component seem to have weakened some of Cuomo's resolve to continue to scapegoat teachers for all the ills in the education system.