Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, June 22, 2012

Albany Pols Know This Teacher Evaluation System Is Unworkable

Governor Cuomo patted himself on the back for completing what he called the best legislative session in modern political history by forcing a teacher evaluation disclosure plan through the Assembly and the State Senate yesterday.

The plan hides the names of individual teachers from media and public scrutiny, but allows parents to see the evaluations of their children's teachers with names attached.

Everybody else can see the teacher evaluations for each school without the names attached.

As has been his wont throughout his tenure as governor, Cuomo bullied his way through this, putting out a plan that he said pols could take or leave. He refused to negotiate any details after Monday.

So members of the Assembly and the State Senate passed Cuomo's plan - but not without dissent or a desire to revise it in the future:

In the Assembly, discussion lasted nearly three hours, touching on everything from complaints about the federal No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top programs to concerns over testing and fairness. It passed, 118-17, though many said they voted “yea” reluctantly.

For many, the choice came down to accepting a bill that generally maintains teacher privacy, or doing nothing — the latter option would have meant that instructors could be identified publicly along with their evaluations, as happened in the city earlier this year when scores were published in newspapers.

“This particular path we’re on is a mistake, and we need to rethink what we’re doing here; but clearly we don’t want a repeat of last February’s or March’s media disaster,” said Assemblyman James Brennan (D-Brooklyn) in voting “yes.”


Several lawmakers said they voted for the bill with the desire to make changes in the future — but Cuomo quickly said he has “no intention of revisiting the bill in six months or a year.”

Even some Senate Republicans know this teacher evaluation plan of Cuomo's is a sham:

Assemblyman Steven F. McLaughlin, a Republican from the capital region whose wife is a kindergarten teacher, predicted that parents would post the teacher data they receive on the Internet for all to see.

“I already went to — you can get or .net, that’s available, you can grab that,” Mr. McLaughlin said. He added, “It seems like we’ve got the torches and the pitchforks and we’re coming after the teaching profession.”

Cuomo may have “no intention of revisiting the bill in six months or a year," but he's going to have to because the way the evaluations will now play out is exactly the way Mr. McLaughlin says they will.

Don't be surprised to see some astroturf "parent group" funded by the hedge fund managers/education reformers put up such a site and begin to collect "data" and names from all New York City schools, all in the interest of "public disclosure."

And don't be surprised to see some semblance of NY1, the Daily News, the Post, the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times publish the data with names attached as part of some story about the overall effectiveness of the teacher evaluation law and the existence of the "parent-created data sites."

As Mr. McLaughlin says, they've got it out for teachers and the teaching profession and the plan passed in Albany isn't going to stop Murdoch, Zuckerman, and the corporate education reform movement from demonizing as many teachers as they can next year.

But here's the crux of this issue - while the media fights for full disclosure of the names and data and Cuomo strikes his "balance" between disclosure and privacy, no one is looking at the integrity of the system itself.

The tests are a mess. The ones we've seen so far, developed by both the state and the city, have been error-riddled embarrassments.

Does anybody really think Dr. John King, who couldn't put out the 4th-8th grade math or ELA tests this year without major mistakes, or the city, which couldn't put out a few foreign language exams without major mistakes, are going to be able to put out all the state and local exams for all the subjects - ELA, math, social studies, science, art, music, foreign language and physical education - in all grades year after year without making a mess of it?

And does anybody think Dr. King, the same genius who first defended Pearson's Pineapple and Hare passage as excellent test material, can develop a value-added measurement of teachers that is fair and workable?

In the best of circumstances, value-added measurements of individuals have high margins of error and wide swings in stability.

Add error-riddled tests to the equation and a circus-like atmosphere around the disclosure of the evaluation data and names and you have a recipe for disaster.

I spoke to someone in a State Senator's office who told me that most Albany pols in both parties know that the teacher evaluation and state testing systems are unworkable and will have to be revised in coming years.

This person said she thought once parents saw the sheer insanity of a system that forces students to take 35+ tests a year to grade their teachers, they'll balk over it and force changes.

This person also said parents aren't go to like to find out that teachers now have to "compete" with each other on a state-developed value-added bell curve and will force changes to that too.

Now Governor Cuomo, who is of course infallible and the smartest person ever, who just capped this legislative session by saying “This bill is the metaphorical cherry on the cake to the end of what I believe is one of the most successful and broad- ranging legislative sessions in modern political history" is not going to want to revise this teacher evaluation system.

But the politicians in Albany of BOTH parties know what has been put into law is totally unworkable and once the consequences of the system become clear to their constituents - from the 35+ standardized tests a year students will take simply to grade their teachers to the terrible quality of the tests themselves to the insanity of making teachers compete against each other for their evaluations along the value-added bell curve - this system will be revised whether Governor Cuomo likes it or not.

Unfortunately there will be a lot of damage done to students, teachers, schools and public education before that happens.


  1. Even if he were so inclined, why would Cuomo ever entertain the idea of changing this awful system when Mulgrew has already claimed that it's a win for the union?

    We have zero union leadership. We keep taking slaps in the face and asking if we may have another. And don't forget, we have given all this away without having a contract or a raise in 5 years. Why would anyone negotiate with us when we simply cave to anything they want?

  2. This piece of legislation is garbage. Mr. Bloomberg will make sure that every parent will ask for and get the information. Reporters will pay parents for the information and then protect their sources. It is a victory for Bloomberg and a grand defeat and humiliation for teachers.