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Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has begun an attack on public education in his state. His first target has been the teachers. After learning that about 95% of the state’s teachers received the two highest ratings on their evaluations, the governor decided that there had to be something wrong with the evaluations. His solution – tie a percentage of a teacher’s evaluation to the standardized test scores of the students the teacher taught. In addition, because principals obviously were being too lenient in observations, bring in administrators and lead teachers from other districts to also do evaluations. What could possibly go wrong?
Let’s start with the standardized tests. New York adopted the Common Core standards, but instead of using either the Smarter Balanced or PARCC test they decided to have Pearson Education write a test specifically for New York State. Pearson Education is an international company that provides assessments, curriculum and technology connections to schools and businesses.
Pearson has a gag order in place so that teachers and administrators cannot talk about the test or test questions on the NYS tests. In spite of this gag order, some information has been revealed and it is of major concern. It has been reported that reading selections for the ELA test are often above grade level and include obscure word usage. Multiple choice questions are vague and some have more than one reasonable answer. There are even reports that some passages on the ELA test are taken directly from Pearson’s own curriculum. This puts schools that purchased the curriculum at a distinct advantage. (Note: During pre-testing of the standardized tests this problem was reported and Pearson agreed to make changes so that this didn’t happen again. Apparently they did not actually follow through with removing these articles.)
The NYS test has three types of questions – multiple choice, short answer, and those that require explanations. So how is the test being scored? Pearson began hiring college graduates at a pay rate of $13.50 an hour at their own facilities and also has Kelly Services (a temp agency) hiring college graduates at $11.50 an hour at a Kelly Service location. Most recently it has been reported that Pearson has placed an ad on Craigslist offering to hire scorers who do not have a college degree.
The use of test scores as part of a teacher’s evaluation brings with it a major problem as it is not being used for every teacher. Currently the NYS exams written by Pearson are only being administered for ELA and math in grades 3 – 8. This means that teachers who do not teach these subjects will not have standardized test scores used as part of their evaluations. This leads to an inequitable evaluation system that is hard to justify. One also must wonder if it is fair to teachers to have their evaluations partly determined by tests scored by those who do not even hold a college degree or have any background in education.
The testing and evaluation systems are not the only changes that are a major attack on public education in New York. There are consequences for schools that under perform for two years in a row. The Governor’s solution for this situation is to turn the schools over to outside management or convert them to charter schools. Enter the charter school companies and hedge fund groups that will make a lot of money running these “under performing” schools. The management companies charge a fee for running the schools that is paid for with taxpayer money. In many cases they farm out certain business related activities like payroll to private companies for a fee. The charter school scenario is no better. The CEOs running charter schools often earn salaries that are much higher than the superintendents of entire districts.
In response to the changes that Governor Cuomo is pushing, parents and teachers are united in fighting for better schools and less testing. Parents across the state are opting their children out of the tests which have taken over what their children are learning.
Would you consider opting your child out of standardized testing?[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]