A Teenager Fights Back Against Teacher Evaluation Gone Wrong
In February 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, after a lengthy feud with the state teachers union, came to an agreement over a comprehensive teacher evaluation system for the state. The arrangement made New York State eligible to receive $700 million of "Race to the Top" funds, a national sweepstakes spearheaded by President Obama that allocated monies to states that adopted his education policies.
Under the new system known as the Annual Professional Performance Review, 40 percent of a teacher's evaluation would be based on standardized test scores, while the remaining 60 percent would be based on subjective measurements, like classroom observations and student surveys. Then, teachers would be sorted into four categories: ineffective, developing, effective, or highly effective.
However, there's one catch. In the new bill, it states: "The new rating system would prohibit a teacher or principal who is rated ineffective in the objective measures of student growth from receiving a developing score overall." In other words, if a teacher is unable to raise their students' test scores for two consecutive years—even if he or she is deemed highly effective on the subjective measures—the teacher could be fired.
I recently graduated from Syosset High School in New York. My district's APPR plan was approved last fall at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. Teachers were then expected to administer the same exam at the beginning and at the end of the year. By means of value-added measurements and an obtuse formula, the teachers' effectiveness would be determined. Moreover, in New York general state aid for schools is now tied to teacher evaluation, which puts further strain on the most impoverished communities in our state.
Sure enough, a month after school started, the Student Learning Objective exams were unleashed on every student at Syosset in every subject, including art, music, and physical education. Yes, in gym class, multiple choice exams with colorful green Scantrons were doled out. I wish I were kidding.
I cannot begin to describe some of the conversations I've had with educators, many of whom are veterans with decades of experience in this profession, who are feeling humiliated, demoralized, and beaten down by this process.
I didn't want anything to do with the tests, so I opted out of every single SLO exam. Each time, I put my name on the test booklet and Scantron and then handed the blank items back to my teacher. There were no consequences.
At the same time, a groundswell of opposition was growing. Two principals, Sean Feeney of the Wheatley School and Carol Burrris of South Side High School, took the lead and drafted a letter protesting the evaluation system. As of January 2013, 1,535 principals as well as 6,500 parents, educators, and students have signed onto the document.
If there's one thing that is absolutely clear to me, it's that Governor Andrew Cuomo has ignored the voices of students, teachers, principals, and parents who have grave concerns about the evaluations. He is frankly telling millions of students and teachers that their value is no more than a number in a spreadsheet.
What he's forgotten is that evaluation is best done when the purpose is not to punish and reward teachers but to lend them support, to foster collaboration, to encourage self-evaluation, and to allow for rich and lengthy observations by principals and fellow colleagues.
So Governor Cuomo, let me tell you how it is: You can fire my teachers. You can close down my school. You can break up my community. You can kill the love of learning in children. But don't tell me that it's because you want the best for me. I'm not a stupid little kid. Do you hear me?
Click here to add starting a conversation about standardized testing in your community to your GOOD "to-do" list.
A version of this post originally appeared at The Nation
Standardized quiz or test score image via Shutterstock
New Technology Could Help Paralyzed People Turn Thought into Action New developments in thought-relaying research help give movement back to the paralytic community.
The Racket Over Rabbit: Whole Foods’ Newest Meat Causes a Furor Whole Foods falls down the ethical rabbit hole of selling coveted, controversial bunny meat.
Why Can’t People Cozy up to Cuddle Capitalism? Despite their restorative and intimacy-inducing effects, cuddling services are increasingly coming under attack. Are critics simply out of touch?
An Overlooked Contributor to Climate Change: Leaky Pipes These tricked-out, air sensor-equipped Google cars are helping to identify dangerous natural gas pipelines.
Me No Want Cookie! Sesame Workshop puts the junk food industry on notice. The effort to re-brand fruits and vegetables for kids now has some cute, furry and iconic allies.
How Artists Got a Flock of Extinct Birds to Invade a Museum "Eclipse," now showing at MASS MoCA, commemorates the centenary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon.
Parks We're Crushing On Hang out in a sick park (while at your desk) The coolest greenspaces—old and new—as spotted by an intrepid network of photographers around the globe
Your Groceries Don't Need Their Own Bus Seat, Thanks Facebook's Jet Burrows and the Analog Lab team have created the much-needed 10 Commandments of Transit.
Why This Teen-Created Police Accountability App Rules Five-O, a new police accountability app created by three Georgia teens, is the most comprehensive tool of its kind.
Exit Through the Riverbed Olafur Eliasson's new museum exhibit will leave you thinking and splashing.
How Do You Compete With a Flying Toilet? The Savvyloo toilet is a bold step forward in the world sanitation crisis.
Elementary Schoolers Imagine Street Carts of the Future These prototypes show how a group of students from Brooklyn think street vendors and mobile service stations should look in 30 years.