Irony is a literary term that is defined as “a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.” Bearing that in mind, I find it ironic that NYSED is set to begin meeting on the issue of teacher evaluations during Teacher Appreciation Week. Seriously. This is no joke. NYSED has already stacked the deck, as Peter Green writes about here. Andrew Cuomo has set the deadline for June 30th, just 7 weeks from the first meeting of the panel, thus eliminating the 45 day commenting period. To make this all the more insulting to parents and teachers across the state, the new system will have to be in place by November or districts will not receive state funding.
That leaves parents and teachers just 4 days to get their comments in to NYSED to let them know how they feel about how teachers should be evaluated. If the Governor gets his way, as he often does, then teachers will have 50% of their evaluations based on test scores. What does this mean for our students? It means that 100% of the school day, 100% of the school year, will be activities and lessons that are designed to prepare students for the test. Think about that. Since the tests are ELA and Math, that means that Science and Social Studies lessons will be limited, if non-existent. (or in educator speak “integrated”), Music and Art and PE will all have “written projects with a reading and writing focus”, fine motor activities will be sidelined even more than they are now and time for recess and social skills opportunities will be lessened even more than they are now.
As a parent, I want my children to have a well-rounded education. I want them to love learning and to love to read. I want them to have empathy, kindness, manners, and a whole host of other skills that cannot be tested or quantified. I want them to be happy and successful in whatever way they define that to be when they grow up. As a teacher, I want those same things for my “kids” a.k.a. my students, and it will break my heart even more than it does now to have to focus on those tests every day.
Parents and teachers, take some time this week, Teacher Appreciation week, and show your child’s teacher (and your colleagues) some love. Write a letter, send an email, make a phone call to tell this group of so-called experts how important it is to stop using student test scores to evaluate teachers. Tell them how important it is to have observations of teachers completed by principals and teachers, not “outside observers” who have no knowledge of the classrooms or the teacher being observed. Tell them that it is time to stop the war on teachers and start respecting the people who are caring for and educating our children every day. Tell them to tell the Governor to back off and keep his dirty fingers out of education and his grubby hands off the money that should be going into our public school system instead of into his friend’s pockets.
It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. Let’s appreciate our teachers.