Many New York teachers, including eight former teachers of the year, have appealed to the Board of Regents about the recent change in how heavily standardized test scores will figure into NY teacher evaluations. After originally agreeing to determining up to 20% of a teacher’s total score from test scores, the BoR caved to pressure from political groups to raise the amount to 40%.
Teachers in New York feel duped, and the former teachers of the year wrote an eloquent and intelligent letter to the BoR, which they hand-delivered on Monday of this week. While addressing the numerous criticisms against standardized testing as a method of teacher AND student evaluation, the teachers presented the following examples:
To illustrate the challenges of the new APPR system, we offer these stories from our schools:
1) Andrew has a severe learning disability. He is a hands-on learner who struggles on written exams. His resource teacher, counselor, and mother thought he would be best served taking a challenging science course, even though everyone knew he would fail the Regents exam. When 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation depends on that test score, will schools still make this sort of humane, pedagogically sound decision?
2) Jason missed two days of school this week for golf sectionals. He is a weak student and will struggle to pass the Regents exam. He will miss yet another day next week and perhaps more days if he advances to the state tournament. These golf matches were scheduled during school hours by officials representing New York State. Does the coach or sectional committee bear any responsibility for Jason’s performance on the Regents exam?
3) Tranh moved to America in January to live with his uncle. He speaks very little English and missed half a year of instruction. Who is accountable for his standardized test scores?
4) Simone will miss school all next week because her parents are taking the family on vacation. She will miss five days of instruction for this illegal absence. Will her teachers get an asterisk placed next to Simone’s test scores?
5) Emily finally told her doctor and her parents that she is struggling with depression. She is starting counseling and medication. Needless to say, her grades are suffering. As Emily’s life hangs in the balance, how do we find the strength to show her compassion when we know her poor grades will negatively affect our evaluation?
6) Trudy is a veteran teacher. She volunteered to teach a class of at-risk learners because she has the skills to do so. Her passing rate on the Regents exam will be significantly lower than her peers teaching the stronger students. Under the new APPR, what motivation will teachers have to take on the most challenging students?
7) Marcia teaches art, Beth teaches special education and Craig is a guidance counselor. There are no standardized assessments attached to their jobs. They are gifted educators, but they – like many others in our profession – will not feel the same pressure as those teachers who have a high-stakes exam attached to their course. How do we deal with the divisiveness caused by this inequality?
8) Diane teaches fourth grade. She worked diligently to prepare her students for the ELA. She went to workshops to learn about standards and her passing rate suggests great skill as a teacher. Last spring, the cut scores were changed without warning. Suddenly both Diane and her students seem less-skilled. How do we ensure that the vagaries of testing don’t harm people like Diane and her students?
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Read the whole letter at the link. Teachers of the Year: APPR regulations poison “spirit of collaboration.”