By JOHN METALLO
For The Recorder
Teacher evaluation in New York state has been a hot topic ever since Gov. Cuomo personally declared New York state's public schools and teachers in need of drastic improvement last year. He personally crafted a new teacher evaluation system that would improve teaching and would also make it easier to fire ineffective teachers (His words, not mine). At the same time new testing was introduced in the state's public schools that was based upon the Common Core standards.
While the tests aligned with the Common Core standards, most public schools were not teaching to the Common Core, and it was made public by the state Education Department before testing began last spring that the results would most likely be terrible. The scores were beyond terrible with about 70 percent of the state's public school students failing to reach proficiency.
These results were of particular concern to teachers across New York, in that for the first time in the history of the state, teacher evaluations are being directly linked to student test results. One would reasonably assume that the abysmal student testing scores would result in less than spectacular teacher evaluations; however, magically, this did not happen.
On Oct. 22, Dr. John King, the New York state commissioner of education, proudly announced that there are only a handful of ineffective teachers in all of New York state (the results did not include New York City). As a matter of fact the number of ineffective people leading our state's classrooms is about 1 percent. This is fantastic news; however, it was also very costly news in that the Cuomo teacher evaluation plan has already cost the state and local school districts tens of millions of dollars. More troubling the news just does not make sense.
According to a state Education Department press release, results, based on data submitted by school districts and BOCES as of the Oct. 18 deadline, found that 91.5 percent of teachers are rated highly effective (49.7 percent) or effective (41.8 percent); 4.4 percent are rated developing; and 1 percent are rated ineffective. Those results are fabulous with nearly 92 percent of the state's teachers coming out at the very top where they belong. I worked in New York state public schools for 40 years. It does not surprise me that our teachers in New York state are outstanding; however, this evaluation system is not telling the real story. As a matter of fact, the story is out of focus at best and does not pass even the least stringent eyeball test.
Dr. King noted that "it's clear that teachers are rising to the challenge of teaching the Common Core." It is simply impossible to draw this conclusion which seems to indicate that the excellent teacher evaluations were due to the teachers teaching the Common Core. While the commissioner lauded the teachers for doing such a good job of teaching the Common Core curriculum, most of them did not begin teaching it until this fall, if at all. In light of this it is impossible to link the teaching to how the students did on the test last spring and these are the results that were factored into these gaudy teacher evaluations.
Additionally, how could teacher evaluations be outstanding when they are directly linked to student test results that are the worst ever amassed in New York state? Borrowing a line from the Lucille Ball show, someone has some "'splaining" to do. I learned years ago that figures don't lie but liars figure. I am not sure if this is a lie, a spin job or some simple prestidigitation, but I know one thing ... it just does not add up. You do the math.
JOHN METALLO is an Amsterdam native who currently resides in Slingerlands. He taught in Gloversville for 14 years, was principal at Mayfield High School and superintendent of schools in Fort Plain. He is a retired teacher who was also principal of Albany High School and an adjunct instructor at the University at Albany and SUNY Plattsburgh.