Thursday, March 13, 2014

Common Core Good Enough to Judge Teachers but Not Students

So says Governor Andy Cuomo. You see, since kids are not prepared for Common Core, since the tests are unreliable, since no one has ever tested Common Core itself, and since NY State has made its feelings known, Governor Cuomo has to do something. He has to take decisive action. And that action will perhaps indicate to anxious parents that he, the student lobbyist, will prevent their kids from being hurt by low test scores.

Once parents know that, maybe they'll feel better. After all, those scores won't keep the kids out of college. They won't matter that much. In fact, maybe parents will tell the kids they don't matter. Why study for tests with no consequences? Would you study for a test with no consequence to make a moral statement? I'm not that sure I would.

On the other hand, Andrew Cuomo has no problem using these scores in teacher evaluation. What? The kids put their heads down and slept for 90 minutes because they knew the test scores were meaningless? There must be something wrong with the teacher. Let's rate her ineffective. And since the kids have the same deal next year too, let's do it again.

Sometimes people say children first, students first, or whatever, and they invariably mean teachers last. But sadly, folks like Andrew Cuomo don't call themselves a student lobbyist because they care so deeply about our kids. I mean, if that were the case, where's the money from the CFE lawsuit that ought to enable lower class sizes for the city? Why has Andrew Cuomo pushed and passed a punitive tax cap that prevents districts from raising their own budgets without a super majority? Why does Andrew Cuomo give more weight to people who say NO to children than those who say YES? And why has he pushed a Gap Elimination Adjustment that leaves districts with less state aid than they had six years ago?

He's got us coming and going. Teachers and school personnel are losing jobs and class sizes are rising. Andrew Cuomo pays lip service to delaying a few test results and hopes we won't notice. But to Andrew Cuomo, a tool that may help him fire teachers is invaluable. It could be those tens of thousands from DFER, and who knows how much more from their deep-pocketed pals. Or it could be that $800,0000 from the Eva Moskowitz traveling show. It was pretty clear where the governor's loyalties were when we saw him up there on stage with her.

What New York needs is an alternative to Governor Cuomo. I don't think the GOP will present us with one. Rob Astorino bills himself as pro-charter and anti-taxes, and personally I fail to see how those positions differentiate him from Governor Andy. Nonetheless, he's got a history of taking down sitting Democrats. I'm not sure he's ever taken down a Democrat with a 33 million dollar war chest, but that remains to be seen.

If we want to fight a bully like Andrew Cuomo, the only way is by putting out a more effective message than he has. Eva Moskowitz is breaking hearts all over with her commercials. But public schools all over the state are suffering too, and it's time we let NY State know it. Instead of going from bad to worse, maybe we could go from worse to bad.

Because then and only then could we move from bad to good--and that's what parents and teachers all over the state want for public school children. A real student lobbyist couldn't ignore 97% of the state's students.
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