Monday, May 16, 2011

Governor Andy's True Colors

Governor Andrew Cuomo looked like a good guy when he opposed the ridiculous anti-seniority legislation that Bloomberg and his lackeys tried to ram through the State Legislature. But he's the first Democrat I ever voted against, and there are good reasons for that. Who the hell needs a Democrat who publicly declares he will go after unions, while declining to continue a tax on millionaires?

We've all been waiting for him to let his hair down, and it looks like the time has come. The UFT was party to a negotiation that resulted in a new evaluation method for teachers. This was supposed to be 20% from "value-added," or student test results, 20% from some sort of local evaluation, and 60% from observation and so forth. I was not happy with this as there is quite a bit of evidence that "value added" methodology has no validity to begin with. And with an preposterous margin of error, and clear evidence that good teachers can be labeled otherwise, it seems to me it ought not to be used at all.

Yet our esteemed governor, who met with DFER leaders to garner support for his campaign, is now referring to value-added as an "objective" measure of teacher quality.  I suppose lack of validity does not necessarily render data subjective, but I'm still disturbed by the governor's insistence that this take additional significance in teacher assessments. Governor Cuomo, in fact, wishes to preclude decent ratings for teacher who don't do well in such measures, and that will certainly lead to labeling good teachers "ineffective."

What must be addressed, of course, is how many careers of good teachers will be ruined, how many good teachers will lose their jobs, and how many will be slimed by the newspapers who can't wait to publish this dubious data. Right now no one knows. But if the governor gets his way, pursuing a career as a teacher will be, at best, a crapshoot.

At worst, it will be a disaster. Honors classes must be avoided at all costs, as kids with 99 averages can fail to get them up to 100, or worse, fall to 98, and it will be entirely due to the failure of their teachers. Likewise kids with learning disabilities may not overcome them by semester's end, and that can be your job. I'm an ESL teacher, and I've seen many kids make little progress while mired in the determination they would return to their home countries. I've seen those same kids wake up, determine this country was their future, and make enormous and rapid jumps. Under Governor Cuomo's plan if they don't make them on my watch, I'm toast.

Cuomo's plan is unreasonable and unacceptable. NYSUT has spoken out against it, and the UFT needs to oppose it by every means necessary. If it goes through unchallenged, vindictive supervisors will be able to deliberately give teachers classes that will ensure their failure, and more reasonable supervisors will do so by accident as well.

I work very hard to make my kids succeed. But I am not magic, and despite what "reformers" may contend, there are certainly things that influence kids far more than I do. If Mayor Bloomberg disagrees, if Governor Cuomo disagrees, that's their right, even though available data suggests they're entirely wrong. I suggest they resign immediately, since by their own standards they're both doing a terrible job.

Update: It's passed.
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