My response to an editorial by the Albany Times Union, stating it is "Time to End the School Fight." No. It is not. Here's why:
Oh goodness. Where do I start? TU Editors, how would you like your job to hang on how well citizens understand your articles? They could take a test to determine your overall effectiveness as an editor. We'll make the test impossibly hard, with reading levels years beyond the ability/age of your readers, and there will be no transparency so you will never get to see the test. Oh and answers on the test will be "equally plausible" choices (see EngageNY test directions). Don't worry, we'll notify the public that 70% of people will fail this test. But that won't save your job.
The tests are designed for failure. In my last response to an editorial here, I said they were calibrated to a 1500+ on the SAT. Upon more research I found it is actually a score of 1630, higher than the score College Board uses (the 1500 number) to define college readiness. Under the Governor's direction, State ED and Regents inflated those scores impossibly high so that 70% of our students were guaranteed to fail. How did they know that ahead of time? 70% of SAT test-takers fail to get a 1630. Then just in case, they set the cut scores after the tests are taken to give the Governor his failure rate and fire teachers.
THE GOAL of our Governor, and his hedge fund privatizers, is to use these tests to demolish our public schools and teaching force. Our high-quality master's degree teachers are to be fired and replaced with lower wage workers or "facilitators" who watch children learn online. It is happening in other states (see Chicago for ex). And now the fight has come to New York. The reason we have an abundance of "effective" teachers in NY is because this is one of the few states to require a master's degree, tough entrance exams for certification, and ongoing professional development - not to mention three years of probation on the job. Are there a few ineffective teachers out there that need to be removed? Sure. That's why in 2008 the legislature made it easier to get rid of bad teachers, and it is working. But that's not good enough because they want the whole system gone. You don't get rid of a quality workforce unless that is your intent. Fire teachers, close public schools, and replace them with privately operated, for-profit charter schools. Oh, and let's not forget - charter teachers are not held accountable by these same "teacher evaluations." And their financial accounts are not examined thoroughly as are our public school accounts.
What our governor bribed his way to with our democratically elected legislature, is that our NYS teachers now have to fight their way through tests every year to keep their job. Oh, you're buying the soundbyte that there will be no evaluation percentage tied to a test? Yes, that's true. No percentage. In the new matrix that is proposed, score TRUMPS everything. You have a bad class or teach to a population that can't show growth on testing (special education teachers, English as second language teachers, gifted teachers, teachers in impoverished communities) and you are gone after two years. Gone. It doesn't matter how loudly you are extolled in observations or how well you serve your students. You. Are. Gone.
And for new teachers - even worse. You have to, as Peter Greene stated, "Get snake eyes on the VAM dice" every year for three years out of the four. If those numbers don't line up for you - you are gone after four years. If you somehow miraculously get effectives the first three years and then have a rough class the fourth year and get a developing - well as Assemblywoman Nolan said, "you get another bite at the apple" for a fifth year. But if that is not effective, you are gone. No recourse. All the years and expense to get a master's degree so you can put your passion for helping children into a teaching career? ALL HOPE GONE! You will never teach in NY again. But you will still be saddled with school debt. Enrollment in NY teacher prep programs is already down 20-50%. What will happen when we can't find teachers to teach our kids?
All this WILL double down on test prep and hurt our children. Kids are already pulling out their hair or eyelashes, deliberately scratching themselves, shaking, crying, and vomiting during tests. Students with identified disabilities, some of whom are tested at grade level, no matter what their intellectual ability sometimes cry through the test. I personally witnessed it. Enough.
This is child abuse. This is teacher abuse. This is war against those who see our children as a profit market. No we will not give up. We cannot. REFUSE THE TESTS.