Teachers should be evaluated for flexibility

A student is about more than a test score. 

That’s the philosophy behind the many teachers and union representatives who went to Albany in support of a new bill to change the state’s reliance on test scores for teacher evaluations. 

A press conference organized by the state teachers’ union, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), was held on Tuesday, May 8. Local representatives attended, including three from the North East (Webutuck) Central School District. Webutuck Teachers’ Union President Rebecca Garrard was among them.

Test scores, she said, “are not a reflection of student knowledge. They do not give data or information for instruction and they do not allow educators to have flexibility in instructing students with regard to their individual needs.”

We agree. Good test scores simply mean that someone is good at taking a test. And, yes, that is its own art. But it should not be a rubric for how we judge our educators.

Teachers, and all others in the profession who guide our students, should be evaluated on their real-world teaching skills — not on test scores. All they do cannot be captured by the rating of highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective — which is exactly how the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) evaluates educators.

In 2015, Governor Cuomo created a task force to make recommendations for the state’s standards, curriculum and assessments. Is there, its members queried, a way to improve “poor implementation and improper use of state assessments association with the Common Core Learning Standards,” which is how the state union described the situation.

We certainly hope so. A new bill addressing the issue will help.

With that bill now being pursued, educators hope evaluations will improve. According to Garrard, the goal is for educators to be judged based on students’ success, “not their scores on flawed tests.”

We don’t want our teachers to devote all of their classroom time to test preparation — we want them to spend their time teaching English, math, science, history, foreign languages, art, music — and all other subjects taught in our schools. That’s what they do best. We should support them in those efforts.

To do so, reach out to your local state senator. Sen. Sue Serino (R-41) can be reached at 845-229-0106 or at 518-455-2945.