Let me say at the outset that I do not approve of using standardized tests as a significant factor in evaluating teachers. However, assuming that the state tests are given more weight, it is extremely important to focus on how they are being used. Based on the results presented in The New York Times on March 23, the equation used to compute teacher effectiveness serves only one purpose: to make the best school districts in New York State look like the worst. Let me present a few examples: Great Neck, Manhasset, Jericho, Syosset, Herricks, Port Washington, Roslyn and Garden City, to name just a few, were all given teacher effectiveness ratings of less than 10 percent. Yet all of these school districts had very high scores on the state tests!
The fact that the NYS Department of Education concocted a statistical formula to completely distort the truth is deplorable. Not only are the teachers portrayed as incompetent, the students are as well, because teacher ratings are based on student performance.
We in Great Neck, knowing that our children actually do very well on the state tests, may not feel properly threatened by the use of the tests to evaluate teachers. In fact, we need to respond very proactively to what is a very real threat. The threat is not only to our teachers. The quality of our schools is also threatened because the teachers will increasingly “teach to the test,” which means that other, more enriching activities will be sacrificed. In a more long-range view, if people think that our school systems are failing, they may no longer view our communities as desirable places to move to and raise their families.
I believe that a very effective strategy is to “opt out” of the tests altogether. More and more districts throughout the state are adopting this strategy. It is not up to school personnel to encourage this course of action, it’s up to us as parents.
Parents: talk to your school administrators and PTA leaders to learn more about how this works. We really do have the power in this situation to protect our children and our communities and to send a message to Albany!