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OPINION: Teacher evaluations under NYS Common Core standards

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. AP Photo/Mike Groll

From Schenectady Daily Gazette, courtesy of Associated Press

"Parents can now exhale, students can now exhale, the test scores don't count," Gov. Andrew Cuomo proclaimed Tuesday regarding a provision in the state budget that will keep the results from this year's Common Core tests — which were given last week — off students' transcripts until 2018. It was good news for third- through eighth-grade students, who, at least judging from last year's dismal test scores, have been slow to catch on to the state's controversial new curriculum.

But what about the teachers? Are they supposed to keep holding their breaths? Common Core test scores are currently one of the criteria used in teachers' annual performance reviews, and remain so even though the results don't count for students. It hardly seems fair to hold teachers accountable for test results when their students have no incentive to take the outcome of the tests seriously.

How will students, who know the tests are essentially practice exams, respond? Will they try to figure out the right answer to every question, or just blacken in "C'' or some other arbitrary letter straight down the page? Will they even bother showing up to take the long and arduous tests? Some students (and parents), knowing the exams won't count, may simply say, why bother? Boycotts were already cropping up this year, even before the issue came up in this year's state budget.

So the question becomes: How can tests that stand a good chance of being taken lightly by students be taken seriously by administrators when it comes to evaluating teachers? Students' standardized test performance is supposed to account for 20 percent of a teacher's Annual Professional Performance Review. So a poor showing on Common Core tests could very well sink some teachers.

Reversing an earlier position, Cuomo acknowledged last Tuesday that he and the Legislature need to address this issue before the end of the current legislative session.

He's right that they should, and they need to do so without delay.

April 14, 2014 - 12:00pm


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