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Andrew Cuomo urged to place moratorium on teacher evaluations based on tests

Teachers in Long Island classrooms, such as this

Teachers in Long Island classrooms, such as this one in a May 1, 2013 photo, are evaluated by a system using student test scores, classroom observations and factors such as contacts with parents. Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

The Nassau, Suffolk and Lower Hudson Valley school superintendents associations are asking Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to take additional steps in reconsidering Common Core standards and the state’s current teacher evaluation requirements.

The request comes as federal and state officials — who together have pushed for tougher academic standards and greater accountability among educators — have in the past few weeks rolled back their efforts in the face of opposition from parents, teachers and students.

Cuomo, who in April pushed to increase the percentage of teacher and principal evaluations tied to student academic performance, assembled a task force to re-evaluate both the standards and related exams. Likewise, President Barack Obama last month authorized returning to states and local districts control of how to improve troubled schools and districts.

The state panel last month recommended a 4-year moratorium on tying educator ratings to test scores, the creation of new state academic standards and fewer and shorter standardized tests.

But Lorna R. Lewis, president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents; Susan Schnebel, president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association; and Mary Fox-Alter, president of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents, believe legislative change is needed to realize the panel’s wishes.

They want a full moratorium on the use of test scores to evaluate teachers and principals in part because the academic standards are under review and could change.

Such data should be shared with educators during their evaluations, they said, but should not be used in a punitive manner.

The trio also are asking for the creation of a panel of nationally recognized experts in teaching, learning, curriculum development and psychometrics to “create a meaningful teacher and principal evaluation system that links practice to measureable student outcomes.”

They said, too, that districts should have added time to develop evaluations.

“Right now, during this period when we are changing standards, let’s spend the time that we have focusing on classroom observations, making sure teachers are teaching the curriculum,” said Lewis, superintendent of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District.

Fox-Alter, superintendent of the Pleasantville Union Free School District, said she and the other two signatories are encouraged by the governor’s efforts — plus those of the task force and state Board of Regents — calling them

“positive first steps.”

“But we are offering our thoughts about real structural issues that need to happen to make the spirit of the task force recommendations work,” Fox-Alter said.

The state education department has not yet reviewed the letter and the governor’s office was unable to be reached.

During spring testing last year, more than 200,000 students in grades three through eight opted out of state exams — roughly 70,000 were from Long Island.

“There is no question at all that parents have clearly voiced their disapproval of the new assessments,” said Schnebel, superintendent of Islip public schools.

She said she hopes positive, thoughtful change will restore confidence in the system.


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