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LI schools chief: Teachers should toss 'meaningless' state ratings

Michael J. Hynes, superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford school

Michael J. Hynes, superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford school district, during a panel discussion at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Port Jefferson Station on Jan. 28, 2017. Credit: Ed Betz

Michael J. Hynes, the outspoken superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford school district, wants teachers to throw out "meaningless, invalid and inhumane" job ratings issued by the state Education Department.

Hynes plans to send a letter to his staff on Aug. 14 instructing them to discard the controversial "growth score," encouraging them to "throw it out or use it for any creative ways you may think of."

The letter, posted on Hynes' Twitter account, argues the scores — calculated via a complex statistical formula that ranks teachers in grades three through eight — are a poor measure of educator performance. 

The state in December 2015 suspended inclusion of student test scores in educators' Annual Professional Performance Review, but that moratorium is slated to expire at the end of the 2018-19 school year. The state growth scores currently are given to teachers on an advisory basis only.

"This letter is to let you know that I DO NOT CARE what your state growth score is," the letter states. "Let me be clear . . . I DO NOT CARE. It does not define you. You are more than a score. I'm hoping you know by now that the children and parents you serve appreciate your talents and the ability to make a difference in their lives."

In an interview Friday, Hynes said he has sent a similar letter to teachers in each of the past four years.

"I don't want teachers to come back and see the score and get down on themselves," said Hynes, a vocal opponent of the standardized tests in English Language Arts and math given to students in grades three through eight.

The exams, required by federal and state law, have spurred a large and lasting resistance from parents and students, with Long Island at the epicenter of the boycott movement.

Patchogue-Medford had an opt-out rate of 76.4 percent on the tests given in the spring — among the highest on the Island. Teachers are scheduled to return to work on Aug. 29 and 30, with students starting class on Sept. 4.

Anthony O'Brien, president of the district's school board, said he is "on board with the letter. These tests are damaging to our students and our teachers."

But Jenny Sedlis, executive director of StudentsFirstNY, a charter advocacy group, said Hynes is wrong to disregard the scores.

"It's one thing to prioritize teacher morale and another to say that objective evidence of whether their students are learning doesn't matter," Sedlis said. "Superintendent Hynes went too far by suggesting test results — that overwhelmingly show that students aren't where they need to be — are irrelevant."

Kenneth Bossert, superintendent of Elwood schools and president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, declined to comment on the letter.

"I don't think it's fair to give my opinion on another superintendent," Bossert said. "Each superintendent needs to handle their district themselves."

A spokesman for the state Education Department declined to comment.

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