Newsday's editorial, "How to grade the teachers?" [March 6], correctly places the emphasis on teacher quality instead of process. Unfortunately, Sen. John Flanagan's (R-East Northport) "seniority" bill does the opposite, creating a bizarre charade designed to placate New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's need to muscle his way through contract negotiations with the city teachers union. Long Island's Republican senators would be wise to concentrate on the needs of Long Island schools.
Likewise, Newsday would better serve its readers by telling the whole story. My union, New York State United Teachers, helped to draft the language of last year's legislation that raised the standard for measuring teacher effectiveness and provides a concrete structure for supporting weak teachers. In addition, despite Newsday's assertion to the contrary, the new law -- which NYSUT supported -- includes an expedited process for removing ineffective teachers when necessary. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's bill, as Newsday notes, calls for hastening the effective dates -- an admirable goal. While we support the concept, I'm sure the governor would agree that getting it done right is more important than just getting it done.
I know it's popular to bash teachers and their unions, but Long Island's educators and residents deserve better, and, at the very least, deserve editorials based on all the facts.
Richard C. Iannuzzi
Editor's note: The writer is the president of the New York State United Teachers union.
A year ago, I believed that the quality of teacher and administrative candidates were of the highest caliber since the Great Depression. Candidates in my administration classes were former chief executive officers, certified public accountants, human resource officers, attorneys and other business officials who were caught in the current recession and forced to take "buyouts" or were simply discharged for the firm's monetary bottom line. Teaching candidates from the colleges had a Peace Corps zeal and were graduating from the top of the their class.
The present attack on teachers, their retirement benefits and rights to negotiate the terms of their contract has not only belittled the profession, but has unjustly made it appear that eliminating teacher benefits would solve our present economic downturn. Who will enter a profession that is demeaned by governors, stripped of its rights to negotiate, and where administrative favoritism under the pretense of merit will determine one's future employment?
Shouldn't a system for evaluating inept principals also be instituted? I am a retired New York City teacher who taught in the system for 27 years. During my last 12 years, I was fortunate enough to work under caring, competent principals. But what can be said for several of my friends who are working for vindictive, inept principals who are destructive to the school?
Many principals are trying to intimidate senior teachers so they will leave the school. This tactic would enable a principal to hire two teachers for the price of one. Where is the equity?
In setting up a system to measure teachers, schools must protect teachers by implementing evaluations for principals too.
I find it amazing that people are so sure what makes for a good or bad teacher. If you rely solely on test scores, you truly prove you don't understand what it is to teach. Tests scores are affected by socioeconomic conditions, home environment, language barriers and many other factors. Before you can start deciding who are your best teachers, you had better understand the situation faced by each particular district.
Also, rather than truly evaluating a teacher, districts would be inclined to release the teachers with the highest salaries.
I also take issue with the idea that it's only the teaching profession that needs fixing. While I have great respect for the police and firefighters, I am sure there are good ones and bad ones. Are we going to evaluate them and rid those professions of bad performers too, rather than let the last ones in be the first ones out?
Robert Melo Sr.
Editor's note: The writer is a retired South Country schoolteacher.