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Letter: Teacher ratings bounce up and down

Abuse from a principal may not rise to

Abuse from a principal may not rise to the level of bullying. It depends on the circumstances and repetition, experts say. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia says she is ready to correct "failing schools" ["Top educator set to step in," News, Aug. 30]. I'd love to see her try.

If poor teaching or administration caused low test scores, we would expect at least a few well-managed, high-poverty districts to achieve high scores. Yet this year's Reward Schools -- schools that have either high achievement or rapid improvement -- include not one high-need district outside of New York City. Meanwhile, those in receivership are all in high-need districts.

If test scores measured teaching quality, teacher ratings based on those scores would hold steady or slightly change each year. Students' scores would fluctuate based on assigned teachers. Instead, it's individual teachers' ratings that are bouncing up and down.

Legislation that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo rammed through with the last budget says that school districts can fire teachers with more than two such capricious low ratings, provided they also do poorly on classroom observations. The message to teachers: Work miracles or be punished.

What will it take for our policymakers to admit schools are not the problem?

Jeanne Brunson, South Setauket

Editor's note: The writer teaches in the Kings Park Central School District.