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Letters: Look beyond teacher evaluations

The New York State Legislature voted to limit

The New York State Legislature voted to limit access to teacher evaluations to parents only, giving teachers unions perhaps their biggest political victory of the last two years. Credit: AP

After years of debate by mathematics teachers around the state about curving the lowest scores to passing grades, which always penalizes the student who receives a 97, this year the Board of Regents curved down all of the grades in the 90s on the geometry and chemistry regents ["LI grad rate slips," News, June 12]. The Board of Regents has finally shown its true colors.

Parents should understand that a 98 on the geometry regents should have been a 99; the 95 was really supposed to be a 97. The Board of Regents decided to curve down the grades of students who actually answered 88 percent to 99 percent correctly on the geometry exam, while raising the grade of the student who received 83 percent to an 85, 74 percent to an 80, and a 48 percent to a 65.

The rubric -- or curve -- for the chemistry regents is even worse. When the actual percentage was calculated, the chemistry regent's conversion chart curved down all of the grades of students who answered 77 percent to 99 percent of the exam correctly. Most students lost one point but some lost two.

The Board of Regents does not want to hurt the percentage of students who achieve regent's diplomas and the coveted advanced regent's diploma. The board claims regent's diploma rates have been increasing. Really, if we took away the curve, the percentage of students achieving a regent's diploma would be much lower.

The Board of Regents has proved over the last 10 years that it cannot write tests, oversee an independent company to write tests, or meet its ultimate goal, which is to increase the number of scientists and engineers. How about working on designing a mathematics curriculum that flows from grade to grade all the way through high school? Do we need the Board of Regents?

Kathleen Rieger, Valley Stream

Editor's note: The writer is a math teacher in the Valley Stream Central High School District.
 

I was pleased to read "Grading teachers" [Letters, June 28], in which two longtime teachers focused on what I, a retired Long Island high school English teacher, believe to be the most significant factor in students' low achievement test scores. It is impossible for teachers to teach when some students in their classes are calling out, engaging in disruptive, distracting behavior, failing to do homework and classroom assignments, and disrespecting the teacher and other students.

Another problem I experienced was a lack of support for classroom teachers from guidance counselors and deans. When I first started teaching, support staff did not sympathize with the students but instead helped them understand their responsibilities in the classroom and that the teacher was trying to help them improve their skills and knowledge. Unsupportive and irresponsible administrators can also undermine a conscientious and capable teacher.

It takes a whole village to raise a child, and it takes a united school team to educate a child.

I was a conscientious teacher whose students won high school journalism awards from Newsday and Columbia University, but I almost had a nervous breakdown before I retired because of disruptive, rude students who were allowed to take control of my classroom.

Politicians need to hold support staff and administrators accountable, not just teachers.

Carol Swenson, Lake Grove
 

As an educator for 32 years, I would like to express my views regarding teacher evaluations ["Few submit plan for teacher evals," News, July 3].

I suggest that the principal be permitted to be totally in charge of his or her building. The principal should guide teachers, constantly improving their teaching methods through observations, with meaningful feedback. There should be a minimum of two observations a year for tenured teachers and four for nontenured teachers.

Principals and superior teachers should be permitted to give demonstration lessons during conference days. Increased communication among the professional staff should be encouraged. Superintendents should get out of their offices and visit the schools with regularity, and listen rather that speak.

Principals who can't get the job done should be replaced. It's the building principal who makes or breaks a school.

Robert J. Belsten, Middle Island

Editor's note: The writer is retired and has worked as a New York teacher, principal and school superintendent.

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