67° Good Evening
67° Good Evening

Letters: School superintendents respond on evaluations

Photo Credit: iStock

After reading the editorial "More whining on evaluations" [Nov. 28], I believe that Newsday is more interested in being quotable than factual. To make the argument that the new teacher accountability program isn't unfunded, or underfunded, the writer suggests that Middle Country received an additional $4 million in aid, leading a reader to conclude that there are plenty of dollars available for these evaluation programs.

The reader is also told that many districts received Race to the Top funds to help defray some of the evaluation costs, and that the additional expense is not out of line in relation to a district's overall budget. The writer's postulations certainly make the point. The problem is the "point" is not justified by any intelligent analysis of data.

The "increased" state aid was actually less than half that amount. About $2.3 million was a refund of a portion of spending for transportation, special education, capital projects and other services. The question we had to ask ourselves, then, was whether to use the balance of $1.8 million to help maintain opportunities -- like a nine-period instructional day for high school students -- or to apply it to an underfunded mandate.

We did receive Race to the Top dollars, a total of $83,000 over four years. This amount makes a very small dent in the expenditures required by a state-mandated expanded student testing process and enhanced teacher evaluation program.

Increased attention to accountability is welcomed. However, the financial reality is significant and, despite what the writer might believe, hard to justify in these tight economic times.

Roberta A. Gerold, Middle Country

Editor's note: The writer is the superintendent of Middle Country schools.

Newsday is entitled to its opinions, but it would be refreshing if the editors researched their facts more thoroughly. Connetquot's state aid was cut so significantly that the $1.2 million "extra" received for the 2012-13 school year still results in a net loss of $4 million in state aid compared to 2010-11.

Newsday compounds its inaccuracy by concluding that complaints about funding are the same as complaints about evaluations. In fact, superintendents on Long Island and throughout New York State have been supportive of the concept of rigorous and accurate evaluations of teaching staff. The facts remain that the process is time consuming, expensive, untested and unfunded.

The Connetquot school district has worked effectively with its professional unions to develop an evaluation system that complies with all state requirements and provides the assessment and improvement of education at all levels.

Newsday's complaints about the response of school districts to the new teacher evaluation system are not justified, nor are they based in fact. These complaints are not just a disservice to Long Island public education, but they have truly become tiresome.

Alan B. Groveman, Connetquot

Editor's note: The writer is the superintendent of Connetquot schools.

When we look at the cost of principal and teacher evaluation, there is a temptation to look at the numbers and conclude that the benefits of a new system are worth it, except for the complaints coming from educators.

The educational establishment is not, and should not be, exempt from scrutiny, or effective means to evaluate results. The current system, well under way, is not such an effective or efficient means to conduct such an evaluation.

The true cost comes in what we lose with this system's narrow focus of effectiveness despite an expansive investment of time and energy to render judgments on what that effectiveness may look like. This time is equitable to dollars, but worse, it drains resources from the true mission of public education -- to imbue a clear and compelling sense of purpose for the ideals of our American democracy, our entrepreneurial spirit, and a commitment to preserve our past and find our future.

Rather than champion the broad-brush approach, the editors of Newsday would be well served to critically examine the net effects of this rush to judgment by looking at examples the world over that produce excellent results in school. Countries such as Finland and Canada do not use a similar means of evaluation to arrive at an unequivocal definition of success. In fact in some cases you need look no farther than right here on Long Island.

David Gamberg, Southold

Editor's note: The writer is the superintendent of Southold schools.

I have become accustomed to the bias that Newsday exhibits toward public education and the professionals who work in this system. However, never have I seen the bias more prominent than in this editorial. And to borrow some of the language from this editorial, this bias has become tiresome.

A Newsday reporter reached out to superintendents for a story on the cost of implementation for the new teacher and principal evaluation system ["What it costs to evaluate teachers," News, Nov. 23]. The Newsday editorial board apparently didn't like the answers provided, so it characterized superintendents as whiners in an editorial.

I didn't see any whining. Rather, I read statements of both fact and concern from my colleagues.

I fully support rigorous teacher and principal accountability, provided the system for evaluation is well thought out, both in design and implementation.

My school district is slated to receive about $189,000 over four years, or roughly $47,000 per year, as part of the Race to the Top funding. But it won't come close to covering the implementation costs.

We spent hundreds of hours over three months last spring negotiating all of the necessary aspects of the new evaluation system that the state either could not or would not mandate. The cost of this time alone put a serious dent in this funding. Add to that current and future costs associated with the extensive training that is required to implement the new system, let alone training on the new Common Core standards. In the end, the cost of implementing all of the state's "reform" efforts will far exceed the paltry Race to the Top funding that school districts will receive, which will translate into either loss of staff and programs or higher taxes.

What the editorial fails to point out is that state aid to many school districts has actually been reduced, and certainly has not kept pace with inflation. Many of the costs we don't control, such as payments to pension systems, continue to increase. This is not whining; it's fact.

Charles A. Leunig, Copiague

Editor's note: The writer is the superintendent of Copiague schools.