I attended a meeting of Long Island teacher union leaders the other day, a meeting focused on the recent deal on teacher evaluation (APPR) cut between the State Education Department, our state union (NYSUT) and the Governor. The agreement expressed in draft legislation attempts clarify ambiguities in a similar law passed in 2010.
All of the leaders expressed anger at the idea that teachers will now be evaluated in part on the basis of their students’ scores on state and local assessments. All appeared hungry to fight back against what they see is an inaccuracy-riddled, degrading evaluation process.
While I couldn’t agree more that we have to fight back, the question is how to go about doing so. I believe that a frontal assault on the APPR is difficult, unless we are willing to think about mass civil disobedience in supports of our push-back. The simple reality is that we are unfortunately not well organized enough to realistically think about such measures.
The way to attack the new evaluation process is to attack the testing mania that birthed it. There is a natural coalition to be formed to save our schools (SOS – I like that.) from the deadening, debilitating effect that so-called high stakes tests have had. In my district, they have even caused a perfectly fine school to be labeled a School in Need simply because all of our self-contained special education students are housed there, their scores triggering this designation.
Teachers hate these tests. Ditto building administrators and central office leaders. Parents are increasingly wondering why their children are going to school to do what is increasingly becoming test prep work, their kids coming home with hours of homework, given, I fear, by teachers to ensure that their students do very well on these tests. If my analysis is correct, there is a whole lot of righteous anger to be organized against these tests, and our unions are the logical organizations to form the coalition and lead the charge. When we get the testing under control, we can have a saner conversation about teacher evaluation.