Test With No Right Answers:
Assessment Governor Cuomo Should Take Before He Labels More Teachers Ineffective
Governor Cuomo’s disappointment in the number of ineffective teachers
only confirms for us what we already knew: he hates us, he hates our union and
he loves the donations that come from private reformers, charters and other
special interest groups dedicated to the dismantling of public education in
favor of a more profitable system. In a December letter to the Board of Regents,
Jim Malatras, Cuomo’s director of state operations, asked “How is the
current teacher evaluation system credible when only 1 percent of teachers are
rated ineffective?” (“Cuomo Signals Changes For Education Next Year” Kate
Taylor, The New York Times, 12/17/14)
In case New York’s teachers missed his contempt, the Governor closed
out 2014 by vetoing a bill he proposed, which would have put a two-year
moratorium on using grades 3-8 Common Core test results to evaluate teachers.
Realistically, this would not have had any impact on the majority of the
state’s teachers, but back in June, it gave us a sense that the Governor had
heard us just a little bit. After all, Cuomo acknowledged the hasty and flawed
roll-out of Common Core tests saying “People’s
lives are being judged by this instrument, so you want the instrument in the
evaluation to be correct (“Cuomo Flip Flops on Safety Net as he Criticizes
City Results,” Geoff Decker , Chalkbeat.com 12/17/14) However, now that’s
he’s been re-elected without the support of New York’s teachers, Cuomo’s
policies have so strongly taken a turn for the spiteful that he actually vetoed
his own bill.
the Governor and his pals on the Board of Regents ---who were quick to respond
to the Malatras letter with the suggestion that state tests double in their
percentage weight of teacher evaluation from 20% to 40%, a condition under which
POB 11th grade English teachers such as myself already work---
make any changes, I’d like to give Andrew Cuomo a little assessment. Here are
the rules and they are much more forgiving than the testing conditions New
York’s children experience: the Governor can try to look up the answers on his
phone. He is permitted to phone a
friend. He can look at Merryl Tisch’s paper. He can text Arne Duncan or John
King in Washington. It won’t matter.
test has no answers. Do your best, Governor.
year old Honoria was always an outstanding and enthusiastic math student.
However, in late October of her junior year, Honoria discovered that she was
pregnant. She confided her condition to her teacher, Mrs. Ineffective.
Honoria continued to attend class and try her best, but lost valuable class
time to first trimester nausea and sleepiness, spending much of the period
in the bathroom or falling asleep at her desk. Mrs. Ineffective did all she
could to help Honoria, working with her after school and permitting her to
make up tests and homework long after due dates.
In late April, Honoria developed preeclampsia and was put on bed
rest. By the time a tutor was assigned to Honoria, she had missed five weeks
of instruction and the Algebra 2/Trigonometry Regents was right around the
corner. So was the birth of her baby. Honoria had the baby ten days before
the exam, which she was still required to take. Not surprisingly, she
failed. What could Mrs. Ineffective have done differently to make sure
Honoria passed the test? (Note that having
Mrs. Ineffective selflessly tutor Honoria after school for free while
neglecting her own two young children is not the correct answer.)
is an 8th grader who has lived in Florida for most of his life.
His father is a religious leader and his mother was a stay-at-home mother
who home-schooled Bingo. However, in February, when Bingo’s father ran off
with one of his congregants, Bingo’s mother was forced to move in with her
parents in New York. Now working full time for the first time in many years
and barely making a living, Bingo’s mom can no longer home-school him. He
is enrolled in the middle school in his grandparents’ district and must
take the eighth grade science assessment. Bingo has virtually no knowledge
of science, believes the earth is 6000 years old and that dinosaurs
co-existed with cavemen. Additionally,
Bingo is very distraught because of his parents’ separation, leaving his
friends from the home-school softball league, moving to another state and
experiencing a crisis of faith because of his father’s adulterous
behavior. Mr. Icantteach, Bingo’s science teacher, encourages Bingo to
stay for extra help, refers him to online resources and provides him with
all the course materials he taught before Bingo’s arrival. However, Bingo
shows little comprehension or interest in science. Mr. Icantteach telephones
Bingo’s mother to express his concern, but she does not know how to help.
He seeks advice from Bingo’s guidance counselor and assistant principal,
but they know less about Bingo than he does since they don’t even have a
transcript from his previous school. Bingo fails the 8th grade
science assessment. What could Mr. Icantteach have done to guarantee that
Bingo succeeded on the test?
- Daphne Dolores is a 17 year old who
has immigrated to New York from Syria by way of a refugee camp in Lebanon.
She has not been able to attend school for some time because of the conflict
in her country and Lebanon’s prohibition on educating Syrian girls. Daphne
Dolores speaks very little English and has tremendous gaps in her education.
However, since her chronological age makes her a senior, she is placed in as
many classes required for high school graduation as possible and provided
with ESL services twice a week in a group for 40 minutes. Daphne Dolores
sits for four Regents exams . She has never seen a Scantron before. Daphne
Dolores fails all four tests spectacularly, lowering all of her teachers’
APPR scores. Explain in 1-2 paragraphs why this is the fault of the tenure
- Tuppy is a 16 year old boy who
appears to be drug-involved. His
teacher Mrs. Summersoff, does not report her suspicion right away because
she does not want to be an alarmist or make false accusations of an innocent
child, two things her colleagues have been reprimanded for. However, after
careful observation, engaging Tuppy in conversation and conferring with the
school social worker, Ms. Summersoff, is certain that Tuppy’s glazed
affect and failure in Social Studies are the results of drug abuse.
She shares her concern with Tuppy’s assistant principal who thanks
her and asks the security guards to keep an eye on Tuppy. The security
guards confirm Mrs. Summersoff’s suspicions. The principal meets with
Tuppy, asks him to empty his backpack and finds many prescription
pain-killers. Tuppy is suspended, pending a Superintendent’s hearing.
Because he is over 16, the school district is not required to provide
Tuppy with a tutor during his suspension. As a cost-cutting measure, they do
not. A month later, Tuppy’s family, who are very grateful to Mrs.
Summersoff, the security guards, the assistant principal and the principal
for their efforts on Tuppy’s behalf and write them all thank-you notes for
“saving our son,” sends him to rehab where he receives minimal academic
instruction, but excellent addiction treatment. Tuppy remains on Mrs.
Summersoff’s roster the entire time; he returns to school clean and with a
new and positive outlook just in time to take and fail the U.S. History
Regents. Write an argument essay in which you explain how Mrs. Summersoff
failed as a teacher with Tuppy, even though he rarely attended class, was
high when he did and her actions ultimately helped end his drug addiction.
- Roderick is a 4th grader,
who, like 15.8 million other American children, lives with food-insecurity.
He frequently appears lethargic, uncomfortable, sickly and unable to
concentrate. His teacher, Mr.
Pensionhog, often gives Roderick money for lunch or brings in snacks. For a
more long-term solution, he also refers Roderick to the school social worker
who contacts Roderick’s mother to have her fill out an application for
free or reduced price breakfast and lunch.
Unfortunately, Roderick’s family earns $112 per year over the
income that would qualify him for reduced price meals. Mr. Pensionhog
continues to pay for Roderick’s lunches. He and his colleagues also
discreetly take up collections
of groceries for Roderick’s family before the December, February and
Spring breaks, so that Roderick will be able to eat when school is not in
session. Roderick’s schoolwork improves somewhat as a result of Mr.
Pensionhog’s attention and care. However, as the school year draws to a
close and Roderick realizes he will not have Mr. Pensionhog to make sure he
gets enough to eat in the summer, he begins to act out in class and pay less
attention. Roderick fails all
his spring assessments, possibly because he did not learn enough or possibly
in an attempt to get left back and stay with Mr. Pensionhog.
Explain how an increased emphasis on grit and rigor might have
improved Mr. Pensionhog’s instruction of Roderick.
Cuomo, I’m sure you think five questions should be worth 20 points each, but
I’m going to use a convoluted formula to determine the cut scores, so it will
take me eight weeks to grade this and ultimately, you will have the sense that
the score reflects not your knowledge, but my political agenda. Sound familiar?
I thought so.
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