No testing

Put the children first in education reform

Read this excellent commentary about APPR, unions, NYSED and our children.

I am so proud to know the author Anne Miller- LaValle​ and so excited that she will be serving on the Wappingers School Board of Education starting in just a few days!

Just in case you can’t access the article from the Poughkeepsie Journal, I am including the full text below:

In a recent interview, Harrison School District Superintendent Dr. Louis Wool discussed the dangers of the recently implemented teacher rating system known as Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR). It’s a system whereby the New York State Education Department holds teachers and students hostage to the Common Core standards and associated curriculum through a ruthless and unproven testing and rating mechanism. Teachers, at the risk of their jobs, are held responsible for student performance on standardized tests that no one can see and which have significant financial and political benefits to those who control them. The rating system is structured in such a way that even a tenured teacher may be fired based solely on their students’ performance over a two year period on these covert and highly questionable tests.

Dr. Wool says that research indicates that it takes five years experience, on average, for a teacher to truly achieve competence. He argues that a single test over a two-year period should not be used exclusively to determine teacher “effectiveness” and suggests that multiple observation criteria including numerous, varying assessments must be considered in order to adequately evaluate teachers’ performance and certainly before potential termination. I agree entirely.

But then I must ask, by contrast, why the teachers’ unions continue to insist that the standard for teacher tenure be a minimum of three years? We can’t have it both ways. We can’t say five years is the minimum necessary experience to achieve recognizable competence in the teaching profession and use the criteria to oppose APPR, but then be willing to grant irrevocable tenure after just three years.

Meaningful evaluation and accountability are essential to an effective and successful education system. The objective of any teacher evaluation program should be the development of qualified educators dedicated to the authentic education of our children. The NYSED “Reform” program is nothing of the kind. It is instead, a twisted mutilation of the concept which pits NYSED against the teachers’ unions in a battle to determine who gets to define “accountability.”  The “reform” program is in reality NYSED’s corrupted use of the term “accountability” being used to justify dismantling the teachers’ unions and their tenure program in order to take control of the education system and deliver it into the hands of their greedy corporate cohorts.

And in the epitome of indifference, the children who are supposed to be the singular focus of our education system are barely mentioned. Students are being used; forced to take absurd tests that are driving a highly questionable curriculum and which NYSED intends to use solely as a noose to slip onto the necks of teachers. This entire situation does not get nearly the attention it deserves. But when the discussion finally does come up, the children and what they are facing are barely mentioned except as leverage to back the pressure off of the teachers. NYSED and the unions wrestle over APPR consequences without ever even mentioning the torment to the students and the gutting of their education system. It’s the elephant in the room and it is absolutely crushing our children.
The teachers’ unions’ response to the education reform?  Deflection: “We’ll teach the curriculum, and if we have to, we’ll administer the tests, but we’re drawing the line at the rating system.”

I recognize that teachers are caught in this web.  Some are suffering silently; some are speaking out; too many are quitting.  But the reality is that the ultimate voiceless victims here are the students.

The unions have sold out their teachers by refusing to actively push back against the reform.  It’s not OK for the teachers to respond by leaving the students in the crossfire.  I’m not categorically opposed to tenure.  I’m opposed to the unions selling out the students to hold tight to tenure they’re going to lose to APPR anyway while our children are devastated as collateral damage.

It’s madness.  It needs to stop.

We must start having the real discussion.  The discussion that begins and ends with our children:

What do they really need?

How do we deliver it to them?

How do we truly hold the people we trust to do that accountable?

Stop talking about the teachers.  And the “workforce stakeholders.”

Start talking about the children

Anne LaValle is a trustee-elect of the Wappingers Central School District Board of Education.