June 10, 2013
By Marc Bussanich
Albany, NY—Thousands of teachers across New York State rallied at the State Capitol on Saturday to protest the state's overuse of standardized test scores to rate teachers. Watch Video
Richard Iannuzzi, President of the New York State United Teachers union, said the 600,000-strong union called the rally because the overemphasis on standardized testing is frustrating teachers, students and parents.
“Teachers and parents have tried to stay in the conversation about the direction of public education, but what has happened is that the child is no longer the center. We have been so obsessed with making testing work and making corporations happy that we’ve lost the importance of the practitioner’s voice.”
The stated goals of the Common Core State Standards are purportedly to teach students the skills they’ll need to excel in college and in a highly competitive workplace and global economy. But teachers at the rally said that students are being frustrated by the imposition of suddenly mastering new concepts, and teachers are frustrated because they haven’t been prepared to teach the new concepts.
Melinda McPherson Sullivan, a teacher for 29 years in the Buffalo Public Schools district and a member of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, said that the Common Core standards do not take into account external circumstances such as poverty that might impede students’ ability to learn new material and master more difficult concepts.
She noted that English is not the primary language for many students within the district, although the standardized tests based on the Common Core standards are English-based.
“There’s one school where over 50 languages are spoken,” said Sullivan.
And testing to the Common Core standards is proving to be too rigorous and having unintended psychological consequences for students.
“The tests are frustrating kids and they go home crying because they think they’ve failed and are therefore a failure,” Sullivan said.
Compounding teachers’ frustration to teach new concepts they haven’t been trained to teach is the new evaluation system for teachers that took effect in New York in the 2012-2013 school year.
The Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) rates teachers, according to the state’s education department, either “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing,” or “ineffective” based on three criterion—20% on “student growth on state assessments,” 20% on “locally-selected measures of student achievement" and 60% on “other measures.”
Perhaps the biggest frustration for the teachers rallying in Albany with the APPR evaluation is losing points when their students are absent from school.
Sullivan believes that aspect is absurdly unfair because the evaluation doesn’t regard the causes of absenteeism.
“Students sometimes don’t come to school because they have to babysit their siblings while their parents are working two or more jobs to sustain the family,” said Sullivan.
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