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Comments of the Week: Cutting past rhetoric to the classroom

One hundred percent of the city’s yellow school buses hit the roads Wednesday for the first time since the bus strike began. Parents, advocates, DOE officials, and our readers turned to the challenges ahead.

Paul Rubin wrote:

Don’t forget the lost week from the hurricane and the 2 or in some cases many more weeks of lost “real instruction” for the few dozen damaged buildings. This year’s test results figure will be absolutely abysmal…

Noryeln argued that the strike’s educational costs to students will soon turn into costs for the DOE:

Once children get back to schools parents will be requesting make up sessions with therapists and tutors. What the children missed in a month of a strike will be painfully evident and require action on the part of the DOE. Expenses will rise as parents insist on make-up sessions. This strike has been a debacle for everyone.

Our post about a television ad pushing Cuomo to impose an evaluation system well before September sparked comments about whether a plan is necessary, and if so, what it should include.

Former turnaround teacher questioned whether an evaluation deal is necessary:

I still do not understand why any teacher believes that a new evaluation system is needed to help teachers improve and grow. I have worked in two different schools and been observed by 5 different administrators under the current S/U system. 3 out of the 5 gave very useful and helpful feedback to me based on those observations, particularly in my first 3 years as a teacher. If an administrator is experienced and knows content and pedagogy they will give you good feedback.

Sarah Espanol, a teacher, called for a shift in the focus of the debate:

…I would like to have an evaluation system that helps teachers grow- as long as administrators are properly trained how to use it. Can we have a discussion about the proposed evaluation system and what it might look like in practice rather than picking at fellow teachers?

Linda Johnson argued that if teachers are evaluated based on student test scores, students’ improvement over the course of the year should be taken into account.

Before I retired in 2007 I spent many years as a reading specialist. One of my duties was assessing students in the fall, throughout the year and then again in the spring. By doing these individual assessments, I found that most children made adequate progress during an academic year. The problem of course, was that so many started the school year significantly below grade level. Many started kindergarten much behind and never caught up to more privileged peers…If the state wants to evaluate teachers on the basis of student test scores, then teachers should insist on individualized tests that are professionally administered in the fall, several times throughout the year, and at the end of the year…If tests are to be used for “high stakes” teachers need to insist on their accuracy.

When we reported Cuomo’s announcement that his plans to impose an evaluation system in New York City would begin in May, Guest wrote:

Not best to rule by decree, but better than the binary rating system we have now.

Assuming it is a reasonable evaluation system, this is a victory for teachers who want to improve their practice, families, and most importantly, kids who will hopefully have better teachers.

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