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Cuomo defends using Common Core tests to judge teachers but not students

Students’ Common Core test results shouldn’t go on their permanent records, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Common Core panel recommended on Monday. But the panel did not object to allowing the scores to factor into teachers’ annual ratings — something Cuomo is passionate about making sure happens.

Susan Arbetter, the host of the “Capitol Pressroom” radio show, asked Cuomo about the tension this morning.

“If the implementation is so flawed that students have to be protected against invalid and unreliable test results, how can the same invalid and unreliable results be used against teachers?” Arbetter asked.

“No one is saying that these results are invalid and unreliable,” Cuomo responded. The issue of teacher evaluation — which he said “teachers writ large” had resisted — is “divorced from the issue of students,” Cuomo said.

He offered an unusual argument for keeping the scores off of students’ records, saying that the state’s Common Core rollout, which he said had been “really done incredibly poorly,” would put students at a “competitive disadvantage” against students from other states in college admissions.

So far, the state has issued Common Core tests only in grades three through eight. Common Core-aligned tests will be administered in some high school subjects this year, although the passing standard will not be raised for several years. State test scores play little to no role in admissions at competitive colleges and universities, which tend to focus on students’ grades, course selections, and scores on exams such as the SAT instead.

Arbetter — whose show is sponsored by the state teachers union, which has criticized the state’s Common Core and teacher evaluation implementation — also asked whether it would be unfair to compare students from districts that invested more in preparing for the transition to the new standards against cash-strapped districts that administered the new tests with less preparation.

“You could say that is an unfair comparison,” Cuomo said. But he said it is fair to use the test results to compare teachers in the same building or district because their preparation for the new standards was likely to be similar.

The state’s calculation of “growth scores” that must be used in evaluations for teachers whose students take the state tests does not compare teachers only to colleagues in their district and school. Instead, the calculation effectively compares teachers to other teachers with similar students, regardless of where in the state they work.