Want to see if New York state school districts are literally checking the right boxes on new teacher evaluations? The Empire State has you covered.
The website, announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, allows parents and others to follow the progress of districts in hashing out the new evaluations, in the wake of the Feb. 16 agreement on the basic shape of those evaluations between the state education department and the state teachers union, New York State United Teachers.
At the NY Students First site, you can click on a link to “Track Your School District’s Progress,” which takes you to a map of New York by county that resembles a teacher’s chalkboard. Scrolling over a county brings up a box with each of the school districts in that county. If a district were to submit a new teacher evaluation plan to the state education department, a box would checked next to its name. If the plan were to be approved by the department, the district would get another check mark (this time in bright red).
The website, which you can see here, promises that you can “track your schools district’s progress” towards agreeing to a new evaluation.
It only tells you that a district has come up with a plan, it does not tell you what the plan is. In other words, parents who care about how an evaluation will change the face of their children’s education will find this site less than useless.
So why have the site at all? The article continues:
“I hope the countless parents and advocates who have been demanding accountability in our schools will use http://www.nystudentsfirst.com to get involved in our efforts to put students first and reform our education system,” Cuomo said in a March 6 statement announcing the site.
The online effort represents Cuomo’s eagerness to use parental and other community pressure to ensure districts get evaluations done that are agreed to by local teachers unions and given the seal of approval by State Education Commissioner John B. King.
In other words, more shaming of the teacher’s unions. It is to get parents to pressure “districts” to come up with a plan, giving the districts the ability to apply that public pressure to the unions so that they will accept something less than fair.
The longer a box remains unchecked, the more likely that the “union” will be seen as a barrier to “progress”. It is a gross oversimplification of what promises to be very complex negotiations.
The political hokum continues:
NY Students First has a chart, replete with more check marks, that allows viewers to compare the state’s overhaul efforts on teacher evaluations with those in other states, including the use of student achievement data. It also saves some space for political rhetoric.
A statement on the main page reads in part, “Our system has suffered because Albany has spent more time worrying about the business of education—contracts, salaries, and benefits—than they have worrying about the children.”
And those comparisons between NY’s evaluations and those of other states? You guessed it, more simplistic check boxes.
Parents in the know are aware that these new evaluations have nothing to do with students. As a new NY State parent opt-out site puts it:
Millions of our tax dollars go to the Pearson Corporation to develop the entire assessment program for NYS. Pearson also sells our schools the many workbooks and review books that your children use daily in school. Look at the work your child brings home, you will most likely Pearson or McGraw-Hill stamped on the bottom. This corporate intrusion into our schools is draining scarce financial resources and is leading to cuts in the arts and larger class sizes.
Yes, “students first”, even after you shut 33 of their schools down in NYC. “Students first”, even though art, music and drama programs are being slashed in poor districts all over the state. “Students first”, even though the exams that students will be forced to take every single year have nothing to do with helping students learn, and everything to do with evaluating teachers.
I wonder how many enrichment programs were slashed so that Cuomo could pay for this useless website.