October 2011
September 19, 2011

Letters: Evaluation nightmare

Source: NYSUT United

Evaluation nightmare

I totally agree with Dick Iannuzzi's column about teacher evaluation (June, NYSUT United). I teach "cluster" classes for science. I only see each class (K-5) once a week. I teach a total of 567 students. I give my own tests, based on a unit of 4-8 weeks, to students in grades 3, 4 and 5. My results routinely are one-third pass. How will I be evaluated? My students need more than one period per week in order to learn the lessons. I have more than 15 years of teaching, with five years of teaching science. What effect will this have on me since two-thirds of my students routinely fail the class? The administration gives me the schedule of only one period per week.
This is a nightmare.

Linde Barrera | New York City

Attacks are short-sighted

The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) was a trade union that operated from 1968 until its decertification in 1981 following a strike that was broken by the Reagan Administration. Since then the nation's air control towers have never operated at full strength.

While the Federal Aviation Administration says 270 air traffic controllers are needed for the New York area, according to the Homeland Security Newswire, only 158 controllers are currently employed. It takes at least three years to fully train an air traffic controller, and there are insufficient numbers of controllers currently being trained.

At first glance this might not seem relevant to teachers unions. However, Florida's governor thinks the solution to school problems is to eliminate tenure. The concept of tenure predates teacher unions, and was instituted to insulate teachers from political pressures.

There can be no denying that there are a few bad teachers, nor can it be denied that unions did not adequately participate in the search for practical ways to get them out of the classroom. But now the problem that called for a scalpel is being attacked with a chain saw.

Will we be surprised in a few years when there are not enough good, adequately trained teachers because so many who would like to have pursued a teaching career instead chose to take a path better rewarded by society?

David S. Martin | Jericho

Educators, stay united

As a 27-year veteran middle school math teacher, I hope we continue to lobby against any changes regarding LIFO (Last In, First Out).

In this economic climate veteran teachers making maximum salaries will have targets on their heads as districts look to cut costs. Obviously, they will disguise this as "merit" but the experience veterans bring is the same "experience" New York City Mayor Bloomberg said was so important for him in overturning term limits so he could seek a third term.

Attacks are being made on tenure, our pensions and collective bargaining, attacks that attempt to divide us from within. Let us remain strong and unified.

Alan Reingold | New York City

Information helpful

I have enjoyed this periodical through my teaching career and now during retirement. I always find the information valuable and only wished that you weren't teaching to the choir. The information needs to reach the public. Because of the attack on unions in Wisconsin and Ohio, I'm sure we will hear about New York in the future. I also liked the information regarding tenure.

Ylva Cortright | Sauquoit

A casualty of expediency

I read with interest the article, "Teachers of the Year: APPR regulations poison 'spirit of collaboration'" (May, NYSUT United) regarding the recent changes to the state's Annual Professional Performance Review system.

As a teacher with nearly 25 years experience at the same district in New York state, I would concur with the opinions of the teachers mentioned, and feel that it is necessary to add one more thing.

I, too, have been honored for bringing my subject to life for my students. For these efforts I have been chosen as the Organization of American Historians' Teacher of American history in 2010, the New York State DAR Outstanding Teacher of American history for 2009, a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow and even as ABC News Person of the Week. These honors were not bestowed lightly, and were not based on standardized test scores.

Sadly though, I now have to postulate another important potential casualty of the proposed changes: risk-taking.

I began my teaching experience with a cooperating teacher who was willing to take a risk on me, a completely unknown entity. With guidance, nurturing and proper direction, I was able to blossom into a marketable teacher with something very special to offer to students.

In my time as an educator, I have returned the trust by taking risks with student teachers. Have they all been good? No. But when you make the leap in the name of the betterment of the profession, naturally you are obligated to help each gain experience in the classroom.

But now, what is the motivation to help improve the profession in this way when we may be burned for the risk-taking in helping a potential teacher into the field? I am thankful to count dozens of former students who have gone into history education. How sad it will be when placements dry up in the name of test accountability.

Matthew Rozell | Granville

Externship is worthwhile

This summer, four other teachers and myself took part in the Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce teacher externship program. The program exposes teachers to the business world so we can share our experiences with our students.

The program had 10 openings this summer but only five spots were filled. I would like to get the word out so other teachers can take advantage of this great opportunity.

Rick Nevins | Lake Luzerne

Murdoch award outrageous

We are repeatedly told that we are in an economic crisis, we are broke, and we have no choice but to cut vital programs and services. Yet, it seems every week I hear about a corporation or CEO making record profits. Most disturbing, the State Education Department is going to award a $27 million no-bid contract to Wireless Generation, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. The money is part of $700 million from the Race to the Top initiative to fund a software program for student data, including test scores.

Somehow, the state can justify cutting teachers and vital programs, while spending public money on a company that is being investigated for serious criminal allegations.

I also find it paradoxical that the Race to the Top initiative is driving reform for our failing schools.

Race to the Top is providing money to private entities and programs that have little or no evidence of success, and it escalates the "testing accountability craze" while ignoring meaningful curriculum, instruction and reform. Giving public money to Murdoch's company undoubtedly shows that we should question the intentions of Race to the Top and our latest education initiatives.

Larry Scott | Buffalo

Editor's note: Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has rejected the award.