February 09, 2012

Poll of New Yorkers confirms that too much emphasis placed on student testing

Source: NYSUT Media Relations

ALBANY, NY Feb 9, 2012 - Teachers and parents both know that a child is more than a test score. That is why more than 70% of public school parents reject a proposal to greatly increase the weight of a single state test score in evaluating teachers, according to a recent poll conducted by Hart Research (PDF).

The statewide poll, conducted January 20-23, was taken while discussions were ongoing between NYSUT and the State Education Department around teacher evaluation processes.

Gov. Cuomo has indicated he plans to mandate a statewide evaluation system if he believes significant progress is not made by later in the month. To date, nearly 400 school districts report progress in developing a new evaluation program, with another 100 school districts having already negotiated an implementation plan for evaluations.

The Hart Poll, conducted for NYSUT, confirms New Yorkers favor accountability in the classroom, but they have serious doubts about an overemphasis on student testing.

When asked about the basis for teacher evaluation, 62 percent of voters felt that a single state test score should account for no more than 20 percent of teacher evaluations, while only 28 percent agreed it should account for up to 40 percent. And among public school parents, some 72 percent agreed that no more than 20 percent of a teacher's evaluation should be tied to a single state test score.

"Public school parents and New Yorkers clearly want state test scores to be a factor, but only one factor when it comes to measuring teacher performance," said to Geoff Garin of Hart Research Associates. "They believe that you can't judge great teaching by a single snapshot, and worry that putting too much weight on one test could have a negative impact on student learning by promoting more teaching to the test."

Other key findings from the poll include:

•73% of public school parents rate the quality of local public schools in their area positively.

•74% of public school parents gave positive ratings to the overall quality and performance of teachers in their local public schools.

•64% of parents believe that there is already too much emphasis on standardized testing in the public schools.

Debra Calvino, 2010 New York State Teacher of the Year, is a 31-year math teacher at Valley Central High School in Orange County, and has committed her life to making sure students are not afraid of math. She and other teachers around the state are awaiting the outcome of the debate over teacher evaluation.

"I use data from tests to measure my students' progress and I make sure that my students are actively involved in defining their own success," said Calvino, "but test data isn't the only measure I use because that doesn't give a full picture of the student."

Dick Iannuzzi, president of NYSUT, said defining excellence includes multiple measures. "Of course, student test scores have a place in teacher evaluation but the fairest, best approach to evaluating teachers should also include principal observation and a focus on the subject knowledge, creativity and expertise that bring learning to life."

NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents some 600,000 classroom teachers and other school employees; faculty and other professionals at the state's community colleges, State University of New York and City University of New York, and other education and health professionals. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.


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