February 11, 2015

Regents up for re-election oppose Cuomo's teacher evaluation plan

Author: Sylvia Saunders and Brian Bennett
Source: NYSUT Communications
NYS Department of Education building
"The coupling of our state exams with the assessment of teachers is a mistake."

Incumbents seeking re-election to the State Board of Regents told lawmakers they do not support the governor's plan to more than double the weight of students' state standardized test scores for teacher evaluations.

One questioned whether student test scores should carry any weight at all.

"To me, the coupling of our state exams with the assessment of teachers is a mistake," said board member James Dawson, a SUNY Plattsburgh geology professor who has served four terms representing the North Country. "It's the law and we did the regulations, so we get the blame... But personally, I don't think it's the right way to go. I would keep those things separate."

"If the intent is to improve teaching, that change won't do that," said Regent Robert Bennett, a western New York representative who served as chancellor from 2002-2009. When asked about the Regents' letter suggesting the weight of state testing increase from 20 percent to 40 percent, Bennett said he supports going to 40 percent, if the school district wants to do so. "Twenty percent should be it in my opinion," Bennett explained. "But it could be 40 percent as a local option and many have done that already."

Regent Roger Tilles, who has represented the Long Island region for 10 years, voiced the strongest opposition to the governor's plan to increase the weight of student state testing from 20 to 50 percent. "I, for one, would suggest zero percent," Tilles said. "There are better ways to evaluate teachers. I authored an op-ed in Newsday indicating my position that using student test scores for teacher evaluations is a bad way to go."

Regent Kathleen Cashin, a former superintendent in New York City, cited research questioning the validity of using student test scores to assess teacher performance. "It's not reliable," she said. "A teacher is not a direct connect with the child's score. Research shows that a teacher is about 14 to 20 percent impact on a student. The other impacts on the students are the home, the guidance counselors in the school, experiences the child has had, museums the child has visited..."

Regent Lester Young, an at-large representative from Brooklyn, acknowledged the state should have been more thoughtful before rolling out so many education changes at once.
"We implemented a new set of assessments; we raised the score on the assessments; we put in place a new evaluation system; we rolled out (Common Core) curriculum modules; and all of this before we clearly had a strategy for working with communities so they could understand the full intent," Young said.

The five were responding to questions by lawmakers on the Assembly Education and Higher Education committees, who are interviewing more than 50 applicants this week for seven open seats on the 17-member board

Aside from considering the five incumbents seeking re-election, the Legislature will be filling two open seats held by Harry Phillips, who represented the lower Hudson Valley and Geraldine Chapey, of Queens, who stepped down last year

The Regents board members are elected to five-year terms by a joint session of the Legislature in March.