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Chancellor Farina Picking The Right Battle. Here’s Hoping She Wins!

February 4, 2015

Andrew Cuomo’s “reform” proposals for NYS public education is politically charged and educationally flawed and in her assessment of his proposal NYC School Chancellor Carmen Farina avoided the politically charged issue and went after the ones that are educationally flawed.

The politically charged issue is the one of expanding the number of charter schools within the four walls of existing city schools, one that Farina deftly sidestepped by saying “making space for lots of new schools would be a challenge”. In the final analysis, that will be a battle that her boss, Mayor de Blasio may need to take up.

The educational flawed “reform” proposal is that 50% of a teachers evaluation be based on test scores and that classroom observations be conducted by “independent observers as opposed to the teachers’ own principals”. Farina rejected the 50% standard in a hearing before State legislators earlier this week stating that “We need a human touch any time we evaluate anyone for anything.”. She also rejected the idea of having observations done by someone other than the principal:

Ms. Fariña said that teachers needed to be observed over time, watched for things like whether they engaged with parents or gave special attention to students who needed extra help, and that “flybys” could not replace that.

The whole premise of the “reforms” suggested by Mr. Cuomo is that NYS’s dismal performance on its recent assessments was the result of “bad teachers” and the current evaluation systems in place only found 5% of the teachers to be deficient, which he said was “baloney”. It is unclear what percentage HE believed were ineffective. But if one begins with the assumption that “bad teachers” were responsible for the low test scores then roughly 65% of the teachers should be rated incompetent since roughly 65% of the students failed to achieve a proficiency rating.

By shifting the focus away from the root causes of low test scores– the effects of poverty on students and a poorly designed and hastily implemented testing procedure– Cuomo can continue the narrative that schools could be improved if lazy-highly-compensated-tenure-protected-union-supported-ineffective teachers were fired and replaced with bright and eager new teachers eager for work and willing to work as contractors instead of employees. Keep your eye on this battle, because it isn’t just about NYS… it’s about the direction our entire nation will head should another neo-liberal get elected to the Presidency.

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