Saturday, February 8, 2014

Delay on Common Core Testing? Not For HS Teachers

No big commentary this week. Just a quick parsing of some of the headlines.

News this week that Sheldon Silver, who leads the NYS Assembly, and  Dean Skelos, who leads the NYS Senate, were announcing their support of a delay to use Common Core tests on teacher evaluations led many of my friends and colleagues to be giving high fives to each other.  I have personally been predicting a moratorium on the testing portions of the New York City (via NYS) evaluation system for a very long time now, so I have to admit when I first heard it I was happy too, although not very surprised.

But then I took a careful read of Al Baker's NYTimes piece of the story. This passage jumped right out at me and gave me a few moments of pause
"The lawmakers said no tests linked to the Common Core should be used in decisions regarding teachers for at least two years. The change, if made, would affect about 18 percent of teachers — those responsible for teaching math and English in the fourth through eighth grades."
Now The Times actually has part of this wrong. The (old) information they have says that teachers of grades 4- 8 , ELA and Math comprise 18% of the city's teaching force. That is correct. However, it sounds like the editors made the assumption that those were the only teachers who had Common Core state tests this year. That's not correct and the people at the Times should do more homework before they publish. The Common Core exams are now grades 3-8 and high school ELA and Math teachers are working off of a CCSS exam this year as well. In addition to that, every elementary school teacher this year is set to receive some type of score from a state exam (some of these will count as local measures and some will count as state measures). So the number Baker asserts is way too low. The change will in fact effect a great majority of NYC public school teachers.

But he does make a great point! Silver's call for a delay will not include every teacher who teaches to a test or who is evaluated along a test. Some teachers will be let off the hook from a 'Common Core' delay and some will not. Because of this, the suggestion from the Senate and Assembly will create a fairly messy situation for all 694 school districts across the state because some teachers' evaluation will be based on test scores and others will not.

So who doesn't a delay like this cover? Who will still be on the hook to be evaluated along these lines? The following groups of teachers all teach to an exam that is a standardized assessment and is not a new, Common Core exam. For these teachers, there has been no call to separate test scores from teacher evaluations.

  • Middle School Science Teachers
  • High School Science Teacher
  • High School Social Studies Teachers
  • High School ESL Teachers 
  • High School Foreign Language Teachers

So, while a great many teachers will benefit from the delay in using Common Core testing, some middle school teachers, and virtually all high school teachers, will still be scheduled to have their "STATE" 20% measured from flawed, faulty standardized exams. 

For instance, I teach Global History -the exam with the lowest results across the entire city. The August exam for that subject had students read primary source documents about the economic development of Botswana, among other nations, and then generate a 5 -6  paragraph essay describing a change that resulted from it. If I am not able to teach my decile 2 students the skills needed to digest and understand a document and topic like that, my job will still be taken from me. 

So a close read of the details leads me to one sad conclusion: The escape hatch offered by Mr. Silver et al. does not effect me. 

But I am happy for the other teachers!

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