Three big stories related to Common Core and testing hit within the last day or so. While they all are being presented as progress in the fight against the reform agenda, a little scrutiny reveals that it’s a little early to celebrate anything.
- Regent Roger Tilles, speaking at Port Jefferson’s Superintendent’s Conference Day, was reported as reversing his perspective on the use of tests scores for teacher evaluations.
- Governor Cuomo is calling for a commission to reevaluate Common Core. According to Newsday, “The governor’s statement was seen by some as a signal that the test boycott movement finally had gotten its message across.”
- A Newsday editorial piece by Joye Brown was headlined “Change is in the Wind on Teacher Evals,” implying that their might actually be movement coming on the APPR nightmare.
The remarks by Regent Tilles are nice to hear, but they aren’t really news. At a forum at SWR High School back in February, 2012, he expressed similar views. This past March he was quoted as saying “Fifty percent? I, for one, would suggest zero percent. There are better ways to evaluate teachers.”
But back in June when seven Regents signed a position paper calling for the state to revamp APPR and saying that they would vote against implementing the new regulations, Tilles expressed support for the concepts of the letter but would not sign on, saying that that board “does not have the authority to override requirements imposed on it.” And now, as the Regents are about to vote to make the evaluation rules permanent, Tilles has indicated that he will, regardless of his feelings, vote in support of the evaluation rules.
Without a doubt, Tilles is technically correct. The Regents don’t have the latitude to change the law. What would happen if the Board simply refused to permanently codify the plan that the law directed them to make? Nobody knows. But it would be nice to see Tilles take the same stand that some of his colleagues have. Until then, the nice words he spoke at Port Jefferson are just that.
Cuomo’s Common Core Commission
It is clear that this is nothing more than an attempt to try to mollify irate parents – maybe as a response to his poor poll numbers, or, more likely, an empty promise designed to take some of the wind out of the Opt-out movement’s sails. How do we know? We can start with the obvious – that if it’s coming from Cuomo it must be BS. But moving beyond cynicism, first and foremost, it does not address APPR or school receivership, which means from the perspective of teachers worried about irrational evaluations, this news is completely meaningless. And of course, since the current APPR law is so heavily test-based, changes to the testing regime would be superficial at best as long as APPR is the law.
And, as the Perdido Street School blog points out, “Cuomo Is Rigging His New Common Core Panel Just The Way He Did The Old One.” The new commission would be a representative group from his previous Common Core Commission, which accomplished exactly nothing and was described by an insider as “a sham.” For more, here’s NYSAPE’s response to Cuomo’s announcement.
It’s nice when we come across that rare Newsday article that doesn’t demonize teachers, so in one sense this article is news. And one of the main points of the article – that if change isn’t enacted legislatively it will be forced through the opt-out movement seems true enough, especially as evidenced by Cuomo’s pandering described above.
But nothing in the article gives any reason to believe that change is coming soon. Commissioner Elia is quoted as saying that she doesn’t control the laws regarding evaluation. Like Tilles, she’s saying it’s out of her control, but unlike Tilles, nothing in her history or her pubic comments implies that she would change it if she could. So the article’s point that Elia does have the ability to push for change seems a bit off the mark.
Likewise the discussions of legislative action. Assemblymen like Carl Marcellino have been pushing against the test based evaluation system, but the Democrats in the Assembly and Republicans in the Senate (e.g. Croci, Lavalle, et al) are showing no signs of taking on Cuomo, so unless something changes drastically, a legislative solution is a pipe dream, and the only hope is that the continued growth of the opt-out movement starves the beast of the data it thrives on.
But again, we as teachers need to stay on the sidelines. Opt your own kids out, but be very careful about public comments and make sure not to suggest opt-ing out to your students or their parents. Opt-out began as a parent-led movement and it needs to continue as such in order to succeed.