Newsday’s Survey and What it Means

A Newsday editorial piece today reporting on the results of their survey about opt-outs contained a very interesting finding:

Of those whose kids skipped the tests, three-quarters said the biggest reason was not wanting the tests tied to teacher evaluations.

Some observations:

First, we need to be careful not to read too much into this. We know that polls are unreliable, and we can’t pick and choose results that confirm what we want to hear. The article itself acknowledges that the survey is unscientific, there were only 300 respondents (and they were skewed toward opt-outers), and (as one of the commenters complains) the closed-ended choices for listing reasons were limited and did not allow for parents to provide their own reasons for opting out.

That said, even with all those caveats, it is heartening to read that there are parents out there who recognize that basing teacher evaluations on student test scores is not just bad policy, but policy bad enough to warrant standing up to. We hear this from local parents, but it’s good to know it’s a feeling that’s shared across the Island (again, even if this survey can’t tell us the true number).  There is a constant refrain that teachers unions are looking out for teachers at the expense of the children, but of course, as this issue shows, what’s right for us and what’s right for our students are not in opposition, but in synchronicity. It benefits no one – not the students, not the communities, and obviously not teachers, to have good educators fired (or living in fear) due to the zip code in which they teach or due to statistical anomalies beyond their control.

If you look at the page of reader’s letters on opting-out, quite a few contain disclosures like “the writer is an educator” or “the writer’s wife is a teacher.” A cynical reader could extend this further and wonder if perhaps most of the respondents who named teacher evaluations as their main reason for opting-out were, in fact, teachers.  To which I would respond, that’s probably not true, but so what if it is?

The folks in the anti-teacher crowd frequently lose sight of the fact that teachers are parents, taxpayers, and are the people who are most knowledgeable about the field of education. The refrain is constant – we are supposed to stay on the sidelines in this argument because we are too biased. And how do we respond to that? All too often by giving in and staying on the sidelines. That has to end.

Despite the doubtful validity of this data, we can, and should take this as an important sign. We can – and should – leave the opt-out part of this debate with the parents, but we ALL must be part of the larger picture battle. We have to be united against the forces that are trying to destroy public education and that means making public statements. Yes, we need to continue to send emails, and faxes, etc, but we need to be out there in public –  supporting the parents, supporting our students, and supporting each other.

There will, no doubt, be more rallies this year. Please, make a commitment to attend at least one .

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