Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cuomo flip-flops on legislation to protect teachers

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2014 at 11:30 AM

click to enlarge Gov. Andrew Cuomo - FILE PHOTO.
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo
The other shoe has fallen.

Just days ago, an aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo sent what some describe as a fairly pointed anti-teacher letter to State Education Commissioner John King and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, seeking advice for improving education in New York.

The letter attaches student performance almost entirely to teacher performance and raises questions about teacher tenure, incentive pay, the number of charter schools, and the possibility of turning governance of New York’s urban school districts over to mayors.

And then yesterday, Cuomo elected not to sign a bill that would have prevented students’ Common Core-related test scores from impacting teacher evaluations. The proposed legislation was the result of negotiations between Cuomo and the State Legislature after parents, teachers, and students were outraged by the state’s fumbled roll out of the new curriculum.

Cuomo said that he's not satisfied with the legislation, which essentially gives the vast majority of the state's teachers passing scores even though student achievement in New York doesn't reflect that level of effectiveness.

The legislation was intended to hold students and teachers harmless after the first round of test scores under Common Core plummeted around the state. The bill would have given educators more time to work with the new approach. New York State United Teachers, the state’s largest teachers union, supported the bill.

Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association, says that he's disappointed by the governor’s decision.

“One expects others to keep their word,” he says. “He [Cuomo] made it clear before the election that he would sign this bill.”

Urbanski says that he views Cuomo’s recent actions as a prelude to much broader actions. 

“It’s an indication that the governor, in his frantic search for simple solutions to complex problems, has found a scapegoat,” Urbanski says. “And that’s teachers.”

Urbanski has been a strong and consistent critic of the teacher evaluation legislation and the way that the Common Core was created — hallmarks of the Obama administration’s education-reform agenda. Urban school districts have been muzzled under the reform movement, Urbanski says, because they have been dependent on the federal Race to the Top funding. Receiving that money was contingent on passing teacher evaluations legislation and adopting the Common Core.

“Urban, or I should say impoverished school districts are beholden to junk science,” Urbanski says. “But those who are promoting this agenda, what do they have to show for it?”


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