Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Predicting Outcomes on April Fool's Day

I wonder what it means that the NYS Budget is due on April Fool's Day. I wonder why legislators who never much cared before are so terribly eager to have an on-time budget now.

Here's what we got: A pretty comfortable increase in monies for schools, primarily based on restoration of a good sized percentage of the money taken away by the gap elimination adjustment. No new charter schools. A lot more oversight of bad graduate level teacher programs. A longer tenure probationary period. A whole bunch of steps, including the establishment of a "community engagement team," before a school may be put in receivership. And a teacher evaluation system based on observations and tests at grades 3-8 plus Regents exams, in a plan to be put together by the Board of Regents.

NYSUT's reaction was to call for a mass opting out of exams, with a fact sheet right on their website about how parents can do it.

So here's my prediction: Parents who are involved in their kids' schooling will do the paperwork to opt their kids out of exams. Because there are strong correlations between parental involvement and student success, the remaining kids who take the test will be those most likely to do poorly. Because there is not (yet) any required percentage of a class sitting for tests, a whole slew of previously fine teachers will suddenly find themselves rated ineffective. In year two, teachers will find themselves in the awkward position of begging parents to let their children sit for tests, lest those teachers get another ineffective rating, labeling them incompetent. Three ineffective ratings, should things go that far, lead to a 3020-a hearing in which the teacher must prove fraud or risk dismissal.

Now, NYSUT may assume that a statewide test boycott will cause the system to implode, and maybe it will—very slowly. But my prediction is that a bunch of teachers, administrators, and even whole districts will be caught in that slow-motion implosion. Do you really think we have a governor who will say, after a year, "Oops, my bad; let's reverse this foolish plan"? Or legislators who will confess, "Well, I didn't really have time to read the whole thing, so I didn't understand what the results might be"?

There is a chance that the Regents might recognize the possibilities and build in a failsafe switch, saying, for example, that if 30 percent of students opt out, the test won't count toward teacher, administrator, or school evaluation. I hope New Yorkers are willing to bet their favorite teacher's career on that.

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