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Teachers simply want fair evaluation process

There has been a series of articles in The News addressing the teacher evaluation agreement between teachers and the Buffalo Public Schools. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Education Commissioner John King believe the agreement between the union and Superintendent Pamela Brown not to use these evaluations in firing teachers this year is fraudulent. As an educator in Buffalo, I take issue with their outrage.

While the complexity of the present evaluation system is extreme, the premise is simple. Each student will take a pre-test in the beginning of the year and a post-test at the end of the year and then teachers will be evaluated on student growth. Employment is tied to growth, and the agreement evaluates growth from last school year, as well as this year.

Cuomo and King have made it clear that no side deals between unions and districts are legal and money will be withheld from the district and its students, but perhaps they should take the following into account. First, there was no evaluation process in place at the beginning of the year. Pre-tests were given in December and therefore are useless in measuring growth over the school year. Also, many of these new pre-tests were heavily flawed.

Furthermore, the evaluation system puts the livelihood of teachers on the line without truly addressing issues like attendance. The failure of families to get children to school is abusive and not the teachers’ fault. Buffalo teachers take full responsibility for those students who come to class, but to tie their ability to provide for their children to the actions of others is fraudulent.

The bottom line is that it is easy for these politicians to make two-minute sound bites for the press and public on why it is teachers’ fault for the failures of education. Perhaps the decay of cities and families, as well as neighborhood violence, substance abuse, immigration and poverty, may play a slight role. All teachers ask for is a fair and measured evaluation process that is not pieced together as we go.

James Healy

Buffalo