I would like to take this opportunity to clarify my position on teacher evaluations. A recent article in The Buffalo News centered more on my letter to New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi than the importance of teacher evaluations and what's wrong with the governor's and commissioner's implementation of the new mandates.
First and foremost, I support teacher evaluation. Most teachers are likely to tell you that they do also. Our district implemented an evaluation system long before the state or education department mandated one. Our administrators have been progressive on this issue and have negotiated a system designed to promote student and teacher growth as well as professional collaboration, with excellence ultimately as the goal.
Where I take offense is how Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has chosen to mandate a system that cannot take into account the myriad factors that actually affect teacher effectiveness. This matter demands serious inquiry, not sound bites or headlines. This matter deserves serious consideration of the available research to ensure that, long term, its ultimate success can be measured by the number of productive children our schools graduate.
This is not a matter for the self-promotion of Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. found in the Albany Times Union, where he is quoted, when referring to the reinstatement of frozen education funding in five poorly producing districts, that "Students at these schools have been denied a good education for far too long," and "Meaningful teacher evaluations and the improvements funded with SIG money should help start to turn that around," as if somehow the students and teachers in these schools can be saved by the commissioner and his untested program.
Many of my colleagues have attempted to promote the creation of a system that can take into account the wide and varied backgrounds of both student and educator, the well-off and poorer districts, the multitude of home-life factors that help and hinder student learning, the fear and anxiety that accompanies teaching to a test as opposed to teaching an individual with individual talents and needs.
These are but a few concerns that seem to have been left out of the equation -- things I believe are more important than whether Iannuzzi and I share the same views or vision. I invite anyone interested to visit our website at LancasterTeachers.com and review what some of the experts have to say about this issue.
To take from The News article that I am at odds with evaluation as a matter of principle is incorrect. On the contrary, my issues with NYSUT and the powers that be are those of spending the necessary time and energy to implement a real program that can produce a real indication of a teacher's effectiveness rather than mandating a knee-jerk solution for the purpose of touting that it has been done.
Eric D. Przykuta is president of the Lancaster Central Teachers Association.