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Apr 8, 2015 9:50 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

New State School Aid Mandates To Impact Local Districts

Apr 8, 2015 9:50 AM

East End officials expressed their frustration this week with yet another set of changes to New York State education law that will impact both how students are tested and how teachers are evaluated.

As part of the Education Transformation Act of 2015, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is proposing an increase of $1.3 billion in state education aid, increasing the total amount of education funding to $23.5 billion for next year. Tied to that aid, however, local administrators and politicians say are several strings, including a plan that would force school districts to detail by this fall how they will evaluate their teachers or risk losing all of their state aid. In some cases, the loss of aid would be catastrophic, leading to mass layoffs and program restructuring.

Now, officials must figure out how to implement the new state standards and negotiate with local teacher unions to come to an agreement before the deadline.

“If this program isn’t successful, and I suspect that it won’t be, we will have to once again visit it and my hope is that ultimately we get away from a plan where we are evaluating teachers based on tests that were never intended for the evaluation of teachers,” State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who voted against the governor’s education reforms, said this week. “These teachers show the progress students are making and help students with achievement, and I would hope that we would have more local control over them.”

In total, there are nine education reforms adopted for next year, including a program to recruit more top teachers to New York, a uniform standard for teacher preparation programs and a recertification process that will require 100 hours of development per teacher every five years or loss of their license. Also included are a new evaluation system that links standardized testing and observations to a teachers’ effectiveness, a re-haul of state testing and increasing the minimum number of years a teacher must have to reach tenure from three to four. Additionally, a $20,000 bonus for top teachers based on the evaluation systems will be included, as will the removal of any teacher deemed ineffective three consecutive times, and $75 million in funds to help school districts the state considers to be failing academically.

“When it comes to education, the budget we approved will transform our school system in comprehensive ways,” Gov. Cuomo said in his speech last week. “The reforms we have included will move us to an education system that rewards results, addresses challenges and demands accountability.”

But to some administrators, the changes have the potential to do more harm than good. According to Hampton Bays Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen, making such wide-sweeping changes to how educators are expected to teach, while putting their jobs on the line at the same time, is not effective, and will only cause problems.

“Some of the policy things that were put into the budget decision are half-baked,” he said on Thursday. “They need more time to be worked on with the field about the possible impacts to teacher evaluations, observations and teacher re-certifications.”

According to Mr. Clemensen, the district is still processing what all of the changes mean for education on the East End, saying they were released only last week, but he added that the potential loss of millions of dollars in state aid would result in widely felt cuts for the three-school district. This year, the district received $4.9 million in state aid, and for the 2015/16 school year, is slated to receive $5.3 million, according to the state education department website.

“That is a tremendous impact to our programs,” he said. “That is people. You don’t get through that by cutting on pencils and textbooks. That is educators. I can talk for all of my colleagues on the East End when I say that we were always willing to go to the table and improve, to sit and create reforms to make things better. We don’t need a gun to our head and the specter of losing to get to the table. We all want the best for our kids too.”

In Tuckahoe, Superintendent Chris Dyer agreed, saying that it was frustrating to see the governor’s changes, particularly where it will take local control from the school districts over their teachers. According to the state budget, the teacher evaluations must be two-fold, and teachers must be observed by both the building principal and an independent party, meaning the state education department will have the right to hire a consulting firm to go into school districts and grade teachers.

“We truly believe that the most important element in the classroom is the teacher,” Mr. Dyer said. “The building of trust and communication in a long-term learning environment between the teacher and the child determines whether that child will learn. The person who will understand that is the local administrator who is in partnership with that teacher and those parents to make sure that child is learning. To reduce a teacher’s annual evaluation down to 50 percent being a state assessment may not reflect what we really want to be able to build inside of our schools, a nurturing minute-by-minute, day-by-day, child-by-child system of accountability.”

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The teachers were genius for convincing parents who doubt their children's abilities to opt out of those tests. Only the smart kids will be left taking the test which will be used to rate teachers. Does it make sense to anyone that one of the most important vocations in this country has avoided and is desperate to continue to avoid scrutiny?
By Truth Squad (8), southampton on Apr 10, 15 10:09 AM
1 member liked this comment
My sons teacher neve pressured us one way or the other for the tests. I'm friendly with other parents and didn't hear about them being convinced for or against.
The teaches should be held accountable, but testing isn't the answer. Not when the tests aren't age appropriate. Some kids don't test well, and many other factors go into a child's performance.
By Polandspring (96), Southampton on Apr 12, 15 9:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
That is a cop out. Those questions might be a little ''difficult'' but when you look at the answers, there is only one, very obvious, answer. If the child stays calm after reading the question, instead of acting like his/her parents do, they will read the answers and can use an educated guess. The answer to kids not testing well is not to help them avoid tests. The kids that did not opt out are learning not only what is in the test but a very valuable lesson as well. They will be ahead of those ...more
By Truth Squad (8), southampton on Apr 13, 15 2:46 PM
2 members liked this comment
Here is the test disclaimer directly from the NYSED website. When you read this keep in mind that the 3rd grade passages they are referring to actually at a 5th to 7th grade reading level. “Many of the questions on the 2015 Grade 3 Common Core English Language Arts Test are more advanced and complex than those found on prior assessments that measured prior grade-level standards. Answer choices will not jump out; rather, students will need to make hard choices between “fully correct” ...more
By A dose of reality (7), Southampton on Apr 14, 15 11:46 AM
2 members liked this comment
Exactly what reality said. I would hope most parents did their research on these tests. I'm all for testing kids. Test them in math after a unit, test in science after a lesson, test them after they read a story...test them on what they are learning, not something that is grades above what they are learning, with trick answers. It may be obvious to you, but not to a third grader.
By Polandspring (96), Southampton on Apr 15, 15 8:04 PM
If you actually understood the true ridiculousness of this accountability system you would know that if only the highest scoring students were left taking the tests the teacher's scores would suffer. Teachers are rated based on a growth score. Therefore if all of their students consistently score in the top tier they won't show growth from year to year and the teacher's scores will be negatively impacted. Nice try though....
By A dose of reality (7), Southampton on Apr 10, 15 10:43 AM
1 member liked this comment
Everything is measured in growth in the real world.
By Truth Squad (8), southampton on Apr 13, 15 2:47 PM
I agree leave the system as it is with no accountability. Let our world ranking plummet as it has been in math, and science.
Teaching is the only job in the world you can work 28 weeks out of the year, full benefits, and have no accountability. It's very sad when the teacher's union is saying to opt out of testing, and no penalty for bad teacher's. If you take state money Lars you need to follow state rules. Maybe spend a little less money, and time on infrastructure, and more on students ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Apr 10, 15 12:13 PM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By LarsClemensen (34), Hampton Bays on Apr 10, 15 12:48 PM
Too bad about the red ink, I would like to hear how an esteemed member of academe reacts to this. Try again Lars, learn from your mistakes that got you red inked and try again.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Apr 10, 15 2:28 PM
2 members liked this comment
It would appear you could use a member to help you with your sentence structure.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 11, 15 9:31 PM
I hit submit before I fully finished my thoughts, that's why the removal. Was commenting that I support reform and accountability and the shift to new Common Core Standards, too. There are simply many details to be worked out to ensure sure that the reform fair to adults and students alike and truly representative of all kids accomplish and master in a year. LC
By hblc (34), Hampton Bays on Apr 10, 15 2:35 PM
Our schools are being destroyed and tax dollars held hostage by a hostile regime in Albany. Sad thing is that most yo dopes voted for this, you made your kids pawns in a game and are willfully doing harm to them. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Apr 10, 15 2:43 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By East end 5, Westhampton Beach on Apr 10, 15 3:56 PM
There are bad doctors, bad priests, bad cops and, yes, bad teachers. There are bad eggs in every profession. I think most of us are sensible enough to admit this. To hide from this would be disingenuous of any of us in these highly publicized fields. On the other hand, to reduce a profession such as teaching to an overly simplistic statement such as Chief1’s (“the only job in the world you can work 28 weeks out of the year, full benefits, and have no accountability”) is equally ...more
By Bill Dawson (3), Westhampton Beach on Apr 10, 15 8:06 PM
My mistake... "far more duplicitous..."
By Bill Dawson (3), Westhampton Beach on Apr 10, 15 8:14 PM
2 members liked this comment
So Mr Dawson what is the answer to better education? Do you want more of our tax dollars? Should we give a raise to our 300k a year district superintendent ? How about the 32k a year it costs per student for an education? Is that enough?
People in the real world get paid on merit, and fired for failure to perform. It has worked great for centuries! The facts are the facts, and thank God we have a governor who has put the brakes on taxes, and wants accountability.
Please Mr Dawson stop ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Apr 10, 15 10:02 PM
Why do you think the governor put the breaks on taxes? It's not to help taxpayers. He's trying to break public schools financially to force school mergers. It's all part of his master plan on education reform. Less school districts = less local control.
By April1 (156), Southampton on Apr 11, 15 8:34 PM
We put two children through HB Schools and then we left 2 years ago because of high taxes, mostly due to education and we can tell you our children's education was sorely lacking due to teachers who were more concerned with their salary, pension and benefits than they were about educating our children. Just look at See Through NY for your teachers salaries. Many are making over 100k and many retired teachers make more than most working people's salaries. It's shameful how teachers unions have hi-jacked ...more
By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on Apr 11, 15 7:21 AM
These teachers are a valuable part of our community. They spend a lot of time with our kids and help shape their futures. However, they cross the line when they approach parents in the halls of our schools and encourage the parents to opt-out. The opt-out movement is being pushed by the Union to fight Albany. Don't use our kids as leverage for your political agenda.
By sparkhampton (27), Hampton Bays on Apr 11, 15 8:56 PM
While we desperately need accountability, tying it to test scores isn't the way to do that. Abolish tenure. No job guarantee, ever. No one person has the ability to get rid of a teacher, it would be by a majority of the top administration and the school board, and of course, only with cause.
By lamm (304), Southampton on Apr 11, 15 9:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
Mr Dyer doesn't like the idea of Albany making assessments on his teacher's. Well Mr Dyer you think everything is okay at Tuckahoe? Is it okay you gave yourself a 40k raise after you came hat in hand to the Southampton district? We can't spend money like water anymore. When you are retired in a couple years earning your 170k tax free retirement we will still be saddled with a financial, and educational nightmare. These superintendents want no interference on salaries, hiring and firing, and no ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Apr 12, 15 8:45 AM
1 member liked this comment
*teachers. No need for the apostrophe which would suggest possession. No wonder you hate teachers Chief. Grammar is not you forte
By BaymenNYC (59), Manhattan on Apr 15, 15 5:46 PM
By BaymenNYC (59), Manhattan on Apr 15, 15 5:46 PM
I was educated in HB schools from 1990-2003. I am a teacher today because of all the amazing teachers I had throughout my time as a student in both the elementary and secondary school. These are people who arrive well before thwe AM bell and stay well after school hours. Today I teach middle school social studies in the Bronx and often reflect on the things my teachers did that made learning fun. If you are a Hampton Bays teacher and reading this, know that you had a tremendous impact on my growth ...more
By BaymenNYC (59), Manhattan on Apr 13, 15 10:36 AM
1 member liked this comment
*the AM bell
By BaymenNYC (59), Manhattan on Apr 13, 15 10:42 AM
I just noticed three roadside signs that say opt out of the core testing. I find it disgusting that the teachers union is resorting to this nonsense to scare people from testing.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Apr 14, 15 9:27 AM
It is a parent who has 4 letters in her last name. 3 of which are t. allegedly. and yes, it is pathetic. She's is upset that her children weren't taught to tell time.
By Truth Squad (8), southampton on Apr 14, 15 10:56 AM
I too would be upset if I made $180,000 per year for 9 months of teaching the same thing year in and year out with no chance of getting let go. Going from total lack of accountability to very public accountability can't be easy.
By Truth Squad (8), southampton on Apr 14, 15 10:58 AM
2 members liked this comment
Good grief - try it...what do you do all day?
By Polandspring (96), Southampton on Apr 15, 15 8:12 PM
1 member liked this comment