It is hard to laugh about Governor Cuomo’s nonsensical proposal to demoralize teachers and destabilize public schools. He wants to change teacher evaluation so that 50% of their rating is based on their students’ test scores (he doesn’t realize that most teachers don’t teach reading and math in elementary schools); he wants 35% of their evaluation to be based on the drive-by evaluation of an independent person who doesn’t work in the school; and he wants the judgment of the principal, who sees the teachers regularly, to count for only 15%. He wants more charter schools and vouchers (he calls them “tax credits”) even though neither produces better results than public schools. It makes no sense but he won’t release funds due to public schools unless the Legislature passes his harmful proposals.

 

Cynthia Wachtell, a scholar at Yeshiva University, is a public school parent. She has written a hilarious analysis of Governor Cuomo’s plan. Among his other ill-informed ideas is a proposal to close down the schools whose test scores place them in the bottom 5% so their students don’t have to go to failing schools anymore. She gently offers a math lesson. Sorry, Governor, there will always be a 5%.

 

Therein lies the math problem. If a “school is designated as ‘falling’ if it’s in the bottom 5% of schools across the state,” then, by definition, Cuomo’s goal of “no longer … condemning our children to failing schools” is impossible. The children in the bottom 5% of NYS schools will always be in ‘failing’ schools. Math will be math. And that’s just how percentages work.

 

She tells Governor Cuomo what his state’s public schools and students really need:

 

Clearly we need to improve the education received by all of “our” children. And unlike the Governor, I actually have two children in NYS public schools. The way to help my sons and other NYS students is to reduce class size; shift away from high stakes testing; offer a well-rounded curriculum rich in the sciences, technology, physical education, and the arts; and evaluate teachers in a way that takes into consideration the unique challenges of each of their classrooms. I once sat as a parent visitor in a classroom of thirty-plus sixth graders working through an ELA test prep workbook. And, sorry Andrew, it did not make me happy.