The Benson School bands together to fight Cuomo’s teacher evaluation system

Fee fi fo fum, Governor Cuomo, here we come!

Teachers, students and parents of Bensonhurst’s P.S. 200, the Benson School, took to the street surrounding their building on Thursday, March 12 to rally against Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new proposed guidelines for evaluating teachers – a system that would increase emphasis on standardized test scores and decrease the impact of local observation.

The backlash comes in response to the new 50-50 scale that would base 50 percent of a teacher’s rating on student’s standardized test scores and the remaining 50 percent on observation of the teachers in action. However, instead of school supervisory personnel doing the in-classroom evaluations, 35 percent of evaluations would be conducted by “independent” observers.

“Governor Cuomo should come to our school and see exactly what his policies and educational proposals will actually do to our students,” said Marcy Buono, a fourth grade ESL teacher at P.S. 200. “Kids are not test scores. You cannot judge them based on their test scores. And the teachers, we’re not [only] teaching them the tests.”

According to Cuomo’s office, the change was part of the state’s commitment to implement a “real” and “effective” teacher evaluation system as “a condition of the $700 million granted through the federal Race to the Top program.”

Cuomo called the new evaluation system “groundbreaking” in the official announcement and expressed confidence that it would help the state “transform” the education system.

“[The] new statewide teacher evaluation system will put students first and make New York a national leader in holding teachers accountable for student achievement,” said Cuomo. “This agreement is exactly what is needed to transform our state’s public education system.”

But those who attended the rally don’t see it that way.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), was in attendance at the rally and expressed his concerns about the governor not yet reaching out or visiting any schools to discuss the issue.

“Since the governor keeps talking about education and he refuses to come to a school, here’s all the schools in New York City coming out, parents, teachers, students standing together, saying we don’t like what you’re trying to do,” said Mulgrew. “Come see us, come talk to us.

“What you will see is schools will have to concentrate more and more on standardized test scores,” he continued. “It will harm students, it will harm education, and then we’ll [have to] go back and fight to stop it.”

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