Teacher Grades Gov. Cuomo with Common Core Rubric

Name: Governor Andrew Cuomo

Title of Work: 2015 Opportunity Agenda

Rubric Used: Common Core State Standards 11th-12th Grade Argument

Grader: Jim Parker, High School Social Studies Teacher at New Hartford Senior High School, New Hartford, New York

Overall Score: Inadequate (1 out of 5)

Please review the rubric score and comments below.

You wrote:

We have teacher evaluation systems for every school in the system. The bad news is they are baloney. Now, 38% of high school students are college ready. 38%. 98.7% of high school teachers are rated effective. How can that be? How can 38% of the students be ready, but 98% of the teachers effective? 31% of third to eighth graders are proficient in English, but 99% of the teachers are rated effective. 35% of third to eighth graders are proficient in math but 98% of the math teachers are rated effective. Who are we kidding, my friends? The problem is clear and the solution is clear. We need real, accurate, fair teacher evaluations.

Your Common Core rubric score (out of 5):

Development: 1 — Inadequate: The text contains limited data and evidence related to the claim and counterclaims or lacks counterclaims. The text may fail to conclude the argument or position.

Comments/Explanation of Score:

  • Your claim is that the teacher evaluation systems in New York State are “baloney” because teachers are disproportionately rated as effective while their students are neither proficient in basic skills nor prepared for college.
  • However, the evidence you have cited is selective and misleading. You did not address the numerous, relevant counterclaims that also may explain the inconsistent percentages you used to support your claim. For example, poverty, lack of parental support, drug use, student laziness, and other factors could explain why so many high school students are not college ready. Also, you did not clearly express what criteria were used to determine college readiness, and therefore the statistic is of questionable reliability.
  • Regarding third to eighth grade proficiency in English and math, you again used selective and misleading information and did not account for counterclaims. Your statistics for these proficiency levels (31% in English, 35% in math) are the results of the 2013 Common Core-aligned state assessments in those areas. New York State abruptly adopted the Common Core exams in 2013. Students and teachers had neither adequate time nor adequate materials to appropriately prepare for the exams. In February 2014, the New York State Board of Regents and Chancellor Meryl Tisch recommended not using Common Core exam results to evaluate teachers until the exams had been used for a few years. Your use of those results from the first Common Core exams given is a self-serving, transparent attempt to support your thesis with invalid information. In terms of counterclaims, you did not acknowledge that, just one year earlier, 55% of students were proficient in English and 65% of students were proficient in math under the old testing system. Inclusion of that information would have helped your audience to better understand that new, more rigorous exams rather than poor teachers may have been responsible for the dramatic, one-year drop in student achievement.
  • Your conclusion is that “The problem is clear and the solution is clear. We need real, accurate, fair teacher evaluations.” That conclusion is not necessarily supported by your evidence because, while you have accurately identified a correlation, you have not demonstrated causation. Differentiating between causation and correlation is a skill that any high school student should possess.

Regarding teacher evaluations, you wrote:

We will eliminate local exams and base 50% of the evaluation on state exams. Second, the other 50% of the evaluations should be limited to independent classroom observations. Teachers may not be rated effective or highly effective unless they are effective in the test and the observation categories…

I believe the teacher evaluation system should be used to incentivize and reward high-performing teachers and if a teacher is doing well, incentivize that teacher who is doing well and pay them accordingly. We would pay any teacher who gets highly effective, a $20,000 bonus on top of the salary that that teacher is getting paid because we want to incentivize high performance.

Your Common Core rubric score (out of 5):

Audience: 1 — Inadequate: The text lacks an awareness of the audience’s knowledge level and needs.

Comments/Explanation of Score:

  • Your claim is that basing teacher evaluations on state exams and classroom observations will help to identify the best teachers as well as the worst. Moreover, you believe that incentivizing teachers with $20,000 bonuses to prepare students for exams is a good idea.
  • However, not all teachers have state exams aligned to their courses. In fact, New York State, in an effort to save money, has actually reduced the number of required Regents exams to six (one math course, one science course, one foreign language course, Global History, US History, and English). Anyone who teaches anything else at the secondary level is responsible for determining his or her own baseline assessment and summative assessment to demonstrate student growth. Often, the teachers of those courses create the exams. You have not addressed the inherent lack of fairness in assessing some teachers with state test results while other teachers are assessed based on the results on tests that were written by those teachers.
  • Similarly, your plan to incentivize teachers with $20,000 bonuses will unfairly benefit the teachers who do not teach courses aligned with state assessments. Those teachers would have a personal motive to make their assessments less difficult in order to gain their yearly bonuses. The system would most likely lead to tension among teachers as those facing uncertain state test results each year would resent the teachers whose jobs were dependant on non-state tests. While I recognize that your goal may be to create tension among teachers, which may eventually lead to the dissolution of their union and an end to collectively-bargained contracts, your argument would have been stronger if you had acknowledged these issues.
  • Also, you wrote “I believe the teacher evaluation system…”. In a formal argument, you should avoid the use of statements such as “I believe” and “I think” because they are implied.

Overall Comments/Options for Remediation:

  • You may feel that this score is unfair because (1) I only graded selections of your work and (2) regardless of the content, I did not give you credit for it being well written. Please understand that by selectively grading you with the criteria that support my point of view and ignoring the criteria that would have improved your score, I am attempting to help you understand how teachers feel about how they are evaluated.
  • Teachers, the Board of Regents, and the people of the State of New York are here to help you. If, despite our well-reasoned and evidence-based suggestions, you do not improve by next year and receive a second consecutive inadequate rating, the legislature should change the law so that you can be removed from office without due process. Regarding our education system, you wrote “This was never about protecting and growing a bureaucracy.” Similarly, state government is not about protecting politicians and the growing influence of special interests.
  • Lastly, I have numerous exemplars of student work that you may review to compare and contrast their argument writing with your own. My students understand the importance of developing claims that are supported with specific evidence. They also thoroughly address counterclaims to demonstrate their understanding of the complexities involved with their topics. These high school student exemplars may help you to better understand how to develop a more compelling and credible argument.