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Queens Leaders Slam Plan for Evaluating Teachers

Part of DOE's Grading System for Teachers Would Include New Tests for Students

Northeast Queens leaders said they disapproved of a city plan to develop new tests for students that would be used to evaluate teachers.

Councilman Mark Weprin, D-Oakland Gardens, said he did not believe the city Department of Education should make students take tests for the purpose of grading teachers.

“It’s time for parents to rise up and give the DOE a wake-up call,” he said. “Stop the insane obsession with testing.”

But DOE Spokesman Matt Mittenthal said individual schools across the five boroughs would be able to decide how much each test counts for the students who take them.

A school could choose to count the test as much as a classroom assignment, a typical test or not at all.

The evaluations are being put into place following the passage of a law last year that enabled the state to win $700 million in Race to the Top, a federal grant competition. Teachers would be graded on a scale from “ineffective to “highly effective.” 

“The new law requires us to reach an agreement with the union on how to evaluate all our teachers, not just those who teach English and math, and we’re exploring a range of options to meet these requirements,” he said. “Where we do use local assessments, we’re confident they will be high-quality and useful for teachers.”

The agency would spend no more than $25.6 million on developing the tests and an estimated $38 million on other means of evaluating principals and teachers, he said.

The tests would count for no more than 20 percent of an individual teacher’s evaluation.

Students would take the exams in addition to their state Regents, English and math tests.

But Weprin said he believed the city should use funding toward sports, arts and music programs, rather than to create new tests.

“Fourth graders already spend ten percent of the school year taking tests,” he said. “How much more testing do we really need?”

Robert Caloras, president of Community District Education Council 26, said he was “aghast” at the DOE’s proposal.

“They will be wasting our children’s time with more tests,” he said. “The jury is in. These tests do not do what they think they do. I understand they passed a law that allows them to evaluate teachers, but it also says you don’t have to rely on tests. So, what do they do? They come up with more tests. I am aghast. This is in the worst interest of the children.”

Caloras said the education council would pass a resolution against the DOE’s plan at its meeting tomorrow night.  

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