When I set out to see how school budget cuts are going to affect Banford elementary school at Canton Central, I didn’t realize how much change is under way this year for New York schools. In addition to losing a teacher at every grade level, they’re starting a variety of new things.
New York schools are moving toward what’s called the Common Core curriculum, which is similar to a set of national academic standards. More students will be taking standardized tests – even kids as young as the second grade. Schools are also adopting a new teacher evaluation system.
Janice Poole just retired after 33 years of teaching. She told me part of the problem of doing all these things at once is that schools aren’t getting clear message from Albany, “New York state is not sure, and I think until that gets squared, then I think we can look and say, ‘Okay, we know what we’re all doing. And we’re all on the same page.”
Long-time Canton Central librarian Nancy Palmateer told me it was too much change for her – that’s why she decided to retire at the end of the 2012 academic year.
Palmateer worries that a teacher’s evaluation now will be tied to student test scores. She fears it will encourage teachers to teach to the test, instead of giving students time and space to explore the things that interest them.
“What kind of people do we want them to be? What kind of learners do we want them to be?”, she asks.
Palmateer worries that the new system is more likely to encourage young people to memorize facts, and repeat them for a test.
And we should mention, school officials around the state are voicing similar concerns, as Karen DeWitt reports here.
What’s your experience with schools and testing? Have you seen a manager’s evaluation based on the performance of those he or she is responsible for? Are schools similar to the workforce in this way? How do schools budget limitations play into the issue?