The governor’s education agenda is just plain wrong. First, there can be no doubt that teachers can and do have an impact on their students. In small schools and districts that impact is even greater. In 1989, researcher Craig Howley indicated that smaller schools and smaller school districts have a larger impact on students in poverty than larger schools and larger districts; and the more recent (2000) Matthew Project concurred. Additionally, there is also no doubt that tests measuring student growth can contain valuable information for parents and teachers. The best method of determining student growth is to have reliable and valid tests. Furthermore, an achievement test in third grade, assuming a student has had adequate teaching, should reasonably predict the child’s ability to succeed on the next year’s assessment. These facts are missing in the governor’s agenda.
What is wrong with Governor Cuomo’s agenda? First and foremost, the problem in New York is poverty. Long standing measures like the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that middle and high social economic students are learning material quite well, it is the poorer students who are not. Second, the governor’s insistence that small school districts merge is not only an attempt to rob people of local control of their schools, it is contrary to research on what will best help students. Third, the governor’s agenda demands that teachers be evaluated on assessments, yet there is no mention of the ability of a score on any of the assessments to predict with any reliability the score for that same child in subsequent years. The teacher never even sees the areas in which a child succeeded or failed, so there is not a way to improve teaching or truly help the child. Finally, his Gap Elimination Adjustment, his refusal to equitably fund schools, and even his Tax-Free NY initiative rob counties and school districts of necessary revenue; especially those schools that serve the poorest students.