Assemblymember Hunter: Legislation Will Help Keep Qualified, Passionate Teachers in CNY

May 2, 2018

Assemblymember Pamela J. Hunter (D-Syracuse) announced that legislation she co-sponsored to improve teacher evaluations by delinking them from standardized testing and returning control to school districts passed the Assembly (A.10475). This is essential for high-needs school districts where students may struggle academically because of hardships at home, not the quality of a teacher.

“A teacher’s career should not hinge on their students’ performance on a standardized test,” Hunter said. “Not only does it discourage talented teachers from staying in high-needs school districts like Syracuse, where our kids desperately need passionate leaders, but it also fails to capture how effective they are in the classroom.”

The legislation makes necessary corrections to the teacher evaluation system. First, it lifts the mandate that teacher evaluations are to be based heavily on their students’ performance on state-created or administered assessments, including the English Language Arts (ELA) and math tests for grades 3 through 8. By removing the assessment mandate, local school districts would be able to adopt an evaluation system that better reflects the needs of Central New York students, Hunter noted.

This is a critical step forward, especially for high-need school districts, such as Syracuse. Districts with high poverty rates and minority populations have been hit the hardest by high teacher turnover rates.1 This is especially relevant to the Syracuse City School District, where 65 percent of the students are black or Hispanic and 10 percent of students were homeless in 2016.2,3 , More than half of Syracuse’s children live in poverty.4

“Too many kids in Syracuse don’t know where their next meal is coming from or where they’ll sleep at night,” Hunter said. “It’s important that the people who see them nearly every day – their teachers – have the flexibility to adapt to meet their needs. That may mean spending more time on a lesson their class is struggling with or pushing back a due date for a student having trouble at home instead of rushing through a checklist of subjects.”

The legislation would also make permanent provisions that prohibit ELA and math state assessments recorded in grades 3 through 8 from being included on a student’s permanent record. This will make sure students’ academic careers aren’t marred by a single test score, Hunter noted.

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1. democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2018/04/06/want-teach-heres-where-go-and-what-study/490900002

2. http://198.36.22.200/about/demographics

3. http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2017/05/syracuse_city_school_district_has.html

4. Ibid.