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Letter: Teacher Evaluations and a Waiting List for Tutors

(Editor’s Note: This letter was sent to the Superintendent of Manhasset Schools, Charles Cardillo, and to the Manhasset Press for publication.)

Thank you for the presentation the other night regarding APPR. Having worked in the private sector for decades, I am familiar with performance reviews, especially when you are in a position that requires measurable results, such as sales. It appears that performance reviews for teachers will be based on measurable results as well, namely test scores.

In Manhasset, we show very successful student performance, as I witnessed last week at the National Junior Honor Society induction, where approximately half the eighth grade were awarded their certificate. Are we to assume that this is the result of superior teachers? I know we have many fine teachers, however there are other factors that culminate in our children’s academic successes. Academic success is built into the culture of our community by the expectations we set for our children, our parenting, and our children’s own abilities and determination. In Manhasset where many families have the resources, we compensate for poor teachers or difficult curriculum by getting our children tutors or providing them with our own time and knowledge to fill in the gaps. Giving children more tests to evaluate teachers is an injustice to our children and an incomplete and misleading indicator by which to judge teachers.

Do you know that there is a waiting list for math tutors at $90 - $100 hour in this town? So many kids are struggling with math at the middle school and high school level, but your test scores won’t reflect this, because these students get extra help outside school. Perhaps this information should weigh in on teacher evaluations. If a class average is A-, but 50 percent of the class is using a tutor, I think something is wrong with either the teacher or the curriculum. How will your evaluations capture this? After paying very high school taxes, I have bitterly paid for both math and English tutors for my children.

As the parent of fifth, eight and ninth graders, I have experienced teachers who were asleep at their desk for a year, teachers that showed gender favoritism, teachers that were excellent at their subject matter, but extremely poor models for character, teachers that were more interested in having an audience for their personal subject matter than their academic subject, teachers that didn’t go over homework or tests, teachers that “teach” on a Monday, test on a Tuesday and have kids forget the material on a Wednesday. However, test scores may not reflect these deficiencies, which should be included in a comprehensive evaluation. Teachers need to be held to the same conduct and behavior standards that they expect from the students. Will these issues be taken into consideration on their evaluations?

Let’s get more learning and less testing, and focus a little more on raising the standards of professional conduct from some of our teachers. If you choose to use testing as your evaluation criteria, then perhaps we should test our teachers to see how well they score on their subject matter.

I appreciate your consideration to my concerns.

Denise Polis