A new report from a national advocacy group gives New York improved grades for policies that support effective teaching.
The Washington, D.C.-based National Council on Teacher Quality has released its seventh annual State Teacher Policy Yearbook, which includes a 360-degree analysis of every state law, rule and regulation that shapes the effectiveness of the teaching profession in New York.
The paper found that while most states still need to improve their teacher policies, including how teachers are evaluated and compensated, overall there has been a significant and positive shift in policies.
Sandi Jacobs, the council’s vice president, stressed that the report does not measure student achievement. Rather, it reflects how well teachers are prepared, trained and evaluated — which have been frequent debate points during the Common Core rollout. "Teacher preparation, evaluation, licensure issues, compensation and take a look at whether the state policy is where we think it should be or not. It's important to say we are not giving a grade to the work of the state's teachers. This is a policy review and our goal is to make sure that all students have effective teachers."
The report found 37 states improved their teacher policy scores. New York is among them. And Jacobs notes there is one area where New York particularly shines: "New York got a B minus this year. The average grade across the states was a C minus. When we look at the state's preparation policies, particularly its licensure policies, and whether or not they really make sure teachers know their content, New York really does that very well, especially compared to other states. Most states set a really low bar especially for the subject matter they expect special education teachers to know, and which sets a lower bar for those students. And New York doesn't do that. New York is really a standout! "
New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts were also graded B minus. Pennsylvania received a C minus. Vermont scored D minus. The average grade for 2013 across all 50 states and the District of Columbia is a C minus, up from D plus in 2011.
The question now for New York involves Common Core, the set of rigorous academic standards adopted by 48 states in order to receive federal Race to the Top funds: how long will the Empire State hold onto its "standout" status?
Dr. Carol Burris is principal of Southside High School in Rockville Centre and is sharply critical of New York State's method of appraising teachers, one she would grade with an “F” : "There's been a narrowing of the curriculum. There's been teaching to the test. We've heard reports especially among lower grades, because it really affects 3 to 8 teachers, of teachers really very very worried about how their kids are going to do on the tests, who the kids in the class are... it has not created a healthy atmosphere."
Last weekend, the board of the state teacher’s union called for New York to place a three-year moratorium on implementing the Common Core, as it withdrew support for the standards. NYSUT, which represents about 600,000 teachers, retired teachers and school professionals, wants “major course corrections” made before it will consider reinstating its support for those standards.