Weiss said that the new evaluation system will heighten the anxiety and put unnecessary pressure on teachers, many of whom are displaced themselves. Under the new guidelines, teachers’ scores are published and accessible to the public, according to Weiss. Teachers who are rated poorly are required to follow an improvement plan developed by the district. Even tenured teachers and principals, if found to have consistently low-rated performance, can be considered for termination, according to the State Education Department website.
In a time of crisis like this, Weiss said, he believes the district should be offering teachers and students not only academic support, but social and emotional support as well. “We should be helping them through the crisis,” he said, “not helping them through the test.”
Parent Ari Pine said at the meeting that his No. 1 priority remained the completion of the curriculum in a timely and effective manner. Pine said he was concerned that the absence of a state evaluation would mean a relaxation of educational standards. “It seems to be about cutting back, or not being as aggressive in your goals,” he said.
Trustees were quick to clarify that they were in no way attempting to relieve teachers of their responsibilities to students, and that they would still expect teachers to get students where they need to be by the end of the year. Lester assured Pine that students would be caught up by the end of the year.
“I see talk one way; I see action another way,” Pine responded. “That makes me concerned.”
The purpose of the school board’s proposal, trustees emphasized, is to avoid the likelihood that students and faculty would be evaluated by a system that is not just or accurate under the circumstances. “We’re not saying loosen up on the curriculum. We’re not saying loosen up on the criteria,” Lester said. “We’re saying, when you’re judging, consider the fact that they have to go uphill right now.”