Superintendent Michael Hynes bravely spoke out against Governor Cuomo’s proposal to make test scores more important in evaluating teachers. The following story appeared in the Long Island Advance.

Pat-Med super pokes holes in governor’s reform

Story By: NICOLE ALLEGREZZA,

“My concern is that what he is doing as a governor is overstepping his rights and responsibilities,” Hynes said of Cuomo’s reforms. “It is impacting and impeding on public schools [ability] to function the way that they should.”

“One of Hynes’ biggest criticisms is the way Cuomo announced that public schools will receive $1.2 billion in state funding. While the money seems favorable, Hynes explained Cuomo did not break down exactly what each school should expect to receive during the critical time of planning for next year’s budget.

“He is not telling schools in advance. We have no idea what his thoughts are about state aid,” said Hynes. “It makes it very difficult to plan still not knowing and to me that is a major bullying tactic that he really shouldn’t be doing.”

“Additionally Hynes disagrees with Cuomo’s plans for teacher evaluation reform. He believes Cuomo is overstepping his role as the governor by designing a new teacher plan, which “is not his job.” Rather, Hynes states, the job belongs to the Commissioner of Education and the Board of Regents.

“Further, according to Cuomo’s state address, he is looking to offer $20,000 bonus incentives to those evaluated as “high performing” teachers. Cuomo stated there also would be improvement plans to those who score poorly.

“Hynes stated that incentives are inefficient and categorize teachers by putting them in boxes.

“He is looking to create a caste system of teachers and it just doesn’t work because it pits people against each other. Competition in schools doesn’t work,” explained Hynes.

“Also, in Cuomo’s reform proposal he suggests evaluating teacher’s effectiveness on both test scores and observations equally. The outcome, according to the governor, will stop the inflation of almost all teachers being rated as effective. It would also limit tenured teachers by only granting tenure to those who have achieved five consecutive years of “effective ratings,” as opposed to the original three-year requirement.

“Hynes suggests that if teachers’ evaluations are highly dependent upon test scores, they will become more anxious about testing and teach to the tests. In effect, students will be highly impacted by not only feeling the pressure to score high for their own good but also for their teacher’s well being. “That is a lot of pressure that I don’t feel our students need. In fact, I actually think that it is child abuse,” he said.

“Some changes that can be made in his opinion, include removing some old antiquated state mandates forced upon the public schools. He also believes teacher evaluation tools can benefit from following a “growth model” rather than a “deficit model” where observers are always looking for the negatives.

“The governor proposes to look for things that are wrong,” he said. “What I would like to do, and I know our principals certainly do here, is if I am observing in the classroom I am going to notice the things done well and some of things that need to be augmented and tweaked.”

“Hynes explained because the issue of “ineffective” teachers equates to such a minimal amount, a deficit model is unnecessary. “A significant amount of teachers leave the profession after the first five years because of all the stresses that go on but the number one thing that makes them leave is that they don’t feel they are doing a good enough job,” he said. The growth model in effect will create a more positive approach to teacher evaluation. He added that by also providing mentors to first- and second- year teachers, it effectively produces better quality, long term teachers.

“The real reason for underachievement, which is rarely addressed, is poverty. “Schools that have a significant amount of poverty in their school district will have low achievement,” he emphasized. Bad test scores, according to Hynes, “really comes down to schools that don’t have enough to serve the needs of the kids.”

“If and when Cuomo’s educational plans become reality, Hynes believes there will be a “seismic shift” in the way educational services are delivered to the students. With the agenda on the table, one question remains for Hynes: What will be the next step before Cuomo pushes his reform in early April? While he’s unsure whether or not local legislatures can help at this point, “I am counting on my fellow superintendents who are in support of what I am talking about, the PTAs, and the moms and dads to say `this is inappropriate,’” he said. ”Enough is enough. What you’re doing is going to destroy public schools.”

“Those who oppose the governor’s plans should attend board of education meetings and voice their concerns and write letters to the governor, the Commissioner of Education, and the Board of Regents. Additionally, if any parents from the Patchogue-Medford school district have any questions or concerns, Hynes encourages them to call or make an appointment to meet with him to discuss the issue at hand. He can be reached at (631) 687-6380 or mhynes@pmschools.org.