The True Lessons Of Governor Cuomo’s Teacher Evaluation Reform

by Dr. David Mandler

As an elementary and junior high school student, I struggled with understanding math and chemistry and even (gasp!) failed many physics tests. In 10th grade, I began to do better. In my college sophomore year, I aced core Physics.

For far too long following graduation, I had remained in the dark as to the true cause of my early failures. In that depressing and most horrible period of my life, I began to blame myself for these failures. (I would be remiss if I concealed the fact that, at the time, I mostly flipped out at how “stupid” those tests were). Be it as it may, years later, during said dark moments, I told myself that I should not have watched T.V. for three hours and played video games for two hours every day, and, instead, should have spent some of that time on preparing for those stupid tests. At other times, I even blamed myself for not listening to what the teachers were saying because my stomach demanded lunch at 11:00 am during physics class. Clearly, not asking clarifying questions from either my classmates or my teachers when they said something I did not understand was also something for which I had actually blamed myself. In the last wave of self-accusatory contemplation, I even went so far as to bemoan the fact that I copied the great majority of homework assignments before class from various people sitting either in front of or behind me who somehow managed to have the right answers instead of trying to figure them out myself (but then I would have missed those awesome reruns of “Friends” and I would not have been able to play paddle ball for an hour every day in the park with my friends).

It took Governor Cuomo’s brilliant teacher evaluation plan he announced in January to make me realize just how deeply I had erred in all my suppositions.

Now I know that I had nothing to do with my failures.

It was Mr. Spock, Mrs. Gilligan, Ms. Schwartz, and Mr. Dillard, my teachers in these subjects to blame! (I’ve long forgotten the names of my other teachers although one of the names I have just listed may not have been my teacher, but that name has stuck in my mind).

Yes, now I know that my classmates who did well on the tests would have done well even if the teacher had been a robot. True, I did well in music and English classes, but, thanks to governor Cuomo, now I know why: because I always had wonderful teachers.

So, when I could not run three blocks around the school, or do twenty pushups in ninth grade, now I know it was because Mr. Stephens, the overly strict physical education teacher, was a bad teacher. Two years later, when I could easily do forty pushups and run around the school four times, I now know it was because I no longer had Mr. Stephens but rather Ms. Fox who inspired me to use the muscles I had gained while I was trying to do those damn pushups in Mr. Stephens’ class who frequently yelled inspirational obscenities at the ceiling.

Therefore, I fully support Governor Cuomo’s plan to put the blame on the shoulders where blame belongs: teachers. After all, I had some really bad once (see second paragraph) even though they were blessed with such model students as yours truly in their classes.

I support the brilliant idea of assessing the 9th grade art teacher, the physical education teacher, and the music teacher on how well their students do on tests in their English Regents examination in 11th grade. The correlation is too obvious for me to detail here.

I also support having 35% of the overall teacher effectiveness grade based on a knowledgeable bureaucrat’s insightful and far-reaching observation of a teacher conducting a single lesson. After all, you don’t need more to see how a teacher does on all other days to know if he or she is good. One lesson is enough.

The other 50% of the grade, needless to add very wisely, the governor proposes to tie to how much students improve on tests for a select few subject areas a few years apart. Clearly, the improvements on a New York State examination in Math or English from, say, 7th to 11th grade, or lack thereof, can be attributed to none other than the 9th grade music, art or physical education teacher of those students.

Again, the correlation is far too obvious. Anyone who argues otherwise is, in the immortal characterization of our esteemed governor, spreading a bunch of “baloney.”

Since the time Governor Cuomo’s proposed teacher evaluation caused my sudden epiphany, I have been awaiting April first with bated breath. Lately, I have developed a curious case of anxiety: I have been having a vivid and frequently recurring nightmare that always unfolds the same way. In it, I see the governor ascend the podium at the State Legislature with an exaggerated clownish grin. He begins to laugh hysterically. Then he lifts high above his head the proposed teacher evaluation plan in a binder only to bang on the podium stand with it a moment later while shouting to the petrified lawmakers the words: “April Fools’ Day, I got you all! Aprils’ Fools Day, I got you all.”

Please take action to put an end to this sad joke by sending a message to the governor and other responsible officials by following this link. It’s quick, easy and painless.