Education commission report sparks debate

The New NY Education Reform Commission released its preliminary recommendations last week, to much debate.

The New NY Education Reform Commission released its preliminary recommendations last week, to much debate.

— Local reactions

Local officials also expressed concern over the financial issue.

“When I think about the funding, that sends me into the stratosphere,” said Dr. Richard Johns, superintendent for the Liverpool Central School District. “I think that we haven’t even begun to see the total costs of these state mandates. In this district, we’ve cut back from 34 administrators to 24 over the last four years, and we’ve got all of this new clerical stuff to account for. The APPR [Annual Professional Performance Review] pplication alone has consumed hundreds of man-hours in this district.”

Beyond the cost, however, Johns objected to the one-size-fits-all nature of the recommendations.

“What they’re trying to do is noble,” he said. “It’s high time that somebody said we’ve got to do a better job in public education. We can’t fail the percentage of kids that we’re failing. But there can’t be this ubiquitous solution that’s handed down from on high.”

Liverpool has had its own teacher evaluation and student achievement programs in place for a number of years, which Johns said are rigorous.

“In a district like Liverpool, we have a pretty good clue what we’re doing,” Johns said. “We hold all of our professionals to a very high standard, and they readily aspire to meet those goals. I think we have a model that works very well. We spent years putting it together. We know exactly where every child is with every piece of learning that we consider to be important and enduring. In Liverpool, frankly, all this stuff will bog us down.”

Johns also expressed disappointment, as he has numerous times in the past, in the teacher evaluation system as it stands.

“It’s no longer about how we teach kids; it’s about what kind of score can I get on the APPR and other places?” he said. “We’ve lost our soul when we start looking at teacher ratings rather that student learning.”

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