Highly Rated Teachers, Low Performing Students

Critics viewed with disbelief the recent data from the state Education Department that showed that fewer than four-tenths of one percent of Long Island teachers are rated "ineffective." Equally incredible was the fact that of the 124 school districts on Long Island, 86 had no teachers rated "ineffective."

These are mind boggling figures; for a large number of individuals -- there are 33,200 educators on the island -- this is not a normal distribution. The margin of error for this data is probably greater than the "ineffective" number. Ask any student's parents and they will likely tell you that their school has several teachers they consider "ineffective."

According to the Education Department, 97 percent of Long Island teachers were rated "highly effective" or "effective," while 2.2 percent received a "developing" rating. The predominantly minority districts had nearly all of the "ineffective" teachers, although there were four "ineffective" teachers in the East Meadow school district and seven in Lynbrook.

It would have been informative if the state had released the names, salaries and past performance-ratings of the ineffective teachers, but the unions made sure that will never happen.

The teachers unions have fought the evaluation system since it was first proposed and, with the help of some Albany legislators, have managed to complicate the process. A teacher with an ineffective rating will be given two years of remedial training and then reevaluated. Of course, they will show improvement. If not, it will take years of negotiations with the union before those teachers are considered for termination. By that time, the teachers will be eligible for retirement. A business sector firm would go bankrupt if forced to follow such a policy.

Shortly after release of the teacher evaluation data, the state Education Department issued two additional listings. The first one named 49 schools on Long Island that were placed on the department's watch list as having unsatisfactory academic achievement.

The second set of data released by the state was a listing of the percentage of students who met or exceeded proficiency standards on this year's standardized English and Math tests in grades 3 through 8. The test results for Long Island are truly depressing: Less than half the students passed the English and Math exams. In the Elmont school district, 33 percent of fifth-grade students passed the English test, in Malverne, it was 40 percent, while in West Hempstead, a mere 27 percent of students met proficiency standards. For Long Island, the overall percentage of students passing the English exam was 36.8 percent, a drop of 3 percentage points from last year.

So the question for educators and our lawmakers in Albany is: If our teachers are so highly rated and effective, why are our students performing so poorly? And why do 60 percent of students entering community college require remedial courses, which cost taxpayers millions of dollars?

This piece first appeared in the Malverne and West Hempstead Herald.

George Rand is a Franklin Square resident, is a retired engineering manager and university instructor. He served with the U.S. Army in the Southwest Pacific area during World War II.