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Teachers union sues over performance reviews

Rochester Business Journal
March 10, 2014

In rating Rochester public school students’ and teachers’ performance, state officials erred by not properly factoring in the effects of severe poverty, a lawsuit filed Monday claims.

Filed by New York State United Teachers in state Supreme Court in Albany on behalf of the Rochester Teachers Association and some 100 Rochester School District teachers, the suit takes issue with the state Education Department’s criteria for measuring and scoring student growth.

Under pay-for-performance rules, public school teachers’ evaluations are tied to how well their students score on standardized tests.

The NYSUT lawsuit questions how accurately batteries of math and English tests administered to New York’s fourth through eighth grade students gauge students’ progress when the tests are not scored to take into account poverty’s debilitating effect on learning.

The court filing states 90 percent of Rochester’s public school students are from extremely poor families. 

The state’ Board of Regents’ alleged failure to properly set standards and state Education Department officials consequent failure to take into account the extreme poverty’s chilling effect resulted in roughly one-third of city school district teachers getting below-par state rankings, though the same teachers were rated as adequately or highly effective by their principals, NYSUT claims.

The rate at which Rochester teachers’ scored poorly in the state’s evaluations compares with 5 percent of teachers poorly rated statewide, a contrast the union maintains shows the state flouted Rochester teachers’ constitutionally guaranteed right to equal protection under the law.

“Rochester teachers work with some of the most disadvantaged students in the state. They should not face stigmatizing labels based on discredited tests and the state’s inability to adequately account for the impact of extreme poverty when measuring growth,” NYSUT president Richard Iannuzzi said in a statement.

In the same statement, Rochester Teachers Association president Adam Urbanski dismissed the state’s teacher-evaluation methodology as “junk science.”

The education department’s “obsession with standardized testing and data collection has perverted the goals of testing while, ironically, failing to accurately measure the one impact that matters most: the effects of poverty on student achievement,” Urbanski said.     

(c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail service@rbj.net.
 



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