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Rex Smith, the editor of the Albany Times-Union, wrote an excellent column, chastising Governor Andrew Cuomo for picking on teachers. Let’s hope that the mounting criticism of Cuomo’s cynical effort to place the blame on teachers for low test scores persuades him to reverse course. The surest predictor of low test scores is poverty, not “bad” teachers. Rex Smith knows this. Why doesn’t Governor Cuomo?
Here is an excerpt from Smith’s column:
Students come to school with all sorts of problems, starting with poverty. Most low-performing schools are in high-needs communities. Plenty of research underscores the link between learning capacity and poverty, with its attendant problems – including poor housing, inadequate health care and neighborhood violence.
The governor knows this to be true. He has on occasion been eloquent on this very point. It makes his current campaign of demonizing teachers all the more mystifying.
Yet we hear him repeatedly attacking “the public school monopoly,” ignoring all the non-public (and taxpayer-aided) schools that make the educational system a lot more competitive already than other government services. You know, police and fire departments are monopolies, too. Should we subsidize competing privately-owned agencies, and blame cops for crime and firefighters for fires?
And there was the governor during his State of the State presentation last month, juxtaposing two statistics as though one directly related to the other: 96 percent of teachers were rated “effective” or better by the state’s teacher evaluation system last year, but less than 40 percent of students in grades three through eight were at least “proficient” in standardized language arts and math tests.
The inference he wants us to draw, it seems, is that more teachers should be rated lower so they can be fired, making way for teachers who can raise test scores.
The problem with this analysis begins with a logical fallacy of seeing a causal relationship where there’s really a coincidental one. Call it the Pirate Paradigm, explained thus: The number of pirates plying the high seas has shrunk over three centuries, even as roughly 40 percent of marine species have vanished. Thus, you may conclude that pirates are good for fish.
Good work, Mr. Smith!