Friday, February 17, 2012
LI teachers question use of test scores
Originally published: February 16, 2012 10:14 PM
Updated: February 16, 2012 10:24 PM
By JOHN HILDEBRAND AND JOIE TYRRELL.
Photo credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr. | Biology teacher Jennifer Sullivan in her classroom at South Side High School. (Feb. 16, 2012)
Long Island teachers interviewed Thursday said they're profoundly unsettled by a state-level agreement to base up to 40 percent of their annual job ratings on student test scores.
The key question, teachers said, is whether any formula based on standardized tests can take full account of what they face in classrooms every day.
Jennifer Sullivan, 28, who has taught "Living Environment" biology courses in Rockville Centre the past five years, noted that some of her students are pulled out of the classroom regularly for required speech therapy or other extra help.
"Now I'm going to be graded based on a student's score, when the students haven't always been in class all the time," Sullivan said. "This is going to be another 'No Child Left Behind.' We're going to have teachers left behind."
Pete McNally, 45, who teaches eighth-grade technology in Lynbrook, said he agrees with other educators that no one can put a numerical measurement on inspiration. "I think when most people think back to their teachers, they think, 'How did that person make me feel?' " said McNally, a 10-year classroom veteran who is studying to become an administrator. "Now it's all about test scores, and I feel bad for the students today."
School district officials have their own reasons for apprehension. A prime concern, they said, is how to win local unions' agreement on details of teacher evaluations in the months ahead without making concessions on salaries and benefits that financially pressed districts can ill afford.
Alan Groveman, superintendent of Connetquot schools, said he must review the details of Thursday's pact in Albany before making a final judgment on what it holds for his district. "But requiring districts to submit agreements [on evaluations] or risk loss of state aid puts us between a rock and a hard place," he said.
State officials said their plan using stricter guidelines to evaluate all classroom teachers and their principals within the next two years will recognize educators who do superior work, while providing extra help to those who fall short. Those authorities add that unions, like management, have a stake in making evaluations work, because to do otherwise risks loss of state financial aid.
The upgraded evaluation system gets its start this spring after students in grades 3-8 take state reading and math tests that will be used in their teachers' ratings. Ultimately, the new evaluations will cover an estimated 35,000 school professionals on the Island and 250,000 statewide.
"This is not about firing teachers," state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said. "It's about ensuring a rigorous system of performance management that will help all teachers."
Thursday's agreement updates and clarifies a 2010 state law that called for at least 20 percent of a teacher's job rating to be based on students' growth on standardized state tests. Now, school districts will have the option of doubling that percentage, depending on what they negotiate with teacher unions. Sixty percent of ratings will be based on subjective criteria, with at least 31 percent coming from classroom observations. Teachers rated ineffective two years in a row risk loss of their jobs.
Districts that don't obtain state approval of their evaluation plans by January could lose next year's state-aid increases. The agreement settles a lawsuit between the state and the 600,000-member New York State United Teachers union that had threatened to derail the drive for improved evaluations.
"What's good is that this is finally resolved, and we can go about doing what we need to do in our locals to get it behind us," said Jeff Rozran, president of Syosset's 700-member teachers' union and a member of NYSUT's state board.
TEACHER EVAL DEAL
Highlights of a new plan for evaluating New York school teachers:
60% of an instructor's rating will be based on classroom observations and student and parent feedback.
20% will be based on students' scores on state standardized tests.
20% on students' scores on one of three testing options: using a third-party-developed test or a locally developed test, or simply doubling the value of the state standardized tests. School boards and local unions will have to negotiate what test to use.
A teacher rated "ineffective" on both testing components will be deemed ineffective regardless of his/her score observation-based rating. State officials, however, had wanted a teacher to be deemed ineffective if a teacher had failed either testing component.
An ineffective rating for two consecutive years could lead to termination proceedings against a teacher.
The state Education Department must review all local agreements.
Trooper Arrested For OVI & Driving 102 mph, OSP Says
An off-duty trooper with the Ohio State Highway Patrol has been relieved of her regular responsibilities after being arrested for speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol.
According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, at 12:26 a.m. Friday, the post commander from the Mount Gilead post of the Highway patrol pulled over 39-year-old Tiffany Wilson while traveling on Interstate 71 northbound in Morrow County.
OSP says Wilson was clocked driving 102 mph in a 65-mph zone. They say her blood alcohol level registered at .16, which is twice the legal limit.
Wilson has been assigned to the Mount Gilead post since February of 2000.
OSP says they had taken several calls reporting a reckless driver on I-71 north prior to Wilson being pulled over.
An internal investigation is underway.
She will work administrative tasks while that investigation is conducted.
Wilson was processed at the Morrow County Jail in Mount Gilead, but she was not incarcerated.
When asked why she was not incarcerated, Lieutenant Anne Ralston told NBC4 it was Wilson's first OVI offense and she is from the area.
Ralston said Wilson was released to a sober driver.
She says the main point of incarcerating someone is to secure their appearance in court. Ralston says other drivers likely would be treated in the same manner.
Ralston says Wilson was driving a white, four-door Toyota at the time.
Wilson was alone in the vehicle.
Ralston says Wilson has a clean disciplinary record.
Wilson faces up to one year and a $1,000 fine on the OVI charge.
Wilson is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 23.
NBC4 went to an address listed as Wilson's home, but it was gated property and we were not permitted into the development.
A person who answered a phone number listed for Wilson said it was an incorrect number.
For additional information, stay with NBC4 and refresh nbc4i.com.
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Is "Babysitting While White" reasonable suspicion for police questioning?Normally this blog focuses on the news of the day instead of personal stories, but I had an odd experience this morning that intersects with many of this blog's common themes, so I hope readers will excuse this self-indulgent anecdote. In short, the Austin Police Department inconvenienced, annoyed, and angered me, in that order, culminating in an incident where I was subjected to an odd and surprisingly overt brand of racial profiling just two blocks from my own house. Before getting into the racial profiling angle, though, let me provide some necessary background for this morning's anecdote. I've been taking care of my granddaughter Ty today because Austin police inexplicably ordered seven area schools shut down after a shootout overnight with police involving one suspect killed and two more still at large. Nearby day care facilities closed along with the schools, including the one where Ty usually goes. Fair enough. But when my goddaughter called in a panic with no child care for the day, it meant I found myself tasked with unplanned, impromptu babysitting duties, like hundreds of other parents and grandparents around Austin. Two-year old Ty particularly loves a nearby neighborhood park, so off we went around mid-morning with her tiny hand wrapped around my index finger. After a fun time, we took a different route going back, at Ty's suggestion, in order to pass by a house where she knows she'll often see (and get to pet) a couple of friendly cats. Two blocks from home, an Austin police officer pulled up and, to my surprise, got out and announced she was there to question me. Someone had called 911, she said, to report a suspicious looking white man walking down the street holding hands with a black toddler. (I could tell where this line of questioning was headed.) She said this as though it were the most natural thing in the world for police to investigate, as though my race and Ty's, in and of itself, was reason enough to stop and question me. I've heard of racial profiling episodes involving "Driving While Black," but "Babysitting While White" is a new one on me. 'What's your relationship with this girl?', she wanted to know. 'Where are you going, where are you coming from?' "No offense," I told her, "but that's none of your business." Not wanting to violate the failure to identify statute, I gave her my name, address and birthdate but refused to answer any other questions. ("I'm going to write down that you were noncooperative," she warned ominously, as though admonishing an elementary school student that some infraction might go on their permanent record. "Oh no, not that," I thought to myself.) I asked if we could leave, but the officer kept me there demanding answers. "Someone complained," she declared, "we have to follow up." "Like hell you do," I told her, "not when you don't have reasonable suspicion to think I did anything wrong." To my astonishment, while we were talking, another officer pulled up in response to the 911 call, this one a tall, older, thick-chested fellow with graying hair who felt the need to demonstrate his dominance. I replied to his "I'm in charge here" bluster by again asking, "Am I free to go?" "No you are not," he insisted, "not until I'm finished," and continued his pointless monologue. Meanwhile, a THIRD police car pulled up to the scene. By then I was getting mad. Austin police had already disrupted my day significantly because they're supposedly out hunting armed killers, but they've got enough extra cops lollygagging around to send THREE squad cars to investigate me for Babysitting While White? "Don't you people have actual crimes to investigate?" I demanded. (Admittedly, that didn't go over so well.)"Aren't y'all supposed to be chasing shooters with assault rifles? Why are you bothering us?" The tall male cop replied that he'd just been at the locked down neighborhood and was working that case all morning. "Great," I thought, "so they pulled this guy off an actual crime to harass me walking down the street." The truth is, I'm not so much angry about the racial angle. Black folks have been pointlessly stopped and questioned for generations because of their skin color in this neighborhood, and today it was just my turn. However, I adamantly maintain my skin color alone did not give police reasonable suspicion to question me, just like Driving While Black isn't a reason to pull over an African American driver (or a white driver because they're in a black neighborhood). And as a taxpayer, I'm incredulous that APD wasted three officers' time to respond to such a spurious 911 call at a moment when there were actual, violent criminals running around town with assault weapons. Don't these guys have supervisors? Prioritize, people! Finally, the first officer answered my increasingly repetitious question, "Am I free to go?" with a reluctant "Yes," at which point I turned heel with the toddler grasped firmly in my arms and walked briskly towards home, both of us a little rattled by the experience. "They scared me, Grandpa," Ty said, sobbing lightly as she nestled her head into the crook of my neck. "I know, sweetie," I told her, "they scared me, too." And by the time we reached home, she was asleep in my arms.
Cabela's plans first Ohio store in Columbus | Zanesville Times Recorder | zanesvilletimesrecorder.com
Cabela's plans first Ohio store in Columbus
COLUMBUS -- Cabela's, an outfitter of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear, noticed the number of central Ohioans ordering its products online or traveling to its Wheeling, W.Va., store.
As a result, the company announced Thursday it will add an 80,000-square-foot store in Columbus, at the Polaris Centers development at Gemini Parkway and Interstate 71.
Construction on the first Cabela's store in Ohio begins in the spring, with the opening planned for spring 2013. The company plans to open five of its next-generation stores this year and three more in 2013, including Columbus.
Aaron Parks, of Newark, who travels to the Wheeling store every year, was excited to hear the news.
"I've been going there once per year with a big group of guys before deer season to get all loaded up on what we need," Parks said.
"For one to be in central Ohio, that's a dream come true," he said. "We've been asking for one for years. We're looking forward to it. It'll be a great addition to Ohio."
Parks said he doesn't know whether he'll spend more money because he might go more often or spend less because the trip is much closer.
Cabela's spokesman Wes Remmer said the company reviews its customer habits to help decide where to locate new stores.
"There's a lot that goes into it," Remmer said. "We look at our customers and who's buying products online, and try to build right in the middle of hot spots.
"We did have a large number of loyal customers, not only in Columbus, but in surrounding areas in Ohio."
Jim Martin, of Dresden, said he not only travels to the Wheeling store, but also shops through the Cabela's catalog and online. He'll go to Polaris but still might travel to Wheeling.
"I've had excellent customer service," Martin said. "It's got pretty much everything you need. I'll definitely check it out. I like road trips and go to see what's new."
Remmer said the company's store at Polaris will feature not only hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and boating equipment, but also a 5,575-gallon aquarium with fish native to the area, a deli, jewelry, cookware and a fudge shop.
The stores also feature conservation-themed wildlife displays, trophy animal mounts on a mountain, a gun library and a bargain cave.
"We hope it's an experience and not simply shopping," Remmer said. "We're hoping to draw all sorts of people, anyone who likes to get outdoors."
The new store will employ up to 175 full- and part-time employees.
The building's exterior will reflect Cabela's store model of log construction, stonework, wood siding and metal roofing. A large glass storefront will allow customers to view much of the interior.
"We have so many great customers in the Buckeye State who share our passion for the outdoors, who live the Cabela's lifestyle, we wanted to build this store to better serve them," Cabela's Chief Executive Officer Tommy Millner stated in a news release.
Cabela's, based in Sidney, Neb., employs about 14,000 at its 34 stores, including 32 in the U.S. and two in Canada.