Worcester School Committee member Tracy Novick – Part 2

By Rosalie Tirella

Here’s another reason why Tracy Novick shouldn’t be on the school committee of an urban school district like Worcester: she’s anti-public-school-teacher evaluation.

Stand for Children – a Mass organization lead by Latino parents and hell bent on closing the achievement gap between upper-income and low-income students – is PRO teacher evaluations. So are lots of inner-city parents – and InCity Times. We want our teachers to be the very best, we want them to try their best, we want them to help underprivileged kids achieve success in school – and be the best in life.

Usually, with first- and second-generation Americans, the only way to climb out of poverty is to excel in school. My grandparents came from Poland. They had nothing. My grandfather worked in the textile mills in Dudley to support his wife and four kids, promising to himself that the blood he was sweating in the mill would mean more opportunities for his children. Well, one of his kids – his son – was an officer in the Navy during World War II, and when he came home from the war, he went to college – Holy Cross. He became a history teacher. His son also graduated from Holy Cross and today he is an accountant.

On the other side, the man my aunt – my mom’s sister -married was also the son of Polish immigrants. They worked like animals. My uncle was an ambitious kid – going to the library every day to read the newspaper because his family couldn’t afford a subscription. Guess what? He also served in the military in WW II and when he came home went to Fordam University and eventually became a school principal. Today his three kids – all adults – are upper middle class and contribute to society: one is a doctor and researcher in a major MidWestern University! His other son is also a doctor. His daughter is a teacher; she married a civil engineer, also the son of Polish immigrants.

How did they get to the top? PUBLIC EDUCATION! Most of it in the good ol’ Worcester Public Schools!

My relatives also believe in teacher evals – a no-nonsense way to make sure our teachers are doing a great job.

Today’s immigrants and children of immigrants are no different from my family! They want the same things! They came to this country just as impoverished!

Worcester School Committee member Tracy Novick is – once again – out of step with achieving the American dream for kids of immigrants and the poor – a majority in the Worcester Public Schools. Novick is bashing the state educaiton commissioner for trying to establish some standards for the state’s public school teachers.

It is this top-down approach that is making Novick so crazy. Novick is so anti-regulation, she is not able to see where the state and the country is going – and what kind of kids and fmailies make up our public schools. Our state leaders are sick and tired of teachers complaining they aren’t treated like professionals and then balking when they have to act like pros. Every professional on the planet has yearly evaluations, usually done by a boss – usually tied to pay raises – or firings … .

This should be the case for our public school teachers.

And it will be!

The state is heading in the right direction, but Novick isn’t listening. State officials don’t want everything to hang on the MCAS test score results. Commissioner Chester and crew want to make student MCAS scores/standardized test scores count for 50% of a teacher’s evaluation. The other 50% will come from evaluations (throughout the school year) by fellow teachers and the principal. Then, and only then, will the teacher get a “score.” A true job evaluation.

This makes perfect sense. Once again, if Novick realized she was representing a majority minority school system, she would stop trying to put a KIBOSH on teacher evaluations and instead WORK WITH THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT TO CRAFT AN EVALUATION PROCESS THAT GUARANTEES THAT TEACHERS WILL ALSO BE EVALUATED BY THEIR PEERS.

It has to be both – half test-score results – half in-class observations by the teachers peers and principals.

Why?

Well, what if the teacehr is excellent but she teaches at an inner-city school, and every year tons of poor kids cycle into the school from other schools? This is the case in Worcester and other cities all over the country. How can the excellent teacher overcome hurdles like a student who just plopped into the her class after moving from Springfield or even another Worcester school where the teachers were merely OK? What about the students who come to school hungry or sleep-deprived because their families are so dysfunctional? These kids can’t be expected to learn a whole lot. First, they need food and a good night’s sleep. What about the students who witness violence – in their homes or neighborhoods? They may be so disturbed, the best teacehr in the world could not make a difference. Hence their low MCAS scores.

But if a teacher is graded by how she relates to and teaches her students and the teacher is sensitive and helps her kids reach a new, higher level of anything (even if it is below state standards), or she gets one lost student interested in art or music, and she is loved by her students, then that teacher should not be given a poor evaluation. The MCAS scores of her students may be horrible – but she is working miracles with the kids she’s got.

That excellence and dedication will be noted by her peers and principal’s evaluations – and she will be rewarded with a high score on the other half of ther state evaluation.

Novick is playing scare-monger. She is getting people to think that “the system” will not be able to account for all the human/real world aspects of teaching. She is tellling folks that the state’s evaluation forms will be totally MCAS score-based. That is a lie. The real world, and real kids and real feelings will be able to shine through.

And good teachers will always make the cut. The incompetent ones will – hopefully – be weeded out so our public school students can get the best possible education (given all the messy circumstances).

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