March 2, 2009
An important story slipped by our watch late last week: Governor Paterson waded into the debate on how to evaluate teachers. In an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, Paterson said that efforts to judge teachers based on their student test scores concern him:
“How would you assess a teacher who could go into a very difficult school and does a good job bringing a class up to, say, state average on standardized tests and then a teacher that’s a little lazy in an affluent community, where all the other teachers are doing well, [and] benefits from the location?”
Beth Fertig, WNYC’s education reporter, points out that Paterson’s remarks come in the context of a heated debate between teachers unions and those who advocate for test-based accountability, including the Bloomberg administration and, now, some in the federal government. While the local union partnered with the mayor on a merit-based pay initiative for teachers, it has quarreled with him on efforts to measure individual teachers.
Exactly where Paterson stands on education issues has been a subject of debate since he took office. Though his father is a close adviser to Randi Weingarten, the union president, Paterson himself has become a vocal supporter of school choice. With the governor taking few steps to get involved in education policy, the mystery has been a kind of moot point so far. There’s also the small problem of how long Paterson will hold onto his seat. But even if this term becomes his last, Paterson will be an important player in the mayoral control debate this year. The fate of the 2002 law lies in the hands of already-vocal legislators — but just as much in the hands of Paterson.