Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Letter to Assembly

Dear Assembly Member,
I am writing to express my deep and horrified reaction to the news that the budget and education reforms have again been linked.  The reforms that Cuomo wants to make to education will devastate our public schools, remove local control, and double down on testing for our kids.  Creating an evaluation plan for teachers where, regardless of percentages or not, test scores trump everything in determining whether a teacher can keep their job – well that’s just wrong and sure to incite mass chaos in a system that is already enduring years of defunding and destabilization because of our governor.  There are sure to be class action lawsuits from teachers who lose their jobs based on faulty tests that are WRITTEN ABOVE GRADE LEVEL, have “EQUALLY PLAUSIBLE” answer choices, and are developmentally inappropriate; and VAM that has been criticized widely by professionals, statisticians, and the public. 

Experience has shown us that ONE-THIRD of teachers vacillate from one effectiveness rating to another based on the VAM model and test scores.  How can the SAME TEACHER be highly effective one year and ineffective the next?  It is ludicrous.  And who will want to go into teaching in our state?  Enrollment at teacher prep colleges is already down 20-50% in NY!  We need quality professionals to teach our children.  Those harmed the most will be our teachers of children with identified disabilities, who show growth in a myriad of important ways, but not on a test.

If the goal is TRULY to better teaching and student performance, and NOT TO APPEASE THE HEDGE FUND CHARTER ENTHUSIASTS, then this is a horrible plan because it will cause teachers to focus even more on the test preparation that is destroying the education of this generation.  Parents have spoken out loudly and clearly, with mass gatherings and forums across the state.  Have you heard them?  Or do you choose to disregard what is best for our children for the sake of political expediency?  Do we really have to have civil disobedience with test refusals because our legislators refuse to listen to what the public demands?

Cuomo is so out of touch intellectually that he seems to not realize he is rushing headlong in the opposite direction of trends nationwide.  In Washington DC (where this whole debacle occurred years ago with Michelle Rhee) they dropped the weight of test scores from 50% to 35%.  Maybe that's because they lost 83% of their work force when they instituted an evaluation system similar to what Cuomo advocates.  Wisconsin has also given teachers more discretion in how student performance factors into their evaluations.  NJ has gone down to 10% weighted on the tests.   TN has also backed down from a reliance on VAM.

If I sound angry, I am.  If this assembly says yes to Cuomo’s backwards plan that will not only decimate our teaching force, but also make us look like fools to the rest of the nation, I will make it my mission to actively campaign and fundraise to prevent re-election for anyone who votes for this budget/plan.  And I am a woman who, unlike many politicians, keeps my word.

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