Monday, March 30, 2015

Sad Day for Schools in NY

Today was a very sad day for public schools in NY.  The legislature went along with most of what Governor Cuomo advocated as his "education reforms," really his thinly disguised plan to "break public schools" and fire teachers.

Most of us who care about our schools, our teachers, and our students are grieving today. We are having a hard time understanding how legislators could ignore the public outpouring of thousands of people marching and chanting against these reforms.  We are having a hard time understanding how money can buy a government, how corruption can win over democracy.  We will continue to fight.  I posted the following email, which was sent to my State legislators, Senator George Amedore and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, today. It received a lot of attention in some of the facebook groups in which it was posted, so I am including it here in my blog.  Feel free to share, use or adapt however it suits you.  If I sound angry, I am.  But we can't get so angry that we stop working.  Keep fighting.  We have no other choice.

"I am asking as your constituent that you vote no on the proposed budget that is coupled with Cuomo's education 'reforms,' that will surely destroy public education in our state. Local control of our schools is NOT for sale and we expect you, as our representatives, to make sure of that.
A supermajority of NY voters have rejected Cuomo's plan for our schools. The deal that has been announced this morning, is simply unacceptable. Tying teacher evaluations to tests, instead of meaningful assessment and feedback, will lead to the firing of quality teachers. A plan to fire them after two years of unsatisfactory test ratings, based on an INVALID TEST and VAM that has been thoroughly debunked and called 'junk science,' by professional statisticians, education researchers, and professionals is nothing short of 'CRAZY.' Cuomo's disdain for teachers is palpable and his tirade makes no sense unless he wants the destruction of our public schools, firing of all union teachers, and replacement by nonunion lower quality workers. As a retired teacher, and a grandparent, I will not stand for this and thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers agree with me.
Those teachers most at risk are the ones we need the most. Special education teachers selflessly give to our neediest students. Because these students are often tested at grade level (regardless of their intellectual age) these teachers will never show progress on test evaluations. Their students show progress in a thousand different ways, but these ways are not going to show on a grade-level test. Also at risk, teachers of English Language Learners. Only 3% of these students show proficiency on the test because - duh - they do not speak the language yet. And gifted teachers or teachers of highly able students in excellent districts that have won national awards - these students often max out the tests and so do not show growth. Teachers in high-poverty communities, where psychological and social problems abound - these students are not going to show growth unless they have the resources of well-funded, well-staffed community schools where they receive social services as well as instruction.
A plan for 'drive-by' evaluators who do not understand the community in which a teacher works, and are at the control of our New York State gestapo-like State Ed Department which is filled with right-wing privatizers, is not acceptable. Your vote for this is not acceptable. My tax dollars being spent on evaluators who will demolish our teaching force is not acceptable.
If I sound outraged, it's because I am. Outraged and just plain flabbergasted that an unethical, corrupt, bully of a politician who has allowed hedge fund billionaires to buy his platform - that he can get his way with our own elected representatives is maddening. I am outraged that you have not stood up against this in a louder way, and so I am asking you to Vote No! on the budget with these "reforms." A good budget that is late is a million times better than a bad budget on time.
I have phoned to request a meeting with your office and I hope to hear from your scheduler in the near future."

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