Friday, July 20, 2012

An Open Letter to Richard Ianuzzi and NYSUT members at large

We are writing with frustration, anger and disgust about the current lack of leadership at NYSUT. Union leaders have not acted in the best interest of the public school teachers they are charged with representing. They have allowed both teachers and students to be pawns in what will be a disastrous experiment with public education. The ramifications of implementing Race to the Top were never fully researched before NYSUT agreed to pursue the funds. The strictures of RTTT, Common Core and APPR are detrimental to public school teachers and students. 
ED NOTE: I interrupt this letter to say "Yay" to the CToCC (Concerned Teachers of Chautauqua County) who have called out our union leaders for supporting chasing after the Trojan horse funding of Race to the Top. Please consider signing this letter and passing it on. 

UPDATE: Here is the link for the facebook page for the Chautauqua County folks.  They have revised their statement a little, so if you forward this info, pls go to their facebook page first. 


We are a small but committed group of active, pro-union teachers. We believe that a strong teacher’s union is beneficial to its members as well as to students. NYSUT has a proud history of hard fought gains for public educators and public education. We feel very strongly about current trends in public education and feel compelled to share some of our concerns.

We are writing with frustration about the direction of NYSUT. We feel that our union has not acted in the best interest of the public school teachers they are charged with representing. Both teachers and students have become pawns in what will be a disastrous experiment with public education. We feel the ramifications of implementing Race to the Top were never fully researched before NYSUT agreed to pursue the funds. The strictures of RTTT, Common Core and APPR are detrimental to public school teachers and students. 

To be clear; we are not against, nor afraid of, being evaluated. Teachers are under constant scrutiny by parents, students, administrators, and the public at large. We are and always have been evaluated professionally by a state approved APPR. The state mandated an updated APPR document approximately eight years ago. We are also not against all standardized testing per se. Testing has its place if used appropriately and fairly. 

By agreeing to the burdensome and patently unfair teacher evaluation that is tied to RTTT we feel abandoned by NYSUT. Recent legislation allowing people to view teacher evaluations should hardly be considered a “victory”. Research has shown how excellent teachers can be rated ineffective or developing, depending on students’ scores on exams. These tests are not designed to evaluate teacher effectiveness. How can we, as professionals, think that a test that is as flawed as the 2012 eighth grade ELA exam can accurately assess ELA proficiency? Student testing and value added "rating” systems could never accurately evaluate the relationship between students and teachers. It cannot assess the "art" of teaching. What it will do is create tension, fear, uncertainty and a divide between teachers, students and administrators. Critical thinking, inquiry and discovery will be lost from teaching as schools become factories for test taking.

At a time in which the state is decreasing aid to schools, school districts are being forced to eliminate courses and programs and shift precious dollars into implementing Race to the Top requirements. RTTT has become a boondoggle, costing districts much more money to comply with than they received from the program in the first place. The paperwork, creation of SLOs, printing costs for scoring materials, the inability of teachers to proctor and score their own students' exams, and forcing schools to buy more tests from third party vendors are all nightmares of scheduling and budgeting. This is one more example of the shifting of public money into private coffers. Companies like Pearson, with NYSUT's approval, will make hundreds of millions of dollars selling tests and other "educational" materials aimed at "improving" education, while local school budgets get tighter and tighter. Corporations selling products are more interested in making money than in the well being of children.

We wish NYSUT hadn’t waited so long to take a public stand against the overuse of standardized testing. It should have had the foresight to see what was coming. NYSUT should have been out in front of these issues from the get go, loudly and proudly proclaiming that the teachers it represents deserve better than demoralizing directives from the Commissioner and denigrating comments about how teachers must work harder from the Governor. NYSUT's primary job should be to protect teachers from unfair and intrusive practices, not to go along with false reforms that victimize teachers and harm students.

The following is a list of issues that we would like NYSUT to address:

1. Publicly denounce not being included in the governor’s Education Reform Commission.
2. Advocate for a return to the federal government of all RTTT funds so that we can be free of its mandates.
3. Publicly endorse and support the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.
4. Demand an immediate end to high stakes testing and the VAM of teacher evaluation.
5. Endorse the Principal’s Letter circulated by Carol Burris and Sean Feeney.

The changes and pressures that New York State public educators have had to confront this past school year are just the beginning of what we fear is a vast sea change that will forever hurt public education. In these trying times, all union members need to have the courage and the will, whatever it takes, not to concede, not to cave to whatever is politically expedient, but to do right by teachers, and by extension the children in their care.

Concerned Teachers of Chautauqua County
Kara Christina-Fredonia Middle School
Amy Lauer-Fredonia Middle School
Michelle Greenough- Fredonia Middle School
Cathy Casini-Steger- Fredonia Middle School
The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.


  1. Wasn't it a case of NYSUT actually seeing what was coming and negotiating the best "deal" possible? ...A case of not if a new APPR is coming, but when? If I recall, the so called win was test scores not being tied to pay. This made it harder to lobby against. I believe that politicians in NYS also feel that the Teachers Union has less clout due to a large portion of the membership not exercising their right to vote. How many members are not even registered? This factor does come into play. It is easy now to say that the wrong path was taken. Where would we have been if NYSUT would have taken a different path? Better off? Or, with no seat at any table in which decisions are made that affect us as teachers. In any case, it is good to see teachers becoming actively involved. The union does belong to its members. Perhaps the Concerned Teachers of Chautauqua County will begin the process of seeking support for a resolution to be presented at the 2013 NYSUT RA? However, it will be important to remember the history of how we made it to where we are now in regards to APPR.

  2. Appeasement only delays. In the long run it makes things worse because it gets people but by bit used to the slow drip of death. Even if you lose by making a stand at least the membership feels there is a fight going on they can be part of. Over the long run getting people in fighting shape instead of walking backwards has a better chance of victory.

  3. The governor, department of ed. and legislature were going to do what they were going to do regardless of whether they had NYSUT's support, which is EXACTLY why NYSUT should have opposed these reforms in the first place. NYSUT had the law on their side concerning the APPR, but gave up the lawsuit about the % of test scores on teacher evals. This is so frustrating because if you teach ELA or Math in grades 3-8, the test scores trump all. It doesn't matter what score you get from your administrator, the test scores determine your score. The bottom line is that the" crisis" in education was manufactured by anti-union entities who want to take public money out of education and shift it to the private sector. Are there schools in crisis? Yes, but the problems they face are societal, cultural and poverty based. The vast majority of public schools and public school teachers work harder than ever before in the history of public education to meet the needs, and they are many, of the children in their classrooms. What is so confounding and frustrating is that teachers have been completely left out of the dialogue about what public schools need and we feel that NYSUT hasn't helped teachers' voices to be heard. That's why we wrote the letter. Please check out the revised version of this letter at the CToCC Facebook page.

  4. Why on earth would you want to sign off on the Burris-Feeney letter that asks that school test scores be used to evaluate teachers instead of individual teacher test scores? It's almost as bad.

  5. Every teacher I talk to feels NYSUT, Governor Cuomo and President Obama have all abandoned us. Teachers' opinions were never considered, from the beginning; the very people "in the trenches" and who know children and how they learn best, were never consulted regarding "improvements to our education system." Instead, business consultants ran the show.
    What no one talks about is the AGENDA behind RTTT. Vilify experienced teachers so they will leave the profession. Administrative assertion of power to keep power (watch how many "political" appointments are made when teaching jobs begin opening up due to retirements. "It's who you know" rather than what you know.) "Level the playing field" so valuable teaching experience doesn't count in the evaluative process. Hard working, effective teachers are constantly in fear of being judged harshly by their school administrators. The worst part of all is how detrimental this is for our children; they are the victims of leadership's misuse and abuse of power.


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