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.