Governor Cuomo has recently posted on his Twitter feed that, "Albany has been too concerned with protecting the pension rights of teachers and not enough with the future of students." Does he expect teachers to teach for free? Finding good teachers requires paying them a reasonable amount of money. Right now starting Ken-Ton teachers barely make enough money to live on, and yet Cuomo speaks out against modest teacher pensions. Our own Ken-Ton school district recently said that college student enrollment in teacher education programs is at a low. The unhealthy culture that has recently taken over our schools is deterring new teachers from entering the profession and it is pushing seasoned teachers out the door. If teacher pensions are cut then our students will suffer greatly as quality teachers will no longer pursue the career.
Last spring, Cuomo proposed a bill that would have protected teachers from faulty teacher evaluations. But, now that he has been reelected, he decided to veto his own bill. So, that was a lie too. He and Regents Chancellor, Merryl Tisch, have agreed that the teacher evaluation system needs to be revised to include 40% of the evaluation based on state test results rather than the current 20%. This revision would destroy the classroom experience for our children. Teachers who previously received good evaluation scores could now be rated ineffective simply because flawed state test scores would be increased to 40% of their evaluation. The details are explained clearly in this Washington Post article. This would crush our students as teachers would be forced to teach to the test more than ever. And teachers could lose their jobs because of testing factors that are completely out of their control. This needs to stop.
What can teachers do to protect themselves and our students? This single most powerful instrument that teachers have available to them to fight this oppression is the testing opt-out movement. When the opt-out movement reaches 10% of students refusing grade 3-8 tests, the data then becomes statistically insignificant for the purposes of evaluating teachers. Parent groups are aiming for 20% of all NYS students to refuse these tests so that we can ensure that these flawed practices are stopped. Teachers must be careful not to discuss opting-out of state tests during the work day, but outside of the work day teachers are free, as private citizens, to educate others about the importance of opting-out of state tests. NYSUT has been quoted as saying, "NYSUT strongly supports a parent's right to "opt out" of state standardized tests if the parent believes state testing is inappropriate and may be harmful to his or her child. We will vigorously defend any NYSUT members who are subject to any negative employment considerations for choosing to opt out their own child or who advocate, to the extent permitted by law, for others who opt out of state standardized tests."
Please join thousands of teachers across the state in helping to educate others about the importance of opting-out of state tests to protect our students and teachers.
Eric Mihelbergel is an individual advocate. He is not officially affiliated with the Ken-Ton School District, Kenmore Teachers Association, or any other Ken-Ton entity, association or group.