ALBANY, N.Y. August 24, 2010 - New York State United Teachers today welcomed New York's selection as a Race to the Top winner, saying the U.S. Department of Education recognized the involvement of NYSUT as a key stakeholder in a state application that focused on real reform.
NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said the 600,000-member union has taken on a major role in defining excellence in education -- from ensuring continuing professional development for practitioners, to adding necessary reforms to the charter school law as a condition to lifting the cap, and helping to develop a new law that makes teacher evaluations more transparent, objective and meaningful.
"Today's announcement is clear recognition that teachers unions and other key stakeholders came together in New York to enhance learning opportunities for all students," Iannuzzi said. "Teachers and their union used their 'seat at the table' to help achieve real reforms that will help ensure a quality teacher at the front of every classroom. NYSUT's leadership on evaluations and professional development are two critical elements in our longstanding commitment to ending the achievement gap and promoting principles for excellence from pre-kindergarten through higher education."
Iannuzzi said New York's agreement to change the way teachers are evaluated undoubtedly played a major role in New York winning a Race to the Top grant.
"Working with the State Education Department, we advanced the principle that teacher evaluations must be fair and objective, and that while student test scores can play a role in evaluations, they should never be the sole factor. Clearly, the process set up by Secretary Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education recognized the wisdom of that approach, and the importance of having an evaluation system that advances effective teaching by requiring evaluations to focus on growth for all teachers," Iannuzzi said.
Iannuzzi noted that NYSUT, through grants funded by its national affiliates, the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, had been working long before Race to the Top on strategies to improve the teacher evaluation process and ensure that only the most effective teachers are in front of the state's classrooms.
NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira said, however, that the Race to the Top grant - which will be used to implement education reforms - will not, by itself, raise achievement. "An evaluation system that is good for students and fair to teachers is just one piece of the puzzle," she said. "In order to end the achievement gap and further improve public education, we need to press forward our efforts to ensure the small class sizes, strong curriculum, new assessments, quality professional development, fair funding and other supports that students and schools need."
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents some 600,000 classroom teachers and other school employees; faculty and other professionals at the state's community colleges, State University of New York and City University of New York, and other education and health professionals. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.