In a fiery call to action, NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira repeatedly brought delegates to their feet, sayling it's time for us to take our frustration and anger to the streets.
"SED insists they hear what we are saying ... but it's clear to all of us they are not listening," Neira said, to much applause. "They have turned a deaf ear and rushed implementation of the new Common Core tests even though they are fully aware of the uneven rollout of the Common Core standards throughout the state ... All educators know you don't test students on material that hasn't been taught!"
Neira told delegates the testing obsession is just the tip of the iceberg.
"The inconvenient truth is this rush to testing isn't about students. It isn't about instruction. It isn't even about professional growth," she said. "It's about testing becoming big business! It's about silencing our professional voice and the privatization of public education."
Neira thanked the thousands of members who have attended regional "Tell It Like It Is" forums and written compelling personal letters to the commissioner and the Board of Regents using NYSUT's online letter campaign. She noted she's read thousands of those 10,000 powerful emails and it's those personal stories that keep her up at night.
"I hear you and I am listening," Neira said. "I listen to Robin, who said by the 35th day of school, she had given 40 tests to first-graders ... I listen to David, who said quality student portfolios that were meaningful have been replaced by the state's testing obsession ... I listen to Adam, who said it took the tears of one child for him to realize that he is the last line of defense between his students and the state."
NYSUT's campaign is spreading its wings, with parents and community members signing the union's online petition at the rate of several hundred per day, Neira said.
"Let me be clear. We are not calling for an end to accountability," Neira said. "We are calling for common sense and fairness. We know learning is more than a test score and teacher effectiveness is much more than a composite score."
She said NYSUT will continue to make the case that this year's Common Core tests must not be used for high-stakes decisions involving students and teachers. And she said it's time for unionists to take their frustrations to the streets.
"We've told it like it is, now let us teach ... Let us do our jobs!" she said. The crowd chanted back: "Let Us Teach, Let Us Teach."
"Will I see you in Albany on June 8th?" she asked. "We'll be there!" delegates chanted. "We'll be there!"