Perhaps it's time for a little "civil disobedience."
That's what Regent Harry Phillips said after meeting at a local diner with about a dozen Hudson Valley parents, educators and union leaders earlier this week.
"We gave him very practical examples of what's going on in classrooms, like what kind of testing third-graders are experiencing," said Karen Magee, president of Harrison Association of Teachers. "He did a lot of listening and was extremely receptive to our concerns. I think we painted a very clear picture."
As educators explained the current testing regimen for students with disabilities and English language learners, Phillips said the testing without appropriate accommodations was "cruel" and calls for "civil disobedience" to resolve.
The group met with Phillips for almost an hour and a half, urging the longtime Regent to support NYSUT's call for a three-year moratorium on high-stakes consequences linked to state standardized testing.
Janine Gibney, a middle-school English teacher and Yorktown Congress of Teachers officer, and Carla McLaud, a high school math teacher and president of the Pine Bush Teachers Association, chaired the meeting.
The meeting with Phillips was one of many ways activists are reaching out directly to the 17-member Board of Regents this month as part of today's National Day of Action. Aside from face-to-face meetings, thousands of activists are signing an online action letter to the Board of Regents and State Education Commissioner John King, calling on them to stop their obsession with standardized testing and commit to a series of New Year's resolutions that will help us reclaim the promise of education.
In the first two days of its posting last week, more than 3,500 activists signed the online letter calling for the Regents to commit to these resolutions for 2014 and take action to:
- implement high standards the right way;
- ask the Legislature and governor to increase funding for public schools and colleges, and help all students succeed;
- push for a three-year moratorium on high-stakes consequences linked to state standardized tests;
- emphasize teaching and learning, not testing and consequences; and
- listen to the real education stakeholders: parents, educators, students and community members.
NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira said it's important for educators to know who their Regents are and how they make policy - just as they would monitor the actions of their local school board. The most recent issue of NYSUT United featured a story on how the Regents are selected and how NYSUT members can take several steps to hold Regents accountable.
Check out the interactive map to find the Regent who represents your region.
7 Action Steps You Can Take
NYSUT members can take several steps to hold Regents accountable:
- Sign the letter at www.nysut.org/dayofactionletter.
- Watch what they do. Regents meet monthly in Albany. Video of the proceedings is streamed from the State Education Department's website - www.regents.nysed.gov - where you'll find the meeting schedule, agenda and videos from past meetings.
- Find the Regent who represents your area by going to the interactive map at www.regents.nysed.gov/members/findrep.html.
- Contact your Regent via email or phone from information listed on www.regents.nysed.gov.
- Invite your Regent for a classroom visit to show first-hand what you do and the impact their decisions have on your students.
- Ask your local leader to invite your Regent to your next membership meeting.
- Keep your legislators updated about the decisions Regents make that affect your school.