Capital Region teachers vividly described how the state's obsession with standardized testing and the poor implementation of teacher evaluations in some districts are putting them in a frustrating and "conflicted" place.
Niskayuna teacher Annette Romano explained how, during the first week of school, kindergartners were subjected to computerized tests that were not even designed to measure student growth, but will be used for exactly that purpose.
"In our effort to become more standardized in assessing teachers across the state, we are implementing some very unreliable practices which are detrimental to our students, teachers and schools," Romano said.
"There's a real fear that we're being set up," said Amsterdam's Stacey Caruso-Sharpe, a member of NYSUT's Board of Directors who noted the state is moving forward with common core-based tests this spring before teachers have had the time or the curriculum to include common core in their instruction.
Romano and Caruso-Sharpe were among dozens of educators who braved the messy wintry weather Wednesday night to share their concerns about the state's messy implementation of teacher evaluation and the shift to Common Core Learning Standards. The NYSUT Listening Tour "town hall" was the second in a series of statewide events to give local union members a chance to speak directly with NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi and Vice President Maria Neira.
"We know teachers are conflicted - conflicted is a polite way to put it," Iannuzzi said. "You come into a profession you love and you're asked to perform tasks you know are, at best, meaningless and, at worst, harmful... It's wrong what they're asking you to do."
Iannuzzi said the state's poor implementation is undermining what could be a positive framework for teacher evaluation and the shift to common core learning. He added that NYSUT, with grassroots support from members, will continue to press the State Education Department to slow down and get it right.
Neira urged members to join NYSUT's "Tell It Like It Is" letter-writing campaign, where more than 9,000 members have used an online vehicle on NYSUT's website to send messages to State Education Commissioner John King and the Board of Regents.
"We're sending 100 letters a day, Monday through Friday," Neira said. "That is very powerful."
Neira said the content of the letters is in sync with what members have been saying on the first two stops of NYSUT's Listening Tour. Educators are calling for more flexibility, alternate assessments and fewer standardized tests.
"It is our hope and desire that, with more time, we will be able to do more with locally designed assessments," Neira said. For this year, Neira said, NYSUT is pressing for SED to use common core testing as a benchmark to gauge implementation progress - not as a high-stakes test for students or teachers.
Future "Tell it Like it Is" forums will be held in March in Suffolk County, Westchester County and the North Country. More will be scheduled later in the spring. For information, NYSUT members should contact the union regional office in their area.