ALBANY, N.Y. Oct. 25, 2013 — New York State United Teachers and the Alliance for Quality Education said today that they have decided to take a "wait and see" approach to holding their own forums while closely monitoring parent/teacher access at the rescheduled forums being held by State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr.
"The commissioner's forums are an appropriate place for parents and teachers to voice their concerns about the state's obsession with testing," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "However, if the commissioner cancels again, or if his forums are anything but an opportunity for parents and teachers to directly address the commissioner with their concerns, we will immediately step in and fill the void."
NYSUT and AQE had announced plans to hold forums of their own to fill the void after King abruptly cancelled community meetings in the wake of an Oct. 10 event in Spackenkill. Within 24 hours of the NYSUT/AQE announcement, the commissioner reversed course and reinstated public sessions that will be moderated by state legislators. In light of that, and at the request of several legislators, NYSUT and AQE are putting their own forums on hold.
Iannuzzi said it's essential for parents and teachers to be able to directly address the commissioner about the impact on students from the state's over-reliance on standardized testing, the rocky rollout of the Common Core Learning Standards and the need for New York State to make mid-course corrections.
"Parents and teachers are frustrated at the rushed implementation of Common Core and the state's focus on assessments rather than learning. It's important for the commissioner to listen to the unfiltered voices of concerned parents and educators and to make the necessary course corrections. We will continue to hold him accountable for doing so," Iannuzzi said.
Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, said, "We set these forums up so that parents' and educators' voices would not be silenced; but now that Commissioner King has decided to reschedule his hearings, we think people should attend his hearings and share their concerns directly with the commissioner." He added, "Hopefully, he will listen and take action to roll back the hyper-focus on testing. We will keep our options open and assess whether parents and educators are met with attentiveness, respect and a willingness to find remedies to their real and legitimate concerns."
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.
AQE is a statewide coalition that unites parents, students, community organizations and educators around an agenda of expanding educational equity and opportunity so that all students have access to high quality schools.