U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was put on notice by impassioned American Federation of Teachers delegates Sunday who issued him a “Secretary Improvement Plan” and roared their anger over his “anti-teacher” policies and missteps.
NYSUT supported the call for a “Secretary Improvement Plan” detailed in a biting resolution that made ironic reference to Duncan’s much-reviled support of a court decision gutting teachers’ due process rights in California. The resolution catalogs Duncan’s failings and then declares: “If he does not improve, given that he has been treated fairly and with due process rights, the secretary of education MUST resign!”
NYSUT earlier this month backed a resolution at the NEA convention calling for Duncan’s removal.
Delegates have thronged the eight mics on the huge convention floor in Los Angeles with impassioned debates on testing, Common Core standards and New York state’s new certification test, the edTPA.
NYSUT supported a shift from the failed system of corporate-backed “test and punish” accountability to one designed to “support and improve." In a resolution that follows on the heels of NYSUT’s success at securing a two-year safety net defending New York state teachers from punitive consequences of Common Core, AFT delegates supported extending such moratoriums until “all the essential elements of a comprehensive, equitable, standards-based system, including the technological infrastructure, are in place.” (NYSUT had earlier successfully advocated for a student safety net that was contained in the state budget.)
NYSUT President Karen Magee, who spoke on the floor during the standards debate, said in an interview: “The resolution is in sync with NYSUT’s stance against excessive testing and directs AFT to support state unions in our respective battles over Common Core. NYSUT was out front on Common Core with our no-confidence vote on Commissioner King. We are opposed to Common Core as implemented in NYS and we are continuing to press our clear position that the system is broken and must be fixed.”
Magee added: “Standards and tests must be developmentally appropriate; subject to local control; and uncoupled from high stakes tests.” The safety net achieved in New York state was an important step forward but “it’s just the beginning,” said Magee. UFT President Michael Mulgrew also spoke, noting that corporations profit from the test explosion: “They took our standards away from us and we are going to take them back! WE are the teachers!”