February 2014 - Testing/Assessments and Learning Standards
February 06, 2014

NYSUT Board takes unprecedented vote against failed SED policies

Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
Brighton Teachers Association member Joan Gears speaks out at a community forum last fall about the problems with SED’s Common Core implementation. Photo by Steve Jacobs.
Caption: Brighton Teachers Association member Joan Gears speaks out at a community forum last fall about the problems with SED's Common Core implementation. Photo by Steve Jacobs.

In a move attracting national attention, the NYSUT Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution declaring "no confidence" in the policies of State Education Commissioner John King Jr. and calling for his removal by the Board of Regents.

The resolution withdraws the union's support for the Common Core standards as implemented and interpreted in New York state until the State Education Department agrees to major course corrections, including a three-year moratorium on high-stakes consequences from standardized testing.

The unprecedented vote was taken in response to mounting frustration over SED's failed implementation of Common Core and its failure to fix the problems. For more than two years, NYSUT sounded the alarm against the widespread problems and escalated actions to press SED to right what they did wrong.

The resolution now goes to delegates at NYSUT's Representative Assembly in April.

"The commissioner has pursued policies that repeatedly ignore the voices of parents and educators who have identified problems," said NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi. "Instead of making the major course corrections that are clearly needed, he has labeled everyone and every meaningful recommendation as distractions."

NYSUT is the first union in the country to take bold action that makes it clear Common Core implementation isn't working, Iannuzzi said. The historic move was reported statewide, and in national media including U.S. News and World Report, MSNBC and National Public Radio. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and National Education Association President Dennis VanRoekel issued statements of support.

NYSUT's resolution outlined the course corrections that are needed:

• completion of all modules, or lessons, aligned with the Common Core, and time for educators to review them to ensure they are grade-level appropriate and aligned with classroom practice;

• better engagement with parents, including listening to their concerns about their children's needs;

• more professional development and resources for teachers to address the needs of diverse learners, including students with disabilities and English language learners;

• full transparency in state testing, including the release of all test questions, so teachers can use them in improving instruction;

• postponement of Common Core Regents exams as a graduation requirement;

• the funding necessary to ensure all students have an equal opportunity to achieve the Common Core standards; and

• a moratorium, or delay, in the high-stakes consequences for students and teachers from standardized testing to give SED — and school districts — more time to correctly implement the Common Core.

In response to the union's big push and public outcry, state elected officials have recently turned up the heat on SED. Lawmakers warned King during tense ‘hearings that if he and the Regents don't take action, the Legislature will.

In his budget address, Gov. Cuomo said, "The way the Common Core has been managed by the Board of Regents is flawed ... There's too much uncertainty, confusion and anxiety." He announced a special advisory panel to recommend corrective action, but NYSUT maintains the urgency for action — and a moratorium — is now.

"The clock is ticking and time is running out," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira, noting students sit for a new battery of state assessments in just a few months. "It's time to hit the ‘pause button' on high stakes while, at the same time, increasing support for students, parents and educators."

The resolution also underscores NYSUT's longstanding opposition to corporate influence in public education and calls for an end to New York's participation in InBloom, a "cloud-based" system that would collect and store sensitive data on New York's schoolchildren.

In a terse statement issued after the NYSUT vote, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and King said the Regents Board will discuss possible "adjustments" to Common Core implementation at their Feb. 10-11 meeting.

"Their response continues to show how oblivious they are to the public's voice," Neira said.

UNION ACTION

The NYSUT Board's unanimous no-confidence vote culminates from a series of actions the union has taken since 2011 to sound the warning bells about the state's rushed implementation of the Common Core standards. Actions include:

• The "Tell it like it is" campaign that featured statewide union forums and resulted in the delivery of thousands of emails to the State Education Department and Board of Regents detailing the stress of overtesting.

• Continued advocacy with parents about ending the state's obsession with testing and calling for a three-year moratorium on high-stakes consequences attached to state tests.

• A NYSUT report that shows 69 percent of school districts would receive less aid than they did five years ago — further proving that a moratorium is needed to give districts adequate resources.

• Adoption of NYSUT's resolution on testing by dozens of school boards statewide.

• A statewide rally last June in Albany attended by tens of thousands of parents, students and educators. A December Day of Action had thousands wearing blue.

• Concerted efforts, including letters and one-on-one meetings with Regents, to hold them accountable.