NYSUT United is expanding coverage of members' voices. The following are excerpted from opinions offered online.
If you've followed the conversation about New York's education reform agenda in the past year, you've likely tired of the Johnny one-note defense coming out of the commissioner's office.
A Cliffs Notes version:
- Our kids are falling behind our international competitors. (Actually there is good reason to call his data into question, namely whether other countries assess the same groups of kids as the U.S. and whether those scores even matter.)
- Kids enter college unprepared and have to take too many remedial classes. (This point is based on data from CUNY and SUNY. The data for most four year institutions does not suggest the same crisis in college readiness.)
- Change is hard. (No one deals with more change in their jobs than teachers who see an entire new crop of kids and parents every year.)
- The state tests aren't the problem, we've actually shortened them. (This point completely ignores the impact that the teacher evaluation system is having on kids.)
- We all agreed to this. (Not really; rank-and-file teachers were involved in neither the move toward the Common Core nor the teacher evaluation plan to the same extent they had previously been engaged.)
- We must aim for higher standards. (No one is fighting for lower standards.)
- Politics and rhetoric are causing unnecessary drama. (The drama is being caused by the failures at SED.)
There are still a number of questions that have gone unanswered:
- Why can't teachers see the tests?
- Why can't teachers score their own students' performance assessments? (SED has created a multimillion dollar division of test security and integrity to address a problem that statistically doesn't exist.)
Every time we hear these tired talking points, we should be reminded that [SED] is more focused on public relations than our kids.
Greg McCrea | Westhill District Education Association
New York state used to cover 75 percent of a state public higher education and students and families were asked to provide 25 percent. It has completely reversed. ... In a perfect world higher education would be affordable for everybody and accessible for everybody. I would hate to see higher education become less and less accessible. ... We are aware that more and more of higher education is being taught by contingent and part-time faculty. These are excellent, excellent educators. They work for very low wages and it is unfair to them and to the students because they often have to work multiple jobs in order to make a living and they don't have as much time, I would say, for the students.
We would argue that we should have a mechanism for many of those part-timers to become full-timers so they can participate fully in the life of the university. It is a budgetary tactic to hire cheap labor and that is what has evolved in higher education.
Eileen Landy | United University Professions
Shortly after a verdict in the Vergara v. California case was handed down, stripping the state's teachers of their tenure protections, I received a flurry of text messages from colleagues asking me whether this could happen in New York state. My answer to them was YES. ... Groups that are financially backed by billionaires typically get whatever they want in the U.S. when there is little or no resistance.
While the movement in our state against the Common Core and high-stakes testing has been impressive, it didn't really gain any traction until parents got behind it.
If New York teachers are going to beat back the coming attacks on tenure rights that not only protect our jobs, but allow us to advocate for our students, we are going to have to be willing to become activists. ... We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while our profession is ransacked by billionaire fat cats who seek to make a dollar on the backs of our students and make the profession of teaching synonymous with that of a Wal-Mart associate.
We will need to raise our voice to a collective roar. The last stand of teaching as we know it may very well be coming. Don't sit back and wait for NYSUT, the AFT or the NEA to save you. The time has come to take back your profession.
Beth Dimino | Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association
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