February 08, 2015

NYS Teachers of the Year to Gov. Cuomo: 'We are not the enemy'

Author: NYS Teachers of the Year
Source: Times Union
Seven state-honored teachers protest the governor's educational leadership and test-and-punish agenda

UPDATE: The article has been reprinted at the Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog.

Today's Times Union includes a thoughtful open letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo from seven New York State Teachers of the Year: Ashli Dreher (2014, Buffalo); Katie Ferguson (2012, Schenectady); Jeff Peneston (2011, Syracuse); Rich Ognibene (2008, Rochester); Marguerite Izzo (2007, Malverne); Steve Bongiovi (2006, Seaford); and Liz Day (2005, Mechanicville).

An excerpt:

Dear Governor Cuomo: We are teachers. We have given our hearts and souls to this noble profession. We have pursued intellectual rigor. We have fed students who were hungry. We have celebrated at student weddings and wept at student funerals. Education is our life. For this, you have made us the enemy. This is personal.

Under your leadership, schools have endured the Gap Elimination Adjustment and the tax cap, which have caused layoffs and draconian budget cuts across the state. Classes are larger and support services are fewer, particularly for our neediest students.

They go on to write about how the governor's obsession with testing has created a test-and-punish climate in public schools, as the "difficult rollout of the Common Core Standards" and its "flawed tests [reinforce] the false narrative that all public schools — and therefore all teachers — are in drastic need of reform." 

"In our many years of teaching, we've never found that denigrating others is a useful strategy for improvement," say the Teachers of the Year.

They conclude their letter by extending an invitation for the governor to visit their classrooms, as thousands of teachers are doing across New York state, some via postcards, others via Twitter using the #InviteCuomo hashtag.

Much is right in public education today. We invite you to visit our classrooms and see for yourself. Most teachers, administrators and school board members are doing quality work. Our students and alumni have accomplished great things. Let's stop the narrative of systemic failure.

Instead, let's talk about ways to help the kids who are struggling. Let's talk about addressing the concentration of poverty in our cities. Let's talk about creating a culture of family so that our weakest students feel emotionally connected to their schools. Let's talk about fostering collaboration between teachers, administrators and elected officials. It is by working together, not competing for test scores, that we will advance our cause.

None of these suggestions are easily measured with a No. 2 pencil, but they would work. On behalf of teachers across the state, we say these are our kids, we love them, and this is personal. 

The complete letter is available online at the Times Union website. (Subscription may be required.)

Additionally: be sure to check out 2012 Teacher of the Year Katie Ferguson's video appeal to the governor, which was launched on YouTube during the State of the State address in January.


Learn more and take action at www.nysut.org/allkidsneed.

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