ALBANY, N.Y. June 20, 2017 — New York State United Teachers today put the State Education Department on notice that a new attempt to gag teachers by prohibiting them from discussing questions on this June’s Regents exams is an affront to teachers’ professionalism and an unacceptable backslide toward secrecy in the state’s testing program.
NYSUT said this new attempt to gag teachers from discussing test questions also violates the spirit of a December 2016 settlement, in which a U.S. magistrate judge lifted a gag order that had prohibited teachers from discussing state standardized test questions that had already been publicly released. In that case, SED agreed to pay NYSUT $10,000 in legal fees.
“Teachers are professionals who must always be free to speak out on behalf of their students,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “This includes voicing their professional concerns about test questions that may be unfair or contain errors that could hurt students’ grades or prevent them from graduating. There is no acceptable rationale for SED’s new gag order. It runs contrary to everything that SED has pledged as part of its campaign to win back the trust and confidence of parents and educators by increasing transparency around its testing program.”
In instructions provided earlier this month to teachers administering the June 2017 Regents exams, the State Education Department included an unprecedented new directive: “Staff is not permitted to discuss test questions or other specific test content with others online via email or LISTSERV, or through any other electronic means prior to or during the test administration period or until one week after the conclusion of the examination period. For June 2017, the administration period ends June 23; therefore, the specific test content must not be discussed or shared electronically prior to June 30, 2017.” (Emphasis added to Direction 7, link here: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/assessment/hsgen/2017/541-617.pdf.)
Once the exam period concludes, Pallotta said the union is demanding that teachers be permitted to use email, LISTSERV and other tools to communicate about the fairness, accuracy and appropriateness of Regent exam questions as a check and balance on behalf of parents and students.
NYSUT also questioned why SED is, for the first time, holding back public release of the exams after the conclusion of scoring.
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New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.