Good News, Bad News, and a Meeting

A little heads up. When you get to number 3 below, you may be really tempted to throw in the towel, shut your door, and just pray you make it to retirement. All I can say is that when you get to work tomorrow, please take a look at your students and remember that, ultimately, they are the reason we need to keep fighting.
1) On February 23rd there will be a general membership meeting. Lucille asked that everyone please make every effort to attend. It will be 3:15 at the High School Library.
2) Senate hearings began today on the re-authorization of NCLB. During the hearing, Chairman Lamar Alexander quoted New York principal Carol Burris on the topic of local control. The committee also heard testimony from, amazingly, a PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER(!). The quote from Ms. Burris (an outspoken opponent of the current standardized testing program) and the teacher’s testimony (again, strongly against standardized testing), are further confirmation of the direction that the committee is leaning.

In a related story, Congressman Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)have introduced a bill to “banish federally mandated annual testing.”

On this particular fight, the momentum is currently in our favor, but it’s not over – THIS BATTLE IS OURS TO LOSE. Sen. Alexander has stated that many of his constituents have come out strongly against testing, but don’t doubt for a minute that lobbyists for the testing industry and charter schools won’t be fighting to keep testing in place. We must make sure our voices are heard.
Of course, even if federal mandates are eliminated, it will be up to NYSED to decide what happens here. And that’s not looking very promising.
3) In his state of the State address today, Governor Cuomo upped the ante even further in his all out war against public school teachers.
  • Only a few weeks after suggesting that state test scores should account for 40% of a teacher’s evaluation, Cuomo is now recommending that standardized tests comprise 50% of a teacher’s score.
  • Even the 50% figure is misleading, as a teacher rated ineffective on test scores would be considered ineffective, regardless of their observations, meaning that that teachers will be essentially graded 100% by test scores.
  • Local control of evaluations would be replaced by scoring bands set at the state level.
  • Evaluations would require two observations, one of which would be conducted by someone from outside the district, such as a SUNY professor or an “independent” evaluator from a list provided by the state.
  • He wants to increase the cap on charter schools (something that will be necessary if the state is to follow through on the recommendation in the Regents’ letter that under-performing public schools be closed and replaced)
  • Tenure would become “renewable” and requirements increased to 5 years
  • An additional $1.2 Billion of school aid was proposed, conditional on acceptance of the aforementioned “reforms,” thus pitting teaches against communities. 
The governor will be aggressively pushing this agenda, but none of it can come to fruition without the legislature, so we MUST LET OUR LAWMAKERS KNOW that these changes will cause great harm to public education and do lasting damage to our children.

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