Sunday, October 25, 2015

Is the War Really Over?  Cuomo Ends His War on Public Education?
By Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director BATs and NY BAT

I have been an educator in New York for over 28 years. I am National Board Certified and I teach in an amazing school district that supports teachers and children. I am also the mother of a child in 7th grade who has had his school career defined by a punish and blame system that is the legacy of the Cuomo Administration.  I have witnessed this administration do an immense amount of damage to education.  411 Gov. Cuomo, you don’t get to take back the damage you have done to the children and teachers of NYS.   The veiled attempt by the Democrats this week, at both the federal and state level, to all of a sudden deem there is too much testing -too late! The damage to children, education, and teachers will take years to undo.

Educators and parents in New York State have been protesting for years that the testing is over the top.  Cuomo doubled down this past year making 50% (which is actually a 100%) of a teacher's evaluation based on TEST SCORES.  The New Education Transformation Act also allows a “second” optional  ASSESSMENT for districts to negotiate.  Districts who teach children with historically low state test scores will probably opt in for the second optional assessment.  They will roll the dice to try and protect their schools from going into receivership.  So, in essence, The Education Transformation Act (which is education law in New York State) will promote testing kids MORE in struggling districts– does that look like promoting less testing?   Cuomo will continue to grow the opt-out movement by ignoring what over 200,000 opt out parents in New York State have been saying – we will not allow our children, schools, and teachers to be ranked and sorted. 

Educators and parents in New York State have been screaming from the tops of the Adirondack Mountains to the shores of Long Island.  They have warned the Governor that assessments do not effectively evaluate teacher impact on student learning. But Cuomo’s new Education Transformation Act doubled down on testing and teacher evaluations.    

Gov. Cuomo has been on the wrong side of the fight for equity in education.  There are two sides in the fight to make great schools for New  York children– those who see public education as a public good and those who see it as a private good.  Governor Cuomo has very clearly seen education as a private good.

Remember when Cuomo called public education a monopoly?

“I believe these kinds of changes are probably the single best thing that I can do as governor that’s going to matter long-term,” he said, “to break what is, in essence, one of the only remaining public monopolies — and that’s what this is, it’s a public monopoly.”  He said the key is to put “real performance measures with some competition, which is why I like charter schools.” Cuomo said he will push a plan that includes more incentives — and sanctions — that “make it a more rigorous evaluation system.”  

Cuomo has pandered to Wall Street at the expense of New York children.  Guess what?  You don’t get to take that back.

Cuomo has created two commissions filled with his "education is a private good pals."  The first commission magically disappeared without doing a thing that was good for kids and public education.  It did nothing to fix the blame and punish test agenda thrust onto kids and teachers in New York. New York now has a second commission with an attempt to do a total reboot of Common Core, but sadly this reboot continues to ignore that the top 50 most underfunded schools in New York State are in poor black and brown communities.     

What Cuomo and other Democrats (as well as Republicans) have failed to realize is that you cannot test a child out of poverty, and you cannot create an equitable education system with testing.  We all know the bottom line - Those who have sold out to Wall Street are in BIG FAT trouble (say Zephyr Teachout three times). 

In March 2015, Cuomo got the lowest job approval rating for his handling of education

Despite his cruddy poll ratings, Cuomo muscled through the test and punish education agenda, which has been the trademark of his administration, with his budget in April 2015. Cuomo’s hostilities toward public education became so volatile that he threatened to withhold  1.1 billion in state aid.  He threatened to withhold funds from schools if the NYS Legislature didn’t approve raising the cap on charter schools,  create an evaluation system so that more teachers would be deemed ineffective, make it difficult for new teachers to get tenure, and approve a backdoor voucher scheme to transfer public school money to private schools. 

How those 200,000 opt-outs looking now Governor?

Here is what Cuomo said about all those opt-outs

Parents who have chosen to have their children “opt out” of taking this month’s state exams don’t understand that the scores are “meaningless” in terms of students' grades. 

The scores are meaningless?  Why are kids taking tests if the outcomes are meaningless?  Why are teachers rated on outcomes that are meaningless? 

The suspense continued as the Governor continued to speak about the “tests.” 

“That’s their option,” Cuomo, referring to parents who have participated in the unprecedented boycott of state exams, told reporters after an Association for a Better New York breakfast in Manhattan. “What I don’t think has been adequately communicated is, we passed a law that stops the use of the grades on the test for the student. So the grades are meaningless to the student.” 

New flash Governor Cuomo, nothing in education should be meaningless to children.

 Cuomo’s polls continued to swim in the gutter over the summer of 2015. 73% of New Yorkers gave Cuomo a negative mark on education. 

Which now brings Cuomo to October of 2015

“Today, the Obama administration took an important step toward improving our nation’s education system. I agree with President Obama and Secretary Duncan that we must reverse the overemphasis on testing that has become the norm in too many of our schools, and that is exactly what we have been doing in New York. In 2014, we banned standardized testing for students in pre-kindergarten through 2nd grade, capped test preparation to two percent of learning time, and required the State Education Department to help districts eliminate unnecessary standardized tests for all other students. However, I believe that we need to do more, and that is why I have asked the State’s Common Core Task Force to examine ways to reduce the anxiety of our students by reducing the number and length of tests, as well as making sure that tests are appropriate for the age and education level of all of our students. Their review will be central to how we build on our past accomplishments. I commend President Obama for this action, and I am hopeful that this leads to a higher quality education for all American children.”


The Common Core Task Force that Cuomo has set up to examine the ways to reduce anxiety and tests for New York students is very much for the private good. 

If this commission is central to how New York plans to build on "past accomplishments", Governor, plan on building that opt out movement in 2016!



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