Friday, January 13, 2012

An Open Letter to Gov. Cuomo

The following is an open letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in response to his statement on Jan 10 2012. His statement can be found online at
Dear Governor Cuomo,
Your January 10th statement regarding the “state of crisis” in New York’s education system left me further disappointed in you and your ability to serve citizens that know what “crisis” really means. You cherry-pick and misrepresent both data and basic concepts in a way that resembles a public-school smear campaign the likes seen only on the propaganda-peddling FOX news network.
You say:
We cannot allow a system to continue where we spend the most of any state on education, but rank only 38th in results. It does a disservice to both the student and the taxpayer.
According to a 2010 report from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), New York ranked 5th in student performance (behind Vermont, Massachusetts, Florida and New Hampshire). This is far better than 38th, and actually shows that New York students, schools and teachers perform very well despite the burdens of bureaucracy, unfunded mandates from state and federal agencies, the organized attack on my profession, and a trickle down economic approach that leaves more and more families unable to keep their children “ready to learn”. For battling through such conditions, most public schools deserve a medal, and those who support and protect people working in them deserve some respect. I would also say that accountability for turning children into successful citizens is a shared endeavor with shared accountability. You can’t keep setting fires and blaming only the fire department for the destruction.
It is likely that the “38th” ranking you refer to is a rating of “reform” progress-the speed at which agreements to teacher evaluations are being made, but lack of expediency might have more to do with the way requirements have been steamrolled at public schools. Time is needed for creation and examination of new systems for generating and collecting data. Field testing for new state test formats just happened last year and is ongoing. Common Core Standards have been created, but now administrator and teacher training, curriculum alignment, and changes in assessments will need to take place to mesh with those new standards. This process is likely to take some time, and it is a little disingenuous for you or anyone to complain about how long it is taking the victims of policy to find a way to cope with it. That makes it feel less like reform, more like coercion, and withholding desperately needed funds awaiting compliance with unrealistic demands and undefined criteria is blackmail. How can you expect agreement with that agenda at any speed?
Lastly, Mr. Cuomo, I am a teacher but, my vote is not owned by democrats, or controlled by my union. My considerations in voting are: my family, my community (and the families in it), my state, my country, and in a larger sense-the world. Who is fighting the right fight, Mr. Cuomo? Are you going to continue to disrespect my profession and the people dedicated to the children and families of New York? Are you standing on the same side as me, or with the powerful organizations who seek profit in reform? Teachers see the damage done by this type of governance daily, throughout their career. As young people stream into their classrooms, teachers fulfill both the technical duties of instruction and the unwritten demands of “on the spot” parent, counselor and psychologist that seem to consume more of their day as time goes by. The dedicated teachers of this state deserve more of your respect and recognition for what they do.

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