The ST Caucus Executive Committee
Dear Andy, Jolene, Philippe, Paul, and Martin
I’m writing on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Stronger Together Caucus. As the 2017 Representative Assembly has come to a close, NYSUT members expect meaningful and immediate action to strengthen our efforts in the fight to save public education.
I bring your attention to three resolutions, in particular, that were passed enthusiastically and unanimously by NYSUT’s Representative Assembly:
- Resolution to Oppose Mandatory Use of Student Performance Measures (April 2017): This resolution calls for NYSUT, through lobbying efforts, to oppose the mandatory use of student performance measures on APPR. As we quickly approach May’s In-District Lobbying Days, it is crucial to our success in saving public education that NYSUT’s talking points include members’ desires to move away from the mandatory use of student performance measures in APPR. We cannot be satisfied with a drop down menu of invalid student performance measurements and then claim a victory for local control. In 2015, the Board of Regents voted to “implement a four-year moratorium on the consequences of using the 3-8 ELA and math Common Core State Assessments, in any form, and state-provided growth scores on Regents exams in teacher and principal evaluations.” We are nearing the end of that moratorium. NYSUT must issue an immediate call for statutory changes that render the use of student performance measures optional in teacher evaluations. Continued acquiescence and capitulation to our current flawed and invalid teacher evaluation system are in conflict with NYSUT’s efforts to safeguard the teaching profession and public education. As you know, a teacher’s working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. In addition to diminishing current advocacy efforts, failure to lobby against the required use of student performance measures ultimately hurts students. To be compliant with the resolution, NYSUT must immediately amend the APPR talking points that were distributed at Committee of 100, as they do not reflect or align with this resolution and by extension, the will of the membership. The resolution also calls upon NYSUT to inform locals on the invalid use of student performance measures in teacher evaluations. To truly put this APPR regimen into the “ash heap of history,” we must begin to oppose, through our actions, the current manifestation of APPR and return the Annual Professional Performance Review to local control.
- Resolution to Oppose Test Writing (April 2017): At the last two Representative Assemblies, the rank and file passed resolutions that a) oppose the current college and career benchmarks used to determine proficiency on the NYS Common Core ELA and math tests in grades 3-8, b) ask members to opt their own children out of the NYS Common Core ELA and math tests in grades 3-8, and c) support parents in the their right to opt their children out of these abusive assessments. To date, NYSED has made no substantive changes to the State assessments, the Common Core standards, or the college and career benchmarks. Despite the advocacy required by the 2015 and 2016 NYSUT resolutions and despite NYSED’s refusal to make necessary changes to the current assessments, standards, and benchmarks,NYSUT leadership continued to ask teachers to write test questions for flawed tests, tests that continue to mislabel thousands of students as failures. It has even provided space to SED to write test questions. NYSUT leadership should notify its members that as per the resolution passed at the 2017 RA, NYSUT will refrain from participating in writing test questions for flawed NYS ELA and math tests until meaningful changes to the benchmarking of tests occur.. For this policy to have the greatest impact, it is advisable that the NYSUT officers educate the public about the abusive test metrics as required by previously adopted resolutions. Resolution #9 passed at the 2016 RA requires NYSUT do just this, yet unfortunately it has not yet been acted upon.
- Support the “IRefuse Movement” to Oppose High Stakes Testing (April 2015): We recognize that NYSUT has posted billboards in some areas around New York State notifying parents of their legal rights to refuse these tests; this is a far cry from asking every NYSUT member to opt their child out of this abusive testing regimen. At the 2015 Representative Assembly it was RESOLVED that NYSUT ask its members refuse their own children from taking the Grades 3 – 8 assessments. To date, this has not been done. Since the 3-8 Math tests occur in May, we call on the NYSUT Officers to ask ALL NYSUT members to refuse the tests for their children and follow the will of the membership! Commissioner Elia has said exactly what our billboards say. This is not the bold leadership that our members expect on this issue. NYSUT sat on the sidelines while the parent-driven Opt-Out movement grew over the past three years, but what NYSUT members expect now is continued action to grow this movement. NYSUT has all of the information it needs to expose how damaging the tests are to students and to their education. NYSUT members have unanimously demanded multiple times that NYSUT use its position to educate the teachers and parents of New York about the damage being wrought by these tests. It is time for that brand of leadership-- not more legalese about the right to refuse, which everybody now accepts. We actually need NYSUT to jump into this movement with both feet and wield its considerable communicative weight and inspire parents by informing them of what teachers know. NYSED has yet to make substantive changes to the standards and assessments that have been degrading the quality of their child’s education.
We have high and exacting standards for what these specific resolutions mean and feel that fulfilling the vision of these resolutions will help change the narrative about public education. During his first speech as NYSUT President, Andy said he “heard” that all locals matter. I can find encouragement in this message only if it is met with meaningful and effective action. The degree to which we have been heard is measurable only by the degree to which our democratically enacted resolutions will become observable NYSUT actions.
I look forward to your response to this letter and speaking further about the concerns I have addressed.