Rank and File Teachers Call on NYSUT Leadership to Do More
We are a coalition of educators motivated by a desire to provide our students with an authentic, developmentally appropriate, culturally relevant, and child-centered public education. As we near the 2016 testing season, hundreds of thousands of young learners will be asked to submit to 9 hours of flawed and harmful state assessments that reduce teaching and learning to a test score, narrow the curriculum, label the majority of children failures, and squander resources, ultimately providing no educational benefit.
While the opt out movement has captured the attention of policymakers,there has been no substantive change. The only change is that school districts must now use limited time and resources to negotiate another APPR plan that requires both more testing for NYS children and a continued focus on evaluating teachers through test scores.
Despite this glaring lack of relief for students, the state teachers union (NYSUT) has failed to sound the alarm, and instead launched a million dollar member-funded “multi-media campaign to highlight progress.” While a campaign video vaguely stated that “there is still a lot of work to do,” the campaign was absent of any call to action. A similar campaign by the UFT–the state’s largest local union, based in NYC–went so far as to spread misinformation, making the false claim that teachers will not be evaluated by test scores for the next 4 years. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As educators, we are committed to sharing factual information so that those impacted by these policies can make informed decisions. Here are the facts:
- The Education Transformation Act of 2015 requires that 50% of a teacher’s evaluation be based on a student performance measure. This will not change unless the law is amended.
- Although teachers will still receive a growth score based on state tests, a 4 year moratorium has been passed on the use of state-provided growth scores for NYS Grades 3-8 Common Core ELA and Math tests in teacher evaluations.
- ALL teachers will still be subject to a 50% test-based evaluation as per the law. Schools must administer an additional, locally determined assessment (approved by the state department of education), and scores from that test will supplant the state test derived growth score in a teacher’s evaluation.
- Teachers will receive a “transitional score” during the moratorium. 50% of this score will be based on observation, and 50% will be based on the locally-determined assessment. This transitional score will be used for making tenure decisions, and as per the law can be used to fire a teacher.
- While growth scores derived from the state tests may not be used for purposes of evaluation during the moratorium, they will still be recorded, and upon request be made available to parents. Teachers evaluated by Regents exams and by the 4th and 8th grade science tests will still be evaluated using those scores.
- Once the moratorium is over, NYS will move to a three year average growth score. In other words, teachers will receive a growth score based on student performance on NYS ELA and math tests from the previous 3 years. It is likely that state test growth scores (not “transition scores”) captured during the moratorium will be used in the average growth score for the 2019-20 school year.
- Based on flawed growth scores, schools will continue to be placed into receivership and subject to autocratic control. This will happen disproportionately in schools located in economically disadvantaged Black and Brown communities, as laid out in the Economic Policy Institute’s report, “The Racial Achievement Gap, Segregated Schools, and Segregated Neighborhoods – A Constitutional Insult.”
- Unless New York State’s career and college ready benchmarks are revised, students, educators, and schools will be continue to be labeled as failures. Students entering high school in 2017 will have to obtain “aspirational” career and college ready passing scores on NYS Regents exams in order to graduate. If these passing scores were required today, approximately 65% of students would not graduate.
NYSUT officials recently responded to educators on social media calling for NYSUT to pursue an amendment to the law by stating that they believe the Regents will enact the 21 recommendations of the Common Core Task Force. In a recent interview on The Capital Pressroom, NYSUT President Karen Magee opined that it is “premature” to call for changes to the law and reiterated NYSUT’s belief that the Regents will implement the Common Core Task Force recommendations.
It should be noted that the Task Force has not recommended ANY changes to the focus on test scores in teacher evaluations, making this response irrelevant. While the task force pays lip service to the need for shorter tests, it fails to recommend any substantial change. For example, the Task Force report calls upon New York to follow the examples set by North Carolina, Texas, and New Mexico. The testing practices in these States are hardly positive role models for a reduction in testing. In North Carolina, testing has been reduced to a one day, four hour exam. In Texas, testing has been capped, forcing the average student to sit for 120 minutes, with no administration lasting more than eight hours. And in New Mexico, testing has been reduced by a paltry 15%. In New York, that would reduce 9 hours of testing for 10 year olds to 7.5 hours; some students with disabilities would still be forced to endure 15 hours of testing. This is cold comfort.
NYSUT leaders also recently issued a list of 7 key points on testing and evaluation. In this statement there are several misleading assertions. We urge NYSUT leadership to immediately clarify the following statements:
“The state’s obscene black box that manipulated a single test score to evaluate teachers has been blown up.”
What does this mean? To date, NYSED has not demonstrated any plans to revise the current formula used to arrive at state test growth scores. Individual teacher growth scores will still be calculated, recorded, and made available to parents during the moratorium.
“With state tests banned and the black box blown up, educators are rightly protected from jeopardy caused by the state’s growth formula”
As long as state test growth scores are still calculated, recorded, and made publicly available, teachers will NOT be protected. There have been no assurances that these scores will NOT be used in teacher evaluations after the moratorium.
“As a result of our advocacy in synch with parents, the governor acknowledged the need for a total reboot.”
A total reboot would include changes to the education law passed as part of the 2015 budget. These changes have doubled the focus on test scores and increased the consequences attached to test scores. Contrary to the NYSUT leadership’s assertion that they are advocating in synch with parents, they have failed to advocate alongside parents for changes to this damaging law.
We call for NYSUT to work for an immediate amendment to the education law 3012d, that requires teacher evaluations be based on high-stakes tests. Without an amendment to the law, tests will continue to count for 50% of teacher evaluations.
Additionally, we call upon NYSUT leaders to launch a new, fact-based media campaign that will inform their members and the public that very little has changed for the children we serve. The continued requirement of students to participate in flawed and inappropriate testing this spring, as well as additional, local assessments (solely for the purposes of teacher evaluations) must stop. Furthermore, we demand that NYSUT urge all teachers to join the effort to save our profession, and to protect our students by refusing NYS tests in grades 3-8 for their own children.
Parents across New York State have labored for the past three years to protect their children and support educators. It is time that NYSUT and UFT leaders do the same. Now is not the time to lose the support of the public and our allies.
BATs (Badass Teachers)
MORE (Movement of Rank & File Educators)
Stronger Together Caucus
Teachers of Conscience
Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association
Wallkill Teachers Association
Lakeland Federation of Teachers
North Rockland Teachers Association
Hastings Teachers Association
Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico
Pine Bush Teachers Association
New Paltz United Teachers
The Valley Central Teachers Association
Ramapo Teachers Association
Kingston Teachers Federation
West Babylon Teachers Association
Washingtonville Teachers Association
Gloversville Teachers Association
NYSUT Retiree Council 8
Hauppauge Teachers Association
The following organizations support The Call to Stand Up for Students:
Long Island Opt Out
Bronx Educators United for Justice
Opt Out CNY
Change the Stakes
New York State Allies For Public Education
Lace to the Top
NYC Opt Out
Pencils Down Rockland County
NYS Receivership and NYC Renewal Schools Action Group
ReThinking Testing MidHudson
The Paperclip Revolution
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*If your organization would like to add their support to “The Call to Stand Up for Students“ send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org