Opine I will

I am an elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

Outright lies, inaccurate information, and confusion

New York State Republican Senators and the Board of Regents Chancellor  are beginning to push back against the tsunami of parents and educators who are collectively calling their recent comments and vote a disaster.

During yesterday’s interview on the Brian Lehrer Show, Chancellor Tisch labeled parental and educator comments as nothing more than ‘noise and nonsense’ and attributes the many cases of anxiety in children to the rhetoric, language and tone of their concerned parents. She  doubled down on former Commissioner Kings comment that special interests are behind the recent uproar and that only the State Education Department is capable of having a ‘grown up’ conversation regarding reform. She claimed high stakes testing is the only way to identify income inequality and that the Common Core Standards actually designed to reduce the amount of testing given to children and she told us to calm down. She also warned us that it could take 10 years to get this right.

Senators all across the state chose yesterday to also push back. There have been reports of calls, letters and e-mails being sent to constituents and they all seem to have the same message. Don’t believe what you are being told, we voted for this bill because it is the best we could do.

Here is the e-mail I received from my State Senator Jack Martins followed by my response:

 Thank you for expressing your concerns about the education budget which was adopted by the legislature.  However, there has been confusion, inaccurate information, and in some cases outright lies reported by others about what this legislation actually entails.  For the record: 

  • The adopted budget rejected the evaluation system proposed by Governor Cuomo.  It DOES NOT require, stipulate, or even support his proposal that 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be based on standardized testing results.  Rather than have the Governor or the Legislature, most of whom have no experience in the field of education, set evaluation criteria, we placed that in the hands of the State Education Department (SED) and the Board of Regents.  SED will develop recommendations by June 30th, which will ultimately be reviewed and considered by the Board of Regents.  They are the professionals responsible for setting all education policy in this state; they should be setting this as well. Importantly, they are independent agencies which the Governor does not control; he does not appoint the members of the Board of Regents nor the Commissioner of Education.  Taking politics out of this process is an important protection.

  • During the development process, SED is required to have a public comment period so that you and all other stakeholders have the opportunity to voice concerns, before any recommendations are finalized.  

  • The legislation specifically requires SED to come up with recommendations about how to reduce the amount of state and local testing for students.  These recommendations must be developed by June 1st.  

  • Unlike in the Governor’s original proposal, we allowed for local control to be part of evaluation guidelines through collective bargaining. Additionally, we stopped his plan requiring teachers to be evaluated by someone completely independent and outside of their school district.  Each school district can collectively bargain who, in addition to the regular observations by building principals, will perform classroom observations (e.g. other principals or personnel within the district).  The law requires evaluators to be trained to prevent someone lacking knowledge in public education from determining an educator’s fate. 

     As a parent, I understand that anything dealing with our children’s education is oftentimes an emotional issue, because we all want the best for our children.  We want them to get a great education and have every opportunity to succeed.  It’s untrue, and quite frankly offensive, for anyone to suggest otherwise. 

     Governor Cuomo’s proposal was wrong for both students and teachers.  That’s why we pushed back and negotiated what I believe is a far better alternative than what the Governor proposed.  Had we not done so by the April 1st budget deadline, the state constitution would have allowed the Governor to force us to choose between accepting his proposal in its entirety or shutting down the government.  For me, that option was unacceptable.

     Should you wish to review these components in greater detail, I have attached a copy of the bill sections dealing with these issues for your convenience.  If you have any questions, I’m happy to discuss them with you.

                                                                                Sincerely,

 

                                                                                JACK M. MARTINS

Jack,

For the record I agree, there have been outright lies. inaccurate information and confusion by those who have voted yes to the Governor’s budget.

For the record:

  • 100% of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on standardized test results. If you read the legislation, if a teacher gets an ineffective or developing score on the test portion of the evaluation, it does not matter what they receive on the other parts.  Thereby making the test 100% of the evaluation. That’s a fact, that’s why your vote was the wrong one.
  • You state that the SED will set evaluation criteria. So effectively you voted on an unknown. Just today Chancellor Tisch was questioned about the concerns raised on these evaluations. She claimed that the concerns were just “noise and nonsense” by ” special interest groups”. Your vote effectively passed the buck, but your constituents now see through this.
  • You claim the public will have input. How can we have input when Tisch refuses tio recognize the anxiety and stress put on children. She blames their anxiety on “rhetoric”. More like our input will be met with the same blank stares we witnessed during the forum you moderated in Mineola last year. Not promising and yet another reason why you should have voted no.
  •  The new legislation also allows outside evaluators as well as trained administrators from other buildings who may no nothing about the children in the classroom and peers from within. The legislation provided no funds to pay for the training or compensation for the evaluators. It also allows districts to choose yet another state exam ( some districts may choose this if it is a cheaper option).  This weakens the role of the building administrator as the instructional leader in their building and it has no pedagogical benefit. It merely will create ‘dog and pony shows’.
  • Let’s look at the state aid component, which you have left out. You promised us a complete elimination of the GEA. Our district will only be getting about 39% of the GEA lifted this year. That is 61% short of your promise.
  • The Senate, Assembly and the Regents all recommended anywhere from $1.8B-$2.2B in state aid. You settled for anywhere between $1.4B and $1.6B. Well short of our needs. Yet you gave yacht owners  tax breaks, claiming it creates jobs. Wouldn’t it be better to create jobs in education rather than cut jobs?
  • The budget also failed to address the damaging tax cap which has forced many districts into precarious financial difficulty.
  • To claim the deadline forced you to vote for this terrible budget, makes one wonder why the legislature allowed late budgets ( sometimes months late) in the past. Your argument doesn’t fly Jack.

 

Bottom line.. your vote on the budget was wrong. Your rationale on teacher evaluations is wrong. In 6 days the children in your district will be beginning 540 minutes of exams that are above their reading level, not age appropriate, and if past years is any indication they will be full of errors. You had the chance to end the abusive testing that does nothing to assess the child, drive instruction or improve education. It only abuses children.

 

I do appreciate, the dialogue and hopefully I can get you to change your mind and introduce real legislation that will end this madness. I am still willing to meet with you. Just give me a call.

 

Ralph Ratto

Today there will be many parents, children and educators standing in front of Jack Martins office calling him out for is vote. I am confident that other state senators will be hearing the same message from their own districts as well.

It’s time to end this madness.

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2 thoughts on “Outright lies, inaccurate information, and confusion

  1. Pogue on said:

    Beautiful rebuttal. Laid it out perfectly. These assemblymen and women cannot be let off the hook.

  2. Patti Maguire on said:

    Thank you Ralph. What will it take for these elected officials to see the damage this is causing? Very frustrating.

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