Teacher to Cuomo: You Are Ruining Education

This was posted recently as a comment on the blog by Mamie Krupsczak Allegretti:

Both my husband and I are teachers in New York. He teaches high school English, and I teach French. We are both concerned about the state of education now, and I am actively taking steps to change my career after 23 years in teaching.

Let’s make no mistake about the situation. The move toward privatization of public education, the destruction of unions, and the loss of our democracy is well underway. I personally feel that the only way teachers, administrators, and parents can counter this is by refusing to participate in Common core tests and any tests that are used to evaluate a teacher’s performance. Teachers are now giving pretests in the beginning of the year knowing that students will fail because they have not yet learned the material! This is absurd, not to mention immoral and unethical. We are losing our common sense. Teachers are being evaluated by student performance on tests and those tests are in NO WAY reflective of what students have done in class.

For example, some teachers’ evaluations are based on how students do on a 15 minute computerized test–a test that does not count for the students! It’s not a test grade; it’s not a graduation requirement; it’s not a Regents exam. It’s an exercise that serves as a referendum on an individual teacher’s ability. Furthermore, the subject matter of the test is peripheral to the subject matter of the classroom. Many kids know this; therefore, instead of taking it seriously, they tap the keys and answer carelessly. Is this logical? Does this make sense? Would any businessman accept this evaluation system? In addition, I think parents and the public would be shocked to know how much time has been wasted on policies and plans that pop up and then are changed months later. I have worked countless hours on preparing items and then watched as the school discarded my work. Wouldn’t my time have been used better to create great lessons for students or helping them? There is no plan, no vision.

The two pillars of this “reform” movement are corporate greed and misogyny. I say misogyny because in NY over 70% of teachers are women, and the teaching profession is dominated by women. Our NYS union NYSUT is headed by a woman, and recent NYSUT pictures show a child saying, “Gov. Cuomo you’re breaking our hearts.” This kind of appeal will not work to influence men. Men are influenced by ACTION, not by appeals from children. Example: In basketball, Coach Dean Smith installed the four corners offense. Instead of shooting the ball, he would have his players dribble for minutes on end. He did this because he knew the game needed a shot clock, and this was the action he took within the rules of the game to bring it about. This is why I say that we need to refuse the tests. It is ACTION we need in the actual academic arena to bring about change! And teachers, if you’re concerned about losing your job for speaking out, it may happen anyway if the Governor gets his new teacher evaluation plan through the legislature! If you happen to be a teacher who has been around for a while and earn “too much” money, you’d better worry.

In the beginning of this post, I said I was actively seeking a new career after 23 years in teaching. Why? First, the stress of day-to-day teaching. People think teaching is easy. Try being with children all day -some of whom are disruptive, disrespectful, and not motivated. Try helping students who haven’t eaten, slept or been loved by their families. Try listening to their stories of abuse, poverty, and helplessness. It takes a toll on you. Second, I’m tired of the loss of respect and professionalism that teachers have suffered. We are losing control of our classrooms, our creativity, and our independence. We are now at the mercy of administrators, politicians and billionaires who are creating curricula, assessments, and evaluation plans for financial gain. Mostly, I am saddened at the diminishment of intellectual curiosity and joy in learning that is pervasive in our culture today. None of the “reforms” currently suggested will positively influence this. Thank you for this forum, and thank you Diane Ravitch for your cogent arguments and your advocacy.

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