Thursday, April 16, 2015

NY: Shut Up, Parents

The reports keep rolling in. New York families are opting out of the Big Standardized Test in unprecedented numbers, massive numbers, numbers that will make virtually all of the "data" about school performance "gleaned" from the BS Test suspect.

The state has responded by, well, trying to get the problem to shut up and go away. On Tuesday's All In with Chris Hayes, Chancellor Merryl Tisch tried valiantly to make the problem go away. "We didn't explain the purpose of the test well enough," said Tisch, who proceeded to botch her gazzillionth attempt in at least three years to explain the purpose of the test. Then she shifted over to explaining the opt out movement as a byproduct of a "labor dispute," the result of teachers leading poor parents and children astray.

That would be exactly backwards.

Teachers are, by nature, good little soldiers. We are regular apologists for bad national, state and local policies. We are on the front lines where students and their parents say, "So why do we have to do this? It seems like a stupid waste of time." That's when, time after time, use our reassuring teacher voice and bring our charges to peaceful coexistence with policies and procedures that we might not even love, but they are the rules, and as teachers, we're generally fans of the rules.

So when teacher leaders in NY threw their weight behind opting out, what happened was not a state-wide brainwashing by teachers. I don't believe for a moment that NY teachers started poking holes in the dike that was holding back the opt out floodwaters. The floodwaters were already high, near to bursting at places like tiny Ken-Ton school district where the board wanted to lead a face-on charge against the state and the voters showed up to egg them on. I'll bet you anything that in school after school it was teachers who had been standing there with their fingers in the dike. All Karen McGee had to say was, "We're done. Just step back."

Meanwhile, GOP Senator Jack Martins is trying to put another of Tisch's bright ideas into play. She suggested that top NYC schools could be exempted from teacher evaluation rules; Martins would like to make that law for the whole state. Under his proposal, the schools in the top 20% of test results would be exempt from using the tests to evaluate their teachers. This is only a good idea if

1) You believe that the only purpose of the test is to find and fire "bad" teachers, and all the rest of that baloney about the benefits of the test was actually baloney.

2) You are hoping that this will somehow make the teachers union happy enough to go back to being good little dike-plugging soldiers.

3) You are hoping that this will shut up the parents for those top schools.

I'm willing to bet that the top 20% schools are also the schools which serve the more affluent, better-connected, most knowledgeable-about-how-to-give-the-system-a-headache parents. In other words, the parents that Tisch most wishes would shut up.

It remains to be seen what the fallout of from Optoutmageddon is going to be, but it's a sure bet that continued attempts to dismiss, marginalize, and silence opt-outers will not be enough to make Tisch and Cuomo happy campers again. When people want to say something important, they keep raising their voices until they feel they are heard. Albany had better start listening soon.


  1. Thanks for keeping us informed!

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  3. All Ken-Ton teachers thank you! We have never been so proud of our Board or the parents of our students. This opt-out movement is coming from parents. Unfortunately, as teachers we cannot give our opinions to students or parents unless we want to be fired. I love my job and my students and I want to be there for them tomorrow, so I stay silent. Makes me feel like a sellout, though. I just don't understand why Cuomo hates public school teachers so much. Maybe if Cuomo had ever attended a public school, he have been more successful on the bar exam.

  4. Parents respond.