Well, after months of “hard work” Governor Cuomo’s Education Reform Commission has issued a 92 page report that details how NY will suddenly be “Putting Students First.” Does that title have anyone besides me noticing the similarities to Michelle Rhee’s “Students First” group?
What are the “grand plans” of our Governor to improve education in NY? Well, you can read the full report, but I recommend skipping right to page 86, where the summary is show with a handy dandy Venn Diagram!
Allow me, if you will, to interpret just a few phrases in the report:
1. Raise the bar for entry into the profession. and Hold programs accountable to prepare teachers and leaders for the classroom and school. – Randi’s idea that there be a “bar exam” to become a teacher is taking hold. Besides all the other costly testing and renewable certification that teachers now have to endure, there will be a ‘bar exam’. Get ready professors – they’re coming after YOU now! If your program doesn’t sufficiently prepare the next teachers, my guess is that you will have a negative VAM rating or perhaps could even be shut down. Of course, why worry – we have TFA and the Broad Foundation with their “boot camps” to train those teachers and leaders, right?
2. Recognize and reward teachers and principals – You got it – MERIT PAY! And I’m guessing that it will be based on student test scores. So, if you teach a grade or subject without a test, there are two possibilities: You will NEVER get merit pay OR the more likely – there will soon be a state test for you too!
3. Begin to restructure the school day and year by extending student learning time. – Hey, I almost ‘get’ this one. We all know that there is some regression over the summer months, and that typically our students from low SES families regress the most. I honestly don’t have a problem with restructuring the school year to minimize this, BUT, I do wonder – where will all the air conditioning come from? Will this mean that our schools will no longer be saunas beginning in May? Will we have infrastructure changes so that students and teachers can be in a comfortable environment? Unless you’ve tried to teach in a room where the temperature is pushing 90 or 100, you probably don’t see the need for this.
4. Promote increased access to educational opportunities by encouraging school district restructuring through consolidation and regional high schools. – If you have ever visited any small K-12 rural school in NY, you know that there is indeed, something different about them. It is a tight-knit community of teachers, students, parents, administrators, and community. These schools are the jewels of many a small town in NY. No, they may not offer 15 AP classes, but for the most part, there are plenty of opportunities for students to explore a wide variety of classes and extra-curricular activities. Additionally, it is almost always the small, rural schools that pass their budgets with tax increases that some suburban schools find shocking. Why? Well, the school IS the town – without the school, the identity of an entire community is gone.
I will leave the rest for you, dear reader, to interpret on your own. Perhaps you’ll find something “good” in this report. Perhaps you’ll be outraged. Whatever the case, if you have kids in schools in NY or teach in NY, you really SHOULD read this report.
Here is the official NYSUT response. Of course, I would be remiss to not include the AFT responsehttp://www.aft.org/newspubs/press/2013/010213a.cfm as well.