HARRISON, N.Y. – Some of the top educators in Westchester and Putnam County came together as an “unaffiliated team” in Harrison to call for the “immediate suspension” of the adopted education reform that was included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s most recent state budget.
More than 200 teachers, administrators, Board of Education members, parents and students representing 40 school districts gathered at the Harrison High School auditorium, where they spoke out against Cuomo’s Education Transformation Act of 2015, which emphasizes even more importance on state standardized testing and infrequent, independent teacher evaluations.
Harrison Superintendent Louis Wool, who led the event on Thursday morning, noted that “under the new legislation, we’re reducing teaching evaluation to what is observable in a 40 minute period.”
“We’re facing a substantial crisis in education. There are certain things that should not be compromised, and something we hold precious is being lost,” he said. “As the calendar continues to turn, we’re losing our chance to affect reform. This will strike damage across New York.”
Wool noted that certain aspects of the Education Transformation Act are slowly taking the control away from local administrators, with test scores and outside evaluations taking precedence. He also complained that the system in place makes it more difficult to reach tenure status, thus making it harder to attract the best teachers from around the country.
“The system doesn’t allow us the opportunity to properly professional develop teachers,” he added. “The legislation is written so the test trumps everything. It’s a mistake to pretend there’s flexibility in this law.”
It wasn’t just educators that packed the auditorium to speak out against the legislation, as they were joined by representatives of state, county and local officials who are also in protest of the bill. Since it was announced, members of the Senate, Congress and Assembly have called on the creation of a panel of expert educators who can help reform education in the state, something that is not currently in place.
“I trust the judgment of the professionals represented here who have made education their life’s work as well as their livelihood,” Sen. George Latimer stated. “No one would reconsider restructuring real estate or medicine without consulting with developers or doctors; we simply cannot trivialize the necessity of involving teachers, administrators and superintendents if we are to redesign education in New York.”
As part of the “Get it Right” campaign, the organizers have set up a petition online, urging Cuomo to suspend the legislation immediately and to install a panel of experts. After being opened on Thursday morning, it received nearly 1,500 virtual signatures by the end of the school day.
“Who decided that the Senate should decide the fate of education in the middle of the night at a budget meeting,” Wool said. “That’s like asking the guy at McDonalds to do your surgery.”
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