In response to Governor Cuomo’s recent plans for teacher evaluations and attacks on the teachers of New York State, Karen Magee, President of New York State United Teachers, has called for a boycott of state testing.
Cuomo has practically declared all-out war on New York State teachers, hinting that they are self-interested and proposing a new and more rigorous method of teacher evaluations. His demands for teacher evaluations, based 50 percent on state test scores and 50 percent on in-class evaluations, were seen as unfair to teachers and students. The proposal was met with resistance and several rallies at the door of the state capital this winter.
Despite his efforts, Cuomo’s evaluation proposal did not end up in the final bill. The State Education Department will decide the details, including the percentages of criteria within the evaluations rather than the governor. However, Cuomo was successful in making tenure a four rather than three-year process. He also succeeded in passing legislation which will allow school districts to fire any teacher who has been rated as “ineffective” for two consecutive years.
Last week, Magee spoke to reporters at the Capital building about her union leading a state-wide boycott of the tests, which are taken at the start and finish of the school year to assess instructor effectiveness. She mentioned that a link to the opt-out website will be attached to NYSUT’s website for any parent who wishes their third to eighth grader to skip the English or math exams.
Opting-out of the exam can be accomplished in several simple steps. A prepared refusal letter, which clearly explains the rights of students to refuse the exam, is available for parents to print, sign and send to the principal of their child’s school. The letter states that this act should neither harm nor benefit teachers’ evaluation scores, the student or the school district.
Yet some believe that removing students, particularly those who have attentive parents and assumed more stable and supportive families, will result in overall lower test scores for the school. Those people believe that this would reflect badly on the school district, and lead to more interference from the state.
Magee, however, says that they will continue the fight against state-testing. When asked, she told a reporter that impacting the validity of the state tests by creating a huge boycott is, for right now, “the best way to go.”
This is the first year that the opt-out option has been widely considered, and the effects will likely be seen as the school year comes to an end in the coming months.