Friday, April 24, 2015

Cram, study, test, forget - my email to state ed


I teach English at one high school in the Clarkstown Central School District. This is my 12th year teaching. And things seem to be hitting a new low.

I am still in shock at the recent budget vote. I understand that the Governor receives "extra" budgetary powers during this time, but the manner in which Mr. Cuomo acted is ridiculous and irresponsible, much like a 3 and 1/2 year old not getting desert before finishing his dinner. Cuomo's behavior is tantamount to a hysterical tantrum. 

When my 3 year old goes through his tantrums, I wait for him to calm down and then we talk it out. I DO NOT just give in to his tyrannical behavior.

But that is what the politicians in our state did. They gave in. Rather than call the Governor on his inappropriate behavior, rather than stand their ground and support what they believe in, they voted yes "with a heavy heart." 

And now we see the mess the Governor has created. Teachers are pissed. Parents are pissed. Students are apathetic about learning. Everyone wants to point fingers. 

Here's my finger pointing directly at you, State Ed. The politics have destroyed what public education can and should be. It is now your burden to deal with the mess. 

My challenge to you: get back to what education is about. Passion. Creativity. Exploration. Innovation.

Learning should not be a burden, it should be a freeing experience. If you do what the Governor demanded (and received), you will be destroying the education of an entire generation.

My biggest single issue with the Governor's "reforms": they hurt the students. Plain and simple. I cannot find students who are genuinely interested in learning. They cram, study, test, forget. Repeat next unit. Repeat next year. 

Testing shows one thing: a student is good (or not) at taking a test. True learning cannot be captured on a test. It cannot be reduced to a number. It cannot be standardized. If you believe it can, please, visit my classroom. I have invited the Governor, but he has yet to respond.

Your task is to provide for the students of New York. Well, a great way to start is by relieving the insane burdens you have placed on them. Give them age-appropriate tests. Create a reasonable implementation of new standards before testing them on that material. Respect parents' right to NOT have their children come home anxious and miserable and stressed over a test.

A mistake that seems to get repeated in this process is that Albany has perched itself upon some peak of excellence, doling out its indispensable wisdom to all the puny local districts. The one-size-all approach doesn't work. I invite any legislator to my classroom. Spend a day with me. Heck, spend a week. You can sleep on the Aerobed in my basement. Get a sense of what is ACTUALLY happening in schools before you rubber stamp harmful education policies that will have longer reaching impacts than your careers.

And, before you run that "teachers don't want to be evaluated" nonsense by me, consider this: everyone wants a fair evaluation. Cuomo's system is not fair. He seems to have forgotten what school is all about. He doesn't understand those connections between teacher and student and school that an "independent" observer cannot observe. Just like you can't rate every student on the same test, you cannot rate every teacher completely objectively. SO much of what we do is subjective and personal. In fact, that's HOW we do what we do - we make it personal. Because, after, we deal with people. Unlike the Governor and his political cronies. They seem more concerned with money. 

Please remember this: we vote. And we have long memories.

Get it right this time. If you don't, I fear you misunderstand the amount of cleanup you will have to do. Think of the lawsuits alone that will come your way. Think of the parents voting on emotion instead of logic. Think of the kids who will vote in 10 years.

Take this moment and consider the import of the future - our kids depend on it.


Anthony Celini