We recently had our personal experience with how difficult it is to be heard. On July 26th, New York Governor Cuomo’s Education Commission held its only meeting in New York City. The purpose of the commission is to travel around the state in order to hear from stakeholders regarding suggestions for New York State school improvements.
Prior to the time and place of the meeting being posted, both of us sent a request to testify on the topic of teacher and principal quality. As high school principals, we are deeply concerned about the direction of the Regents reform agenda, especially in regard to evaluating teachers using test scores. We were joined by an outstanding New York City high school principal and two teachers from South Side High School. Both teachers had submitted requests to speak, one sending that request and her remarks weeks in advance.
We were not allowed to speak. That was certainly troubling, but even more troubling was the overall staging of the event to ensure that the weight of testimony would support the predetermined, favored policy agenda. The selected panelists on teacher and principal quality were not practicing educators. The first speaker, former CNN reporter Campbell Brown, spoke about sex abuse and arbitrators’ decisions. Brown has no experience as an educator or public school parent, and she has been inconsistent in disclosing that her husband is on the board of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst.
The other panelists were Jermima Bernard, the New York executive director of Teach for America; Lesley Guggenheim from The New Teacher Project; and Evan Stone, an 18-month sixth grade teacher who described himself as the CEO of Educators 4 Excellence, another group aligned with the favored policy agenda.
So, with the exception of Campbell Brown, they all represented organizations that embraced the governor’s policies, and they all advocated for the following three policies: state imposition of teacher evaluation systems if local negotiations are not successful, elimination of contractually guaranteed pay increases, and the use of test scores in educator evaluations.
We patiently waited through the testimony because the directions on the website stated that the final 30 minutes would be reserved for those who wished to speak, determined via a sign-in, first-come basis. Because we were among the first five to sign up, we believed we would have time to make brief remarks. We were stunned when the list in the lobby was not used. Instead, additional speakers were hand-picked. The speakers selected to comment on teacher and principal quality were a teacher who told the committee how she looked forward to being evaluated by test scores, and Anna Hall, the new head of StudentsFirst NY. Hall is a former principal from the Bronx, and she argued that teacher tenure should be abolished.
The fix is in.
If you want to be heard at this thing, you had better already agree with the governor's corporate reform policies.
Can you imagine a reform commission that refuses to hear from respected educators like Carol Burris but puts not one but two Educators4Excellence on the panel to spout their stuff and Campbell Brown, a failed CNN anchor with no education experience but plenty of political connections via her husband, Dan Senor (former Iraq war spokesman for the Bush administration, current Romney adviser and member of the StudentsFirst NY board)?
Sure you can - it's the rigged education reform commission put together by Andrew Cuomo.
Just another example of how you cannot "collaborate" with the education reform movement.
You cannot "work with" these people.
There is no "working with" people who want 100% of their will imposed on everybody else and do not know the meaning of the word "compromise."
They are authoritarians looking to impose their will and their agenda on others and they do not care a whit what anybody else thinks.
They show disdain for democratic processes, they run their "reform commissions" like Stalin ran Russia, and you can bet that the "findings" from this committee are exactly what Carol Burris says they are going to be:
state imposition of teacher evaluation systems if local negotiations are not successful, elimination of contractually guaranteed pay increases, and the use of test scores in educator evaluations.
So what if parents don't want this? So what if it's harmful to students, teachers and schools?
This is for your own good, folks.
The education fascists in power have an agenda and they will impose that on you whether you like it or not.
There is no "working with" these people.
There is only battling against.
It seems quite clear from the first meeting that the only voices that are being heard are the ones with the corporate education reform agenda.
This commission must be exposed for the Stalinesque sham that it is and every time Carol Burris and her colleagues try and speak before it and they are shunted aside for somebody with a corporate reform agenda that already agrees with the governor's agenda, that's exactly what is happening.