School superintendents throughout Suffolk County are uniting to send embattled state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. a strong message: Stop over-testing, slow down the Common Core curriculum and rethink teacher and principal evaluations.
One letter -- a detailed, four-page missive supported by all 18 superintendents in the Western Suffolk BOCES district -- was sent to King this week. A second, from the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, which represents the county's 68 public school districts, is being fine-tuned and will be sent in a few days, said Roberta Gerold, the group's president and superintendent of the Middle Country school district.
Both are meant to spotlight educators' ideas for changes before King attends two forums next week on Long Island, their authors said.
The school leaders said the state should slow introduction of new exams, reduce testing, re-evaluate the links between student test performance and teacher evaluations and give teachers more time to prepare for classroom instruction required by rigorous Common Core national academic standards.
The BOCES letter, packed with suggestions for King and the state Department of Education, was signed by Michael Mensch, the district's chief operating officer.
"The number of new initiatives has not only caused unnecessary turmoil and anxiety, they have distracted all of us from the important work we must do," the letter says. "The abrupt changes in curriculum, testing and evaluation now need some fine-tuning to benefit our students."
That letter is only the first salvo from Suffolk school leaders. The forthcoming letter from the superintendents association will be similar, and request that test assessments be released as quickly as possible, Gerold said.
The response from SED to the requests for a slow down on Common Core implementation and a halt to tying teacher evals to test scores?
Education Department spokesman Dennis Tompkins said the commissioner had received and read the letter.
Of its main points, he noted that the annual tests now administered are required by federal law and the evaluations of teachers and principals are required by state law.
"We can't change that and we only implement it, and we are going full speed ahead with that," Tompkins said.
In short, the law requires these things, so they are going "full speed ahead" with them despite the complaints and criticisms of students, parents and teachers.
As I've said before, the only way to get the changes students, parents and teachers want to the SED reform agenda is to go above the SED functionaries directly to the politicians who appoint the Regents who then appoint these SED bureaucrats.
It is Sheriff Andy Cuomo's re-election year coming up.
He is looking to run up the score in 2014 to set up a White House run in 2016.
You can bet he does not want an escalating battle over his educaton reform agenda to put a dent into his re-election bid or color the news coverage of his campaign.
He is going to be as open as a corporatist, hedge fundie-funded politician is ever going to be to putting a halt to his corporatist, hedge fundie-funded education reform agenda this coming year.
Students, parents and teachers can force the changes to the SED reforms that they want, but they must take the fight to Cuomo, to the State Senate, to the Assembly.
That's where this battle must now be fought.
By all means, let's keep the pressure on John King and Merryl Tisch (and notice the moniker "embattled" attached to King's name in the Newsday article.)
But let's not lose sight of how we really can bring about change - by forcing the politicians to enact those changes into law.