Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mandate Insanity

Andrew Cuomo's vaunted education reform commission has been having some meetings around the state to hear from various constituencies about more education reform plans.

Last month when the commission met up in Newburgh, they heard complaints about the reforms already put into place:

Online testing is a hot subject among educators. That's because State Education Commissioner John King Jr. has turned up the heat.

King wants to make it a reality for all students to take their state tests on computers in the next couple of years.

Perhaps, he needs a reality check. Some parents and administrators think so. They're balking over his timetable.

They complain he's rushing into this new project with little or no money, just like every other mandate coming down the education pipeline these days. This fall, the districts have found themselves strapped with new teacher and principal evaluations, Common Core standards for English Language Arts and Math, and the Dignity for All Act.

All of these mandates require staff training and are underfunded. The Obama administration even threw in its own mandate with the Healthy Hunger-Free Child Act, which is to be put in place this fall.

It's no wonder why teachers are complaining about being stressed out so early on in the school year. Administrators can't remember the last time that so many expensive, new requirements were set to take effect all at once.

It's also no wonder why parents and superintendents sounded off at a state hearing on education reform in Newburgh last week. They told the Governor's Education Reform Commission about the deep financial problems their districts face due to the mandates, as well as cutbacks under the 2 percent tax cap.

"If we have to start paying for things like computers for testing, we'll be in a lot of trouble," said Jennie Colabella, a Highland School District mom.

"We're going to have to cut staff or cut programs for kids," said Middletown Superintendent Ken Eastwood. "I don't think state legislators have any idea that this is coming down the pipeline and, when it does, all hell's going to break loose."

Canceling programs for kids and laying off staff so that new standardized tests can be given to students in every grade in every subject online all the year through - that's the reform idea that most excites our NYSED Commissioner King and our Regents Chancellor Tisch.

No matter that all these tests and the evaluations now tied to them haven't been piloted.

No matter that districts are already scrambling for money and cannot afford all this new technology on top of all the other underfunded mandates.

No matter that the Common Core mandates have ratcheted up the difficulty of these new tests and the state knows that test scores are going to plummet across many districts (and teachers will lose their jobs and schools will be closed as a result of this.)

No matter.

The reformers have the reform plans in place and they DO NOT CARE if students, parents, teachers, administrators, and district leaders have any problems with them.

As one commenter on the Newburgh story wrote:

This whole education "reform" movement occurring in this state and throughout the country right now is a debacle. Yes, some changes do need to be made, but the sudden onslaught of enormous change and it's financial implications, at the same time when budgets are being cut like crazy, is disastrous. Teachers and parents need to start fighting back against these "reformer" dictators who have never stepped foot in a school classroom. They are destroying the public education system in this country.

Indeed - and that has always been the point.

These reformers know that many teachers and many schools are going to be deemed "failing" and "ineffective" under the new evaluation system and the new Common Core tests.

But rather than make these changes slowly and work with schools and teachers, they are instead rushing these through so they can declare the system a failure and privatize as much of it as they can.

There are some real bad times ahead.

And Cuomo, King and Tisch do not seem to care about the consequences.

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