Strong Public Schools are Essential to Our Future

August 23, 2013
By Richard Iannuzzi

Albany, NY – Earlier this month, the State Education Department released results from the first standardized tests tied to the new Common Core standards adopted by over 40 states. As predicted, scores dropped dramatically, the result of new tests, far more challenging standards, and the State’s rocky implementation that in many instances was so seriously flawed that students were tested on material they had not yet been taught.

Just as predictable were the hysterical headlines and the doomsday cries from self-proclaimed “reformers” who see this as an opportunity to profit off education. These deformers, as I like to call them, immediately began unpacking their snake-oil remedies. Claiming to speak for parents, they called for the firing of teachers, closing schools, opening “quick fix” charter schools and expanding “so called” choice.

The reality is that these test scores can be interpreted in many different ways, and the State has made clear that the scores represent a re-setting of the bar –– what they see as a new baseline –– and not a step backwards by students or teachers.

Also, the reality is that parents have spoken, and spoken in ways quite different from what critics allege. In fact, parents have a clear understanding of what’s going on.  They know what works –– and they know what’s needed.

At school board meetings, in letters and petitions, in forum after forum –– and, joining with educators, 20,000 strong at the One Voice United rally in Albany back in June –– parents loudly denounced the trend toward an over-reliance on standardized testing. They spoke in one loud and clear voices calling for an investment in the time and tools needed to strengthen their own local schools.

And a new national poll validates what we’ve been hearing in New York.

Parents overwhelmingly believe that public schools are the most important institution for the future of their communities and the nation.  By wide margins they choose strong neighborhood schools over any of the alternatives pushed by the privateers and profiteers, rejecting more charter schools, vouchers and budget cuts.

In fact, 77 percent of parents choose investing more in public education to make their public schools stronger and safer. With respect to standardized testing, 60 percent feel that there is already way too much time and energy devoted to testing and not enough time spent on educating the whole child. They stand firmly with teachers in supporting smaller classes with more individual attention for their children; greater access to the arts, music and extracurricular activities; and they oppose spending cuts that have slashed billions of dollars from education.

Parents and teachers believe in the promise of public education: helping all children reach their dreams.  They know that strong public schools are a necessity if our state and national economy is going to be strong in the years to come … and parents clearly see that strong public schools for all children is a basic civil right.

Working together, parents and teachers are –– and will continue to be –– an unstoppable force to fulfill the promise of public education as a pathway to opportunity for all children. What’s needed now is for New York State to stop looking toward the so-called reformers—and start listening to parents, teachers and the educational community. In other words to start getting it right!

*Richard C. Iannuzzi is president of the 600,000-member New York State United Teachers.

August 23, 2013

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