This Is Personal: New York Teachers of the Year Take on Governor Cuomo

In an open letter published last month, Empire State teachers blasted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for his proposed education reforms. The seven contributors, all of whom have been voted State Teacher of the Year, are furious with Cuomo for pushing a testing-based system that expands charter schools and makes it more difficult for teachers to earn tenure.

Under Cuomo’s plan, half of teachers’ annual evaluation would be based on student standardized test scores. The state teachers union has vocally opposed the governor’s reforms, claiming such measures would force failing public schools into the hands of private entities. Critics of standardized testing have also spoken out, urging parents to opt their children out of tests that they claim are ineffective educational tools. As of March, Cuomo’s approval rating on education stands at just 28 percent, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll.

Here's what the teachers have to say in their own words. You can find the entire letter at the Albany Times Union, where it was first published.

We are teachers. We have given our hearts and souls to this noble profession. We have pursued intellectual rigor. We have fed students who were hungry. We have celebrated at student weddings and wept at student funerals. Education is our life. For this, you have made us the enemy. This is personal. …

you are doubling down on test scores as a proxy for teacher effectiveness. The state has focused on test scores for years and this approach has proven to be fraught with peril. Testing scandals erupted. Teachers who questioned the validity of tests were given gag orders. Parents in wealthier districts hired test-prep tutors, which exacerbated the achievement gap between rich and poor. …

Your other proposals are also unlikely to succeed. Merit pay, charter schools and increased scrutiny of teachers won’t work because they fundamentally misdiagnose the problem. It’s not that teachers or schools are horrible. Rather, the problem is that students with an achievement gap also have an income gap, a health-care gap, a housing gap, a family gap and a safety gap, just to name a few. If we truly want to improve educational outcomes, these are the real issues that must be addressed.

Ashli Dreher 2014 New York State Teacher of the Year

Katie Ferguson 2012 New York State Teacher of the Year

Jeff Peneston 2011 New York State Teacher of the Year

Rich Ognibene 2008 New York State Teacher of the Year

Marguerite Izzo 2007 New York State Teacher of the Year

Steve Bongiovi 2006 New York State Teacher of the Year

Liz Day 2005 New York State Teacher of the Year

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