Letter to Hon. Gov Cuomo in response to his recent announcement on Education

Here is the letter sent to Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo from New Yorkers United for Kids in response to his recent announcements. We will keep you posted on his reply.

 

Team NYU4K

————————-

September 22, 2015

 

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor of New York State

NYS State Capitol Building

Albany, NY 12224

 

Governor:

We represent over 100,000 concerned parents, teachers, and tax payers of New York who have united to restore accountability in NYS education under the banner of New Yorkers United for Kids (NYU4K). To put it mildly, we have a bit of a bone to pick with you concerning the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

On September 3 of this year, you released a statement on the CCSS which is full of blatant falsehoods. What “ongoing discussion” has there been concerning the standards? Since their publication and the beginning of their rollout, there was no discussion. Where were the town hall meetings nearly 10 years ago when the standards were being debated and written? Where were the letters sent home to parents to inform them of these standards? You are a day late and a dollar short to now blame the NYS Education Department (SED) for having a “deeply flawed” “implementation.” The standards were rushed to adoption and rushed to implementation by your volition alone. As the governor and leader of the State of New York, the buck stops with you. The CCSS in NYS is your baby, and its dysfunctionality is yours to bear.

What is the “valid concern” of SED in regards to the “organized efforts” of parents “to opt out of standardized tests”? As the U.S. Supreme Court once again affirmed in their 2000 decision, “it cannot now be doubted that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.” Simply put, parents are the primary educators of their children. While we have compulsory education laws, ultimately it is the parent that has the authority over the government to choose how their child will be educated. Parents also retain First Amendment rights to speech, association, and to petition and protest their government for the redress of grievances. The purpose of the opt-out movement is not to irritate the SED but to protect our children from the harm caused by this disastrous education scheme.

There seems to be a disruption of communication. The success—or lack thereof—of the CCSS has nothing to do with parents’ “faith in them and in their ability to educate our children.” Everyone knows that every field of employment needs standards to live by. But the success of those standards has nothing to do with “faith” or “implementation”—it has everything to do with integrity. The problem with the CCSS is that they are inherently flawed. The Myths vs. Facts page on www.corestandards.org declares that teachers were involved in writing them yet conveniently fails to name the teachers who were supposedly involved. The site also declares that the standards are truly based on researched evidence; however, if an individual with a basic knowledge of human development studies the standards, they realize that the CCSS fail to address the psycho-social and emotional development of children. The math standards require our children to perform abstract tasks at ages when they developmentally can only perform concrete ones. Many of the skills and suggested books in literature are not developmentally appropriate for our children. We the people of New York State don’t have faith in the standards not because we don’t know better. We don’t have faith in them because they won’t work. As a side note, you go on to say that the Common Core “program…must be fixed” and thus you will start a “comprehensive review of the implementation” of the CCSS, curriculum, guidance and exams. How are standards a “program”? Standards are an ideal, a measurable goal to reach. Program implies curriculum. So what is it exactly? You muddled the budget with teacher evaluations last spring. It seems as if you’re muddling standards and curriculum this fall.

Like any standardized exam written in the United States, the Common Core State Regents Exams have little to do with measuring the success of students reaching the standards of so-called “college and career readiness” and therefore the success of educators teaching them. The tests merely measure how well students can take a Common Core exam. It is very clear that educators do not write these tests. Question stems are confusing, multiple answers to some questions lie in gray areas, and the tests tend to focus on singular processes in attaining an answer instead of the answer itself and allowing the ingenuity of the child in discovering that answer. At the end of the day, the purpose of assessment is not to confuse or set a child up for failure or have them perform tasks like animals jumping through hoops in a circus. Neither is the purpose of student assessment to measure the value of an educator. The purpose of assessment is to provide a meaningful measurement which can be used to diagnose achievement and enhance future instruction.

In your concluding paragraph to your September 3 statement, you say that you want another commission “to review the issues raised above and provide recommendations in time for [January’s] State of the State Address.” Let’s save you some time: THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE CCSS HAS FAILED BECAUSE THE STANDARDS THEMSELVES ARE FLAWED, THE TESTS ARE INCOMPETENTLY WRITTEN, AND THE NEW DATA MINING INITIATIVES ASSOCIATED WITH CCSS ARE A BREACH OF CITIZENS’ PRIVACY. State commissions serve one purpose and one purpose only: to function as a bullhorn for the agenda of the current administration—or they inconveniently shed light on the true nature of that agenda, like your Moreland Commission did. Let’s predict what will happen: you will pad your commission with pro-CCSS supporters to cheerlead your cause and in the end, nothing will change; in January, you will get to say, “We are great! The standards have a facelift! Now they’re working!” while another daughter cries to her mother that she cannot understand her math homework or another son confides in his father that he’s afraid to go to school because he doesn’t want to feel or look stupid in front of his peers.

Rome is burning, Mr. Governor, and you seem to be content strumming your fiddle as it all falls to the ground. The parents and educators of the great State of New York are not stupid, naïve children. We don’t need big daddy Cuomo to tell us what we need or want. We need you to hear what we are saying: WE DO NOT WANT COMMON CORE NOT BECAUSE WE DON’T UNDERSTAND IT BUT BECAUSE WE DO. If you want a real commission with real parents and teachers to find real solutions to the real issues surrounding New York State Education, you should give us a call. We’re sure we can find some voices of authority within our over 100,000 NYU4K followers. If not, continue to play patty cake in your political playground. As a politician, I’m sure you know the difference between allies and enemies.

Sincerely,

 

Cathy Schwarz-Sapeta

New Yorkers United for Kids

Executive Director

 

 

Kathy Zebzda

New Yorkers United for Kids

Regional Director

 

cc: New York State Senate Education Committee, New York State Assembly Education Committee,

New York State Commissioner of Education, New York State Board of Regents