Will Everyone Write A Letter?

Cynicism, especially in response to politics, is like a vitamin I choke down every day, but overall I’m a glass half-full kind of gal. At the end of April, before we left for San Francisco, I sent letters to my New York state legislators. Representing my district are James L. Seward in the Senate and Clifford W. Crouch in the Assembly. In the past week I received responses from both of them. Their letters give me reason to feel hopeful that there are indeed higher-ups in New York State that might be on our side.

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Response letter from Assemblyman Clifford W. Crouch

Assemblyman Clifford’s e-mails and letters have always been short and to the point, yet personal, and I appreciate that.  I’m curious where this goes via Assemblywoman Kathy Nolan and I hope that Assemblyman Crouch does host a forum this summer to hear from parents, teachers, and administrators.

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Response letter from New York Senator James L. Seward

Senator Seward’s letter is a bit more on the bureaucratic side, but still a personal response. The last paragraph, which is obscured by my scrawled directions on the back side (sorry) says, “We may have swung too far in testing requirements, and should the education committee review these issue, I will be sensitive to the concerns you have raised. Again, thank you for contacting me. I welcome your advocacy and concern.”

I realize that New York has a long way to go.  It seems like many drink deeply of the Kool-aid these days.  New York is now one of three states left actively participating in the inBloom database project, which is heavily funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, while Louisiana has responded to public outcry and withdrew its own student data, and “Kentucky, Georgia and Delaware – all initially listed as partners on the inBloom website – told Reuters that they never made a commitment and have no intention of participating. Georgia specifically asked for its name to be removed.” Massachusetts and North Carolina are also re-evaluating their participation in the project.

Although 45 states & D.C. adopted the Common Core State Standards, several states are waking up and starting to question the wisdom of this decision. Indiana is leading the way with sentiments against the Common Core. “Anti-Common Core movements are alive and growing not only in Indiana but in Michigan, Alabama and other states,” according to a Washington Times article. But New York is not one of those states. New York is still heavily committed to fully implementing the Core despite growing resistance from parents and teachers with valid questions and concerns.

Is APPR really working in our state? According to award-winning principal Carol Burris, there are many problems with New York’s teacher evaluation system, and it seems that everyone except the education department is willing to acknowledge this.

And when it comes to testing, testing, and even more excessive testing, New York reigns champion.  While policy makers and non-educators prefer their children receive the well-balanced and enriching type of education offered by many private schools that are not stifled by mandates and excessive testing, we at public schools are reassured that testing is considered integral to college & career readiness for all.

Outside of the Education Department, it seems like many politicians don’t really know what’s going on.  They don’t know until we tell them!  I know that many of you have already written to your legislators, and I thank you.  But if you haven’t, will you do me a favor and write a letter now?  You can find your New York State Senator here and your Assembly-member here.

Your letter doesn’t have to be long and you don’t have to cover every single atrocity you see happening to our educational system. But it should be personal! Remember, your legislators are people too. They have families and people that they care about. You need to push that ‘personal’ button and make them take off their politician hats for a moment. You need to make them imagine what it might be like for their loved ones to experience your story. Just be honest and give them at least one example of how you or someone you love is being negatively affected by what’s going on in education today, and what you think should be done about it. The more personal stories they hear, the less likely they will be able to ignore the situation or pass the buck onto the next office or committee. Whether you are a parent, a student, a teacher, a grandparent… whoever you are… you have a story to tell!

I sent my letters via snail mail. This is just my personal opinion, but I figured emails are too easy to send and to receive an actual letter meant that someone really took the time to think about what they were writing. I also sent my letters to their district offices, NOT Albany. I imagined that the mentality of working in Albany would be far more bureaucratic than working in one’s home town. I figured they would be more inclined to sit back and really read my letter in the more relaxed environment of the region we both share.

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