Reflections on Education Summit

I wish I had time for a more detailed analysis of Assemblyman Crouch’s education summit last night, but I’m trying to get ready for a road trip to Pittsburgh to visit my sister.

Here’s the lowdown. Assemblyman Crouch is very receptive to hearing from us. Let me start by thanking the many teachers who were brave enough to speak last night and set the record straight about what education reforms and testing are doing to our schools. There were a few parents that spoke as well, and it is clear that we, the public, are very concerned about where education is headed and that we want change. If you were there last night, please be sure to email Cliff and thank him for his efforts last night. If you spoke last night, send him a message reiterating your points. His email is crouchc@assembly.state.ny.us.

Some points that struck me. First attendance was low. I expected the Chenango Valley High School auditorium to be packed, but we didn’t even fill a third of it. This tells me that either a lot of people out there are unaware of what’s going on, or they don’t think it affects them. We need to keep speaking out, letting people know what’s going on in education and how it does indeed affect everyone.

The local media coverage was nice, (see here and here) but not at all in depth and just covered the basic fluff in my opinion. If anyone is aware of any other coverage, please comment below.

The panel that Assemblyman Crouch organized was weak and provided insufficient insight as to what’s going on. It was the crowd that held the true power and told it like it is.

New York State Regent James Tallon was defensive from the get-go and borderline antagonistic, and his rebuttal to most comments made by the public seemed greatly in defense of testing. In response to most of us that spoke first, he kept mentioning the Regents exams and how testing has always been there. And the tired old comparison of accountability in school to professional accountability was made several times. Luckily, the audience was smart enough to set the record straight and towards the end Regent Tallon almost admitted that the Regents exams as a comparison to the many other tests that are consuming education were not the same thing. He did not however seem to come to “our” side of the issue. It was disappointing.

Other members of the panel included David Gill, Chenango Valley Central School District, Interim Superintendent; Dona Murray, teacher, and Suzanne Sova, parent. Although they acknowledged many of our concerns, their criticism was watered down in my opinion, and again it was the crowd that brought the passion and true arguments to the table. Assemblyman Crouch and Regent Tallon spoke the most, and the other three balanced out the perspectives but had little ‘bite’ when it comes to discussing the devastating effects of education reforms today.

The audience covered just about everything in their comments and questions. They were brilliant! I spoke also. I introduced myself as a member of Opt-out New York & Oneonta Area for Public Education. I was the second in line and focused my attention to parental rights to direct the upbringing of our children and refuse to participate in these tests. I asked for legislation that would allow this to occur easily without fighting with our schools, to remove the wedge that has been driven between parents and administrations by threats and fear tactics issued from above. Assemblyman Crouch said they were “discussing ideas.”

Again, Assemblyman Crouch is receptive. Please contact him. I was able to shake his hand at the end after most had left. I mentioned my desire for opt-out legislation and his response was positive. Another member of our local group, Oneonta Area For Public Education asked for another summit in Oneonta. Although this is not Crouch’s district, he was very open to the idea of working with Assemblyman Magee and other neighboring representatives to organize another event. PLEASE contact your representative and ask for something similar! The ball will start rolling slowly. Do NOT be discouraged. It is rolling, and it will build momentum. But it starts with you!

Ok, out the door… 6 1/2 hour drive you know… make that 8 with two young children and lots of stopping.  Forgive my lack of proof-reading and if I neglected to mention anything important!!!

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Retired Elementary School Principal Speaks of “Testing Craze”

This was a guest editorial featured in the Tri-Town News, in Sidney, NY. I have Stephen “Spike” Paranya’s permission to share it with you here.

 
 
 
 

 
The following was a speech delivered by Spike Paranya at the Induction Ceremony for the National Honor Society at the Sidney High School. Spike is a retired Sidney Elementary School Principal.

Public Education Has Been Hijacked by
The Testing Craze

Good evening everyone – students, parents, and Sidney CSD staff. While I would like to thank you, the members of the National Honor Society, for inviting me here to speak to you tonight, I want to thank you all the more for being who you are – young men and women who bring satisfaction and joy to your parents and teachers through your achievements in school and beyond. I would especially like to emphasize the positive effects you have, as honor students, on your teachers, because, right now, the teachers in our district, our BOCES, our state and our country need positive reinforcement more than ever before.

Why? Because in today’s educational world, public education has been hijacked by our country’s political/corporate leaders and has resulted in something I know you are all familiar with, the testing movement, or I might say, the testing craze. I’m sure you are familiar with the amount of testing you and your younger brothers and sisters now experience. Tonight I would like to give you a few of my beliefs on this topic as an educator of over forty-five years, beliefs I feel I share with a majority of America’s top educators.

First, let me state that I am a believer in testing as a means to improve the education of all students and to help teachers in this process. Used properly, tests and their results let teachers and students know about the learning strengths and weaknesses of students. Testing also rewards students who do well. In doing so they also let teachers know what they need to do to improve students’ academic weaknesses. This is where the role of testing lay until about 2002. That is when politicians and not educators took over control of our educational philosophy. Congress passed a bill, proposed by President Bush, called No Child Left Behind that made testing mandatory for students in grades three through eight. In their ignorance of the educational process, they decided that the best way to improve American education was to increase testing and make students and teachers accountable for student achievement, especially if it was below average. Very simple, improve test scores and Americans will be more successful and able to compete internationally. And so the acceleration of testing began. President Obama has now made this situation worse with Race to the Top, a program that essentially states if you don’t do what we politicians demand you don’t get federal funds for your state. This program further increases the amount, importance, and pressure of testing and links student achievement with teacher evaluation, a process that has many important flaws.

Lets look at what has happened in the last ten years since the No Child Left Behind bill was passed by Congress. We have seen a change from a system that rewards achievement to one that concentrates on punishing students, teachers, administrators and schools who do not achieve goals set for them. Often these goals are not realistic or possible to achieve. No Child Left Behind demanded that all students be proficient in reading by 2014. With one year to go, we are nowhere near achieving that goal and probably never will. But remember, this goal was set by politicians and not educators. Many students who do poorly on tests now drop out of school when they reach high school discouraged by constant failure and boredom. We know students learn in different ways and at different rates. We also know there are many successful people who were poor test takers. Appropriate education for all and not test scores alone leads to success.

Not every school district is equally affected by testing. It is mainly the urban schools and smaller, more rural school districts that have problems. Wealthy school districts have continued to be less affected although that too is changing. With more money to spend on education and fewer students who are economically deprived they can spend less time preparing for tests and continue to offer important enriching activities. Testing as it is presently administered does not offer equal opportunity for all students in our country.

In reality, test scores, as a measure of student or school success is a flawed concept. First of all, evaluation by test scores has generally not been shown to result in any significant improvement in student math and reading ability. True, students in the lower grades studying for the tests and high school students studying past SAT and ACT tests, do show improvement, sometimes great improvement, when they take the real test but when tested by methods unfamiliar to them, they show little or no gain. This result has been seen time and time again across the United States. High stakes testing has also led to widespread cheating and falsifying test scores by some teachers and administrators due to the pressure of needing high test scores to keep their jobs or to keep their schools open. These days when you hear about schools making remarkable improvements in test scores one must view these results with skepticism.

What is significant about studying for tests is that it takes time away from instruction that can be more creative, exciting and beneficial to true student learning and achievement. It has resulted in a reduction of the teaching of science and social studies. It has resulted in a reduction of the teaching of the arts including literature, music, art, and drama, which have been shown to improve student learning. Most important is the fact that it has taken away much of the joy and comfort of school for students, especially those in the lower grades, and for teachers as well.

How has the New York state testing program state affected teachers? Teachers teach best when they are free to be creative, caring, stimulating, student centered, relaxed and proud of their work. Presently, they no longer have time to teach this way and worry that teaching outside the test areas may lower their students test scores and result in a lower evaluation for them as teachers. This leads to boredom in the classroom as well as fear of failure for teachers and students alike. When fear takes over it is hard for teachers to teach and students to learn. While teachers are very familiar with this problem, there is now an undercurrent of discontent among parents with the over emphasis on testing. Last week I attended a meeting in Oneonta of local parents exploring their right to opt out of state testing for their children (google: opt out new york). On Long Island over 2000 students have already opted out of taking state tests. It seems the number of students opting out of state tests will only grow in the next few years as parents learn this is possible. This is not a good thing either because, as I’ve said before, testing properly done is extremely helpful to teachers in guiding the learning of students.

What does this mean for all of you? Well, if you plan to become a teacher, don’t be discouraged. This paralyzing emphasis on testing will hopefully not last and will likely be seen as a disaster created by politicians and corporate leaders in the future. If you have a younger brother or sister, take the responsibility to give them learning enrichment they no longer get in school such as going to museums, concerts, and watching educational programs on television with you about science and history. If you become a parent, and most of you will, take responsibility for providing educational activities for your children from the time they are born. And remember, you are or soon will be in a position to make your opinion heard. By voting and knowing the issues that affect education in your local schools, in New York, and in the United States you can make a positive difference for our future schools. And finally, remember your teachers. They work hard and want every student to succeed in their studies. When you come to school tomorrow, give a teacher a hug. They will appreciate being appreciated!

Stephen Paranya

Retired Sidney Elementary Schools Principal

A Life Enjoyed–a picture diary

When it comes to food, what’s more satisfying than a meal you’ve made yourself? How ’bout a meal you made yourself using mostly things you’ve grown or produced on your own?

Our vegetable garden is huge. We eat from it all spring, summer, and into the fall.  And we put a lot of food by for the winter. Today I noticed that it’s time to cut the garlic scapes, the curly part that grows from the green part of the plant, providing an edible mild garlic flavor long before the garlic bulbs under the ground are mature.

garlic scapes are a deliciously garlicy treat long before the bulbs are ready for harvest.

garlic scapes are a delicious garlicy treat long before the bulbs are ready for harvest.

This spring we’ve enjoyed fresh spinach, mesclun, and asparagus. (The bunnies ate my snap peas 😦 ). As the cool weather crops are soon to peak and bolt, we anxiously await fresh beets, beans, and carrots which are soon to grace us with their mid-season availability. The Romaine is beautiful right now, at the peak of quality and flavor. I’m thinking big Saturday lunch salad!

Romaine variety, mesclun mix in the background, with beet greens thriving behind those.

Romaine variety, mesclun mix in the background, with beet greens thriving behind those.

Asparagus season is finishing up, but I still have a huge bunch in the refrigerator, and there are still some spears popping up in the garden. Some blanched, sliced asparagus would be divine in my salad.

Asparagus spear still growing.

Asparagus spear still growing.

Warm weather brings everything in abundance, and fresh eggs from my laying hens are no exception.  Some slices of hard-boiled egg would go quite well on my salad. We’ve had chickens for about 4 years now, and we could never imagine ourselves without them. The eggs are so delicious, and my free-range hens work hard for us! We have no waste here–they eat any kitchen scraps we might have. I also compost right in their run, and by giving them room to allow their inherent chickenness to shine through, they dig and scratch looking for insects and worms, turning and oxygenating my pile of organic matter and breaking it down in record time. That compost is enriched with their poop, giving me the best natural fertilizer for my garden.

This is Mrs. Hen. She came to us along with her 7 chicks to start off our flock of fowl!

This is Mrs. Hen, a Rhode Island Red that came to us along with her 7 chicks to start off our flock of fowl!

And so lunch came together from things mostly grown or produced right here at our house. We had a salad of fresh Romaine lettuce, with blanched asparagus, and sliced hard-boiled eggs. I added some roasted sunflower seeds and golden raisins that were both store-bought. But those garlic scapes made a delicious salad dressing made with sour cream and homemade Greek yogurt. The milk used to make the yogurt and that which we drank with our meal is local. We buy it directly from a farmer right down the road. I bake bread too, and so a slice of my Whey Good Bread (folks, you heard it here first!!) was perfect along side this home grown and homemade dish! Whey is the byproduct when you strain yogurt to make Greek yogurt.

creamy garlic scape dressing.

creamy garlic scape dressing.

homemade whole wheat bread made with whey in place of water.

homemade whole wheat bread made with whey in place of water.

Yes, lunch today exemplifies an aspect of the type of life we enjoy is rural upstate New York. The days go by slow and without pretention for the most part. Where some see dullness, I see a life worth living. I see the magic in each ostensibly mundane moment, and I feel grateful and satisfied for all that I have.

In these routine moments of uninterrupted life, I have time to think, to appreciate. The fragrance of Persian lilacs descend on me as I investigate the ripeness of strawberries. No, not quite ready… any day now. But I know I don’t have to worry. My son has been doing his own investigating and I know he will alert me to their readiness with red finger tips and stained lips.

A background of Persian fragrant Persian lilacs and my strawberry patch.

A background of fragrant Persian lilacs and my strawberry patch.

It was a good spring for tree flowers and the crabapples were spectacular earlier this spring. My young orchard of various fruit trees were also glowing with blossoms despite their young age and small stature. The general absence of bees earlier this spring was alarming, and as a result my fruit trees are bare save one apple tree. This small miracle of life frames my view as I turn to watch my son “just doing my work, mama,” as he likes to say.

Immature apples on the only tree that was pollinated in my yard. My son plays in the background under the shade of a maple tree.

Immature apples on the only tree that was pollinated in my yard. My son plays in the background under the shade of a maple tree.

Life brings both frustrations and rewards, a duality in everything around us. Small towns can be the centers of gossip and xenophobia, but at the same time I am thankful for neighbors who get together for drinks and conversation, unplanned and at the ring of a bell–a custom we were invited into our first summer in this house. We also have folks that truly look out for one another, neighbors that are always willing to lend a hand.

My day began with the unexpected offer by my husband to watch the kids so I could go Mt. biking at beautiful Gilbert Lake state park. Some time for myself (much needed and seldom taken by stay-at-home moms), only to return to a house of disaster as the multi-tasking gene is recessive on the Y chromosome. I’m not angry… it happens every time! I love my husband. He’s my best friend and an ideal partner, and above all else, a fantastic father. I find the dichotomy of pride and frustration with one’s partner to be normal–a point worth laughing about! For example, I am proud of him for his contributions to our all volunteer fire department and EMS. He might save a life driving the ambulance, and he’s ready to participate whether there is a structure fire or an accident. And I stand in awe of him for he has also seen a life taken far prematurely, and to be witness to such an event takes an incredibly special kind of person. On the lighter side of his volunteer work, I am slightly annoyed for he is ‘wasting’ yet another beautiful Saturday afternoon to proctor demolition derbies at the fairgrounds!

When my daughter, Mara woke up from her nap, she immediately called for her brother, Oscar. “Okkah, Okkah,” she yelled, and we joined him in the yard. In an effort to help out and do just as her older brother, she too wanted to carry eggs back to the house. With an egg in each hand she smiled and beamed with pride and happiness. Then in a quick gesture of those emotions, she clapped both eggs together with gelatinous drips of raw egg running down her arms. She loves her big brother and tries to be just like him. After he dropped his pants and peed against a tree, she did the same, not fully understanding what it was all about. But there she was, facing the tree, pants around her ankles, with a large cloth diaper bum for all the world to see!

Mara Liesbeth

Mara Liesbeth, 20 months

Oscar Johan

Oscar Johan, 5 years

It is my children that complete me and give me my greatest joy in life. It is by watching them watching life and learning from every bit of it that uncovers magic in the mundane. It is precisely the routine everyday occurrences–the banal perhaps–that interest me. These moments bring me such satisfaction and joy, and expose the sublime.

Can you claim you are truly happy? I am happy, and I think it comes down to being willing to deeply appreciate that which one has, rather than constantly focusing on what is to come or what is to be achieved. Perhaps these are ridiculous ideals, applicable only to me, but I think not. They might not be profound by any means, but this mentality keeps me smiling and keeps me grateful. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

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the end!

Addressed My BOE Tonight

Thank you for the opportunity to address you this evening and for your service in our community.

My name is Danielle Boudet. My previous letter was mentioned during one of the last board meetings and it was oversimplified that I am a parent opposed to testing. I am not against testing and certainly not against authentic teacher-driven assessment. But I am opposed to high-stakes tests that are not reliable indicators of our children’s performance and are unfair judges of them, their teachers, and their schools. I am opposed to tests and mandates that drain away our local control over education and our precious budget.

The minutes from the March 21, 2013 Board meeting contain some misinformation I’d like to clarify. First, I did not ask the Board to “sign a letter of waiver against the students taking the state tests.” I realize you don’t have that authority. What I did propose was for the Board to consider passing a RESOLUTION against high-stakes testing, which a growing list of BOEs across the state have already done, so it was not an unreasonable request. I have an updated list with me tonight. I also provided good information and resources for you to understand my perspective about testing and about many other concerns.

Secondly, regarding the opt-out movement: Although the state tests are over making this is a moot point, the information in the minutes is false so I’ll correct it. Just ask the thousands of students across the state who refused the tests this year, their parents, and the schools that accommodated them and you will confirm that opting out does NOT give the student an automatic ‘1’ for their score. They will get NO score and this information is freely found in NYSED’s own SIRS manual. I never mentioned a “waiver” that parents could sign, but although it is true that schools must comply and administer these tests, there is no authority over whether students must take them or how parents may guide their own children. And I will continue to advocate for parents and students who choose to exercise their rights in this decision.

We might not agree on everything, and the rumors that have come back to me suggest that you don’t agree with my position. Multiple perspectives are good, and you owe it to the members of this community and to the students at this school to be open to positions that differ from yours. To launch, perpetuate, or believe a rumor that I am somehow (deviously) plotting to change education in New York State all by myself is either deeply naive or incredibly stupid. First of all, no lone citizen is that powerful. Secondly, when it comes to changing education in NY, the government is doing a fine job of that already. My goal is to preserve it, the integrity and love of learning for our students and our teachers, and our freedom to make decisions at the local level and not simply be ‘yes’ men.

Whether or not we agree, the future of our local school is not looking good. We’ve been threatened with insolvent budgets, program cuts, the loss of art and music, as well as athletics, and the possibility of our school closing its door as our children get bussed to some regional school. If this happens, faculty and staff will be laid off, administrative duties will be consolidated, and we will cease to be Morris Central anymore. And it will be our kids that suffer the most.

So take a hard look at where we’re forced to spend our money and all that is expected of us. How complex will this become once our RttT grant money runs out and we are forced to comply with even more tests and mandates. For the record, I voted in favor of the budget that just passed. But ask yourselves, how much longer will the public continue to support increasing budgets and tax hikes, when our money is being drained away for mandates, and while programs and activities that we as a community love are being stripped away?

Furthermore, while politicians and non-educators, who don’t listen to teachers or parents, make all of these decisions for our supposed best interests, their children are receiving the highest quality education in private schools that are not required to comply with all of this nonsense.

I’m not against high standards or accountability, but I am against curricula becoming developmentally inappropriate and I am against the Wal-martization of our education where it seems that school curricula has become the next big market opportunity for companies to cash in on.

In closing let me add that the energy at the NYSUT rally, One Voice United was palpable. To the teachers here that might feel like their voice is not heard and the guidance from their union is lacking, I say you are not alone. Over 10,000 of your brothers and sisters came together last Saturday along with many other parents and children to prove that. Every voice we add sends a more powerful message.

Thank you again for your time.

On Books and the Common Core

The Common Core rhetoric is ubiquitous–rigorcollege/ career readinesshigh standards, and real world skills–the same message, different packaging everywhere one looks. We all know it has invaded our schools and teachers and administrators are scrambling to implement the Common Core with as little difficulties as possible. For many, the rhetoric and empty promises delivered by proponents of the Common Core are all most people will hear and they will not think to question it. They will trust that all is being handled and all is well.

Don’t be fooled!

All is not well and critics of the Common Core are widespread and coming from the full gamut of the political spectrum and from individuals representing all walks of life. The standardization, or rather the Conformity and Comliance, demanded by the Common Core is very concerning. Many worry that the expectations on students are unrealistic and inappropriate for many. The overuse of testing used for accountability of students, teachers, and schools has many concerned about narrowed curriculum and bad teaching practices. The Common Core is untested and foolish according to many and will have little effect on American students’ learning. The drive for higher standards and greater academic success, as well as the need to trim precious finite budgets, has many schools cutting or eliminating valuable disciplines and activities like art, music, PE, and recess. Criticism extends to several new kids on the educational block including required systems of teacher evaluation like NY’s APPR plan, and the scheme to collect student and teacher data through Gates funded inBloom.

But just as disconcerting is the influence of corporate power in the educational game and the massive profits they seek to earn from the PK-16 market. Pearson, who already holds the contract in New York state for providing state tests, will take over New York’s teacher certification in 2014. Pearson has already admitted to multiple errors on its tests, yet still stands to rake in billions of dollars offering schools ‘solutions‘ to the implementation of the Common Core. And they’re not alone. Companies, like Renaissance Learning and McGraw Hill, providing educational materials have jumped on the Common Core cash cow from the beginning, promising innovative solutions for schools and providing assessment tools that are mandated by the state (and paid for by the school).

And the educational cash cow is not just being milked in our schools. The Common Core is a hot topic among publishers: “What does this mean for the children’s book industry? Ideally, a whole lot of knowledge sharing—and increased book sales,” according to a Publishers Weekly article.  Scholastic is one of many proudly touting their alignment to the Common Core. Stenhouse Publishers, HarperCollins, Random House, Macmillan/ McGraw Hill, The Penguin Group all have similar statements of backing the Common Core.

Now, let me be clear: just because their offerings are Common Core aligned does not mean they are inherently bad. Many wonderful classic books, like The Little Prince, are being reviewed and declared perfect for the Common Core. But I do fear a climate where new, fresh voices and talents might be ignored if their art doesn’t fall within the narrow purview of Common Core suitability. I worry that authors might be bullied into relinquishing their authentic, creative voices in place of a watered down, standardized version of their work.

The other day, a young woman came to my door. She was a college student selling educational books door-to-door through Southwestern Advantage. She had been at my neighbor’s house previously and my neighbor told her I was considering homeschooling. The saleswoman said they had some great homeschooling curriculum I might be interested in. I really wasn’t interested in the door-to-door sales pitch and besides, a friend of mine who had simultaneously arrived had already helped herself to a beer from my refrigerator and I was anxiously waiting to join her on the porch for some good chit chat and a cold drink! Anyway, I told her I really wasn’t interested in curriculum at this time, but she insisted that she show me her materials.  She started to open her bag and I asked, “Are your books Common Core aligned?”

Her eyes widened, her smile broadened. Her thoughts became transparent and I knew that she believed that this could be the selling point to seal the deal with me. “Yes,” she replied “they are!

“Then I am most definitely not interested,” I stated. I could tell she did not understand. When I walked her to the door, she asked me why I was concerned. I told her that the Common Core was the primary reason that we are considering homeschooling and that the structured, one-size-fits-all approach that tends to be adopted with the Common Core would not work for us.

Again, I realize that materials are not inherently bad just because their seller promotes them as Common Core aligned. But I am opposed to the Common Core and all the nasty little details associated with it. Most importantly I will not support the open market our educational system has become and the joke that all will be saved and made proper with the purchase of canned education. As much as I am able, given the ubiquity of the Common Core, I will refuse.

Like many things in life, the naturalness of learning–the art of teaching and being taught–is stripped away. We forget we even had it. Then it is packaged and sold back to us and we are led to believe that we cannot live without it.

One Voice United!

Yesterday’s NYSUT rally, One Voice United, in Albany, NY was quite an experience. I went with my children to show my support for New York’s teachers and add my voice to those united against the atrocities consuming public education.

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That’s me on the right with my son, Oscar (5) and my daughter, Mara (1 1/2)!

It was amazing and empowering to be around so much energy. I strolled around all afternoon with a smile on my face, mostly connecting with folks on a non-verbal level, with nods of approval or exchanges of thumbs up. My son’s Kindergarten should be Fun… sign drew a lot of kindergarten teachers to us for brief yet powerful moments of connection and understanding. It was refreshing for me to be around like-minded folks, and although my children are too young to really understand what this is all about, I felt it was important for them to see the importance of people coming together to stand up for shared beliefs. I’m not a teacher so I can only imagine the deeper level of energy that the teachers in attendance must have felt being together like that, rallying for a unified cause.

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Admittedly, I didn’t have the opportunity to just sit back and listen to everything that every speaker had to say– young children often have very different needs at such an event!  But I did catch NYSUT president Richard Iannuzzi, with the charismatic authority he seems to possess, frame his speech wholly in the positive.  We weren’t there to rally against anything.  We were there to rally for the children.  It seemed that both he and AFT president Randi Weingarten, walked a fine line between expressing the collective frustrations of their union members and not offending the powers that be.  Both Iannuzzi and Weingarten support Common Core State Standards, with Weingarten openly expressing her opinions in favor of the Core.

As Kris Nielsen writes in his endearing summary of the event, “there was a quality to this rally that made the more, how shall I say, cynical among us pay closer attention.” And he’s right!  I know, for I am one of the cynical. But my experience at the rally and my impressions of every single person who attended are nothing but positive! Nielsen’s write-up of the event is outstanding, so I won’t add anything else there. Nielsen’s optimism, which I share, is that teachers will “realize that they are not alone.  The state of New York has a very large group of teachers who feel the same ways, see the same things, and all want change. This is empowering. This will hopefully get teachers to move and get active with their local union chapters and start organizing in order to return the profession to the way it should be. Teachers are powerful and they have parents on their side.” I can only wonder why no one from my district chose to attend.

I’ve been communicating with a local teacher near my district. He and I recently pondered some questions that I think still need to be asked. It is no secret that a great majority of parents in our area are ill informed about what’s happening with their children’s education. We share the daunting goal of trying to make the public aware. But we wonder, what’s going on with a great many teachers here who don’t yet seem willing to voice concerns? As 20,000 just demonstrated, you are not alone! Parents and teachers, we need to remember that we are on the same side. We are allies. I’m sick and tired of parents complaining about “bad” teachers, and I’m sick and tired of teachers blaming parents (like a conversation I overheard at the rest area on the way to the rally). Yes, there are those of us in both camps that could be doing a better job. But for those of us that are informed, we might not agree on everything, but we are on the same team with the same goals.

I’ve been told on a number of occasions over the past few weeks that my stand in this fight is cynical, emotional, angry, not empathetic. I don’t deny it. I have been very frustrated lately, perhaps focusing too much on the obstacles rather than the achievements. Although I will be participating in some upcoming local things, I intend to take a break from posting for a while for I feel that I have nothing to lend with my voice at the moment. I will leave you with the positive message that we ARE fighting FOR the children! But I, for one, am against many things. I am against a testing regime that stifles authentic education and narrows curriculum. I am against the Common Core and the corporate whip that drives it, and the one-size-fits-all approach it delivers. I am against unfair teacher evaluations and the culture of fear that stifles their profession. I am against inBloom and the impermissible (by me) collection of my children’s data. I am against Governor Cuomo and Commissioner King and other non-educators & policy makers who connive mandates and think they know best. I am against a system of state and federal control that bleeds precious tax dollars from our local schools while continually weakening local voice in the matter. And I am against any and all education reforms that do not deliver a well-rounded and enriching learning experience for public school children.