A Unified New York

It’s no secret that New Yorkers–I’m talking the whole state here–are not going to just sit back and watch their children’s education being destroyed by current ed. reforms. We are a passionate lot of people, and we are diverse in our upbringing, our socio-economic positions, our lifestyles, and our paths in life.  We represent the entire political spectrum. We live in the one of biggest cities in the world. We live outside of small villages with no traffic lights. We work and we stay at home. We have years of life experience and we are just finding our way. We are black and we are white. We are many things and the entire gamut in between.

Yet we find ourselves on the same turf, in the same fight for a real education for our children. We want authentic teaching, free of the confines of excessive testing, scripted curricula, and unfair evaluations tied to testing. We want enriching learning experiences (also free of the before mentioned nuisances), that include a wide range of disciplines, a variety of methods, and respect for each individual child. We want schools that support teacher freedom and parent involvement. We want children that love to go to school and love to learn. We want teachers that feel professional once again and we want them to love the important work they’re doing. It sounds like we want a lot. But is it too much to ask? It seems to me that these are the fundamental requirements for any type of education– and right now they are largely missing! If this logic follows true, then we really don’t have education, at least not the type of real education that I want for my children. We must keep fighting and New York State will lead the way.

We already have many tens of thousands of committed individuals who are members of many unique and important regional groups. On Long Island alone, the many thousands of parents who guided their children to refuse the state tests this past April, has gotten the attention of the nation. A majority of school districts there, as well as various others across the state, did not meet AYP (adequate yearly progress). I think we will soon see how empty the state’s threats have been. We are moving forward and making change.

I am excited and inspired to announce that I met with leaders from each region of New York State in a Wegman’s marketplace in Liverpool, NY this past Sunday. We exchanged ideas. We shared concerns. And we left energized, knowing that soon we will have one ‘location’ where ideas can be shared and utilized from region to region. We will construct a NYS website that will be a common place for all of our regional groups to come together as allies, house documents, tools, kits, ideas, contact info, etc. We hope that this project will grow and unite us across the state and help us to accomplish our goals more quickly.

None of this is intended to replace or change anything that current groups are already doing, but rather to assist and unite all of our groups together. But this ‘location’ is particularly relevant and needed for rural communities like mine. We obviously do not share as many socio-economic similarities with a region like Long Island. Progress is slower here as our numbers are lower and our day-to-day concerns about life much more real. Our communities are smaller and much more spread out. There is still much work to be done informing both parents and teachers in my region about current ed. reforms. This is not to say that there aren’t many outspoken individuals around here, but often times we don’t even know that we’re working side by side on the same mission as I learned on Sunday when I met a woman who lives in the next town over! It is my hope that individual groups will continue to do the great work that they have been doing, share their accomplishments, and inspire other groups to do the same. It is my hope that as our regional identities remain intact, we can come together and understand each other more under a greater umbrella.

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