Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Vice-Chancellor Anthony Bottar are both resigning from the New York State Board of Regents, the governing body for education in New York State. Bottar represents a region in upstate New York and Tisch holds an out-large position. With this blog, I officially declare my active candidacy for the Tisch slot.
There are no specific qualifications to serve as a New York State Regent. The NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) asked candidates seeking their endorsement for the Regents positions to complete the following questionnaire. Below are their questions and my responses.
1. What has been your experience with public education?
I have been an educator my entire career with a deep commitment to public education. I graduated from a New York City public high school in the Bronx in 1967. I attended the City College of New York, earned teacher certification in social studies and student taught at a middle school in the south Bronx. I started my teaching career as a reading teacher in a middle school in East New York, Brooklyn and taught high school social studies at Charles Evans Hughes High School in Manhattan and Thomas Jefferson, Franklin K. Lane and Edward R. Murrow high schools in Brooklyn. Since 1990 I have been a teacher educator at Hofstra University. Among my other responsibilities I supervise student teachers in Nassau County and New York City public schools. I write a nationally recognized blog on education for Huffington Post where I challenge Common Core, high-stakes testing, racial inequality in education, racial and ethnic discrimination in teacher certification, the impact of Pearson and other private entities on education policy, and the growth of charter schools. I have been active in the opt-out movement speaking to parent and teacher groups in the New York metropolitan region. I also worked with student and parent campaigns against education budget cuts, promoting historical markers recognizing the history of slavery in New York, in favor of condom availability in schools, against school closings, and to get metal detectors out of schools.
2. Do you consider yourself accountable to the parents of NYS? How will you inform yourself of parent concerns and ideas?
As a member of the New York State Board of Regents I will fight for social justice and what I believe are the educational needs of children. I promise to listen to everyone and seek out diverse viewpoints, but ultimately as an educator and as an educational activist I have to work for the things that I believe in. I will continue my Huffington Post blog which allows me to explain my views on educational issues to a broader public and provides parents and other concerned individuals with a way to respond directly and engage me and each other in discussion.
3. Do you support a parental right of notification and consent regarding the collection and sharing of personally identifiable student information with third party vendors?
Not only do I support parental and student rights to confidentiality but I absolutely oppose sharing information on students with private third-party vendors.
4. Do you support an independent study of the Common Core Learning Standards by a panel of NY education practitioners and developmental psychology experts, as well as a study of the costs of the curriculum, exams and tests?
I want to be on that committee. Common Core undermines a child's love of reading and learning by sub-dividing education into supposedly measurable, testable, component parts. Instead of reading for understanding, thinking, questioning, imagining, and pleasure, children in the earliest grades are told that reading is about taking notes, annotating text, and preparing for high-stakes standardized tests.
5. Describe your idea of appropriate length and format for the state standardized exams for children in grades 3-8.
Ideally I lean towards zero but we do not live in an ideal world. There are many districts like East Ramapo in Rockland County and Lawrence in Nassau County and states across the south and southwest that underfund and probably would like to ignore the education of minority youth. We need to hold these districts and states to a standard and the only way to do that seems to be by testing students. The tests should be used to identify and address academic gaps. That being said, testing should be at a minimum and children should not be punished for the transgressions of district and state politicians.
6. Do you support the right of parents to decide whether their children will participate in the NY State standardized exams?
Yes. I am proud that my grandchildren opted-out in April 2015.
7. How will you ensure that students with disabilities, many of whom are not able to pass a Common Core-aligned Regents exam, even at a modified passing score, are able to receive a diploma?
As one member of the Board of Regents I will not be in a position to ensure anything, I can only promise to fight for what is fair and reasonable. In the past New York State issued local diplomas that recognized the accomplishments of students with disabilities. Graduation requirements should be aligned with a student's IEP or Individual Educational Plan. That seems like both a fair and reasonable policy.
8. Please add anything else you would like to explain about your background and why you would like to become a member of the Board of Regents.
These are some of my other priorities:
• I oppose the privatization of education, vouchers, and tax deductions for contributions to private and parochial schools.
• I am skeptical about the value of charter schools, but if they continue in operation they must be closely monitored by state regulators and required to meet all the educational mandates required of regular public schools.
• If the wealthy want to make donations to public education, we should accept their money, but that does not give them the right to influence school policy and curriculum.
• Local property taxes as a major source of school funding promotes inequality between districts and political infighting within districts. It is an outdated way to fund education. All education in New York State should be paid for out of the general state budget and paid for with higher taxes on businesses that benefit from the state's education system and the more affluent.
• There are areas in New York State such as in Nassau County where micro-school districts contribute to racial, ethnic, and class segregation. Where possible, school districts should be realigned and consolidated to promote equity and integration and to better prepare our young people for life in a diverse world.
• Common Core and continual test prep have pushed respect for diversity and multicultural curriculum to the backburner and I want them restored as priorities. I helped develop the award winning New York and Slavery: Complicity and Resistance curriculum and an Irish famine curriculum that focused on the right of all people to food.
• I work with the New York State Council for the Social Studies and many of its local and regional affiliates promoting social studies education, especially preparing students to become active citizens defending and expanding human rights and democracy in the United States and the world.
• The Board of Regents must stand up to the Governor when he attacks schools and teachers for his own political reasons. It should celebrate students, schools, and teachers and not participate in a culture that blames them for all the problems of American society.
To support my nomination to the New York State Board of Regents contact Steven McCutcheon, the State Assembly Program and Counsel Staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.