Friday, August 14, 2015


A statement was put out by the Movement of Rank and File Educators, Change the Stakes, and NYC Opt Out criticizing State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia for her threat to withhold funds from school districts who have high rates of students who opt-out of taking state exams (see below for full text).

We also learned yesterday that Mayor Michael Bloomberg's final Chancellor Dennis Walcott was just hired by Elia to monitor the East Ramapo School District so it really is looking like we are in for some difficult times ahead at the state level.

This is a good time to emphasize that MORE introduced a resolution at the UFT Delegate Assembly to vote no confidence in Elia, based on her prior record, right after she was hired last Spring.  The Unity majority (Michael Mulgrew's faction of the UFT) turned it down.

To be fair, Elia did meet on August 4 with real fighters for public schools including Diane Ravitch, Carol Burris, Leonie Haimson (director of Class Size Matters as well as a Steering Committee member of NYS Allies for Public Education), and others. The NYSAPE recap of this meeting stated: "Our meeting confirmed what many have already surmised, Commissioner Elia is deeply committed to the Common Core standards and the test based accountability system that has led to the widespread opt out movement."

Leonie brought up other topics and said that time will tell concerning the new Commissioner.

Here is Leonie's full report on that meeting:

On August 4, we met with the new State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia, along with other members of the steering committee of  New York State Allies for Public Education. Though most of the discussion revolved around the defective state exams and Common Core standards and their damaging impact on our schools, I briefed her on three areas in which the state has failed to comply with the law: Ensuring that charter schools enroll and retain equal numbers of high-needs students, as required by the 2010 amendments to the charter law; that student data is protected, according to the 2014 student privacy law; and that NYC is lowering class size according to the 2007 Contracts for Excellence law. The Commissioner seemed interested and took notes; only time will tell if she improves the poor record of our previous Commissioner in fulfilling the state’s legal obligations to our children.

Speaking of class size, please sign our petition, urging the NYC Chancellor to comply with the C4E law and reduce class size. The legal deadline for submitting our comments is Saturday, August 15, which is the day after tomorrow – so this is your last chance!

The Press Release from MORE, Change the Stakes and NYCOPTOUT:

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For Immediate Release                                                                                                      

August 14, 2015

MORE-UFT, a rank-and-file caucus within the NYC teachers union, stands with parents of Change the Stakes, NYCOPTOUT and NYCpublic in response to New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia’s statement indicating that schools may be subject to sanction and have federal Title I funding withheld for having high percentage of opt outs. These funds are intended to support the neediest students in the state. The tests have sparked controversy, both in regards to the content, which many parents and educators consider poorly designed and developmentally inappropriate, and to the high stakes attached to them, in particular, their unreliable use in the teacher evaluation system, a practice that is widely criticized and currently under review in an Albany court.

Charmaine Brown, parent of a soon to be fourth grader at P.S. 203 in District 22, Brooklyn, states, “We opt out for justice. High stakes testing has only had horrible consequences for schools with disproportionate number of Black and Latino students. Show us one instance in which a school was asked what they needed. Being aware of this, I'm horrified at her (Elia’s) response to punish our schools and our students.”

"These tests are used to rate my teachers. But the tests don't nearly begin to reflect what I learned from them. I think this is totally unfair. That's why I opted out in 8th grade," says Evan Cauthen-Brown, a new Brooklyn Tech student that graduated in June from PS/IS 187 in Washington Heights.
“It is vital that someone speak up in defense of the brave parents and students who are standing up for their rights, their educators and schools, and public education at large by refusing to participate in a testing regime they deem harmful for their children, since our union leadership has so stubbornly refused to do so,” said Dan Lupkin, a UFT Chapter Leader and Brooklyn elementary school teacher.

Jia Lee is a public school parent, teacher and UFT Chapter Leader at the Earth School in Manhattan where more than 100 students boycotted the exams. She states that the expanding opt out movement is a, “growing ground-up awareness by parents, teachers and students who don’t want to be evaluated based on an invalid metric.” Ms. Lee testified to a U.S. Senate committee on the negative consequences of the high stakes attached to flawed standardized tests.

The UFT leadership has shown hesitancy in supporting the opt out movement, refusing to endorse the I Refuse resolution introduced by MORE-UFT that is supported by nearly every local across New York State. MORE also called for a resolution of “No Confidence” in Elia at the UFT delegate assembly, only to be told by the union leadership that Elia was “a friend to teachers unions and someone we can work with.”

MORE-UFT is the Social Justice Caucus of the United Federation of Teachers. We are rank-and-file educators challenging the current leadership of the UFT in the 2016 union elections in order to fight for the public schools our children deserve.

Media Contact
Charmaine Brown/ NYCOPTOUT/ Parent at P.S. 203, District 22

Nancy Cauthen/ Change the Stakes/ Parent of Brooklyn Technical H.S. Student

Dan Lupkin/ MORE/ Elementary School Teacher

Jia Lee/ MORE/ Special Education Teacher


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