Tuesday, December 10, 2013

“Change Course or Get Lost” Speech to Bronx Common Core Forum

Regent Chair Tisch: As a teacher and coach for more than 45 years, as a Professor of African American studies and History at Fordham, and as someone who spent years doing community history projects in Bronx schools before they were driven out by the misuse of testing to rate schools and teachers. I am here to ask for your resignation as Chair of the NY Board of Regents. 
Well before the recent imposition of Common Core aligned ELA and Math tests, policies you approved were destroying teaching and learning in Bronx schools. A toxic combination of school grades, test based teacher evaluations, school closings, and charter school co-locations had driven teacher morale in the Bronx to the lowest levels I have seen in my life time, lower even than in the heyday of the crack epidemic. As teaching to the test crowded out arts, sports, even recess and physical education, great teachers began leaving while countless others were under a doctors care for anxiety and stress. And as for Bronx students, the stress they felt in crowded homes and neighborhoods was being magnified by a uncontrolled testing which not only stamped out their creativity and love of learning, threatened their mental and physical well being.
That educational catastrophe should have led you to change course, but instead you decided to ratchet up the pressure by having Common Core aligned tests introduced that were normed so harshly that they led to 70 percent of the students in the state were designated as “failures.” As a teacher, a coach, a parent and a grandparent, that is something I can neither forgive nor forget. Adding to the already intolerable stress on Bronx students and teachers through Common Core testing removes whatever claim to legitimacy you may have had when you first took your current position.
Let me end with a warning. The organization I head, the Badass Teachers Association, with nearly 35,000 members and chapters in every state, will hold you personally accountable for the policies you have introduced. Everywhere you go, BATS will be there to ask the State to withdraw from Common Core, stop schools closings, and stop rating teachers and schools on student test scores. Since we are in the Bronx, my message to you is simple and direct “Change Course or Get Lost”

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