Letter to our RVC School District Families

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Letter to Our RVC School District Families

March, 2015

Dear Rockville Centre School Families,

In January, Governor Cuomo’s State of the State “Opportunity Agenda” posed significant changes affecting our children, educational communities and teachers, while further tarnishing the respect that should be afforded to all who appreciate the value of public education.

Cuomo’s proposed modifications to New York State Education Department (NYSED) teacher evaluations would lead to the degradation of Rockville Centre’s fine educational community.  Under his plan, local control of teacher retention would be negated, in favor of the following:
– 50% of a teacher’s rating will be based on state test assessments.
– 50% of a teacher’s rating will be based on observations. Andrew Cuomo feels that an outsider should conduct one, heavily-weighted observation, rather than using an observation by a Rockville Centre UFSD administrator selected by our Board of Education. Cuomo would have a second, lesser-weighted observation conducted by our administration.

The Opportunity Agenda means that a teacher may be exemplary in the classroom, as viewed by parents,  students and administrators, but could be fired by our district. This would destroy cherished, enduring and collaborative student/teacher relationships, compromise our children’s trajectory in life, further increase state assessment-related stress in the classroom, and erode the foundation of public education in Rockville Centre. 85% of our evaluations would be removed from the hands of our community and placed in the hands of the state. Currently, 80% of our evaluations are locally constructed.

Testing anxiety is a common term these days and is keenly felt by our students, families and educators. RVC remains at the forefront in providing a strong voice to the Opt-Out movement, but, you should know that teachers’ ratings are still based on those children who took the state assessments. So-called “state measures” (20% of teachers’ evaluations) are not based on current students’ scores for the year that the teacher has the student; instead, ratings are configured on whether our children showed improvement (termed “growth”) from one year to the next. Now, Andrew Cuomo wants to up the ante by increasing the value of the state assessments in teacher evaluations to 50%.

How is this helping our children, our teachers, or our community? It’s not helping any of us in Rockville Centre. Those very wealthy hedge fund friends who bankrolled the Governor in his last campaign and who support Cuomo in his education reform “billionaires’ agenda” will derive the true “opportunity.”

The Governor stated that the goal of evaluations should be to categorize 10% of our teachers as ineffective. Regardless of our educators’ abilities and classroom successes, the scoring proposed by Andrew Cuomo will result in unnecessary firing of teachers, the consequence of which is guaranteed to be detrimental to our students, community and the teaching profession, as well as those considering teaching as a career. The cost associated with replacement of educators could be astronomical.

Test preparation has become the mainstay in our state’s classrooms. The Governor says that our schools are falling behind. That is a lie. The reality is that grade 3 through 8 state assessment scores dropped only after the imposition of highly flawed Common Core assessments, which were implemented prior to student exposure to new Common Core-based curriculum. New York’s State Education Department didn’t give schools the Common Core curriculum, but they expected kids to take Common Core tests. How can you test a student on curriculum not provided to the child’s teacher?

It is inevitable that, if the Governor’s proposals are implemented, our curriculum will be irreparably damaged.

In his State of the State address, Andrew Cuomo said that our schools are failing. The fallacy of this statement is that, in reality, half of the state’s school districts are getting less state aid than in 2008. Long Island has 17% of the students in New York State, but we only receive 12% of the state aid. The significance of this action has been the slow and painful degradation of Long Island’s public schools. Andrew Cuomo says that “education should be the great equalizer,” but schools in poorer districts spent $8,733 per pupil less in 2012 than those from wealthier ones, an inequity that increased by nearly 9% since Cuomo took office in 2011. He is sending a message to everyone in Rockville Centre and across Long Island that we may have more students, but we are not entitled to our fair share of aid funding.

Parents, students, business leaders, residents, and educators alike all know the value placed in Rockville Centre’s schools. We prize our individuality; we encourage creativity, curiosity, and investigation. We appreciate and recognize the importance of the arts and technology in shaping our students’ lives. No matter what building you enter, our schools serve as gateways to our students’ future success and happiness.

So knowing this, we have a request. We need your help in preserving our district.

Please let Dean Skelos and Assemblyman Brian Curran know that Governor Cuomo’s proposals under his “Lack of Opportunity Agenda” are flawed and counterproductive to our students’ success, that the goals established under his plan fail to reflect the promise of public education, that we as residents of Long Island are ready to stand up for our children, who are being victimized under the pressure of testing, loss of state aid, fewer program options and a naive, short-sighted

Andrew Cuomo is holding state aid runs, needed in school district budgeting, hostage unless our elected legislators agree with his “Opportunity Agenda.” His 50/50 changes to the teacher and principal education law are linked to his positions on education reform and therefore, also tied to the state budget, to be voted on by April 1.

Please let your legislators know that you disagree with this plan:

1. Contact Governor Cuomo
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building

2. Contact Assemblyman Brian Curran, who represents Rockville Centre and South Hempstead.
District Office: 108 Merrick Road, Lynbrook, NY 11563 516-561-8216
Albany Office: LOB 318, Albany, NY 12248 518-455-4656

3. Contact State Senator Dean Skelos
District Office: 55 Front Street, Rockville Centre, NY 11570 516-766-8383
Albany Office: LOB 909, Albany, NY 12247 518-455-3171
Please share this letter with friends and family who support public education.

Rockville Centre Teachers