The United Federation of Teachers in New York is launching a multimillion-dollar ad campaign blasting Gov. Andrew Cuomo for education policies that have sparked a protest movement among parents and educators.
The union said the campaign began Tuesday with a 30-second ad in the New York City area and moving to the rest of the state on Wednesday. It will run on popular television shows, such as “The Blacklist” and “Mad Men,” as well as during Yankees and Mets baseball games and news networks and programs.
Cuomo recently pushed through the legislature a package of education reforms that angered teachers, in part by elevating the importance of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations. Thousands of parents in New York have opted their children out of the state-mandated high-stakes tests that started last month and are continuing this week. A group of seven New York State Teachers of the Year wrote Cuomo an open letter in February, saying in part:
We are teachers. We have given our hearts and souls to this noble profession. We have pursued intellectual rigor. We have fed students who were hungry. We have celebrated at student weddings and wept at student funerals. Education is our life. For this, you have made us the enemy. This is personal.
Under your leadership, schools have endured the Gap Elimination Adjustment and the tax cap, which have caused layoffs and draconian budget cuts across the state. Classes are larger and support services are fewer, particularly for our neediest students.
We have also endured a difficult rollout of the Common Core Standards. A reasonable implementation would have started the new standards in kindergarten and advanced those standards one grade at a time. Instead, the new standards were rushed into all grades at once, without any time to see if they were developmentally appropriate or useful.
Then our students were given new tests—of questionable validity—before they had a chance to develop the skills necessary to be successful. These flawed tests reinforced the false narrative that all public schools—and therefore all teachers—are in drastic need of reform. In our many years of teaching, we’ve never found that denigrating others is a useful strategy for improvement.
Now you are doubling down on test scores as a proxy for teacher effectiveness. The state has focused on test scores for years and this approach has proven to be fraught with peril. Testing scandals erupted. Teachers who questioned the validity of tests were given gag orders. Parents in wealthier districts hired test-prep tutors, which exacerbated the achievement gap between rich and poor.
Beyond those concerns, if the state places this much emphasis on test scores who will want to teach our neediest students? Will you assume that the teachers in wealthier districts are highly effective and the teachers in poorer districts are ineffective, simply based on test scores?…
You can read the entire letter here. And here’s the UFT ad: