By Andrew Wroblewski
The teachers of Half Hollow Hills have taken their stance; last week the Half Hollow Hills Teachers’ Association unanimously passed a resolution to support the “I Refuse” movement and effectively casted a “vote of no confidence” on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed education reforms, said the association’s president, Richard Haase.
“This is a product of months, if not years of failed conversations at the state level in terms of responding to what parents, teachers and kids want for our students,” Haase said. “More than a year of attempts of diplomatic solutions have failed and threatened to push the system harder and faster in a directions that’s not right. We’ve made a no confidence vote in the reform movement.”
Cuomo, in attempt to reform New York State education, is proposing to link 50 percent of teachers’ evaluations to the scores of standardized tests taken by their students – a proposed increase from the previous 20 percent. A $1.1-billion proposed state aid increase to school districts depends on lawmakers’ acceptance of the governor’s proposed reforms; should the reform not be accepted, districts would see only a $377-million increase to state aid, which was promised last year.
The governor has proposed that the remaining 50 percent of teachers’ evaluations come from observations made by school officials and educators to formulate an “effective” or “ineffective” rating with a system to reward “highly effective” teachers bonuses of up to $20,000.
The Half Hollow Hills Teachers’ Association is now one of 73 New York school districts to adopt the “I Refuse” resolution to oppose this proposed high stakes testing.
Nearly as old as the school district itself, the association holds 1,250 members throughout the district and has a representative assembly of 50, which voted to accept the resolution.
“This doesn’t impact anything in terms of our working relationship with the Half Hollow Hills School District,” Haase said. “We want to do everything that we can to help students succeed, but an aggressive push towards high standards testing rooted in subjects that some students have never been tested in with consequences for the teachers isn’t the way.”
Like several Long Island school districts, Half Hollow Hills has allowed parents the option to refuse having students in grades 3-8 sit in for standardized tests like the NYS English Language Arts Assessment, NYS Mathematics Assessment or NYS Science Assessment. A test refusal form is currently available on a Facebook group created by members of the Half Hollow Hills School District at “District 5 Planners.”
While Haase said there is no simple solution in the mission of helping students succeed, he said Cuomo’s proposed reforms are not the answer.
“There’s a lot that we can do to make sure that students succeed and I hope that in a few months from now we’re in a better place and get back to doing what we need to do,” he said. “Of schools look the same 10 years from now, we might have made a mistake, but if they look how the governor wants them to look 10 years from now, then I know we made a mistake.”