Andrew Pallotta: New Commissioner Offers A Fresh Start

Aug 19, 2019

We got unexpected news last month. New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia submitted her resignation to the state board of regents. She will leave her post at the end of August. We wish her well in her future endeavors.

A new commissioner offers the chance for a fresh start in education. One that truly fixes the broken grade 3-8 English Language Arts and math tests, addresses the looming teacher shortage and increases diversity within the teaching ranks.

We hope that the new commissioner will be open to hearing feedback from educators.

Standardized testing in New York State has been a disaster — from marathon testing sessions for students barely old enough to not need afternoon naps … to the crash-prone implementation of computer-based testing … to developmentally inappropriate questions.

But despite the ongoing problems, the state hasn’t implemented NYSUT’s recommendations for fixing the tests.

We don’t want to see the problems of the past repeated. We hope a new commissioner will work with, and listen to, educators.

We also hope a new commissioner will address the looming teacher shortage. New York will need more than 180,000 new teachers in the next decade, according to estimates. But what’s troubling is that enrollment in teacher education programs has plummeted by 47percent. And with each passing year, we lose experienced educators to retirement.

Diversity in the teaching force is also an important issue that needs to be addressed.

We look forward to working with the next commissioner. Hopefully he or she will have a deep background in New York’s public school classrooms — that experience would go a long way toward helping to fix New York State’s broken standardized testing system.

At heart, I’m an optimist. I have high hopes that — if we work together — we can reach these goals. But I’m also a realist. I know it won’t be easy. But at NYSUT, we’re willing to roll up our sleeves and help make the process work.

However, it’s important that decisions are made with our members, rather than to our members.

We are the education professionals. We know what’s best for our students. Our voices must be heard.

Andy Pallotta, a former elementary teacher, is president of the more than 600,000-member New York State United Teachers.

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