For the past five years, hundreds of thousands of parents, from every corner of New York State, have called for meaningful changes to our damaging test-and-punish accountability system, resulting in the largest opt out movement in the nation.
When MaryEllen Elia replaced embattled former Commissioner John King as NYS Education Commissioner two years ago, New York’s families and educators hoped to see improvements. Instead, as Commissioner, Elia doubled down on King’s speculative reforms, and children continue to suffer. Elia further compounded the testing debacle by implementing untimed tests in New York, resulting in substantial numbers of children testing for the entire school day for days on end.
Elia’s willingness to expand controversial testing,disregard student privacy rights, ignore best practices, and condone the unethical treatment of students has worsened New York’s toxic educational environment and further outraged parents. The Commissioner’s recent defense of a high school assignment requiring students to write an essay in support of Nazi viewpoints has only widened the divide between Elia and the parents and students she is supposed to serve.
The MaryEllen Elia experiment in New York has failed. It is time for the Board of Regents to remove Commissioner Elia and substantially change course.
Eileen Graham, Rochester public school parent and founder of the Black Student Leadership said, “When a school resorts to bribing students to take a test, it says more about our dysfunctional education system than any test score. Unfortunately, Commissioner Elia’s lack of leadership has created a corrupt learning environment in which administrators feel pressured to compromise their integrity by promising pizza parties and field trips in exchange for test participation. Not surprisingly, Commissioner Elia has done nothing to publicly discourage this unethical behavior, and in fact seems to encourage it. The exclusion and shaming of students whose families exercise their right to opt out is undemocratic and unconscionable. Our schools and our children deserve better.”
“It is disturbing that Commissioner Elia has gone to such great lengths to convince parents of significant improvements to the NYS tests when students actually take longer than ever to complete them. The Commissioner will stop at nothing to artificially increase test scores including allowing young students to sit for 6 hours of testing for (3) three consecutive days through her unilateral untimed testing policy. These abusive policies must stop and the Commissioner must go!” stated Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE. She went on to say, “Elia’s recent actions defending assignments supporting Nazi viewpoints are indefensible.”
“Commissioner Elia’s failure to keep accurate data on untimed testing is incompetent at best and deceitful at worst. By refusing to ensure that schools are complying with New York State’s 1% cap on the number of instructional hours devoted to the state tests, the Commissioner has shown utter disregard for the well-being of children and opened the floodgates for abusive testing practices with little to no accountability. It’s time to completely remove the Tisch era from SED and remove Commissioner Elia,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent, and founder of Long Island Opt Out and NYSAPE.
“New York’s student body is incredibly diverse,” said Chris Cerrone, School Board member from Erie County, “Our students deserve a commissioner who is sensitive, principled, and unwaveringly dedicated to rooting out prejudice and bigotry. Elia’s lack of a timely ruling to deal with the racist comments made by Buffalo School Board member Carl Paladino shows an inability to stand up forcefully for the dignity of all students.”
“Commissioner Elia’s ESSA Think Tank and its related surveys and regional meetings have been an exercise in futility—and deception,” says New York City public school parent Kemala Karmen, who serves on the purportedly advisory body. “Instead of allowing for ground-up ideas from stakeholders, the Think Tank leadership, under Elia’s guidance, summarily dismisses any proposals that do not conform to their same-old, same-old Merryl Tisch-John King era notions, effectively squandering the ability of the state to create an accountability system that might actually help schools improve. It makes me wonder what boss or bosses the Commissioner is actually answering to.”
“While Commissioner Elia is required to ensure that NYS tests are offered to all students, it is not the job of NYSED to persuade parents to subject their children to tests they deem harmful and meaningless. Commissioner Elia’s failure to provide parents with straightforward facts and information is shameful. We need a Commissioner of Education who values research-based practices and will advocate for students. Unfortunately, Commissioner Elia seems more committed to test compliance than to the children she serves,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator and Executive Director of BATs.
“Until our education leaders and lawmakers understand that high standards are best evidenced by equitable learning opportunities and not a fetishistic commitment to corporate learning standards and politicized test scores, the opportunity gap will continue to widen. New York State deserves an education leader who values student-centered and developmentally appropriate practices. Now, more than ever, our schools need a transformative leader who will change the conversation from one about test scores to one about equitable resources and research-driven supports. Sadly, Commissioner Elia has fallen far short of the mark,” said Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent and special education teacher.
Dr. Michael Hynes, Superintendent of Patchogue-Medford in Long Island said, “The Commissioner’s goal should be to focus on the whole child. Schools should be drawing out the talents of children and maximizing their potential. Thus far, Commissioner Elia’s agenda has been the complete opposite. She has failed to show the educators and parents of New York State that the physical, emotional, academic and social growth in children is her number one priority.”
The Board of Regents must act to remove Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. We deserve a leader who will institute best practices and dignity for all, as opposed to one who continues to undermine the well-being of our children.
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