Fight Back Friday

Today is the third anniversary of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster that killed 29 coal workers in West Virginia. That tragedy resonates with many of us still. Here’s Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, talking about the mine disaster at a NYSUT Representative Assembly barely one month later. What resonates so particularly with me today is when he talks about the letters the miners wrote to their loved ones. That part starts at about 6:30 in the tape below.

In these days of tweets and emails, letters hold deeper meaning. NYSUT members from across the state have been writing thousands of letters. Of course, it’s a different scale; I’m not drawing comparisons to someone dying in a horrific explosion with the testing travesty being foisted upon New York state’s students right now.

If you haven’t read it yet, please take a moment to read this blog post from “TeacherMomNY.” And you can read more in this blog post from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

The State Education Department has an answer to all this.

Education department spokesman Dennis Tompkins said in a statement yesterday that teachers have been preparing for the new tests for years.

“In December 2010, the Board of Regents announced that the state would begin testing students on the rigorous Common Core standards beginning this year. We are now three years into a statewide effort to provide teachers with the professional development and other supports they need to make the transition to the Common Core,” Tompkins said.

“It’s hard to understand how some can claim that they are being caught unprepared for the change. It’s equally difficult to understand why anyone would suggest that the change is happening too quickly for teachers and students, when the exact opposite is true.”

What?

It’s clear the State Education Department is not listening to your letters.

Cecil Roberts is still fighting hard. Here’s a link to coverage when he and other labor leaders were arrested earlier this week. “TeacherMomNY” is still fighting hard, vowing in this post that, even though she is tired, she is not too tired.

Nearly 10,000 letters have been written about what the testing obsession is doing to classrooms through our “Tell It Like It Is” campaign.

As of 10:30 this morning, 6,223 parents, grandparents and community members had signed a petition asking the state to end the over-reliance on high-stakes, standardized tests.

It’s these voices to which Tompkins should be listening.

Meanwhile, if you need a pep rally, here’s the second part of Roberts’ speech. He talks about how getting laws passed has helped protect workers. Sounds like a rallying cry to me.

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