Now's Our Chance: I'm Telling New York's Education Chief That I Support the State's Academic Standards

In the past four years, teachers have invested incredible amounts of time and effort into learning how to shift our instruction to be more aligned to preparing students to be college and career ready. As a New York state high school English teacher, I work more closely with colleagues in planning instruction and assessment than I did four years ago. Certainly, we are selecting text for our students more thoughtfully. We teach beloved classics such as “To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, along with Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?"—a combination of fiction and nonfiction few of us had imagined four years ago. Our students are writing arguments more often and more persuasively than they did four years ago, and can read and cite relevant text-based evidence to support their thinking more fluently. My instructional practice has improved, and in my own district I have become a teacher leader, supporting my colleagues as they work harder than they ever have to understand and implement rigorous standards. I know teachers like me are invested in the changes and are seeing great progress in our students’ learning. Certainly, the past four years have not seen steady forward progress. There have been public forums where frustrated colleagues and angry parents have voiced their fears and frustrations about curriculum and tests and teacher evaluation. We still have much work to do to close student achievement gaps between the wealthy and the poor and improve learning for all students. However, despite the challenges we've faced, our state of New York is poised to be an example to other states implementing rigorous standards. New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia took over a state that's seen many changes in a very short period.  I praise the new commissioner for not only applauding New York teachers for the progress we've made, but also considering us leaders and essential advisors in this work. We have much to teach—not only to our students, but to the community and families—about the good, rigorous work our students engage in. The commissioner is our direct link between policy and practice, so I’m glad she’s listening closely to educators, to build a culture where teacher voice and leadership is trusted, supported and valued. She has asked repeatedly for feedback on the state standards and I ask all citizens—but especially educators and parents—to examine them and weigh in. Learn more and submit your feedback at http://www.nysed.gov/aimhighny by November 30th. I’m grateful that Commissioner Elia is asking to hear the lessons we teachers have learned.
Amanda Barney
Amanda Barney is a lifelong resident of Mattituck, New York, and is a high school English teacher and New York Educator Voice Fellow with America Achieves and mother of three children.

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