Teacher leaders from across the state took decisive action today to strengthen the organization’s position on the right of parents to opt their children out of high-stakes standardized tests and re-elect CEA President Sheila Cohen and Vice President Jeff Leake overwhelmingly.
The motion on opting out was unanimously adopted by teachers who were delegates to the CEA Representative Assembly (CEA RA), the highest policymaking body of the Association.
Nearly 470 delegates cast votes today. Cohen (335 votes) had ben challenged by Glastonbury teacher Martin Walsh (125 votes). Leake (304 votes) had been challenged by Glastonbury teacher Scott Minnick (161 votes).
CEA has long supported the right of parents to make critical decisions about their children’s education. Today’s vote goes a step further by putting the full weight the CEA RA behind that position and providing great detail about teachers’ objectives in ensuring less testing and more learning in Connecticut public schools.
The opt out action represented a lengthy motion spearheaded by Cohen and Leake and unanimously adopted by CEA RA delegates.
Essential components of the motion include:
- Call on state policymakers and local school districts to formulate and pass legislation and policies that allow school employees to discuss standardized tests with parents and inform them of their ability to exclude children from state and/or district standardized tests.
- Call on state lawmakers and school districts to formulate and pass legislation and policies that allow school employees to provide parents with their opinions on whether students would benefit from exclusion from a state/and or district standardized test and that no adverse action or discipline would be taken against employees who engage in such discussion.
- Provide that a school and its employees would not be negatively impacted due to a student not taking a state and/or district-level standardized test, such as by ensuring that students who are opted out of standardized tests by a parent or guardian are excluded from performance calculations for state and local accountability measures and from employee evaluations.
- Reexamine public school accountability systems throughout the state, and develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment that do not require extensive standardized testing, that more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools.
Two-day CEA RA called to order last night with key speeches
Connecticut Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell encouraged teachers to “be proud of all your students accomplish. Be proud of all you accomplish.” She said each and every teacher in Connecticut has enormous power to affect the lives of children in Connecticut.
The 2015 Connecticut Teacher of the Year, Cara Quinn, said that poverty is a problem that cannot be ignored. “Collectively we have the power to advocate for real and tangible things that will make a difference for our poorest students and families. First, we can insist that the state’s educational cost sharing grant is completely funded. We can push for universal, free, pre-K programs for all of our children living in priority school districts.”
She continued that teachers should work to protect funding for wrap-around services that meet the social, emotional, and medical needs of our students. She emphasized, “We can make phone calls, send emails, and meet with our legislators and tell them that we demand action on these issues. These are simple things that will make a profound difference for our kids.”
She concluded, “As teachers, we are the champions of equity and justice. As teachers, as citizens who vote, we can make these things a reality.
CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg reflected on recent and past events that brought teachers together for a common cause—to improve public education for students and teachers.
“We have a long journey and many challenges ahead of us, but if we face them with courage, conviction and a plan, we will be successful in moving our agenda forward. It will not happen overnight, but together we can make it happen,” Waxenberg said.
Strong Connecticut voices to be heard on NEA Board of Directors
The delegates also elected Kevin Egan (288 votes) as NEA Director Alternate. Egan ran against Elaine Gencarelli (174 votes).
Also elected in uncontested races were Gary Peluchette as NEA Director and Mia Dimbo as Ethnic Minority Director At-Large.
More extensive coverage of the CEA RA will be included in the next issue of the CEA Advisor.