New York State’s Education Department has warned teachers that they can be fired and lose their teaching license if they discuss the Common Core tests they graded. The New York State United Teachers has filed a federal challenge to this restriction of teachers’ First Amendment rights. This is an integral aspect of the secrecy that surrounds the Common Core tests. Teachers are not allowed to know what their own students got right or wrong. They are not allowed to discover what their students learned or failed to learn. And if they graded the tests, they can be fired for talking about what they saw.
John Ogozolak, a teacher in upstate New York wrote me to say:
“The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday of behalf of five teachers who are challenging “confidentiality agreements” they were made to sign prior to grading state exams in 2014. The gag orders threaten teachers with punishment for even mentioning what they saw on the exams and restrict the teachers’ rights to talk freely in public as citizens. The punishment could include the revoking of teaching licenses and even criminal prosecution. According to a NYSUT press release,
“The suit charges SED’s rules unconstitutionally make teachers’ speech conditional on government approval while establishing a ‘system to police the free exchange of ideas and opinions regarding its compulsory and costly testing regime.'”
“It’s all somewhat amazing, really. Yes, I guess I’ve been somewhat naive all these years. Who would have ever thought it would come to this in our great country? Citizens in Hong Kong have been fighting all week for their rights and look what is happening in our own backyards, courtesy of the apparatchiks at the NYS Education Department. I guess the testmongers there believe that their bureacratic process of creating useless exams as well as the proprietary rights of the billionaires who are their corporate overlords trump our individual First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Who will be able to speak out for our students?
“And, what lesson does this crackdown really send to our kids? It certainly has a chilling effect on the rights to free speech in our public schools. My nominees for the 2014 Education Hall of Shame: NYS Commissioner of Education John B. King and all his enablers on the Board of Regents and at the NYS Education Department and as well as all those spineless lawmakers who are letting them get away with this power grab. Of course, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo is already there to welcome you to the Hall of Shame.
“I’m imagining a protest involving thousands of teachers and parents across New York State who for just a few minutes some morning at the start of the school day put black electrical tape over their mouths to draw attention to this outrage. And, wouldn’t it be great if our friends in the media world join us, too, in making that point? I’m wondering if the New York Times, those self-proclaimed protectors of the First Amendment, would have to cover that story then? If only…… “