A monumental shift is underway in education – thanks to the groundswell of passionate activism by New York state’s parents and educators.

You might call it a return to sanity. It’s evident in public opinion polls that affirm our union’s advocacy for more learning, less testing, and for teacher evaluations that are fair and meaningful. It’s evident in the growing consensus by elected leaders and policymakers that it’s time to end the era of “test-and-punish” and reclaim the joy of learning. And it’s undergirded by the commitment New York voters make, year in and year out, to quality public education as the gateway to opportunity for our children.

Unprecedented momentum supports our positive education agenda for New York state – one that puts children front and center.

An action agenda must include these “to-dos”:

  • Upend the broken system of testing and evaluations. Parents and educators – who are finally being heard – must be in the forefront of necessary changes.
  • Overhaul Common Core. This has been a debacle for students, teachers and parents statewide. Educators – not profit-making corporations – should develop standards, curricula and tests that are appropriate and relevant to what’s being taught. Doing this right means ensuring students and teachers have the resources, professional learning and time they need to succeed.
  • Provide teachers and prospective teachers with support, not faultfinding. The testing overkill so prevalent in K-12 is also having a chilling effect on the pipeline of future teachers. We need to reverse this now to prevent a mass exodus from the noble profession of teaching.
  • Stand firm against “failing schools” rhetoric and tackle what’s really at issue: poverty. Persistent poverty is the common denominator of schools on the state’s “receivership” list. Dismantling school communities is not the answer. They deserve support, resources, wraparound services and respect for the difficult but essential work of combating the effects of poverty on a daily basis.
  • Invest in our schools, colleges and communities in a sustained and serious way. Local school districts need to be freed from the top-down constraints of state caps. SUNY, CUNY and our community colleges also must be a priority investment for the state – to redress years of shortfalls and restore opportunity for all.

Positive momentum is building – now is the time for action. Let’s work to ensure this isn’t a “wish list,” but a “to-do list” that puts our children front and center.

Karen E. Magee is President, New York State United Teachers