Monday, June 01, 2015

To Tell the Truth: Would the Real MaryEllen Elia Please Stand Up--or Sit Down?


Mary Ellen Elia seemed to be on her way down before being unanimously propelled upwards by the N.Y.S. Board of Regents; she was chosen as the replacement for NY State Ed. Commissioner, John King.  Only in the world of ed. deform can people on their way down suddenly be catapulted to new heights.  Witness John King, now working in D.C. by the side of Secretary Duncan.

Fired from her job as superintendent of the Hillsborough County Public Schools by a 4-3 vote earlier this year, it seems people mostly either love or hate Elia.  There is little middle ground.  So, what will be the case in NY?   In her favor, Elia taught for nineteen years in western New York, serving as a reading specialist.  She survived ten years as a superintendent in Florida--where one had to sink or swim, reformy-style.  She was chosen as the 2015 Florida Superintendent of the Year and nominated for a national title.

But was she nominated for all the wrong reasons?   Elia supports the use of high-stakes tests in the evaluation of teachers and their schools.  She supported the Common Core before her state scrapped it.  While in Florida, she won a $100 million grant from Bill and Melinda Gates to implement test-based evaluations of teachers.  Referring to her time in Florida, she stated, "We were one of the first states that implemented high-stakes tests, and I am [sic] favor of having tests that are fair, reliable, and valid." Does she also favor turning schools into test-prep centers?

Elia has been criticized by civil-rights groups and those who champion special-needs children.  She supported merit pay and "school choice" in Florida.  Despite her calls for accountability and transparency, it seems she tried to hush up fatalities in the school system, including one on a bus.  In another incident, a child with Downs Syndrome tragically wandered from the school building and drowned.

According to Chalkbeat, Elia promises to communicate.  But what will be the nature of these communications? Some people see her as just the right person to create a "shift in tone and style" while not giving an inch on ed. "reform."  Others paint a record of a superintendent who relied upon intimidation and kept principals fearful.  

Despite the doubts raised by her resume, NYSUT remains ever cheerful.  NYSUT President Magee stated, "We are pleased that members of the Board of Regents appear to be listening to the students, parents and educators who want the emphasis to be on teaching and learning--not testing--as we work together on all the challenging issues that lie ahead."  Is she speaking about the same MaryEllen Elia?  Does she know something we do not know?

So, would the real MaryEllen Elia please stand up?  If one can believe the premonitions of Carol Burris and NYSAPE, Elia is an ill wind that blows public schools little to no good.  She is a clear sign that Albany cannot hear the voices of the people.   She is a clear sign that Cuomo's education agenda will be moving forward.  We shall see--probably faster than we would like!
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