The Audacity of Accountability: Shame on Long Island’s ‘Wall of Shame’

Michael Goot in the upstate New York Post Star reports on a website called the Wall of Shame that currently highlights 15 school principals and superintendents, most from Long Island, who have expressed support for standards and assessments.  In response, the coalition called High Achievement New York sent a letter to several New York State legislators asking them to “ help us end a clear case of cyberbullying in our state’s education system.” (The full letter is here at The 74.)

Education politics is often fraught with irony, and this specific case is no exception. Here we have the anonymous sponsors of the Wall of Shame feigning a fight for the best interests of children while simultaneously casting aspersions on school leaders who truly fight for the best interests of children, particularly those not privileged enough to live in Long Island’s tony environs.

High Achievement is correct to call the Wall of Shame’s tactics  “cyberbullying.” Click on this link to the site and you’re faced with a decaying brick wall with pictures of the 15 superintendents and principals and their contact information. The first one is Lorna Lewis, the African-American superintendent of Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Schools. How did Ms. Lewis earn this honor? She had a “shameful quote” in a Newsday article about Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa’s remark that if she had children in public school (she doesn’t) she’d opt them out of state standardized tests.

This was Ms. Lewis’ comment:

I’m disappointed with that statement, I really am,” said Lorna Lewis, superintendent of Plainview-Old Bethpage. referring to Rosa’s remarks about opting out of tests. “I want to see children meet high standards and I think we need a uniform way of showing whether those children are meeting those standards or not. I want to see people engaged in that process, not disconnected. Opting out means that you’re disengaged.”

Those who fight—against the wisdom of all major civil rights and disabilities groups—for the  elimination of standards and assessments then are prompted to send a pre-written email to Ms. Lewis that says:

Your attempts to misinform and mislead parents are improper, hurtful to education and will certainly not stop the opt-out movement. A matter of fact you will strengthen the resolve of parents to oppose polices that are hurtful to their children.

It is truly a shame that you choose to side with those who want to hurt education, who want to advance a political agenda that benefits profiteers and who do not have the bests interests of children in mind.

It is a shame that the only thing your actions do is hurt the very children you are charged with helping and protecting.

Bullying is wrong. As adults, we’re supposed to model moral behavior for our kids and maligning educational leaders doesn’t meet that standard. If this was an assessment, the anonymous sponsors of Wall of Shame (perhaps aligned with NYSAE) would fail. But this bullying, cyber or otherwise, seems to be trending. Look at Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris’ relentless attacks on Campbell Brown, simply because she pointed out—correctly—that American schools need to up their game because so many of our kids aren’t meeting high expectations. Are we all infected with Trumpism?

Let’s aim higher. Let’s engage (to use Ms. Lewis’ language) in civil discourse about complex issues. Let’s face the inconvenient truth that we’re not serving all kids well, including some who live on Long Island. Let’s talk about what needs to change in our traditional educational system so that all children have equal opportunities for academic success.

This post originally appeared on the blog NJ Left Behind.

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Laura Waters
Laura was weaned on education and equity issues because her mom was a social worker and her dad was a social studies teacher in New York City public schools. She can no more get this passion out of her blood than she can her New York accent, even though she has lived in Central Jersey now for over 20 years. She and her husband have four children, and her youngest has multiple disabilities. Laura has been on her local school board for 12 years. She keeps education leaders on their toes at NJ Left Behind.

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