Beth Milne is a past member of the 50CAN team. 

So much can happen in six months.

That’s how long ago we introduced you to NYCAN—our big idea for challenging the status quo and making sure that every child in the Empire State has access to a great public school.

On the day we launched, more than 100 of you joined me inside the Capitol Building to hear about NYCAN’s inaugural legislative campaign, The Empire State Strikes Back. At its heart were three goals: 1) Give New York parents the much-deserved bargaining power to improve their children’s underperforming schools; 2) Support schools that are proven to get students to and through college; and 3) Remove the barriers that exist for recruiting teaching talent in New York.

So, how did we do? 

Almost immediately after we launched our campaign, we adopted another goal: To improve the teacher evaluation process, helping our schools better identify their all-star educators and giving all of our teachers the meaningful feedback they need to become even better.

We knew that New York stood to lose a lot of federal and state aid if school districts could not quickly implement an effective teacher evaluation system. So we joined the conversation and published a policy primer outlining just how much money was at risk: nearly $1.7 billion. The next month, we celebrated as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a landmark deal.

In the past six months, our team has partnered with early college high schools throughout New York to support this powerful initiative. And on May 8, we brought more than 60 students and teachers to Albany—some traveling from as far as Rochester—to speak face-to-face with their lawmakers.

The result? Our state Senate voiced unanimous support for S.5647 (Flanagan), the bill that would sustain early college high school funding. Then advocates like you sent nearly 1,500 emails to members of the Assembly, urging them to make A.9312 (Nolan) a top priority.

Unfortunately our voices were not enough, and the 2012 legislative session closed before the bill could pass. Still, we have laid a strong foundation for winning this policy goal in 2013 and NYCAN will continue our work, pairing grassroots advocacy with our top-notch research.

We knew that parent trigger would make for an uphill battle. It’s a policy that truly confronts the culture in which parents lack the bargaining power they need to leverage their concerns about failing schools. But we didn’t realize how strong a network of families we would join in championing this groundbreaking idea.

In 2012, NYCAN helped to draft flagship language for a parent trigger bill, A-7596-C, and found a committed sponsor in Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes. Perhaps most importantly, our team partnered with Buffalo ReformED and Parent Power Project in Rochester, two parent groups forging ahead for change in school districts with unacceptable graduation rates.

After meeting with officials from the New York State Department of Education, NYCAN began conducting research to improve interstate teacher certification reciprocity. We are working to identify the most rigorous certification programs throughout the country in states where the bar is just as high as New York’s. That means we can bring some flexibility to New York’s teaching corps without compromising any of the quality our students deserve.

We have also turned our attention to certification routes for  Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Career Technical Education teachers—an area that is critical when it comes to ensuring that every child has access to engaged and highly-qualified educators.

And we didn’t stop there.

Our team also weighed in while New York was deciding on how to disclose teacher evaluation ratings. We specifically spoke up for parents, who deserve access to these ratings without having to jump through time-consuming hoops. And again, we celebrated when the legislature embraced a balanced plan that will help families make the right decisions for their kids.

We founded NYCAN with ambitious goals—not only to support the smart policies that will strengthen our public schools, but also to transform the way New York talks about education.

But change does not come easy. Change takes time. As advocates, we know the fight for quality public schools in New York cannot be won in one or two years—especially if we pursue the sort of change that lasts a lifetime.

By the numbers, 2012 has seen 35 news stories, three op-eds, a major report that sheds light on the disconnect between New York school spending and graduation rates, two issue briefs and policy primers and 18 position papers on state policy. Most importantly, our movement has grown.

And we are just getting started.

Together we are moving the needle forward for New York children, because we all know that great schools change everything. 


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