March 17, 2014

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UUP officers speak out at NEA conference

uupdate 3-17-14

UUP Secretary Eileen Landy tells other higher education leaders how UUP uses coalition-building, communications and advocacy to recruit and engage members.

Landy and VP for Professionals Philippe Abraham presented the union's issues-based action plans at the NEA Higher Education Conference, March 14-16 in St. Louis. Landy also spoke about the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE), while Abraham participated in a panel on the educative Teacher Performance Assessment, a.k.a. edTPA, a new student-teacher assessment mandated for certification in New York.

Stony Brook UUPer and NYSUT board member Ed Quinn presented on “Organizing Through Community and Social Causes.” He referenced his work with the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition and Fair Trade as perfect avenues for membership recruitment.

“Use your relationships with organizations outside of the university to build stronger ties with the community,” he said.

During UUP's presentation on "Member Recruitment and Engagement," Abraham said the union has galvanized members around challenges confronting SUNY. Landy noted that SUNY's Open SUNY and Seamless Transfer initiatives, the edTPA and other troubling teacher education program requirements, and years of flat state budgets for SUNY are just the tip of the iceberg.

"We're fighting on all fronts in New York and we need every member to fight back if we hope to be successful," Landy said. "We've created several handouts that explain the issues, and we've put together other tools for our members to use in spreading the union's message. It's easier to get members activated when they understand the severity of our challenges."

Abraham said his roles as a statewide union officer and member of the SUNY University Faculty Senate have helped bring the groups together on common issues — a valuable "position of strength" when dealing with SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher.

"We are stronger when we work together," he said.

Out front on edTPA

Abraham said strength is key when dealing with the State Education Department (SED) and the high-stakes nature of the edTPA in New York.

During an afternoon presentation on "edTPA: Promise or Peril," Abraham said UUP has been outspoken in calling for SED to remove the edTPA as a requirement for teacher certification. The union is among a growing alliance of academic and professional faculty at private and public colleges, administrators and governance leaders, state lawmakers, students and their parents to express concerns over the quick implementation of the edTPA.

Abraham presented for VP for Academics Jamie Dangler, chair of the union's statewide Teacher Education Task Force; she stayed in Albany to respond to a March 12 SED press release that UUP contends is misleading. UUP issued a news release on March 14.

In St. Louis, Landy pressed for NEA's support for a national resolution against the edTPA.

"New York is the canary in the coal mine" when it comes to the edTPA, Landy told members of the NEA's National Council on Higher Education (NCHE). She said UUP and NYSUT have serious concerns with the way SED has implemented the edTPA, and convinced the NCHE to include a resolution on the edTPA during the association's Representative Assembly, July 1-6 in Denver.

The resolution will echo UUP's concerns that the edTPA: is not a valid predictor of a student teacher's potential; infringes on faculty development of college curricula; and should not be implemented until it has been properly tested.

CFHE on the move

Landy hopes CFHE can help change the political landscape, and make it easier to protect quality higher education across the nation.

CFHE was formed in 2011 to reframe the current debate on higher education and to advocate for accessible, quality higher education for all, Landy said during her March 14 presentation. Landy is UUP's liaison to the CFHE and a member of the campaign's Steering Committee.

"CFHE is working to change the dialogue at the national level," she said.

UUP will host a CFHE conference May 16-18 at The Desmond in Albany, with the goal of broadening partnerships with civil rights organizations, community groups and other noneducation organizations that support CFHE's principles.

We're hoping to forge agendas with groups outside academe who can help us draw attention to the troubling trends in higher education," Landy said. "It's crucial we work together to protect access and opportunity in higher ed."

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