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Teacher quality vital to education reform

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Teachers play an important role in our children's success. This is something we all can agree on. But in New York State, public schoolteachers are managed by laws that hurt our kids' chances at success. My own daughter's education has suffered because of rules that don't make any sense.

My daughter has attended both public charter and traditional district schools in East New York, which has allowed me to see the differences in opportunities presented at each school.

When my daughter reached the fourth grade, our family moved from the Brownsville-East New York border into the heart of East New York, where she was placed into a district school. Shortly after, her grades took a noticeable dip. I spoke with her teacher, but I received simple excuses. Things became so bad that Tanasia had to repeat the fourth grade.

Since then, Tanasia has switched to another school, which also has a failing record and an ineffective teacher. Because of rules that restrict my daughter's options, my family has limited school choices. After seeing the power of effective teachers and a quality education in the charter school, and then watching my daughter's performance drop in one failing district school after another, I know how important it is that we invest in quality educators.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo struck a chord with many parents recently when he outlined an aggressive vision to make our education system work better. He wants to change how tenure is awarded. Instead of three years' experience, he would require five years of "effective" or "highly effective" ratings before allowing eligibility for tenure. This also would make it easier to remove ineffective teachers.

His plan also would protect students from ineffective teachers by making sure they aren't placed in failing classrooms multiple years in a row.

We are entitled to an education system that works for our kids, and addressing teacher quality is just part of the solution. Every child in New York State deserves access to great teachers and a quality education, and Cuomo's ambitious agenda presents us with a set of solutions that begins to take a crack at the failures of our education system.

Harold Wilson is a public school parent and parent leader of the East New York chapter of StudentsFirstNY, and advocacy group.


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