As public school parents and concerned New York residents, we are in full support of the Teachers College students, faculty, staff, and alumni who are speaking out against the decision of Susan Fuhrman, Teachers College President, to award NY State Chancellor Merryl Tisch the “Medal for Distinguished Service.” This act raises two concerns about the ethics of the College.

1) There is a direct conflict of interest: as president of Teachers College, Susan Fuhrman also serves on the board of directors of Pearson PLC; she is paid a substantial sum of money each year and, through stock ownership, directly benefits from Pearson contracts.  One such contract is Pearson’s $32 million contract with the New York State Education Department as the vendor for grades 3-8 ELA and math tests. Surely Fuhrman’s tie to Pearson is an act of gross impropriety if not an illegal conflict of interest.

2) It was President Fuhrman’s decision to honor former TC alumna Merryl Tisch.  With 17 years on the Board of Regents, Tisch has served the last four as Chancellor, and in this capacity she continues with New York State’s pursuit of Race to the Top funding. Along with the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Education, she approved Pearson’s contract of New York State’s high-stakes tests.

Tisch’s tenure as a Regent is tainted. As the Teachers College award announcement put it: Chancellor Tisch has been “helping persuade teachers unions and other players to commit to increased charter school development and creation of a system that substantially based a teacher’s performance evaluation on students’ test scores.”  By Fuhrman giving Chancellor Tisch this award, Teachers College implicitly endorses these discredited policies while ignoring a vast body of research and silencing the voices of faculty, students and alumni who oppose them.

We urge Teachers College, a premier center of teacher training and educational research, to withdraw the honor for Merryl Tisch at the convocation ceremony on May 21. Teachers College should take a lead in rejecting unproven practices such as high-stakes testing and demand that Fuhrman relinquish her board position at Pearson or her position at Teachers College.

Were Teachers College to honor Merryl Tisch in any way, we would then call on parents, interested parties from other schools of education, and concerned citizens to join the graduates in protest at the convocation at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 21.


Change the Stakes, Coalition for Justice in Education (Rochester), Long Island Opt-Out, Parent Voices NY, Students United for Public Education (SUPE)–NYC, and Time Out From Testing [list in formation]