Wednesday, October 29, 2014
New York Badass Teachers Association
For Immediate Release - October 29, 2014
Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager
Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. General Manager
NEW YORK BADASS TEACHERS ASSOCIATION OUTRAGED AT CUOMO’S COMMENT TO “BREAK” PUBLIC EDUCATION!
The New York State Badass Teachers Association, an organization of over 2000 educators, was enraged today to read comments made by Governor Cuomo to the Daily News editorial board [http://m.nydailynews.com/…/cuomo-vows-bust-school-monopoly-…]. It was reported that Governor Cuomo stated emphatically that he would “break” the state’s public school system. His plan to end this “public monopoly” would include expanding charters, tougher teacher evaluations, and a continued agenda to punish the children and families who choose to attend New York's public schools.
We have already endured a roll-out of evaluations Cuomo himself has called “a disaster.” Its byzantine algorithms fraught with inaccuracy and called “arbitrary and capricious” are in a legal challenge announced this week. Even more absurdly, the current evaluations actually attribute student test scores in Math and English Language Arts to teachers of other subjects, such as music, art, gym, foreign language, and others.
Schools that struggle with high poverty rates have been hit hardest under Cuomo’s education agenda. This needs to be investigated fully as a civil rights violation mandated by Cuomo towards our children that attend these struggling schools.
NY teacher Jamy Brice Hyde stated, “Public schools are not a business therefore not a monopoly. The monopoly is in the Charter school movement where public tax dollars go to private business. THIS IS TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.”
“Charters do not in any way get held accountable by any objective evaluation or standard--nor are they compelled to follow Common Core or any other state mandate. That's like having a race where one runner has to carry a cannon ball while the other gets to use roller skates,” stated former NY teacher Steve Corso.
Bronx teacher Aixa Rodriguez and BAT DREAM Manager commented strongly, “Cuomo is once again giving into special interests and attacking public education, teachers unions, and therefore parents and children.”
Cuomo’s choice of words shows a distorted understanding of public versus private enterprise. Matt Steiniger adds “To call public education a monopoly is to presume that education is a marketplace. The implication here is that there is profit to be gained. Education is a public good. The only people that should be allowed to exploit education for personal gain are the students.”
Finally, NY BAT Sue Parla commented, “ I wonder why Cuomo is fighting so hard against teachers when he could be opening a dialog with us to find out what will truly help our schools. The underlying issue is those who are funding his campaign. He puts their desire to make money off privatization over the needs of children.”
Monday, October 27, 2014
Since No Child Left Behind was implemented and schools across the country were held hostage to unreasonable goals, punished for educating low achieving students, and besieged with an alarming increase of high stakes standardized testing, parents, teachers, and students have been fighting back. Unfortunately President Obama and his administration doubled down on the false narratives set by NCLB with Race to the Top which increased testing and evaluating teachers based on those tests, also known as value-added measures. Nonetheless, those of us who know that high stakes testing is not a valid measure of a student’s academic achievement or a reliable measure of a teacher’s effectiveness, continue to fight back against these dangerous policies that have created an atmosphere of blame, punishment, and failure. United Opt Out (UOO) is a grassroots national organization formed in 2011to lead the fight to resist high stakes standardized testing. The mission of UOO is “to strengthen public education; fight corporate based reforms . . . and, in particular, to end the practice of punitive, high-stakes [testing] and related activities that are fraudulently being used as ‘proof’ of the incompetence of public education/ teachers [and schools].”
UOO has encouraged parents to opt their children out of high stakes standardized testing in an effort to deny the corporate model of education reform the data they need to profit off our children’s education. Parents have a right to say no to policies and practices that they believe are unethical and harmful to their children. Although many states and education leaders claim that opting out is not legal, UOO has developed state guides that inform parents of their right to opt out is indeed a recognized right for parents to have control over the education of their children. UOO also instructs parents on how to inform the principal at their child’s school that they will be opting out of high stakes testing. Some parents have felt resistance and have been scared into thinking that if they opt their child out it will have a negative effect on their school but to date that has not happened and thousands of parents across the country have been successful in opting their child out of high stakes standardized tests, field testing, and testing used to evaluate teachers.
Parents are our first line of defense when it comes to opting out because unlike teachers they cannot be fired for their decision. However, teachers are increasingly choosing not to administer tests that they know are harmful to their children. In January 2013, teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle Washington voted not to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test to their students. The teachers argued that the tests lacked any significant value because they were not aligned to the state standards. Superintendent Jose Banda threatened to suspend any teacher who did not administer the test but after receiving numerous emails and calls of support from parents he backed down and the teachers were not punished for their actions.
In February 2014 both Drummond Elementary School and Saucedo Elementary School boycotted the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT). Parents, students, and teachers were also threatened with dire consequences if they went through with the boycott but they refused to back down. As the opt out movement continued to grow, President Obama continued to pay lip service to the concerns of parents, teachers, and students about the alarming increase of high stakes testing. During his State of the Union Address in 2012 he called for an end to teaching to the test and this past month he issued a statement that appeared to be a call to reduce the escalation of high stakes testing. The Christian Science Monitor writes that President Obama said, “I have directed [Education Secretary Arne] Duncan to support states and school districts in the effort to improve assessment of student learning so that parents and teachers have the information they need, that classroom time is used wisely, and assessments are one part of fair evaluation of teachers and accountability for schools,” in a statement on Wednesday October 15, 2014.
Two days letter Secretary of Education Arne Duncan writes an article for the Washington Post where he claims to support the cutback in testing but continues to argue that tests are the best ways for parents to know how their students are performing. Dr. Yohuru Williams, a professor and education activist reminds us that these words are not surprising given that we are in an election year and that we should not be fooled into thinking that the Obama Administration is going to back down from the mantra of high stakes testing. Despite the continued rhetoric that does not correspond to real action from our supposed education leaders, teachers, parents, and students continue to fight back and say no to corporate education reforms that seek to privatize public education.
Last month, kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles from Gainesville, Florida issued a statement to the parents of her students that explained why she would not be administering the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading (FAIR) tests. Citing her ethical concerns that administering a test for six weeks to kindergarten children was not something she could do in good conscience she risked being fired to do what she felt was right. In response Florida education officials have dropped the FAIR test for kindergarten students throughout the state. A small step but immensely important victory for the opt out movement.
Following closely in Bowles steps, Peggy Robertson, an administrator for UOO and a teacher in Aurora Colorado also issued a letter stating that she refuses to administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test, a new test aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). She argued that the tests along with the CCSS “have placed unrealistic expectations on our youngest learners, many who now view themselves as failures because they are unable to meet the developmentally inappropriate expectations set by the . . . standards.” UOO next issued a plea for unions to support teachers who refuse to administer the test. When asked by Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss if they would support teachers who refused to administer the test both NEA and AFT said they would support teachers who did not administer the test but failed to elaborate on what kind of support they would issue.
So what should be our next move? We know we cannot wait for the Secretary of Education to follow up his claims with tangible actions that actually reduce or eliminate our national reliance on high stakes standardized testing. And we know that we cannot continue to allow our children to be over-tested and turned into data points instead of human beings who are entitled to a high quality public education. So we must continue to fight. But we need to be strategic in how we fight. The unions say they will support teachers but what will that support look like and will it be enough? The only way to know for sure is for more teachers to refuse to administer the test. If teachers are disciplined for their refusal then we will demand that the unions offer the support they promised.
Now we understand that every teacher is not in a position to risk losing his or her job. Many teachers work in right-to-work states and have zero protections including tenure and the right to due process. And although the unions claim they will support teachers who refuse to administer tests we do not know what this support will look like and if it will keep teachers from losing their jobs or being disciplined. So we are looking for teachers who are preparing to retire or leave the profession and are willing to risk retaliation if they refuse to administer the test. If the teacher is disciplined or fired for their actions we will reach out to their union leaders to demand the support and advocacy they said would be there. Then we will know just how far the unions are willing to go to support teachers. Therefore, if you are willing and able to refuse to administer high stakes standardized tests, which are not a valid and reliable measure of student’s ability and promise, please write and publish a letter stating your intentions. Send a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can keep track of your situation. Together we can deny the corporate reformers the data they so desperately need and drive out the testing insanity that has dismantled our public education system.
To learn more about how you can actively fight back against corporate education reforms, please join United Opt Out at their Standing Up for Action Spring Event January 16-18th at the Broward County Convention Center in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, UOO is hosting an event that brings advocates for public education together to form plans of actions. For more information and to register visit our Eventbrite page.
Denisha Jones is a professor in the School of Education at Howard University. She is former kindergarten teacher and preschool director. She is an admin for the Badass Teachers Association and United Opt Out.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Badass Teachers Association
For Immediate Release - October 27, 2014
For Information Contact
Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager
Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. General Manager
BATs Respond to Time Magazine Cover
As representatives of an organization that represents the collective voices of 53,000 teachers, we take issue with the image selected for the November 3 edition of Time. We believe that the image is journalistically irresponsible and unfairly paints teachers and teacher tenure in a negative light.
The gavel smashing the apple, the universal symbol of education, reinforces the text that applauds “tech millionaires” in finally figuring out how to deal the deathblow to teacher tenure widely misunderstood as job protection for life for teachers.
In addition, the cover perpetuates the myth of the “bad” teacher and tenure as the prime enablers of larger failures in American education—more borne of structural inequalities and chronic underfunding than teaching professionals.
"Labeling of teachers is hurtful and stigmatizing to teachers, students, and communities", states Aixa Rodriguez, BAT DREAM Manager and Bronx teacher.
The cover deliberately privileges the “bad” teacher narrative with the misleading statement, “It is nearly impossible to fire bad teachers.” A few months ago talk show host Whoopi Goldberg made similar statements suffering under the same basic misunderstanding of teacher tenure as something akin to what college professors enjoy rather than a simple guarantee of procedural due process which is its function in K-12 education.
In fact, teacher tenure has served as an important protection to allow teachers to advocate for students— especially with regard to maintaining manageable class sizes, safe instructional spaces, ELL and Special needs interventions, and needed financial resources to combat the poverty and inequality that plague public schools and are most to blame for hurting young people.
Terry Kalb, BAT administrator, former Special Education teacher, and Special Education advocate says, "Teachers are whistleblowers- we protect children who are denied IEP services, devices, accommodations- all costly and complicated for administrators looking to streamline budgets and staff."
Given the massive increase in student enrollments, one of the greatest shortfalls is in the number of teachers themselves. A simple accounting of all the teaching positions lost in the great recessions reveals that the nation would need 377,000 more teachers in the classroom just to keep pace not to mention combat the shameful shortage being teachers of color.
BAT Administrator, historian, author, and college professor Dr. Yohuru Williams states, "More significantly, the cover uncritically situates the tech millionaires as saviors without revealing their own self-interest in the tenure fight— the creation of a nation of corporate-run franchise schools taught by untrained teachers and measured by high stakes test developed and administered by those same millionaires."
In an age where transparency in politics and journalism is sorely needed, we regret Time’s decision to proceed with a cover so clearly at odds with the truth.
For my colleagues
Past present future
Don't forget you know how to nurture
You know why you chose this profession
It wasn't for the money
We could have made more
It wasn't for the summers off
Though opponents keep sounding off
It was because we are special
We have a love of children
We have a love to help them succeed
We love when we see that light bulb
Show its bright face
That smile or hug from
A child can never be replaced
So hold your heads up
You know who you are
You know what you do
Forget those words from those
Who haven't a clue
And could never ever
Do what we do
I'm proud to say I am a
Bonnie Bushman Forrester copyright 10/26/14
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Why I Don’t Want an Apology from Time Magazine
By: Patte Carver-Hevia
This week Time Magazine (November 3 issue) is running a piece about how difficult people think it is to fire bad teachers and how deep pockets may have found a way to change that.
I have read the teacher outrage. “Cancel my subscription!” “Boycott Time!” “Time owes teachers an apology!”
No offense to my colleagues, but I don’t want an apology.
When my husband (a Cuban political dissident and then rafter) and I first started going out, his English was rudimentary and my Spanish was just a bit better. One Sunday afternoon we went to an electronics show at the county fairgrounds. You know the kind. Everything for sale at an inexpensive price. Nothing worth spending money on.
At the entrance, we spotted the “Win a Vacation” (in this case, a cruise to the Bahamas) papers to fill out. My husband wanted to fill one out. I didn't have the heart to tell him that it was a scam. He filled out the paper, used my address and phone number because he didn't have a phone, and dropped the paper in the box.
On Monday we were watching Wheel of Fortune at my apartment when the phone rang. A young man wanted to speak to my husband. He claimed that my husband won a vacation. He (my husband) would have to pay a boarding fee and purchase airline tickets and what credit card did he want to use to pay for everything.
I explained the language issue and that I would have to translate. As I translated the young man asked if my husband was interested in the vacation. I had to answer that I didn't know yet because I was still translating. Sometimes translating can take time. For example, for a long time I couldn't pronounce “refrigerator” in Spanish, but I could say, “That thing in the kitchen that keeps food cold.”
As I was translating, I heard the line click. I wasn't sure if the young man had put me on hold or if he had hung up. I continued to translate as I held the phone against my ear. I heard another click, and I could tell the young man was back on the line because I could hear others speaking in the background. He said nothing. Then I heard another click. Silence.
I hung up. About thirty seconds later, as I was explaining what had just happened to my husband, the phone rang again. This was before the days of caller ID for me, so I answered the phone.
And I heard:
“You f*cking spic. Why didn't you just say you don’t want the god d*mned vacation? Get the h*ll off my line.”
Normally I wouldn't give something like that a second thought. This was different though.
I spent six hours the next day climbing the phone tree. I started with the county fairgrounds staff. To another number and another and another and another.
Each time I repeated the story and what the young man had said. And anyone who knows me knows that I do not use vulgar language. I was careful to explain that I was simply repeating what was said to me.
Each time I heard a gasp on the other end of the line.
Each time I heard, “I’m so sorry!”
Each time I answered, “Thank you. I appreciate that. What I want though is to speak to that young man’s boss.”
Finally, I was on a speaker phone with the boss.
I told my story one last time.
And one more time I heard, “I’m so sorry.”
I said, “Thank you. I appreciate that. I don’t want an apology though. I want that young man’s job. He had access to my address and telephone number and he said that. I don’t think he’s someone you want representing your company to the public.”
He said, “You have it.”
I have no way of knowing if that young man truly lost his job or not. I had my say. I moved on.
So how does this tie to the Time article? Do I want to talk to the editor of Haley Sweetland Edwards and demand her job? Do I want an apology from her or her editor or from Time?
What do I want?
I want a voice.
I want a seat at the educational policy table.
I want someone like Haley Sweetland Edwards to write the WHOLE story. She had access to so much more information and decided to write that. She’s talking to deep pockets about education, as if money makes the expert, but she isn't talking to teachers. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one.
I want Time to get it right.
I want judges like Treu (in the Vergara case in California case) to know what they are talking about before they make rulings.
I want people to understand that the likes of Gates and Welch are businessmen, not teachers. No matter what they say and no matter how philanthropic some of their efforts may be, their goal is to make a profit, not to benefit students. If they were truly interested in helping students, they wouldn't go about it by going after teachers.
I want action.
No, I do not want an apology. Like a PPO, an apology from Time would just be words on a paper. Meaningless. The toothpaste isn't going back in the tube, and I have a feeling Time would just make a bigger mess trying to shove it back in.
I’m willing to educate you, Haley, Time, Welch, Gates, Treu, and so many more.
The question is are you willing to put in the time, effort, and mental energy to LEARN?
Rotten Apples or Low-Hanging Fruit?
By: Wilma de Soto
The controversial TIME Magazine cover story has teachers from around the country up in arms and rightly so.
It’s an apparent corporate education reform piece from stem to stern, written without any balanced input from a single teacher with the intent to defame and malign teachers who have dedicated their professional lives to helping children of all persuasions make better lives for themselves.
Or is it?
While checking out the cover photo that has been passed around social media this week, I took note of something. The headline proclaims “ROTTEN APPLES”, but the cover photo does not. Instead the reader sees a beautiful red apple, ripened to the point of perfection. A gavel is poised over it ready to deliver the destructive, smashing blow.
In my opinion, this photograph is a perfect and powerful visual metaphor for what Corporate Education reformers have done to the careers of many great teachers around this country; labeling teachers as rotten fruit while they are in the prime of their teaching careers. Perfect specimens of educational acumen relegated to the garbage heap of history by a few corporate entities whose minions have never taught a single class in public school; they have been demoralized, defamed, denigrated and ultimately destroyed.
So has TIME Magazine goofed on this piece? Did they inadvertently reveal the corporate education agenda while purporting to support it? In this case I do not believe, “Only ‘TIME’ will tell.”