Saturday, August 30, 2014

Declaration of Independence from Testing

By:  Dr. Mark Naison 

Little by little, the American Public is waking up to the realization that the vast majority of people who call themselves "School Reformers" are dishonest as well as incompetent.

They have no idea how to evaluate teachers.

They have no idea how to inspire students.

They have no respect for parents or teachers.

The policies they have unleashed are destabilizing communities, making teachers hate their jobs, making students hate school.They are also increasing gaps in educational performance by race and class.

It is time to bring their machine to a halt by refusing to cooperate with their testing and electing candidates who will end Common Core and stop closing public schools in favor of charters.

We can do this. We MUST do this. The stakes are very high
BATs Support Lee County Florida in Decision to Opt Out 

Dear Editor :

Regarding Lee County School Board decision to opt out of high stakes, state tests: 

I am the parent of a fifth grader in Lee County. I am also an 8th grade Language Arts teacher for the district. 

During public comments at the Wednesday night's Lee County School Board Meeting, a speaker said, "Seize the day." I agree. 

We have waited long for this day. We have fought long and hard to end the over testing of our kids. This was not a rushed decision. Parents from every walk of life, every political group, have been going to school board meetings for years. 

Two years ago, Lee County School Board was one of the first in the nation to sign onto a resolution opposing high stakes testing. Mrs. Dozier, among others, carried the resolution to our state school board and fought for its passing. She was successful and we thank her. Our parent groups, locally and statewide, have tried with our representatives and senators. We have lobbied, written emails, called, tweeted, even created meme ... with no response. 

I myself traveled to the Network for Public Education National Conference. I was there when Diane Ravitch called for congressional hearings. We have tried. But, our leaders in Tallahassee and DC. refuse to listen. 

So now it is our time to refuse. It is our obligation as parents and caretakers to refuse these toxic tests. The is no more time to wait. It is time to get comfortable being uncomfortable. 

Lee County School Board and Superintendent Graham, we are here to support you as you do what is right for our children. We are here to say we need you. You are our hard hitters. We elected you. You are our last line of defense in defending our children and it is your moral imperative to do so. 

You made the decision to opt us out of state high stakes assessments. That was the right choice. Now, let's get proactive in creating a program of portfolio assessments. Let's outline the possibilities of using concordant scores.

Let's give our Lee County families and employees a sense of hope not gloom. The whole world is watching. Here is your chance to be world class. 

After all, it is what the parents want. Ask them, most will tell you they were planning to opt out anyway. Why make it be our parents and our children who have to take a stand. Why force an opting out child to sit, humiliated, through a five hour test, day after day, during test month? Let's stand up for them. 

So, no more waiting, please. No more waffling back and forth wondering. No more hoping someone else will fix this. Let's find a way. No amount of money is worth this. Our children are not numbers and education is not about property values. This is not about 'Flipping Lee'... This is about the kids. Focus on our kids. 

Bonnie Cunard Margolin, parent & teacher, Wear Red for Ed

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Dear Los Angeles School Board:

We are educators and public education advocates from across the nation and we are 52,000 strong. We are writing to demand Restorative Justice for the LAUSD community.

LAUSD has become the laughing stock of the nation with iPadgate and the MiSiS mess. It is hard to imagine that the leadership really has students first and foremost on their minds.

Schools have been in utter chaos since the failed launch of the Student Information System. Some students do not even have their schedules and have been in school for three weeks. Teachers cannot track attendance because they do not even have accurate rosters, risking critical and fundamental revenue to schools, not to mention a sense of order in classrooms and safety on campuses.

The daily revelations about the improper Pearson-iPad deal make it look like LAUSD is choosing PROFITS over PUPILS. It seems no one has even answered what pedagogical value these computers and software provide students. There has not been nearly enough deliberation about the content of curriculum on the devices. In your exuberance, it seems no one has asked “What could $1 billion have paid for?”
The students and families of LAUSD need textbooks, arts classes, summer school, staff for shuttered libraries, lower class sizes for higher risk kids, and assistant principals, nurses and school psychologists. These are the things that make a difference in the lives of students.

Therefore we demand RESTORATIVE JUSTICE for LA schools!
1.            Release the emails and the Inspector General Report for public scrutiny
2.            Seek an external audit to determine what went so terribly wrong and to prevent a repeat.
3.            Meanwhile, get back to work providing students with an education and giving teachers and principals what they need to get the job done.

The future of your students depend on you doing the right thing. 52,000 of us are watching.


More Information Contact:
Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager, BATs
Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. General Manager, BATs

After polling its membership, The New York Badass Teachers Association announced today its endorsement of Zephyr Teachout and Timothy Wu for the Democratic Primary to be held on September 9th. The New York BATs are an organization over 2000 strong which supports candidates committed to defending and preserving public education.

This decision was made because of deep discontent with the current New York Governor. Andrew Cuomo has earned an appalling reputation for ramming anti-public school legislation through the legislature, including the unpopular Common Core Standards, requirements that all teachers in the state be rated on the basis of student test scores, and laws that favor charter schools at the expense of public schools. Perhaps most egregious were the Common Core aligned tests for the 2013/2014 school year resulting in 70 percent of children being classified “failures” with the state’s ELL and Special Needs students subjected to unconscionable humiliation.

By contrast, the Teachout/Wu Platform opposes the over-reliance on standardized testing, Common Core, charter school expansion and John King while supporting teacher tenure, the arts and local autonomy. "For me, education is key," said Teachout who contends New York must return to "traditional Democrats” such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“New York needs a true Progressive voice to counter the damage that is being done to public education in New York state in the name of so-called reform. Andrew Cuomo is the poster child for that damage. Zephyr Teachout is the cure”, says New York BAT Steve Corso.

New York BAT Ann MacAbee stated, "Teachout/Wu offer real hope for the proper education of New York's children."

NY BAT Jake Jacobs adds “the policy of evaluating Art teachers using student scores on state Math exams is a waste of taxpayer dollars that shows little appreciation for what goes on in the classroom. Zephyr Teachout understands the key to learning is engagement, trusting the teachers who know their students best”.

The Teachout/Wu campaign offers a platform to parents and teachers that puts children, equity, and equality in education ahead of big business and hedge funders. If you are a Democrat, we heartily recommend a vote for Teachout/Wu on September 9th and hope you encourage your Democratic friends and family to do the same.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Challenge!
By:  Donna Shubert

I am issuing a challenge to you, department directors, assistant department directors, cadre directors and anyone else who works for the SBBC who is not a school-based employee but has a secretary, administrative assistant, clerk or anyone else assisting them in their work. So please pass the challenge on.

The challenge is, for the remainder of the school year, all top administrative staff members shall not be able to have anyone, a secretary, administrative assistant, clerk or anyone else, help them. I want you all to see what it feels like to be a teacher. You see we have a very heavy workload with little or no help and yet administrators downtown keep piling on work.

Some of our responsibilities include: photocopying - filing - laminating - ordering and picking up on campus supplies - shopping for supplies off campus (and paying for them) - putting up bulletin boards - taking down bulletin boards - keeping current bulletin boards - grading papers - record grades - planning lessons - gathering resources for lessons - organizing our classrooms - writing letters to individual parents - answering emails - delivering papers to the office, watching mandatory videos, collecting papers, setting up computers, arranging rooms, assisting at dismissals, hallway duty, writing goals on boards, creating rubrics, sending update notes to parents, collecting money for pictures, trips, fundraising, -- picking up signing out and returning collections envelopes - planning trips and arranging trip locations, buses, lunches with cafeteria, -- writing RTIs - report cards - stuffing report cards in envelopes -- preparing homework -- checking homework -- hanging wall charts and decorating classroom - searching for forms - downloading forms - inputting information on Virtual Counselor and ESS (now renamed My Learning Plan) - preparing materials for data chats -- one of the newest suggestions creating data binders to record information readily available in other places about each student - researching materials - familiarizing self with materials, programs and all the new school board initiatives - learning new programs - writing interims - pulling and filing cumulative records - writing honor roll certificates - making lunch tags -- making bus tags - pulling math book pages (500+ page books that have to be broken down into manageable sections for kindergarten) - picking up test packets - picking up and and returning computers to carts - checking ESS - registering for workshops - preparing substitute work - securing substitutes - follow up work for workshops - read literature to be up to date with Common Core and Marzano - use teachers editions to prepare for lessons - use Common Core Standards to prepare for lessons - use focus calendar to prepare for lessons (or are focus calendars gone with the whim) - picking up and dropping off students in a.m., for lunch and specials - providing security - planning other work when copier breaks down - learning new reading, math, science and social studies materials - consulting with speech, ESE, occupational and physical therapy teachers, guidance counselors, school psychologist, school resource officer - filling out forms for speech, contact guidance, social worker and or psychologist - PGPs - keeping track of computer programs like iStation, Virtual Path, IR and others - differentiating instruction - familiarizing self with buzz words like rigor, fidelity, CARE, scaffolding, reflect, collaborate -- creating centers - filling out surveys - and in our spare time writing grants for all the materials we don't have. We have to conference with parents at least twice a year although we communicate with many parents much more often. Let's not forget the meetings: RTI, staff, team, committee, trainings, testing and on top of the recent addition of 18 hours of mandatory Collaborative Planning Meetings (CPMs). Last year the added meetings were called PLCs (Professional Learning Communities). PLCs are gone with the whim. Now we have CPMs, almost 18 hours of mandatory meetings. I cannot wait to see what they will be called next year or if they will even be around next year.

Keep in mind this is a partial list and would be fine if all that was our full-time job but it isn't. It has to be fit in, with so much more, when we aren't doing the main part of our job, the part not mentioned above -- TEACHING. We still agree I hope that the main part of a teacher's job is TEACHING, right? Because there is nothing set up in this system to say, "We know your work is important and the priority is teaching so we will honor that by giving you the supplies, support, resources and time you need to do it right". Nope, instead, it is "do this", "no do this", "now try this", "wait we aren't doing that any more", "call it this", "it was a PLC now its a CPM", "its ESS Professional Development no now its My Learning Plan" "you will get trained as soon as we can get it working", and don't forget to C-A-R-E. My favorite, however, is when people then have an administrator who questions why something isn't done, for example, "Why isn't your bulletin board current?"

Imagine what it will be when you do all you own planning, trips, copying, filing, arranging meeting, answering emails, answering phone calls, writing emails, making phone calls, scheduling, conference planning, getting your own mail and supplies, delivering papers to other areas, hanging things yourself in your offices, hooking up your own computers, setting up your own furniture, and lots of other tasks and then do your actual job. Oh, yes, and you have to do your own bookkeeping. Remember when bookkeepers were removed from the school to save money and teachers and school-based office staff had to pick up a lot of the workload. So just plan on adding another 4 or so unpaid hours on to your day and then don't make plans for Sundays, unofficially that's another workday. For some of you we will have to give you extra work because you are the administrator we decided to "stack" (give extra students above the class size law) or make the "support" class (add children with special needs but then cut the ESE staff). We will also make some of you the "split" administrator where you will have to do two job from two different departments just like the teachers who teach split classes like 3rd and 4th grade with two different testing focuses. And, good luck to those of you we name "team leaders" because your workload and responsibilities will increase vastly but don't worry you will be paid about an extra $3.00 per day. If you are the designated "speech administrator" your caseload (number of students) and paperwork load may increase but your hours are going to be cut. Did I mention all of you will be evaluated on all this too? I'll be in with my iPad regularly.

I could make this challenge a bit more difficult by saying you have to do all your own work without assistance, on a teacher's salary and then find two or three extra part-time jobs to survive financially plus you have to buy the supplies you need out of your own pocket but maybe we will save that challenge for next time.

So what will happen to your support staff for the remainder of the year-- they will go to schools to help overburdened teachers, overburdened ESPs and overburdened office staff. The end result, I hope, is that you will sufficiently staff schools, add support staff to help teachers, stop reducing staff and expecting teachers to pick up the workload in all your "cost-cutting" moves, and streamline teachers' workload. And, please stop with the alphabet soup and name games of relabeling something and after everyone is trained in it dumping it for the latest fad.

I can't even imagine what it would be like to have my whole workday focused on either teaching my students or preparing for them rather than having countless tasks to perform and then trying to focus on what I need to do for my students. That's what we did in the good old days in teaching.

By the way, the same challenge goes out to our unions, BTU, FEA, AFT and NEA because our unions are not addressing the workload as a serious issue.

Challenge on!! Game on!! See you at the copy machine!!

Donna Shubert

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Letter to Superintendent Sergio Paez
By:  Dr. Mark Naison

Dear Superintendent Paez
It is come to my attention that you have compounded a most questionable decision- denying tenure to Augustin Morales- with a series of actions which are provocative and unwise in the extreme, including attempting to deny him access to school property even though he is an elected officer of the Holyoke Teachers Association.
Please be aware of the following. Augustin Morales is a leader with a national following. He is not only respected among teachers in his town and in his state, he is respected by teachers all over the country as a result of his leadership role in the fastest growing education organization in the nation, the Badass Teachers Association, which now has nearly 52,000 members. His speech at our March on Washington in July was one of the best received at the event and has been spread around the nation on video. Rest assured that any action taken against him will bring an immediate response from teachers around the country
It will also receive press coverage. If you want to become famous all over the country, continue to take punitive action against Mr Morales. Everything you do is being watched, not because of any bias against you, but because of the respect Mr Morales commands
I strongly suggest you take a deep breath, reverse your course of action and bring Mr Morales back to the classroom. You will save yourself a great deal of grief and also do a lot for the children of your school district who see Mr Morales as a role model and a great leader
Mark D Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University
Co-Founder, Badass Teachers Association

Friday, August 22, 2014

Walk in My Shoes
By:  Lucianna Sanson
For the past couple of days, actually, to be more accurate, the past week, I have spent some time practicing what I teach: that genuine learning occurs when we build relationships with other people, spend some time in other people’s shoes, and remove the Ego and Self from a situation so that we may “see” with another’s perspective without the bias and prejudice of our own set of
beliefs overriding the learning experience. As an English language arts teacher, I spend the beginning of each semester preparing my students, all seniors, to engage in dialogue on diverse and divisive topics, to take an open-minded approach to learning, and to look at situations from multiple perspectives.
In order to reach, and in order to teach, my students how to hone these skills, I model them in the classroom and then we practice them using multiple techniques, such as socratic seminar circles, point-of -view journaling, and real-world-event-role-play. Hence, my spending some time in other people’s shoes this week. This week, I have endeavored to walk in the shoes of  Michael Brown, his Mother, his Father, and the police officer that shot and killed Michael. You see, last week, eighteen-year old Michael Brown, a black youth, was shot and killed by a white man, a police officer, in the town of Ferguson, Missouri. Last week, I wrote the following post in the National BadAss Teachers Association group in response to Michael’s shooting:
“Hey WHITE PEOPLE. Yes, you. I am talking to you. I am a White teacher here. I am a woman too. I want to say that all of you White folks need to stand in solidarity with your Black brothers and sisters during this time of pain and suffering. The murders of black people are not going to stop until White people Stand Up and Speak Up and Take Up for our fellow man. We are all Mothers and Fathers, Sisters and Brothers. What is wrong with you White folks that when children are murdered, you sweep it under the rug- or ignore it or say "Badass Teachers is no forum for this?" I am CALLING OUT my WHITE BRETHREN to acknowledge injustice and Fight for Freedom for all PEOPLE.”
What kind of response did my post illicite from the 51,000 member BATs group?  Shock and awe? Yes. Outrage? Yes. Blowback from, specifically the White community? Yes. Did I know my post would engender these responses when I wrote it? Yes.
Why then, did I write such a post? What would lead me to, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet laments in the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, “take up arms against a sea of troubles?” What was my rationale, my reasoning, for asking other White folks -specifically other teachers-  to stand up with Black folks in support of Michael Brown and his family? Who am I to wield the pen and flourish it as a call to solidarity?
( Internal dialogue between Ego and Self  )
Ego: “Who Are You?”

Self: “I am a privileged white woman who has black friends and black students and black family members.”
Ego: “Why should I care about people that I don’t know? Why should any of us care?”
Self: “I care because I am a woman, a mother, a teacher, and a human being. I care because I am a member of the human race and I believe that, as humans, it is our duty to help each other during times of pain, suffering, and deprivation.”
In this instance, in my internal dialogue, Self won out over Ego. So, I posted my one woman call to action and, stripping away Ego and Self, proceeded to monitor and engage in dialogue with many other individuals in the BATs group. Posting, as it turns out, was the easiest part. Sitting for hours, engaging in dialogue, reading posts from those that disagreed and from those that agreed with me, took up the better part of the night and morning. What did I learn from writing that post? Was it worth it? If I knew then that #Ferguson was going to turn into endless nights of people vs. police, of riots and tear gas, of rubber bullets, of arrests, would I have posted those words? Would I have posted those words knowing the blowback in BATs and the hours of moderation and patience that my fellow mods would have to endure in the days ahead?
After re-living multiple scenarios in my head, on paper, in discussions and dialogue, after removing Ego and the Self, after checking my privilege repeatedly, I have to answer with a resounding YES. I would post the same words again- knowing the cause and effect they would have- knowing the strife it would bring to my beloved BATs, I would do it in a minute. I would do it because the police officer who shot Michael can’t take his shots back, Michael Brown can’t be resurrected and brought back to life, and Michael’s parents have forever lost a child.
Walk in My Shoes.