Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Resistance is Real – They’re All Here at the Network for Public Education Conference!

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An old adage says, “The most radical thing we can do is introduce people to one another.”

If that’s true, then the Network for Public Education conference in Chicago may be the most radical gathering in the history of the world!

Everywhere you turn are familiar faces that belong to people you’ve never actually met.

I wasn’t checked-in to the hotel for more than a minute before I ran smack into a colony of Badass Teachers.

Melissa Tomlinson, Marla Kilfoyle, Larry Proffitt, Kelly Ann Braun, Kristin Vogel, Karen Wolfe, Denisha Jones, Terry Kalb and so many more.

I’m “friends” with all of them on Facebook. Just like I’m “friends” with Stephen Hawking, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and George Takei!

But these are at least people with whom I’ve actually engaged. We’re all in the Badass Teachers Association – many of us on the leadership team.

We plan actions, incite twitter storms, write articles and all around raise Hell about the standardization and privatization of public education.

But meet them in person!? No. I’ve never done that… until today.

And is that abnormally tall man greeting folks in the lobby Anthony Cody? Yes, it is. The most prominent education blogger in the country is helping sell souvenir t-shirts!

And is that Melissa Katz – the 19-year-old teaching student setting the field aflame with her youthful activism!? Yep!

It’s like some science fiction story where the Internet came alive and started spitting out virtual people into the hotel lobby.

At first, I was simply speechless. I could hug, nod and take pictures, but that was about it.

But as the magic spell refused to fade away, I gradually accepted the reality of the situation.

These weren’t phantoms. These are real people.

And so – we began to talk.

I’ve spent hours messaging these individuals on-line. We’ve done much to steer the course of the resistance to corporate education reform. But nothing beats face-to-face interaction.

And the door kept popping open with more people I’d never even known existed who felt the same way I do about schools and learning.

In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve met a cloud of BATS from all over the country. We’ve talked about:
-The way Pearson standardization is seeping into college level teacher education courses. The complaint has always been that standardized tests don’t prepare students for college. And instead of fixing the tests, we’re dumbing down the universities!

-How activists in some states have made progress holding charter schools accountable and in others activists have made progress holding cyber schools accountable. But rarely do we seem able to do BOTH. It’s like a bureau in a “Three Stooges” episode. When you get one closed, the other pops opens wider.

-The way parents feel about their own children isn’t that much different than the way teachers feel about their students. However, it’s very difficult for each group to acknowledge they’re on the same side. How powerful we could be if we worked together!

-How education blogging is so much more authentic and free to tell truth to power than print or television journalism. Big money controls the media, but it can’t control everyday folks who feel compelled to write articles and publish them on-line.

And so much more!

Not a single conference has started, yet my brain is swimming with ideas. There are so many people I want to talk with and so many subjects I want to discuss!

In any case, it will probably be a long day tomorrow with some really tough choices to make. There are so many incredible presenters giving talks on so many important subjects – many at dueling times.

I feel energized and part of a growing community of people dedicated to righting the course of public education. The profiteers and privatizers have a war chest loaded with cash on their side.

But we’ve got people. Real people.

I’ll side with people any day.

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(Watch this site for further updates throughout the weekend if I can find a spare moment.)

Friday, April 24, 2015

The One about Bullying, Threats and Arne Duncan...

The Secretary of State is supposed to be the nation's top diplomat.

The Attorney General is supposed to be the nation's top lawyer.

The Surgeon General is supposed to be the nation's top physician.

So why is Arne Duncan, the nation's Secretary of Education, behaving more like a schoolyard bully than like the nation's top teacher?

In the face of unprecedented opposition to his administration's program of standardized testing, with nearly 200,000 parents in New York State alone opting their children out of standardized tests that they perceive as not only unhelpful, but downright damaging, Sec. Duncan went on the offensive Tuesday, promising that if the states wouldn't force those children to take his tests, then he would:

"'We think most states will do that,' Duncan told an Education Writers Association conference in Chicago, according to Chalkbeat New York. 'If states don’t do that, then we [the federal government] have an obligation to step in.'

Duncan didn’t elaborate on what the federal intervention might look like. It could, however, involve labeling districts with too many opt-outs as “failing,” a status that places restrictions on how schools use federal money. This would in turn pressure state government and school districts to roll back parental opt-out rights.

Duncan went on to say: 'Folks in the civil rights community, folks in the disability community, they want their kids being assessed. They want to know if they are making progress or growth,' Duncan said."

First, everyone should be considered a part of the "civil rights community" and the "disability community," as these communities are made up of those who support civil rights and those with disabilities. The fact that Sec. Duncan is so clearly trying to "divide and conquer" is at best a very clumsy strategy, and at worst an obvious attempt to bully folks into feeling guilty or like bad parents for opting out.

Second, no teacher needs yearly standardized tests to know if their students are "making progress or growth." Just as parents don't need these tests to know if their children are growing. The people that teach and love these children are well aware of what they are learning, what challenges and successes they are encountering, and what strategies will work best to help them continue to grow and learn. Let's not pretend that a once-per-year multiple choice test will somehow magically provide some special sauce that will reveal what kids know and are able to do.

Finally, if this many parents are angry enough to opt their kids out of these tests in the first place, just how ticked off do you think they will be when the Sec. of Education threatens to force their kids to actually take the tests?

And, Mr. Duncan--have you ever really tried to force a child to take a test? I had a tough time getting my then 4 year old to put on his mittens in the morning. Good luck with that.

What Sec. Duncan doesn't seem to know--because he was never a teacher himself--is that the testing movement depends on the goodwill of the teachers and students involved. Without getting "buy-in" from teachers, parents and students there is no way this thing is going to fly. Let's say that Mr. Duncan "succeeds" in getting every child in the nation to actually sit down and take his tests. Does he really think that no child will look at those blank rows of bubbles begging to be drawn on and not start filling them out in the shape of a tree, or just color in every bubble on the sheet? And to think that these tests are supposed to be used to make high stakes decisions on whether teachers keep their jobs or not. No wonder that the American Statistical Association is on record as saying that Value Added Measures, a statistical approach that uses test scores to come up with building-level scores, is an inappropriate and invalid use of standardized tests.

The way to "fix" this problem is not by playing the heavy and threatening to force these tests on unwilling children and teachers. It's to listen to the opinions of those who have legitimate objections to these tests, and implement thoughtful reforms, such as...

  • limiting standardized testing to one time in grades 3-6, one time in middle school, and one time toward the end of high school
  • ensuring that test results will be shared with teachers so they can use them to improve instruction
  • guaranteeing that test scores will not be used to evaluate teachers--which these tests are incapable of doing with any degree of accuracy

So, Mr. Duncan, instead of posturing and threatening punishments, why don't you try doing what a real education leader would do--listen carefully to dissenting opinions, work together with your colleagues in the schools, and develop a better testing model that actually helps teachers teach and helps students learn?


Mitchell Robinson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair of Music Education
Michigan State University
mitchellrobinson.net

The One about Two Schools 20 Miles and Worlds Apart...

I spent the day observing two student teachers. Both were teaching instrumental music in middle and high schools, and each was assigned to an experienced, master teacher. But that's where the similarities end...

One of the student teachers was placed in an urban school and the other in a rural school. The differences between these two schools were stark, and illustrative of the disparities in how our society treats children based on their socioeconomic status. 

Upon entering the urban school, I was immediately struck by how quiet it was. The hallways were eerily empty, with none of the typical hallway chatter and vibrancy of excited students making their way from class to class. The corridors were dark and gloomy, with the walls and lockers looking badly beat up and in need of a fresh coat or two of paint. A quick trip to the men's restroom revealed a dirty, broken mirror, no soap, and a single roll of paper towels propped up on the edge of a cracked porcelain sink with a leaky faucet. The restroom, like the halls and classrooms, hadn't been cleaned in a long time.

Less than an hour later I found myself 20 miles away in a bustling school with busy hallways flooded with natural light, brightly painted walls and lockers, and large classrooms with freshly vacuumed, plush carpeting. The restroom was spotlessly clean, and fully stocked with soap dispensers, paper towels and hot air hand dryers.

While the contrasts between these schools could not have been more clear, the students in each building were amazingly similar. Both bands were beautifully behaved, engaged and enthusiastic. Each group of musicians entered their respective band room, got their instruments out of their cases, and began warming up for rehearsal. It was only upon closer examination and discussion that the differences between these two settings became more readily apparent:

  • In the rural school, every child had their own instrument, and kids who played large instruments like the tuba had one school-owned instrument to play at school, and another instrument for home practice; in the urban school, some instruments were shared among multiple students during the day, and no students had school-owned instruments at home.
  • All of the instruments in the rural school were in good playing condition, and when repairs are required there is a school budget and an established repair procedure in place; the teacher in the urban school was busy re-padding a clarinet when I entered the band room, and shared that she spends over $1000 out-of-pocket per year on instrument repairs and equipment replacement--there is virtually no school budget for these things.
  • Most of the students in the rural school's high school band had been playing their instruments since 5th grade, and had lived in that community their entire lives. The 112-piece band played advanced repertoire, had a full instrumentation, and many of the band's alumni went on to participate in music ensembles in college after graduation; the urban school's band program had been decimated by the elimination of the district's elementary music program the previous year, and as a result there were only 15 students in the ensemble. Due to the transient nature of the school's population, students who had been playing their instruments for several years were sitting next to kids who had just started playing two weeks previously, making for a very challenging learning environment for students and teachers alike.
Driving home at the end of the day, I couldn't help but wonder how different things would be if all of these children, both rural and urban, had the same advantages at school--clean, safe and adequate facilities; high-quality instruments in good working condition; vibrant, attractive surroundings conducive to learning.

I wondered what a student from the urban school would think if she spent a day at the rural school, in a bright, spacious and well-maintained environment. Would she feel angry, knowing that her peers in the rural school district had advantages that were denied her?

And I wondered what it says about us as a society that we allow some of our children to spend their school days in squalid conditions that make learning more difficult, while their peers in more affluent communities enjoy advantages that help prepare them for success.

Mitchell Robinson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair of Music Education
Michigan State University
mitchellrobinson.net


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

NEW YORK STATE BADASS TEACHERS ASSOCIATION - PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 22, 2015
More Information Contact:
Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager, BATs
Melissa Tomlinson, Asst General Manager, BATs
contact.batmanager@gmail.com
Badass Teachers Association - http://www.badassteacher.org/

NY BATs – Time for Tisch and Flanagan to Step Down

The New York Badass Teachers Association, is a diverse pro-public education organization of 3,225 members.  It is the state affiliate of the Badass Teachers Association, currently 55,493 strong nationwide.

NY BATs proudly applaud the parents of New York State who have sent a strong message to the Governor, the Regents, and the Legislature with their refusal to take tests that have no value to their children’s education. Over 180,000 parents showed a strong vote of no confidence in the Governor, Chancellor Tisch, and Senator Flanagan when they would not allow their children to take corporate created ELA standardized tests.  Parents recognize that these tests have no value to education, are developmentally inappropriate by being 2 grade levels above the grade tested, were ripe with errors, and  contained product advertisements inappropriate for our youngest learners.  It is at this time, and due to the strong message over 180,000 parents sent to NYS, that we demand  Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Senator John Flanagan (Head of the Education Committee) step down, immediately, from their posts.  The parents of New York State have spoken – they have NO confidence in you.

“Chancellor Tisch and Senator Flanagan have ignored the wishes of public school parents in New York State.  They continue to push through an education agenda that is harmful to our children, not rooted in sound research, and supports the privatization movement underway in this country”, said NY BAT and parent Marla Kilfoyle.

Special Education advocate and NY BAT Terry Kalb said, “Parents across NYS have voted NO CONFIDENCE in Tisch's leadership of our public schools by refusing state testing despite her threats and intimidation. All attempts to get the Chancellor to pause, reflect, adapt, change direction have been stonewalled.  We need new leadership and a new direction from The NY Regents and our legislators to support our public schools, our teachers as professionals, and the concerns of the parents.”

“Chancellor Tisch and Senator Flanagan should step down in their roles because they do not have the best interests of New York public school students, teachers, or parents at heart. They have consistently shown their allegiance to special interest groups such as charter schools and testing corporations. They serve hedge funds not the people of New York State,” claims Michael Flanagan a NY BAT and parent.

NY BAT Jamy Brice Hyde states that Tisch and Flanagan are, “Out of touch with all stakeholders in public education.  The Chancellor and Senator won't hear the concerns of public school teachers and parents.  Both serve the Governors disastrous political agenda and Tisch is the one perpetuating the false idea that the massive test refusal by parents is a labor dispute.  She has offered no solutions and no road map to get NYSED back on track.  There is very little evidence that they care about our public schools and the children who attend them.”


The parents of New York have been ignored and marginalized by former Education Commissioner John King, Chancellor of the Regents Merryl Tisch, and the Education Committee led by Senator Flanagan.  The parents of New York State have spoken by initiating the largest parent led test refusal movement in history.  As teachers, we stand firmly with our parents.  Education in New York State needs to be returned to teachers so that they can best serve the children in their classrooms.  Senator Flanagan and Chancellor Tisch have shown they are NOT capable of guiding education policy in New York State.  It is time for them to step down so we can get education right for our children.
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Sunday, April 19, 2015

This Article May Be Illegal – Lifting the Veil of Silence on Standardized Testing

By:  Steven Singer
Originally posted on his blog:  https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/this-article-may-be-illegal-lifting-the-veil-of-silence-on-standardized-testing/
whistle
Warning!
What you are about to read may be a criminal act.
I may have broken the law by putting this information out there.
Edward Snowden leaked data about civilian surveillance. Chelsea Manning released top secret military documents.
And me? I’m leaking legal threats and intimidation students and teachers are subject to during standardized testing.
Not exactly a federal crime is it?
No. I’m asking. Is it?
All because they talked about standardized tests.
The US government mandates public school children be subjected to standardized assessments in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school. Most schools test much more than that – even as early as kindergarten.
And since all of these assessments are purchased from private corporations, the testing material is ideological property. The students taking these exams – regardless of age – are no longer treated as children. They are clients entering into a contract.
At the start of these tests, students are warned of the legal consequences of violating the terms of this agreement.
In particular, the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests require students to read the following warning on the first day of the assessment:
DO NOT PHOTOGRAPH, COPY OR REPRODUCE MATERIALS FROM THIS ASSESSMENT IN ANY MANNER. All material contained in this assessment is secure and copyrighted material owned by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Copying of material in any manner, including the taking of a photograph, is a violation of the federal Copyright Act. Penalties for violations of the Copyright Act may include the cost of replacing the compromised test item(s) or a fine of no less than $750 up to $30,000 for a single violation. 17 U.S.C. $ 101 et seq
So the first act of testing is a threat of legal consequences and possible fines.
There are no such warnings on my own teacher-created tests. Sure I don’t want students to cheat, but I don’t threaten to take them to court if they do.
The school has a plagiarism policy in place – as just almost every public school does – which was created and approved by the local school board and administration. The first infraction merits a warning. The second one results in a zero on the assignment, and so on.
Moreover, this is something we go over once at the beginning of the year. We do not reiterate it with every test. It would be counterproductive to remind students of the dire consequences of misbehavior right before you’re asking them to perform at their peak ability.

Okay, Brady! Go out there and win us a football game! By the way, if you deflate that football, you will spend the rest of your life in jail. Go get ‘em!
But that’s not all.
In Pennsylvania, we also force kids to abide by a specific code of conduct for test takers. They must enter a quasi-legal relationship before they are even permitted to begin the tests we’re forcing them to take.
Much of this code is common sense. Get a good night’s sleep. Fill in bubbles completely using a number two pencil.
But some of it is deeply disturbing.
For example, students are told to “report any suspected cheating to your teacher or principal.”
They have to agree to be an informer or snitch to a government agency. My students aren’t old enough to vote or even drive a car, but they are directed to collaborate with the government against their classmates.
In addition, they are told NOT to:
-talk with others about questions on the test during or after the test.
-take notes about the test to share with others.
Sure kids shouldn’t talk about the test with classmates DURING the testing session. Obviously! But why can’t they discuss it after the test is over!?
Kids aren’t allowed to say to their friends, “Hey! Did you get the essay question about ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’?”
They aren’t allowed to discuss how difficult it was or compare how each of them answered the questions?
These are children. If you think they aren’t talking, then you just don’t know kids. You don’t know people!
And why shouldn’t they talk about it? They just shared a stressful, common experience. Who wouldn’t want to compare it to what others went through so as to decide how your experience rates? Did you answer the questions well or not? Did you get a more difficult question than others? Did the thing that struck you as odd also hit others the same way?
Personally, I do not consider talking like this to be cheating. It’s just human nature.
But we force kids into a legalistic vow they won’t do it. On the test, we make them fill in a bubble next to the following statement:
By marking this bubble I verify that I understand the “Code of Conduct for Test Takers” that my Test Administrator went over with me.
As a test administrator, I am not allowed to move on until all students have filled in that bubble. I wonder what would happen if one of them refused.
Technically, we aren’t making them promise TO ABIDE by the code of test takers. Perhaps we lack that legal authority. We are, however, making them swear they understand it. Thus we remove ignorance as an excuse for not following it.
But there is a veiled threat here. We imply that not following this code will have harsh legal consequences.
And I’m not sure it should.
Kids certainly ignore it. They almost definitely discuss the exam with their peers after the testing session. But we’ve given them a sense of guilt, fear and anxiety just for being normal human beings.
That’s wrong.
Teachers are forced to do it, too.
Just as there is a code for test takers, there is a code for test proctors.
I have to sign that I understand the “Ethical Standards of Test Administration.” Again, much of this is common sense, but it includes such statements as:
DO NOT:
-Discuss, disseminate or otherwise reveal contents of the test to anyone.
-Assist in, direct, aid, counsel, encourage, or fail to report any of the actions prohibited in this section.
So even teachers technically are not allowed to discuss the test and should report students or colleagues seen doing so.
If I walk into the faculty room, and one of my co-workers describes a question on the test and asks my opinion, I’m supposed to report this person to the authorities.
What kind of Orwellian nightmare are we living in?
If we see a question that is badly worded, misleading, has no correct answer, contains misspelled words – anything out of the ordinary – we’re supposed to remain silent. In fact, we’re not supposed to read anything on the test other than the instructions.
I can’t talk about it to my colleagues, my principal, my spouse, my priest – ANYONE.
What are the consequences of breaking this code?
Ask those teachers in Atlanta who were convicted of cheating. Obviously they did more than just talk about the test and they deserve to be punished. But there is a specific threat to teachers if they violate this code.
According to the “Pennsylvania System of School Assessment Directions for Administration Manuel”:
Those individuals who divulge test questions, falsify student scores, or compromise the integrity of the state assessment system in any mannerwill be subject to professional disciplinary action under the Professional Educator Discipline Act, 24 P.S. $ 2070. 1a et seq, including a private reprimand, a public reprimand, a suspension of their teaching certificate(s), a revocation of their teaching certificate(s), and/or a suspension or prohibition from being employed by a charter school. [emphasis added]
So teachers may lose our certifications, livelihoods, etc. Heck! We could be charged with racketeering like the Gambino Family and face up to 20 years in jail!
And all just for talking!
I thought speech was protected by law. Doesn’t the First Amendment protect me from prosecution for speaking except under extreme and unusual circumstances?
If my colleagues and I were to discuss the appropriateness of certain test questions, would that really be such a bad thing? If we compared the questions being asked with how we prepared our students for the test, wouldn’t that – in fact – be the responsible thing to do?
I never give my students one of my own teacher-created tests without knowing exactly what’s on it. I’ve read the test from top to bottom. Heck! I made it!
One shouldn’t feel like a whistle-blower for talking about a standardized test. Discussing the appropriateness of specific test questions does not make me Julian Assange.
Therefore, I must ask an important question of you, dear reader: Did I violate these rules by writing this very article? Is the piece you are reading right now illegal?
I contend that it isn’t. The code of conduct for both test takers and test administrators is freely available on-line from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The legal threat at the beginning of the test is reproduced almost word-for-word in a sample letter the state Department of Education suggests schools send to parents before testing begins.
I haven’t included anything here that is not freely available on the Internet or elsewhere.
But the need I feel to stop and answer this question is kind of scary.
There is a veil of secrecy over these tests and the way they are administered. And it’s no accident. The testing companies don’t want all of this to become public knowledge. They don’t want the quality or inferiority of the actual exams to be known.
And our state and federal governments are protecting them. From whom? Our teachers, parents, and students.
Shouldn’t our legislators be looking out for our rights and not just those of private contractors who were hired to provide a service? Obviously we have to allow test manufacturers the freedom to do their jobs – but some of this seems to go beyond that requirement.
We’re being silenced and intimidated to protect an industry that is of dubious qualityand obscene profitability.
Every day more people are asking questions about the validity of standardized testing. Everything from the frequency of the tests to the value of cut scores has been the subject of criticism. Thousands of parents are refusing to let their children take these assessments at all.
Isn’t it time to throw back the Iron Curtain of standardization and look at these tests in the cleansing light of day? Isn’t it time to evaluate this process as well as the product? Do we really want to support a system that encourages silence and snitching from our children and educators?
Isn’t it time to move beyond standardization and toward a system of teacher-created curriculum and testing instead of relying on capitalist profiteers.
Big Corporation is watching.
Let’s poke him in the eye.
The One about Silencing Teachers, Retribution and the Smell of Fear from the Reformers...
By:  Dr. Mitchell Robinson

I received the note below from a former student who is now a teacher. For obvious reasons, I won't identify her or where she teaches, but--shockingly--her story is becoming all too common...



"We had a union meeting yesterday where they warned us that the governor is going after the certificates of teachers that opted out their kids (of the state tests). The governor says it breaks our contract agreeing to protect and follow educational laws. Is this legal? Teachers are being targeted and warned to be extremely careful, especially on public media. I was just curious on your thoughts."


In Rochester, NY, an email from an administrator to the city's principals asked them to keep a list of teachers who might have shared information on testing for possible disciplinary action:

"An email sent from a high-level Rochester City School District official to principals is causing concern among teachers.

Chief of Schools Beverly Burrell-Moore sent the email Monday afternoon to principals she supervises. The email asks them to share names of teachers who have encouraged parents to refuse to allow their children to take state exams.

"Per your building, please identify teachers who have sent letters or made phone calls to parents encouraging them to opt out their children from the NYS Assessments.  Also, identify teachers who you have evidence as utilizing their classrooms as 'political soap boxes.'  I need this updated  information no later than Tuesday morning for follow-up," the email states. http://www.rochesterhomepage.net/story/d/story/rcsd-official-give-me-names-of-teachers-encouragin/69585/t4V1RVAqHk-lhmvN3pcetA

Audrey Amrein Beardsley, a professor of education at Arizona State University, and the author of one of my favorite education blogs on the web, VAMBOOZLED, reports: "New Mexico now requires teachers to sign a contractual document that they are not to 'diminish the significance or importance of the tests” or they could lose their jobs. Teachers are not to speak negatively about the tests or say anything negatively about these tests in their classrooms or in public; if they do they could be found in violation of their contracts.' Beardsley wonders about the legality, and even the constitutionality of this sort of action: 'As per a related announcement released by the ASBA, this “could have a chilling effect on the free speech rights of school and district officials' throughout the state but also (likely) beyond if this continues to catch on. School officials may be held 'liable for a $5,000 civil fine just for sharing information on the positive or negative impacts of proposed legislation to parents or reporters.'”

While there is no doubt that these moves are indeed a "chilling" development in the education "reform" movement, I believe that they also reveal a quickly growing sense of fear and confusion among those in the reform community regarding the viability of their agenda. Indeed, the surprising strength of the "Opt Out" movement in New York, where as many as 200,000 students have reportedly refused to sit for the state's tests, has led to calls demanding the resignation of Merryl Tisch, Chancellor of the NYS Board of Regents.

If there is a silver lining to these threats it may be the impending crumbling of the reform agenda under the increased scrutiny from the public, the media and teachers. For far too long, policy "leaders" like Chancellor Tisch, Governors Cuomo, Kasich and Snyder, and Sec. of Education Duncan have responded to criticism of their agenda with either deafening silence or dismissive pandering, such as accusations that "painted parents as confused patsies of a labor action." Now, these feeble rejoinders are being exposed for what they have been all along: weak and arrogant responses to the legitimate demands for accountability from those so negatively impacted by these destructive policies.

These "leaders" are clearly scared, and they have every right to be. Now is the time to step up the pressure, and not let our voices be silenced. We are fighting for our students, our colleagues and our profession.


Let students learn, let teachers teach, and get the politicians out of education.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

In Response To Peter Goodman
By:  Jamy Brice Hyde and Marla Kilfoyle



 On April 17th Blogger Peter Goodman wrote a piece where he called the new New York State evaluation system a significant improvement.  

We disagree!


This is not better and to even entertain that anything remotely associated with 2015 Education legislation in NYS to be couched as an improvement is to neglect the facts.

The new plan has removed any control we had to locally and collectively bargain on behalf of our members APPR. This MATRIX sets up teachers of special needs or poverty stricken schools with poor test takers for a two to three year exit from our profession with a 3020a/3020b that is mandated by the state! Even if a district would like to keep a teacher they are not given local control over personnel issues. Unions have even lost the ability to fight for them.

This Matrix will destroy the joy of learning creativity and innovation in our classrooms. Frankly most teachers will teach to the test in order to reach retirement.

The reports of the contents of the ELA exams last week provide evidence that the tests are designed for massive failures.  For example,  a 6th grader is expected to read a 1415 on the Kincaid scale! We must ask what are we measuring? We are measuring nothing of value for the children except creating enormous anxiety among children and preparing for the mass exodus of teachers from the profession, specifically our veteran teachers.


 Parents have been provoked to massively opt out their children from these tests due to the apparent insanity of current public education policy. Social Workers are reporting that their largest growing demographic is elementary school age kids with anxiety issues. Teachers are humbled by the number of parents that opted their children out of testing in support of locally controlled classrooms that are run by their highly qualified teachers.

 The toxicity of education policy in NYS is systemic. WE cannot entertain anyone that refers to an improvement here in NYS. That dialogue belongs nowhere near the abhorrent policy being pushed upon  public education in NY. This is creating a system to privatize education and DESTROY our unions. On first “blush” this policy made teachers convulse, on second read it made many ill on the third read it made teachers very angry and mobilized them to fight harder against these reforms.


 Don’t give props to anything that tries to sanitize one of the most toxic education policies in the country - the Cuomo Education Transformation Act of 2015.