Monday, July 21, 2014

PRESS RELEASE 





FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  July 20, 2014
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/

The Badass Teachers’ Association (BAT), an activist organization of over 50,000 teachers, will be holding a rally in Washington D.C. to protest the devastating educational policies of the United States Department of Education and Arne Duncan.   The rally will be held on July 28, 2014, at the USDOE Plaza beginning at 10 a.m. and will draw thousands of teachers, parents, students, and educational activists from around the country.  BAT will demand such things as ending federal incentives to close and privatize schools, promoting equity and adequate funding for all public schools, and banning all data sharing of children’s private information.

Co-founder Dr. Mark Naison states in an interview with Suzie Parker of TakePart, “I think that many teachers hoped that if Barack Obama was re-elected, he would ease up on the testing, and the school closings, and the test-driven teacher evaluations. Instead  he doubled down on all of those, leaving teachers with no other option than to speak out in the most forceful way possible; say, ‘enough is enough;’ and demand a seat at the table in shaping education policy, which they emphatically do not have now.” 

In the same interview with Parker, Co-Founder Priscilla Sanstead proclaims, “I want big changes in education. I want standardized testing to be reined way back, portfolios to become an accepted way to assess students, and for teachers to get a voice in setting education policy. I want smaller class sizes and the way to do that is to spend money hiring more teachers.”

Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager of BAT, states about the event, "Teachers, parents, and students have had enough! We want our public schools returned back to our communities, we want adequate funding to  meet the needs of our children, we want child poverty to be addressed as a major issue of why children struggle in school, we want mayors to stop closing schools, and we want the USDOE to stop pushing top-down reforms that aren't working!"

BAT will demand that both state and federal governments stop blaming teachers for child poverty and the societal inequalities that impede a child’s learning.   


Sunday, July 20, 2014

New York Leads the Way In the Movement Against Common Core-- At The Polls

By:  Dr. Mark Naison



Something truly extra
ordinary has happened in the New York State Gubernatorial race-something with broad national implications.  A big money Democratic Governor, Andrew Cuomo, who thought he was going to make himself a front runner in the 2016 Presidential Race by ramming through legislation requiring teacher evaluations based on Common Core aligned tests, has generated so much opposition among teachers and parents that there are now three different Gubernatorial candidates who oppose Common Core- the Republican candidate, Rob Astorino, the Green Party candidate, Howie Hawkins, and the new and quite formidable challenger in the Democratic Primary, Zephyr Teachout.

   There are two reasons this situation is "game changer"

   First, it shows how much opposition to Common Core is emerging  across the political spectrum.  For the last year, Common Core supporters in the media, the corporate world, and the US Department of Education have tried to portray Common Core opponents as extremists whose views should be rejected out of hand, but the what we have in New York is a mainstream Republican, a strong candidate on the left, and a liberal Democrat all saying that Common Core is untested, undemocratic and a threat to strong, locally controlled public schools.  And this position is going to be put forward strongly from now until election day. Even if Andrew Cuomo wins the Democratic primary, he will be facing two strong anti-Common Core voices in the general election.

   Secondly, Zephyr Teachout's primary challenge to Andrew Cuomo shows that powerful, Wall Street financed Democratic politicians pushing Corporate School reform no longer can no longer be sure that their positions will go unchallenged and their jobs will be secure.  Anti-testing activism is now moving into the heart of the Democratic Party, and Democratic politicians like Rahm Emmanuel, Andrew Cuomo, and Dannel Malloy can no longer be sure their big money donors assure their political future.   Even the leaders of the national teachers unions have finally, thanks to their enraged membership, gotten the courage to challenge the Obama administration's education policies.  Ras Baraka's election as Mayor of Newark over a Wall Street financed Democrat was a first sign of Corporate Reform Democrats losing their vice grip on the party; Teachout's primary challenge is a second, and if Karen Jennings Lewis decides to challenge Rahm Emmanuel in Chicago, maybe, just maybe, the national Democratic party will get the message that its education policies are a disaster.

   What does all this mean?

   That anti-Common Core voters in New York, now have candidates reflecting their views in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and in third party movements, and do not have to vote against their conscience on other issues to oppose Common Core and the top down, elite financed, coercive approach to School Reform it represents.

   And that bodes well for the future of public education in the United States

Monday, July 14, 2014

PRESS RELEASE


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  July 14, 2014
More Information Contact:
Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager, BATs
Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. General Manager, BATs

The Badass Teachers Association, an organization that is nearing 50,000 members, is releasing this statement to express our outrage over  Resolution #2 (AFT Common Core) that passed on the floor of the AFT Convention this past Sunday.  The decision to support the Common Core will further erode the confidence of parents, students, and teachers who have watched the chaos that has unfolded in our schools as a result of standards that were never researched , tested, or piloted.
 “The AFT stated that the promise of the Common Core has been corrupted by political manipulation, administrative bungling, corporate profiteering and an invalid scoring system designed to ensure huge numbers of kids fail the new math and language arts exams that will be rolled out next spring.” “Why in the world would they support keeping them?” asks Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager of BATs.
BAT Asst. General Manager Melissa Tomlinson states, “BATs do not dispute the need for high level standards that will encourage our students to develop and apply higher-order thinking skills.  BATs does dispute the standards as the panacea for what is actually wrong with our educational system.  The Common Core has become a distractor to veil the real issues of fair funding and access to equal resources that will not be solved as school districts struggle to align curriculum to the standards through purchasing of Common Core materials, mainly from the Pearson monopoly.”
“BATs are dismally disappointed with the results of the convention and will fight to have CCSS disbanded and Arne Duncan removed as Secretary of Education. We will not give up the fight for ALL children”, said BAT Jo Lieb
Co-founder Mark Naison states, “The new AFT position on Common Core is going to disappoint many parents and teachers who were looking for relief from uncontrolled testing and intrusive federal mandates.”
"This CCSS "baby" was created by people with NO classroom experience (ELA) and very little classroom experience (Math). They are developmentally inappropriate for the younger grades, for kids with disabilities- they defy every best practice and research we know about how children learn. The CCSS are copyrighted and cemented in place to high stakes testing, VAM,  and rigid annual benchmarks. Throw out this toxic baby and the bathwater now!" exclaimed BAT and Special Education advocate, Terry Kalb.
BATs look forward to continuing our work with parents, students, and education policy makers to take back public education and end the FEDERALLY MANDATED Common Core State Standards! Further, we fully support NEA's resolution to ask for Secretary Duncan's resignation. Unions MUST return to the important role of educating the rank and file about specific and significant changes implemented in order to qualify for RttT funding; and most importantly, stand up for a complete and thorough analysis of implementation, specifically as they relate to individual states, localities, and communities  manpower decisions.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

THE WOMEN OF BATs DEMAND!!




As thousands of children and mothers continue to stream across the southern border of the United States, the world watches.

The WOMEN of BATs call on our Federal Government to find safe, humane asylum for the refugee women and children coming across our borders. While buildings stand empty, people should not be kept in jails. Nursing mothers should not have to feed their babies on filthy floors. Children should not be threatened by vigilante gun violence. We demand action from our leaders NOW! The world is watching.


We are a country raised on the backs of the First Peoples, built by the labor of Africans brought in bondage, and through the exploitation of generations of immigrants from around the world. We have expanded our lands through war, theft, and conflict. The children's migration is an unprecedented event. This time we must stand on the right side of history. This time we must respond not with fear, ignorance, hatred, threats, intimidation and violence. We must live up to our potential. We must live up to our professed American values. The world is watching.


These children come from our North American continent. These children share the ancestries of millions of Americans. These children look like us because they are us. They are our sisters, our cousins. They are the students in our classrooms.


Who stands in New York Harbor ?
"A mighty woman with a torch, "

"and her name Mother of Exiles." Lady Liberty is an immigrant. Lady Liberty is a mother. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..” These mothers and children are tired. They walked here on foot. They are poor and risked it all to come here. They are yearning for Hope, for Peace, for Safety. They are yearning for Roses and Bread. They came with the Faith that they could find that here, in America.

National Leaders: Your actions speak louder than words. To do nothing in the face of injustice is to be an accomplice to said injustice. The world is watching. The WOMEN of the WORLD are watching. The GRANDMOTHERS and MOTHERS and SISTERS and TEACHERS that are WOMEN are watching. ACT.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

 

The BAT Anomoly Part Two- What We Stand for , What We Believe

By: Dr. Mark Naison


-->BATS fight for Community Schools where parents teachers and students voices are welcome. We emphatically reject the use of Teacher Temps to replace lifetime educators, especially those who live in the communities where schools are located. We also think parents and students should have a voice in shaping curricula in which their own traditions and cultural values are reflected as well as those of the larger society.

--->  BATS support teachers unions in principle, because unions are the best defenders of the middle class, and of work place rights, including freedom of expression, but we emphatically disagree with teacher union leaders who take grants from powerful corporations, and who refuse to challenge public officials who impose policies which undermine public education and teacher professionalism

--->BATS support a wide variety of educational options for parents, ranging from schools which are exempt from tests, to vocational and technical schools, to magnet schools which strive for racial and cultural diversity, but we emphatically reject the dominant trend to have all such experimentation take place in charter schools, and the starving of public schools while charters remain favored and unregulated.
Words of Wisdom
By: Wilma de Soto 

It is glaringly apparent from the point of view of People of Color that racism plays an integral part of the School Reform Movement. I also understand that as apparent as this is to us, it not so for many whites.
• Public schools have been a means of opportunity for people of color to lift themselves from poverty. Now this avenue is being destroyed.
• The fact that teachers of color are being hardest hit is another hint. We are the people who understand what these children face in our society, are able to help them get around and cope with racism and persevere to achieve success, the way our teachers did for us. I myself am involved in such a witch hunt. I am good with these kids, but not worth the money to the reformers. A double blow.
• Remove us and there is no one there who can relate to what it is like to be Black in America and the slings and arrows and disrespect we must endure each day of our lives.
• Poverty, the great rallying cry has a great deal to do with denial of access to resources, opportunities etc. Most of that is based on the race of the people affected and therefore has its roots in institutional racism.
• For good or for ill the election of Baraka Obama to the Presidency is a personal affront to many White Americans, who cannot conceive of a Black Presidency. Opportunities that Obama and other successful Blacks that were obtained from good public education and programs to redress wrongs have gone too far in many opinions of Whites. Destroying public education is to ensure there will NEVER be another Black President.
• Finally, NOTHING new, innovative, forward-thinking and remarkable in education has EVER started first in the inner-city Black and Latino neighborhoods. NEVER! The best we could get was o wait ten or so years until Whites were done with it, or get a watered-down version LONG after White students had moved on to the latest thing.
• The fact all this school reform started in the inner-cities, which were languishing LONG before Brown, without any interest whatsoever by "benevolent philanthropists, should be a red flag to everyone that race is involved.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

On the Intolerable Conditions of Many NYC Public School Buildings- A Teacher Comments

I had gotten into the habit of wearing polyester, or heavy, cotton blouses by mid May, fabric that should spare me the embarrassment of unsightly sweat stains left by pools of perspiration being seen by my students. It was ninety two degrees and my classroom, was not an oasis of learning as it should be but rather, a prison. Kids were forced to stay against their will, as we teachers were told to do everything in our power to ensure the students stayed the entire three hours to complete their exams. It was Regents week, and instead of students using all of their allotted time, several attempted to leave within the hour, only a third of the time provided to answer several multiple choice questions, constructed response questions, and in the case of English and History, two essays. The day before, I had proctored the Earth Science Regents and could not help but think of the water cycle as my skin baked: my sweat being the precipitation, my back, a mountain with a high gradient experiencing surface run off, and my shirt, the earth in which the precipitation that becomes ground water absorbs.
It was the third time that Karina attempted to hand me her exam, but I refused the exchange, as we were instructed to do; once an exam was handed in, a teacher could not give it back to the child. Nor could I speak directly to one student about the exam, so I generalized and began the usual reminder to “Make sure you’ve completed the entire test before handing it in” to the whole class while looking directly at Karina, signaling her to sit back down, though she did so reluctantly. After about fifteen more minutes in the sweltering heat, she couldn’t take it anymore and stormed to my desk, throwing down her exam.
“I’m done.”
I checked her exam and realized she had not completed an entire essay. “Karina, you didn’t even write the DBQ!”
“I don’t care. I’m irritable. I’m hot. I just want to leave now and take a freakin’ shower. I’ll take it again in August. At least summer school will be somewhere else.”
She was right. Schools that weren’t air conditioned always held summer school at a different location, which seemed to be the humane thing to do. Unfortunately, the powers that be failed to consider the days that reached July temperatures in late Spring and late Summer, when schools reopened for business; our students have experienced many a miserable day in when temperatures had reached ninety degrees or felt like it with high humidity. In my eleven years of teaching, I had seen my share of nose bleeds and fainting spells in the classroom due to lack of ventilation and air conditioning. We were told to tell students to “rise to the occasion,” despite the fact that the heat often made them want to put their heads down. When we would complain, we’d always be told that schools built in the fifties were not equipped to sustain the level of electricity required for air conditioning. The next common sense move would then be to rewire the school; however, individual schools were expected to fork out the thousands of dollars that would fund such a project. School principals complain they don’t even have enough money for books and supplies, forcing teachers to spend thousands of their own dollars to create a classroom environment that would be deemed effective according to Charlotte Danielson. Expecting school administrators to use their budget to rewire their school buildings so that their students can learn in comfort was as ridiculous as expecting for teachers to be supported rather than torn apart by the government and the media. We were all expected to grin and bear it.
But in recent years teachers are choosing not to stay but instead to leave, leave to places that are easier to teach in because ultimately, we are evaluated for more than just our performance these days, but by the performance of our students more than ever. With forty percent of our rating being based on student exam scores, exams that are developmentally inappropriate, deliberately tricky and exceedingly lengthy, teachers who teach in the inner city already have enough on their plates to have to deal with failing, old infrastructure; trying to get students who are several grade levels below and often cannot or will not put more effort into their studies to be present, both physically and mentally, in a building that is uncomfortable to be in for more than twenty minutes is a headache that is sure to have many teachers sprinting toward the exit door.
Old school buildings lack appropriate cooling systems, sometimes lack heat on frigidly cold winter days and have hideous cracks in the walls that are often in serious need of paint jobs. Plain and simple, they are ugly. My students look at the building in disgust, labeling it a “bum ass school” because of its glossy cement walls and prehistoric chalk boards. When we do get heat, it’s heat that we call, “project heat,” that cranks up the pipes with loud banging noises that disturb learning and warm the rooms beyond the point of relief from the cold, getting so hot that we attempt to open our windows to average the temperature out. Mice and cockroaches seem to lurk inside the walls that have so many more nooks and crannies to reside in than newer buildings would. The job of beautifying the learning environment is always bestowed upon the teacher, who spends tons of money on pretty bulletin board paper and borders, and time crafting beautiful artsy “stuff” to hang and stick all over the place, but it’s no more of a disguise than a silk hat on a pig.
Charter schools have managed to make our school “living arrangements” even more uncomfortable by taking many of our classrooms and offices, forcing students and teachers into tight spaces to teach and learn. Our students have to share communal spaces like the cafeteria and gym with them, adding insult to injury because the space was already shared with two other schools at our site. Many students ask teachers if they can eat with them in their classrooms because there is no room to sit down in the cafeteria since our school has been assigned to 6th period lunch while 4th and 5th periods are the designated lunch times for the other schools in the building. Teachers, though in dire need of a break away from the kids, consent because they empathize with their students. Because the charter school is taking our office space as well, I will be moved to a new location to complete my IEPs and other special education coordination duties, a room that just so happens to be next to the cafeteria. With all these lunch periods, the loud noise will surely distract me from doing my work, as will the students who receive extended time on exams which I will proctor. Still, I will be expected to complete all of my IEPs on time and my students will be expected to pass their exams and not be frustrated at the loud screams from the cafeteria, or the sweat trickling down their backs from lack of air conditioning or excessive heat, or the potential vermin that may scurry across their feet.
The temptation to teach somewhere else that is new, clean, beautiful and comfortable is strong. However, when I think of the students who can’t leave, it makes me stick around. Still, sharing in their misery just doesn’t seem like a sufficient form of action. I feel like I should be doing more, finding a way to lead my students to a more promising land, a new school that they can ooh and ahh over as they walk through the halls; a school that will allow them to escape from the scorching heat on hot spring and summer days instead of the other way around; a school that makes them feel not only safe, but comfortable; a school they can feel content to call their own. Surely I am not the only teacher who thinks of leaving in this way, that is, leaving together as a school community, thinking of not only herself but the best interest of her students. If it was possible, to move one’s students to a new school, it would have been done already, wouldn’t it have? Or are all teachers so used to shit that no one’s even tried?