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?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Staggering Amounts of Money Spent to Show Teachers and Teachers Unions are to Blame for Inequality
By:  Dr. Mark Naison

As the wave of anti-tenure lawsuits are about to move from California to NY and other states where teachers unions are strong, it would be instructive to think about the staggering amounts of money very wealthy people have spent to demonize teachers unions, teachers and public schools. In addition to the tens of millions poured into campaigns for local school boards, and into mayoralty races to make sure the "reform" strategies of charter school favoritism and test based school and teacher evaluations are to prevail, millions have also been poured into a documentary "Waiting for Superman" and a full length Hollywood Film "Won't Back Down."  And that was followed by a multi-million dollar billboard campaign against teachers unions featuring a twenty foot high picture of AFT President Randi Weingarten mounted in Times Square!

If anyone bothered to compute the amount of funding that has gone into these campaigns and these films, I am sure the amounts would go into the hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps into the billions.  Which begs the questions Wouldn't this money have been better spent on funding arts programs  and after school centers in schools in  high poverty areas?  Or reducing class size? Or increasing the number of librarians and school counselors? But no, it has all gone into what is basically a giant propaganda campaign against teachers unions

Now with these lawsuits, millions more are going to be spend on this campaign, even if some of the legal expertise is going to be donated pro bono. Doesn't anyone here have a sense of proportion? A sense of irony?

This is a huge, even criminal waste of money at a time when so many public school budgets are being reduced, and when class size is rising, and vital services are being cut.

Something to think about as the witch hunt against teachers unions moves into a new phase

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Getting Rid of The Bad Teachers: Discrimination in Berkeley, CA 

By:  Masha Albrecht and Brian Crowell

Throughout the country school districts have instituted different methods of weakening teacher tenure. In California, as in some other states this policy is called Peer Assistance and Review.

What is Peer Assistance and Review?
Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) is a remedial program for teachers who receive an unsatisfactory performance review. The teacher participates in the program from 1-2 years. If the teacher has shown satisfactoryimprovement the teacher is exited out of the program. However, if the teacher hasnt shown enough improvement as measured by the PAR Panel, they are recommended for termination.

Even the most progressive educators argue that PAR is a vital program for teacher quality and remediation. PAR is beloved among union leaders and progressive educators alike.

One reform for improving teacher quality Peer Assistance and Review (PAR)  offers an alternative approach to these cursory evaluation systems. PAR focuses not only on supporting and assessing individual teachers, but also on expanding the capacity of the school and district to improve teaching and learning. Recently, many educational observers and policymakers, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, have pointed to PAR as an approach with great potential for improving professional evaluation and teacher quality (Obama, 2009; Duncan, 2009; Dillon, 2008; Toch & Rothman, 2008; Goldstein, 2007; Koppich, 2005; Goldstein, 2004).  Reference: (

Historian Diane Ravitch writes about PAR in her blog:
There have been few litigation challenges to the discharges. The overwhelming majority of teachers think the system is fair. There is no high-stakes-testing, with all its adverse side effects. Briefly, principals identify teachers as possibly poor-performers; senior consulting teachers (who do not report to the principal) intensively monitor/evaluate the identified teachers; a consulting-teachers/principals committee makes the final discharge decision. Its unclear why PAR has received so little public attention. The NY Times wrote a column praising PAR. But, the media and ed bloggers have otherwise largely ignored it. Opponents of high-stakes-testing should study and publicize PAR  or something like it as an inexpensive, productive alternative to the destructive high-stakes-testing as a way to identify/remove ineffective teachers.(Reference: April 24, 2012)

Who are the Bad Teachers?: Strong Evidence of Discrimination
Although PAR has been praised publicly, there has been little publicity about the teachers who are placed in this program. Who are these bad teachers? What does the PAR process look like in action?
We outline here our experience with PAR in Berkeley, California, the city known internationally as a bastion of progressive ideas with a history of defending freedom of expression. We begin by describing the demographics of the 41 teachers selected for PAR since the beginning of the program in 2002. This data was obtained through a California public records request by author Brian Crowell (at that point Brian was a union rep at Berkeley High.) The district did not share the data until school board president Josh Daniels intervened. Although we expected the data to show bias, we were shocked at the extent of the disparity.

·     In a district that is composed of about 6.5% African American teachers, a startling 10 out of 41 teachers (or 24%) were referred to PAR.
·     Thirty-five of the 41 teachers placed in PAR were in column 6 or 7 representing the most highly educated teachers on the salary schedule.
·     The average step placement of all teachers in PAR was 15 years of experience.
·     Of the 22 women placed in PAR, 20 the women were 55 years of age or older. The women teachers also had more years of experience (were at higher steps on the salary schedule.)

Math teachers at Berkeley High School analyzed this data more. Specifically we wondered how likely it was that data like this would happen by accident, or randomly.

First we looked at the African American teacher statistics. How likely is it that 10 out of 41 teachers would be African American if chosen randomly from a pool of 6.5%? Using some advanced high school math we found this probability to be a tiny 0.022%. Legally speaking, this would fall in the category of disparate impact discrimination.

Next we looked at the numbers for women age 55 and older. What is the probability that 19 of 21 women teachers in the district would be over the 55 and older if chosen randomly? This probability turned out to be even more dramatic. In our estimate of the California state demographic for teachers, roughly 21.5% of teachers are over the age of 55. Again using some advanced high school math, the chances that 19 of 21 female teachers would be 55 and over if chosen randomly is an astonishing 0.000000013%. This small probability would fall under the legal definition of disparate treatment discrimination.

Who are the Bad Teachers?: Two Case Studies

This year 3 additional teachers have been referred to the PAR program. Two of them are teachers of color; one of them is a woman over 55. We describe two of these teachers below.

Bad Teacher #1: The Black Teacher
Brian Crowell is a 36-year old African American history teacher at Berkeley High. Brian served as a union representative for 4 years. Immediately after disclosure of the statistics described above Brian received a failing evaluation and was immediately referred to PAR. He was then threatened by the Berkeley Unified central administration with immediate termination. Previous to his disclosure of the PAR data Brians teaching had been praised by administration. Here is a quote about Brian Crowells teaching from Berkeley High principal Pasquale Scuderi written a few months earlier:

Really was reminded of early observations of you back in 06. You are such a good storyteller and while I am sometimes cautious about teacher talk/lecture, you really had a big chunk of the class engaged and seemed, if Im right, to be connecting early European trade/explorations with how those arrangements look today.
Feedback: Widespread engagement  several students were really dialed into your presentation. very pleased to see multiple African-American students actively engaged in the discussion; we need this type of involvement to be more commonplace in all classrooms for students of color.

Principal Pasquale Scuderi email to Brian Crowell, Sept. 18, 2012
Students responded loudly when they heard of their history teachers job being threatened. Here is a quote from a junior written directly to the school board.

Hello Board Members,
..... I am a junior at Berkeley High School in Academic Choice. Upon hearing of Brian Crowell being put on BPAR, I felt compelled to write to you. I had Mr. Crowell for both Freshman and Sophomore year and can tell you he has been one of the best, most supportive teachers I have ever had. Mr. Crowell was amazing in the way he connected the past to the present and the way in which he prepared us for AP classes, STAR testing and the future. He taught us to use our own thoughts to make important arguments through our research papers, and also gave us all a strong understanding of our government (3/28/13)

Bad Teacher #2: The Experienced Woman
Lucinda Daly is a 61-year-old experienced photography teacher at Berkeley High. She had been teaching for 25 years with strong evaluations and positive experiences with students. She maintains two darkrooms, brings students on annual field trips to Yosemite, and has regular photo exhibits popular among parents and other community members. She had never heard of PAR and was amazed to find herself referred.
 Students describe Dalys teaching in glowing terms. Here is a letter to the school board from a graduate:

 “After taking two years of photo with Ms Daly, I have grown in unexpected and lasting ways as an artist and as a person.  She is exceptional at teaching the fundamental techniques while allowing enough flexibility for students to work however they need to.

I understand that she was given an "unsatisfactory" evaluation by Mr. Melgoza, perhaps because of the loose structure of the class.  But that productive chaos is actually crucial for allowing the artistic process to take place.  In my opinion, the quality of work coming out of her classes would not be at nearly the same level if the class were quiet and orderly, and more aspects of the work process were stringently regulated.  

The way to judge the quality of Ms. Daly's teaching should be in the evaluation of the work her students produce, not how orderly her class may appear to be. Her encouragement to push the boundaries of what the assignments ask for and openness to experimentation with techniques (which can sometimes be messy and disorganized) has taken me to artistic places I never thought I would reach when I first enrolled in her class.  

Furthermore, in an academic environment where students are constantly pressured to take increasingly rigorous classes, it is easy to become over-stressed. The positive effect of having a space in which to set aside traditional measures of success and achievement, and simply spend time creating in a low-pressure environment, cannot be overstated.

Teachers Health and Future after PAR
One observation shared by every teacher put in PAR was a significant negative impact on their health.  Teachers report anxiety, depression, insomnia, panic disorder, lack of appetite, paranoia, disorientation and confusion. These illnesses were documented repeatedly by doctors. In a profession that is already increasingly challenging, the experience of having ones job scrutinized and job security threatened pushes teachers to the edge. Indeed, what jobs are available to an experienced teacher who has been dismissed? Where are the education ads for a teacher with 10+ years of experience?

Our experience with PAR in Berkeley raises these questions for all of us.

Silencing Our Voices and Threatening Academic Freedom
We have outlined the way the PAR has unfairly targeted subgroups of teachers. We conclude with an observation about what this means to our students and classrooms.

These kinds of programs diminish teacher power, and attempt to silence the voices of teachers. Teachers who speak or teach differently can be especially popular targets. Teachers of color and experienced women are often the most expressive, creative, and pedagogically divergent teachers. We worry that through racial profiling and age and gender discrimination, these voices will be silenced.

In a time when our students and world need rich, thoughtful and courageous classroom experiences, programs like PAR are especially destructive to public education. Californias per pupil funding is down 13.8% since The Great Recession. Do other states and districts have similar demographics when in comes to PAR participants? This is just the beginning of a long discussion about education, labor, civil rights and the future of public education at large.

Masha Albrecht is a Math Teacher at Berkeley High School
Brian Crowell is a Social Science Teacher at Berkeley High School


1A. Disparate Impact and Disparate Treatment

5.Per Pupil Funding Education:

An American Tragedy: The Humiliation and Displacement of Veteran Teachers by Ruthless School Administrators
By:  Dr. Mark Naison

Every day, i get an email or Facebook message from a teacher somewhere in the United States who has been driven our of their job by a school administrator after more than 20 years of loyal service to the profession, often with great distinction. These teachers have worked in all kinds of schools; have taught a wide variety of subjects, have sometimes been coaches, librarians and school counselors. The one thing they seem to have in common is that they loved their jobs, had developed their own effective methods of teaching, and were at the high end of the salary scale.

The number of people we are talking about here is very large- probably tens of thousands of teachers pushed out, maybe more than that. Each one of these forced departures is an individual tragedy- a life deprived of meaning and purpose, often in the context of a very public personal humiliation in front of the entire school community, sometimes plunging the individual into depression and their families into hardship

 But it is also a collective tragedy. At a time when the average teaching career is less than five years, when young people pour in and out of the profession at a staggering rate, the forcing out of skilled and veteran teachers deprives schools of mentoring, of continuity, and also of resistance to methods of administration and pedagogy which are poorly thought through fads rather than carefully researched strategies.

And perhaps the latter reason, along with purely budgetary concerns, is why these teachers have been targeted. In the last ten years, our public schools have been deluged with initiatives which have transformed the way teaching is conducted and teachers are evaluated- ranging from VAM ( rating of teachers on the basis of test driven measures of student achievement), to the Common Core Standards, to high orchestrated methods of conducting teacher observations ( Danielson and Marzano protocols being the best known) accompanied by an unremitting wave of standardized tests.  Young teachers are shell shocked by all of these policies because they have known nothing else and desperately try to conform, often leaving the profession in frustration when they can't adapt. Veteran teachers, who have seen education fads come and go, speak out and call for skepticism.  This is threatening to the new managerial ethos in education which relies more on intimidation than cooperation and is determined to script teachers rather than inspire them

As a result, the brightest and most talented veteran teachers in each school, the natural leaders recognized among their colleagues, their students and their students families, are the ones targeted for being removed from their position, a process made easier by the new evaluation systems created to weaken teacher tenure and allegedly get rid of bad teachers.

But what has happened has turned the alleged intention of such policies on their head- leading to  the systematic elimination of the best  and most experienced teachers.

This has left young teachers unprotected. It has also left students without their most effective advocates

Someone needs to call out everyone responsible for this tragedy from the US Department of Education, to the Halls of Congress, to State Legislatures  and individual schools

That might as well be me

Enough is enough.

Time to use our best veteran teachers to help keep great young teachers in the profession- not to humiliate them, shame them and turn their example into a warning to young teachers to avoid speaking out, and above all avoid loving your profession so much that you fight for it'

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Badass Teachers Association

Press Release


More Information Contact:

Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager, BATs

Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. General Manager, BATs

The Badass Teachers Association (BATs), an association of over 48,000 teachers, has taken a vote of NO CONFIDENCE in U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  This vote signifies that teachers around the nation do not support the educational agenda set forth by the Obama Administration and Secretary Duncan.  Race to the Top fails to serve our neediest children and it fails to address race and class inequalities in the education system.

BATs Co-Founder Mark Naison states in his letter to President Obama, “The joy and creative learning that your own children experience in one of the nation's top private schools are being driven out of public schools throughout the nation with startling rapidity. Teachers work in fear. Students learn under extreme stress. Parents wonder why their children have started to hate school. 

Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager of BATs states, “Secretary Duncan’s continued public attacks on parents, students, and teachers have further eroded our confidence in his ability to run the U.S.D.O.E. and to make decisions for our nation’s public schools.   His continued support of corporate education reform, which is dismantling public education in America, furthers our resolve to have him removed from office.”

Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. General Manager of BATs claims, “Arne Duncan, as Secretary of Education, has failed to fulfill the responsibility of this position to provide and maintain the basic human right to education as set out in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations.  His failure to fulfill the obligation, and responsibility to provide the necessary financial support to public schools, is neglectful of the required compliance to the '4 A's Framework' that dictate all schools be available, accessible, acceptable, and adaptable.  With this in mind,we have an obligation to replace him with a person that is better qualified to do so.”

Is It Time To Create Public Schools in Every State Exempt from Testing?
(this is an ongoing project - as BATs add input this document will be updated)
By:  Mark Naison

All over the US, children and teachers are sinking under the weight of excessive testing. Following federal mandates and using the mantra of "college and career readiness." officials in every state in the union have flooded their public schools with tests and begun preparing students to take those tests as early as kindergarten and pre-K. Adding to the pressure, officials have used test scores to rate teachers, schools, even entire school districts ,threatening school closings and teacher firings should scores not reach their desired targets. The result has been a generation of students who dread going to school, families overwhelmed by stress, and teachers who are leaving the profession in droves because all creativity has been stripped from their jobs and because test prep has dominated the curriculum to the point to which they are being asked to commit professional malpractice. The addition of the Common Core standards to an already toxic mix has pushed teachers, students and parents to the breaking point. Test revolts and protests against Common Core are now taking place all over the nation, forcing some public officials to finally reconsider whether tests and more tests are really the way to improve public education in the US and create greater equity among students who attend them.

As the revolt spreads, it is time for activists to consider if there are steps state and local governments can take Right Now to restore idealism and hope to our battered and bruised public school system. Cutting back on testing and withdrawing from Common Core are important positive steps, but we also need measures that will get teachers and students excited about school again.

In the hope of restoring hope and idealism to public education, the Badass Teachers Association, with nearly 50,000 members around the nation and around the world, and local organizations in all 50 states proposes the following:

That every state in the union be freed from federal mandates to create 50-100 new PUBLIC SCHOOLS that are completely exempt from state tests, and that rate student performance on the basis of measures decided on by their staffs in consultation with students and parents. That these schools be filled through a recruiting process that includes both neighborhood location and voluntary application so they as much as possible represent the diverse student population in each state and that they be given a ten year window of operation to evaluate their work.

Not only would the creation of these schools give parents and students fed up with testing a REAL CHOICE within the public school system, allowing them to avoid the expense of home schooling or private school, it would inspire a huge wave of enthusiasm among teachers and prospective teachers who would be thrilled at the opportunity to excercise some creaivity in the classroom and deal with students as individuals rather than as test scores or points on their evaluations.
In our judgment, nothing would do more to bring talented people into the teaching profession, not for a few years, but for life, than creating schools like this all over the nation. It would make teaching an incredibly attractive profession.

This proporal is not entirely an excercise in re-inventing the wheel There are portfolio or consortium schools in New York City which have operated successfully along these principles for years, but in our two decade long obsession with testing and accountability, we have refused to expand the number of these schools, either in New York or anywhere else.

It is time to give these schools another look and launch a GREAT EXPERIMENT to make our public schools a place where creativity and excitment, not fear and stresss, can be the governing principles.
And just so we don't leave numbers out entirely, we would be willing to bet that the college admission and retention rates of these newly created schools would, given time, be better than schools with comparable demographics who are committed to K-12 testing

Amendment:  Rita Rathbone - Have an application system where existing schools can apply to get the no testing status. This would work well with magnet schools that already get students by parent choice.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

New York Badass Teachers Association

Press Release


More Information Contact:

Mark Naison, Co-founder  BATs
Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager, BATs

Badass Teachers Association -

The New York Badass Teachers Association (BATs), an activist organization of over 2000 educators, are releasing this statement to voice their displeasure with the APPR deal reached by Governor Cuomo and NYSUT.  This deal, which allows a teacher who is rated ineffective or developing to get a second review without the Common Core tests aligned to their evaluations, is an insult to educators, parents, and students in New York.   

 “This does nothing to alleviate the testing driven curriculum and the prescriptive one-size-fits-all instructional methodology that accompanies it. This is more window dressing to try to save Cuomo from embarrassment in the upcoming elections ,” stated NY BAT Bill Heller

Marla Kilfoyle a NY BAT administrator states, “Where is the relief for our students? They are still exposed to a test driven APPR system, Common Core tests, pilot tests for Pearson, and regents exams.  Where is their relief? Gov. Cuomo, the Regents, and John King have turned education in NYS into chaos” 

BAT Co-Founder Mark Naison added, “" Any policy which does not immediately and dramatically reduce the amount of testing in the public schools of New York State is just plain wrong."

NY BATs demand that Governor Cuomo, Regents, John King, and state lawmakers begin to examine their disastrous education agenda.  Their education agenda has caused chaos in NYS schools and is not good for children, teachers or education!  We need to prioritize student needs over corporate interests. NYS children deserve a rich education that is full of music, art, child-centered curricula, and fun!       


Thursday, June 19, 2014

For Immediate Release
June 19, 2014
Holyoke, MA – Holyoke teachers, parents, and community members are protesting the School Department’s decision to not renew the teaching contract of Gus Morales, president-elect of the teacher’s union and a leading activist speaking out for students and the schools they deserve.  Teachers and parents will make their views known at the School Committee meeting at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, June 23 at Dean High School, 1045 Main Street, Holyoke, MA.
For two years, Gus Morales was a highly rated teacher. Then on February 3 he spoke out to the School Committee about data walls, many of which listed students by name along with their scores on standardized tests and many of which were posted in areas accessible to the public (illegal under FERPA). Since then, and especially since he was overwhelmingly elected president of the union local, Gus has been targeted.  He was given highly dubious negative evaluations and has now been told his contract will not be renewed.  

Teachers are outraged by the non-renewal of Gus’s contract, as are many parents. Gus grew up in Holyoke and graduated from Holyoke High.  He is a veteran, bilingual, and a teacher who has the support of students and parents.  He is one of the few Puerto Rican teachers in Holyoke even though the student body is over 75 percent Hispanic. Gus is a male role model for many students.  In May, Gus was elected president of the Holyoke Teachers Association with overwhelming support from his fellow teachers.
Chris Butler, President of I.A.F.F. Local #1693, says, “The Holyoke Firefighters Local #1693 stand in solidarity with the Holyoke teachers and we fully support Mr. Morales in this travesty against organized labor.”
A meeting was held Thursday, June 19th, with Gus Morales and MTA’s General Counsel at the request of the Holyoke Teachers Association to prepare for legal action should the district stand firm in its decision to non-renew Gus Morales. Barbara Madeloni, the president-elect of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said, “Of course the union will fight this, and fight it hard. A union can’t allow someone to be targeted for his leadership in the union and the community.”
“Teachers know that Gus builds warm relationships with his students and has their respect,” said Nick Zyla, a teacher at the Donahue School. Jose Bou was concerned that the School Department would get rid of one of the few Puerto Rican teachers in town: “This is the wrong way to go.  The School Department should be making every effort to keep strong and effective Puerto Rican teachers.”

As of the time of this press release there are over 1,100 signatures on the petition to have Mr. Morales reinstated.
For NEA Executive Committee

Defend the Right to Public Education for ALL Students!

Stop the Privatization of Public Education!

Build the New Social Justice Labor Movement!

I have been on the forefront of organizing on the community level to fight for and to protect public education, and while out there I discovered that as we struggle to provide quality public education for all communities, we have to take our struggle to the community and take on their struggles as our own. To put it simply, it is how we build a movement that can win and takes on the critical issues facing the nation today. As a staunch defender of equality and a fighter for social justice via my leadership in Save Our Schools March and United Opt Out National and my involvement in Bad Ass Teachers Association; I am a candidate that knows how to build and sustain a movement for progress.

With progressive leadership we can fight to restore quality and equality in education, in our schools, and in our communities.  We can end the school to prison pipeline. We can end the shutting down of community public schools and the handing of them over to private profit, and we can end the dismantling of the teaching profession via a flawed accountability system. All of these injustices are fueled and fostered by high stakes testing.  In the process of restoring what we’ve lost and extending our gains, we can end NEA’s adapting to policies that are filled with ill-will toward teachers and students and are aimed at damaging public education and collective bargaining.

According to teacher educator and author Lois Weiner "social movement" unionism gets at the need for empowering members, building the union from the bottom-up, making the union itself a social movement.  The BAMN Caucus and I have been on the forefront of advocacy for a social movement union model as opposed to the model that subordinates our union to the politicians and an electoral strategy and thus far too often fails to address effectively the current crises in public education and collective bargaining.  

As we face a corporate takeover that serves to privatize public education while attempting to destroy all vestiges of collective bargaining and teaching as a noble profession, the communities in which we teach and work face similar crises as they struggle to subsist in an economy that favors the wealthy and disfavors those who are not. We need to join in struggle and stand with our real allies — those who are fighting for a future of hope. We need to use our strength and resources as a union with members and supporters in every city and community across the country to fight to win! 

Vote Ceresta Smith for NEA Executive Committee. Join the EON/BAMN caucus!
Parents Outraged by APPR Albany Deal that Ignores the Children
 BY:  New York State Allies for Public Education


More information contact:
Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123;
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;
NYS Allies for Public Education
Parents Outraged by APPR Albany Deal that Ignores the Children
The deal reached today by Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature regarding minimizing the impact of Common Core test scores on teacher evaluations is a slap in the face to parents across the state who have implored them to reduce the amount of testing that children are subjected to and to improve the quality of these exams and the learning standards.
“The deal does nothing to protect students or to address poorly constructed tests, abusive testing practices or concerns about the Common Core,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt-Out.
“While protecting teachers, this does nothing to protect our children who will continue to be subjected to the stress and damage from inappropriate curriculum, standards and exams,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent.
In light of this misstep, it is not surprising that Governor Cuomo and Commissioner of Education John King have lost the confidence of New Yorkers. The recent Siena poll shows that only 9% of respondents say they “completely trust” Governor Cuomo to act in the best interests of our students, and only 4% completely trust Commissioner King.
“Governor Cuomo and Commissioner King have made it clear they will not heed the concerns of millions of outraged parents across the state. Their arrogance is dangerous and will only continue to hurt our children, our teachers and our schools,” said Nancy Cauthen, NYC public school parent and member of Change the Stakes.
Many New Yorkers have expressed dismay that Governor Cuomo continues to ignore the growing number of unfunded mandates, insolvent schools, and increasing poverty that public schools face, while promoting excessive and developmentally inappropriate testing practices and flawed learning standards.  He has also put the interests of his wealthy contributors who support charter schools that rob public schools of resources.  “Neither testing nor the Common Core will help close the achievement gap or erase the inequitable funding and inadequate conditions that plague our public schools,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent and General Manager of BAT.
“Let’s not forget that according to King and Cuomo, eight year old children will continue to sit for almost seven hours of testing over the course of six days, tests that no one can see or critique. Parents will not be fooled by token changes that do nothing to protect students from these abusive practices. Unless a moratorium directly reduces or suspends testing for students, our children will continue to suffer,” said Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent.
Katie Zahedi, Dutchess County principal at Linden Avenue Middle School said, “As long as the NYSED and Cuomo's education office are run by non-experts, beholden to forces bent on dismantling public education, our students will continue to be subjected to bad policies.”
“It's time for a Governor that supports the priorities of parents, evidence-based teaching practices, and REAL learning for the students of New York,” said Eric Mihelbergel, Erie County public school parent and co-founder of NYSAPE.
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) is a coalition of more than 50 parent and educator groups throughout the state.