Saturday, August 29, 2015

Teachers Offer to Work for Free to Save Their School

Screen shot 2015-08-29 at 1.58.26 AM

Lawmakers have failed Chester Upland School District.

And now it’s up to teachers and professional staff to save the day.

For two decades, the Pennsylvania legislature hasn’t fulfilled its duty to equitably fund the public school district. Neither has the federal government. Instead, they left the impoverished school just 20 miles west of Philadelphia to survive on the drip of local property taxes from residents who, themselves, don’t have two pennies to rub together.

Moreover, our lawmakers not only permitted but encouraged three privately run charter schools to come to Delaware County and suck away whatever funds they could from the district while shortchanging student services at their privatized facilities.

And even worse, our elected officials drew up legislation allowing these charters to gobble up more funding from the district than the public school is allowed to spend on its own students.

So the state put the school in receivership, taking away control from local tax payers so unelected bureaucrats could fix all the problems.

Surprise! That didn’t work, either!

And now state and local officials say there isn’t enough money left in the district’s piggy bank to make payroll by the time the school’s 3,300 students are scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.

In such situations, there’s only one thing to do: close the school. Bus the kids to neighboring districts and any charter or cyber schools willing to take them.

No more Chester Uplands. Another neighborhood school bites the dust.

But the district’s more than 300 employees refused to let that happen.

The dreaded teachers union held a meeting and decided to what? Hold a strike? Demand more pay?

No. The 200 members voted unanimously to work without pay as the school year begins – and the district’s secretaries, bus drivers, janitors and administrators joined them.

Sadly, this is the second time the union came to this decision. In 2012 the district was in similar straights but a federal judge forced the state to cough up a few bucks only a few days after the school year began.

To be fair, Gov. Wolf has tried to help the struggling district more than his predecessor. His administration supported a plan to eliminate the district’s $22 million spending deficit by reducing payments to charter and cyber schools so they actually reflect the cost of the services they provide.

The plan called for capping payments to cyber schools at $5,950 per student. After all, schools where students attend class on-line don’t have nearly the overhead of brick-and-mortar districts. Why pay them more than the actual cost?

The plan also would reduce reimbursements for special education students at brick-and-mortar charter schools from $40,000 to $16,000 per student. After all, if the public school only spends this much for these services, why permit charter schools to demand more than twice that amount – more than any other district in the state receives?

These proposals didn’t come out of thin air. Both changes were consistent with recommendations by two bipartisan school funding commissions.

However, County Judge Chad F. Kenney denied the measure because it would do nothing to pay back the district’s charter schools an additional $8 million it already owes.

So to sum up – teachers are willing to work pro bono for the community’s children. They’re willing to put their own lives and families at risk to ensure their neighborhood school has more time to find a solution to its financial woes.

And charter schools? They want their money! Pay up, bitch!

If nothing is done to fix the problem, Chester Uplands deficit is expected to reach $48 million by the end of the year. Wolf and other state officials are scrambling to come up with a new plan.

Meanwhile, the problem is spreading from the Chester Upland District across the entire Commonwealth. Public schools are tightening their belts because the legislature is more than 50 days late passing a state budget. The major sticking point? School funding!

Republicans refuse to heal long-standing education cuts from the previous GOP administration while Democrats support an increase.

As lawmakers bicker, schools across the state are forced to dip into their reserves to keep their doors open. Public schools were required by law to complete their spending plans months ago making educated guesses how much they’d get from the state. Without that money coming in, they’re surviving on their rainy day funds – and as usual storm clouds are pouring on our schools.

Districts serving poor communities often don’t have much left over to continue running while Harrisburg plays political games. If something isn’t done soon, Chester Upland could be the first in a series of dominoes set to topple down.

The only thing keeping these districts afloat is the hard work and good will of their teachers and staff.

Teacher Speaks Out on Poor Treatment in Lawrence MA Schools

by Amy Berard, member of Massachusetts BATs and a former Middle School Teacher

originally published in The Valley Patriot:

Lawrence High School

I am one of the 59 Lawrence teachers whose contract was not renewed this year. Recently, on June 11, you reported on this.

I would like to share with you and possibly your readers my experience teaching within the Lawrence Public School District. I have taught in Lawrence at two different schools during the 2012-2013, 2013-2014, and 2014-2015 school years. It is my hope that by sharing this, the public may be more aware of the experience of teachers within the district. It is also my hope that the district may in the future better support the faculty in serving students as well as notice patterns, strengths, and weaknesses in their management.

I was told my contract would not be renewed two weeks before the close of school. My portfolio had yet to be reviewed. (Every teacher in the state has to create a portfolio with evidence of four standards. This is to be reviewed by administers in April.) Three days before the last day of school, I received my summative evaluation in an email. Even though I received it June 16, it was post dated April 20. I believe this is just one of many examples of the lack of transparency and support within the school. Lack of timely feedback from the administration is a common thing in the district. Meaningful growth cannot happen without timely feedback.

Also, I have a hard time believing there is a growth mindset within the district when I was observed in March by my administrator, but only received the review of the March observation in mid-May. It was a critical review of my performance, yet it was not critical enough to notify me right away to make the recommended adjustments to better serve the students. Either my performance was misjudged, or the administrator remiss in notifying me in a timely manner of critical weaknesses in my teaching. I truly believe that my administrator has the best interests of the students in mind. Seeing that she was lackadaisical about notifying me of her review of my performance, I can only assume she didn’t truly believe that my performance was sub par.

Furthermore, I found the lack of experience among leadership also impeded growth and meaningful feedback. During the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school year I was evaluated by an administrator whose prior teaching experience was for two years as a math teacher. She earned her administrator license while serving as an administrator. It was her first year as an administrator while I was under her supervision. My position was as a Title 1 Reading Specialist. When I raised my concern that I would like an administrator who is knowledgeable of ELA (English Language Arts) and reading to evaluate me, the administrator told me to just teach her what she needed to know about reading, so she could provide meaningful feedback to me. I cannot teach someone in days what it took me years of study and practice to learn.

There are many members of the faculty in leadership positions that have little experience in their positions. I understand we all have to learn through trial and error. However, it needs to be taken into account the effect it has on faculty. It is very hard to perform to expectations when the leadership team is still learning what the expectations of their own positions are and they are not all on the same page with matters of curriculum and instruction.

During my Lawrence teaching experience, I found the ELA coach and administration contradicted themselves on curriculum. For example, I went to the ELA coach with a list of essential questions. I was told it was not correct examples of essential questions. I went with the same sheet to my administrator, a former ELA teacher, and I was told they were excellent examples of essential questions. Also, I was told by my administrator not to use a specific curriculum because it was not rigorous enough for my Special Education (SpEd) grade 6 class. However, within that same week, I was told to use that same curriculum viewed as not rigorous enough for a SpEd grade 6 with my regular education grade 7/8 class.

I find some decisions within the school seem to be ego-driven rather than child-centered.

I find that the district’s actions erode the very sense of community that they claim they are trying to build. It seems counterproductive to burn and churn teachers. Many students have transient home lives. Often the adults within the school are the adults they have the most contact with, especially with these extended school hours.

When you have a high teacher turnover and when you change the adults present in their lives, there is a loss of stability. Students and their parents are motivated to engage with the school based on their relationship and connection to the faculty. On my summative evaluation, I was commended for engaging the parents and school community.

When my contract was not renewed and I was told I was “not the right fit for Lawrence,” I understood it was a personal and not a professional decision.

I am a resident of Lawrence. I am a graduate of Lawrence High School. I attended the Bruce Elementary School in Lawrence. When I take my children to the Boys and Girls club, I see many of my students there. During Halloween, my children visit my students homes and my students visit my home for candy. It is not common in Lawrence to have a teacher within the same district and even school zone as the students. That’s something very special.

I am invested in the city of Lawrence and the students of Lawrence.

I know many staff members say nothing about their concerns because Lawrence has created a culture of silence. Faculty members have seen the large turnover within the district over these recent years and they’re concerned with their own job security, retirement, and career paths.

More than one teacher has said to me that they’re reluctant to help other teachers because they feel their job security is threatened when they assist other teachers.

For example, district colleagues have said to me it is “dog eat dog” and “every man for himself.” One colleague said, “Why would I share my tips with you? So you can use them with your students and then when they get to my grade it will be harder for me to make big gains?”

My contract was not renewed. Yet my last observation was proficient and the commendations were: “Students were engaged, asked questions, and contributed to the lesson” and “good pacing throughout the lesson.” During the lesson it was noted “Students were tasked with explaining 5 features of accountable text talk.” It was also noted that the lesson had all the features of the cycle of effective instruction. Accountable talk, text dependent questions, and the cycle of effective instruction were all school initiatives I was tasked to meet. There is documented evidence that I had met these expectations.

I am very pleased that my students made 154% progress toward targeted iready growth and I expect my students made significant MCAS gains as well. However, those results will not come out until later this summer.

It was never my intention to be in the right faculty clique, but it was my intention that my students learned. I was a successful teacher in that respect. I suspect Lawrence is losing good teachers not because of lack of teacher efficacy but because of office politics.

Amy Berard
Former Middle School Teacher
Lawrence, Ma

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Puerto Rico Under Attack by Hedge Fund Managers
BATs as we keep watching and standing in solidarity with the 12 parents in Chicago that are on hunger strike to save Dyett High School we must also expand our vision and keep in mind that this is not an issue that is happening to schools in the continental United States.
In Puerto Rico schools have been under attack as vulture hedge fund managers seek to tap into the educational budget. Parents have protested outside of their neighborhood school for 80 days!!
Please take some time to read through if you are not aware of this ongoing issue. Share the memes that our wonderful meme team has created to bring awareness to others!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Parents and Children Occupy Puerto Rican School Refusing to Let Corporate Vultures Raid Its Contents

Screen shot 2015-08-22 at 9.09.36 AM

For more than 80 days, about 35 parents and children have been camping out in front of their neighborhood school in the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico.

The Commonwealth government closed the Jose Melendez de Manati school along with more than 150 others over the last 5 years.

But the community is refusing to let them loot it.

They hope to force lawmakers to reopen the facility.

Department of Education officials have been repeatedly turned away by protesters holding placards with slogans like “This is my school and I want to defend it,” and “There is no triumph without struggle, there is no struggle without sacrifice!”

Officials haven’t even been able to shut off the water or electricity or even set foot inside the building.

The teachers union – the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (FMPR) – has called for a mass demonstration of parents, students and teachers on Sunday, Aug. 23. Protesters in the capital of San Juan will begin a march at 1 p.m. from Plaza Colón to La Fortaleza (the Governor’s residence).


The schools being closed are all in low income areas, said union president Mercedes Martinez. “This is detrimental to education, because the necessities of the community, the investment in infrastructure in recent years, the technology, have not been taken into consideration, and neither the parents nor the teachers have been consulted.”

The Jose Melendez de Manati school, for instance, served students 92% of whom live in poverty.

Now that the building has been closed, parents say they can’t afford the cost to transport their children to a new school miles away. And those schools that remain open have been forced to make drastic cuts to remain functional. Class sizes have ballooned to 35 students or more. Amenities like arts, music, health and physical education have typically been slashed.


The island territory is besieged by vulture capitalists encouraging damaging rewrites to the tax code while buying and selling Puerto Rican debt.

Hundreds of American private equity moguls and entrepreneurs are using the Commonwealth as a tax haven.

Since 2012, U.S. citizens who live on the island for at least 183 days a year pay minimal or no taxes, and unlike those living in Singapore or Bermuda, they get to keep their U.S. passports. After all, they’re still living in the territorial U.S. These individuals pay no local or federal capital gains taxes and no local taxes on dividend interest for 20 years. Even someone working for a mainland company who resides on the island is exempt from paying U.S. federal taxes on his salary.


Big corporations are taking advantage of the situation, too.

Worldwide, American companies keep 60 percent of their cash overseas and untaxed. That’s about $1.7 trillion annually.

Microsoft, for instance, routes its domestic operations through Puerto Rican holdings to reduce taxes on its profits to 1.02 percent – a huge savings from the U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent! Over three years, Microsoft saved $4.5 billion in taxes on goods sold in the U.S. alone. That’s a savings of $4 million a day!

Meanwhile, these corporate tax savings equal much less revenue for government entities – both inside and outside of Puerto Rico – to use for public goods such as schooling.

Public schools get their funding from tax revenues. Less tax money means less money to pay for children’s educations. As the Puerto Rican government borrowed in an attempt to shore up budget deficits, the economy tanked.

But have no fear! In swooped Hedge Funds to buy up that debt and sell it for a profit.

When this still wasn’t enough to prop up a system suffering from years of neglect, the Hedge Fund managers demanded more school closures, firing more teachers, etc.

Of course, this is only one interpretation of events.

If you ask Wall Street moguls, they’ll blame the situation on declining student enrollment. And they have a point.

Some 450,000 people have left the island in the last decade as the economy suffered an 8-year depression.

There were 423,000 students in the Puerto Rican school system in 2013. That’s expected to drop to 317,000 by 2020.

But is this the cause of the island’s problems or a symptom?

Unfortunately, things look to get much worse before they’ll get any better.

The government warns it may be out of money to pay its bills by as early as 2016. Over the next five years, it may have to close nearly 600 more schools – almost half of the remaining facilities!

Right on cue, Senate President Eduardo Bhatia is proposing corporate education reform methods to justify these draconian measures. This includes privatizing the school system, tying teacher evaluations to standardized test scores and increasing test-based accountability.

“Our interest is to promote transparency and flow of data through the implementation of a standardized measurement and accountability system for all agencies,” Bhatia said, adding that the methodology has been successful in such cities as Chicago.

Despite such overwhelming opposition, protesters are taking the fight to the capitol. “Tax the Rich!” is a popular slogan on signs for Sunday’s march.


“It’s unacceptable that the rich and powerful that created our crisis are the ones asking the working class for more sacrifices,” said Martinez.

“The foreign companies that pay no taxes or a less amount to evade paying their due in contributions – impose a tax on them now!”

This is just a beginning, she adds. Stronger actions will be coming.

In the meantime, those brave parents and children still refuse to give up their shuttered school.

They dream of a day when that empty building once again rings with the laughter of students and the instruction of teachers.

In a country being used by the wealthy to increase their already swollen bank statements, is that really so much to ask?

You can show your solidarity with these Puerto Rican protesters by spreading the word through social media. Post a picture of yourself with a sign saying you’re with them in their fight. Tweet the Commonwealth Secretary of Education @Rafaelroman6. Use the hashtags #EducacionEnPR #SOSdocente.

Where Have All the Teachers Gone?

A lot of press has been generated recently about the crisis we are now facing in education, a teacher shortage. Blogger Peter Greene did a fantastic job of breaking down the situation state-by-state in this blog post a few days ago. Greene noted, “But mostly we need a new word, because we're not really talking about a shortage of teachers-- we're talking about a lack of incentives and an excess of disincentives to go into teaching.” When you take a look at the latest report produced by the USDOE the data shows that every state in the country except for Pennsylvania has reported a teacher shortage for the 2015-2016 school year. Some states show the number of categorical shortages to be higher than other, with Idaho seeming to need the most types of teachers. What becomes apparent however, when looking through the different lists from year to year is that the number of teacher area shortages has risen from the 1990-1991 school year to the current year. During the 1990-1991 school year the number of categories of teachers needed ranged from zero to nine. Now the range of shortages falls between zero and forty-three! What is also noticeable is the types of teachers in the states that are reporting shortages. In the early years of the report, the most seen categories of teachers in need were special education teachers. Of course, there are more categories of teachers today than there were in 1990. State governments and certification programs have realized the profit that can be made in creating more licensure needs in order to collect more fees, but we are now seeing categories of shortages listed that include our main subject areas, Mathematics, English/Language Arts, Science, History, and Social Studies. These are concerning trends.

Ask any teacher why they first got into teaching and you will get a varied list of responses. But most of those responses tend to have similarities. Some teachers will respond with something like this: “I have always had a love of learning and knowledge.” These are the teachers that find intrinsic value in having and understanding information. They see the need to learn from history to make better decisions in the future, the benefit of understanding different math processes to be able to look at problems and use logic to solve them; they apply various methods of the scientific hypothesis when researching. More likely than not, they are the people that have a stack of three or four books that are all currently in the process of being read, at the same time. With that love of learning comes the deep rooted desire to share that love with someone else.

Other teachers, we think usually elementary teachers, will automatically respond with a bright smile and say “Because I love kids!” These are the teachers that you find in the middle of bright, cheery classrooms. Rooms that have usually been set up over the summer and contain wonderful organizational items with labels in all colors of the rainbow. These are the teachers that are not afraid of messy hands and joyful hugs. Many phone calls home, daily parent logs, holiday decorations, stickers, stamps, cleaning wipes and plenty of soap are all very familiar to these teachers. These are the children that are there for the joy of childhood and are dedicated to preserving it.

Another group of responses will sound something like this: “I know the value of a good education and I believe I am responsible for providing that opportunity to our future generations.” Often this type of teacher can be found working within the community after school or on weekends. Many times they will volunteer for food shelters, to collect items for clothing drives, coach sports at the community center, or become involved in a neighborhood cleanup event. There are the teachers whose lives are deeply rooted in their communities and understand the need to work towards strengthening the development of a strong community to build a better future.

The teachers with a sense of humor will answer “I wanted summers off!” This is done in jest as those teachers think about the hours that are spent during the summer lesson planning, attending conferences, completing online courses, writing curriculum, searching online for lesson ideas and coming up with new ideas to become better at what they do. These are the teachers that maybe were not quite sure of what exactly they were getting into, but because of a love of many aspects of the profession, have stayed and made this into a career, and a life.

But the question that is causing so many issues these days is when we ask “What exactly makes a better teacher?” It is apparent that there are many different viewpoints and the politics behind these viewpoints are causing a lot of discord in the world of education.

So much discord in fact that experienced teachers are leaving the profession, and new teachers are not starting.

Why is it that people with the above mentioned beliefs are abandoning education, a career they dedicated their lives to? Where have all the teachers gone? Why are people that have dedicated their life to education suddenly leaving the profession?

We asked people that have left the profession to share why they have chosen to leave or retire early. A lot of stories share similarities but there is one underlying reason that seems to have caused the events that have led up to this teacher exodus. The intrusion of political and personal self interest in the education world. Instead of creating a relationship where the trusted experts are sought out to find solutions, a false belief of “We know what is best for education” has been created by politicians, corporations, and individuals interested in making a profit.

May people replied to our question and reading through the answers, different types of responses began to look similar. The main type of response could be gathered together into a category that could be titled, “Where is the joy of learning? Education reforms are not for children.” Other responses included stories of unfair evaluations, administrative bullying and not being treated like a professional. But it really boils down to the fact that education reforms are NOT for the children. Everything else that occurs as a conflict within schools is a direct result of that fact.

The following is a sampling of some of those stories. There is a lot to read through but we felt it was important to have these stories told and found it hard not to include any of them.

There are a lot there. There are a lot that are not being told.

Education reforms are not in the best interest of the students

After 20 years of teaching a wonderful school, surrounded by amazing - life changing - teachers, and coming to work with joy and enthusiasm most every day, I watched my colleagues for the last few years, wither up, their eyes became heavy and dark, many of our senior/master teachers quit or retired early and lunch hours - if we got together at all - which were usually full of idea sharing and laughter - were full of conversations of concern for kids, confused at why our nation was doing this to its future and frustration that the community at large was allowing this to happen to their beloved schools. Fit, happy people had gained weight - heavy stress weight, not the kind from a few too many delicious meals - and the parking lot would empty the minute our contracted time hit the hour, whereas before you would find people in their classrooms usually an hour early and more often than not, more than an hour later than contract time. For the first time I started to think seriously about retirement, became angered and frustrated when I realized that California will not let me collect the social security I paid into outside of teaching, and then I looked in the mirror and realized I looked and felt like all my other colleagues, both older and younger than me. It was a wash of sadness that came over me. I am counting the days (it will be years) and praying for a miracle. Praying that the United States of America will be taken back by the people and fight for privacy rights again, fair and equal taxes and restore public education as a right and not a commodity - removing the for profiteering component and giving it back to the States, the communities and the teachers to do as we are called to and qualified to do --- teach the future leaders, innovators and care takers of the United States of America - land of the free and home of the brave.

Retired early due to the implementation of a scripted reading program. Thankful I left when I did, because now they are using scripted math. Teachers from first grade up are platooning and little kids are marching in the halls from teacher to teacher throughout the day. My former colleagues are counting the days until they can follow in my footsteps.

I'm still hanging in there. I will be starting my 44th year in another week. But many, many of my friends have left the field recently. All are/were amazing teachers. They just don't like what they are being forced to do because of the damage they see. It's like teaching in a straight jacket. Me? I'm doing what I can to make an "oasis of good" in my classroom.

Teaching to the test has ruined instruction.

No Child Left Behind, testing and teaching to the test, terrible pacing plans, and Open Court took my fun and creativity away and I became an instructional robot. So I took very early retirement and now I volunteer to cover classes when teachers at my local elementary school have scheduled meetings. I really enjoy it without putting up with what the teachers have to put with today. There is still a joy at standing in front of a class, listening to the students read, asking them questions, and occasionally when the teacher is gone longer than expected using thinking games and improvisation to enrich the students. Interacting with the students remains a great pleasure!

I retired at age 60 after 37 years teaching because the stress of dealing with the continuing budget cuts, the emphasis on testing not children, the loss of support personnel, and the "reforms" that were being instituted, led to physical problems, namely A-fib. The lack of support for my class of 25, 12 of which were either receiving psychological care or suffering from PTSD.

I retired this year because I was beginning to feel more like a statistician than a teacher. I've watched as we gave up recess, gave kids a shorter lunch hour and had learning objectives pushed down a level. We treat kids like short adults and not kids anymore. The stress was getting to me.

I have 3 years left before the earliest date I can retire and at this point, am planning to do that. I originally planned to work another 8 years and retire when my husband does. I started teaching because I wanted to do something that made a difference. The increased emphasis on testing, which frequently labels my EL students as failures, is driving me out. My conscience bothers me when I have to participate in the test and punish system.

I retired before I was ready to leave the profession I love because the mandates pushed on teachers made it impossible to have joy and relationships in the classroom.

39 years as a primary teacher; kindergarten for most of it. Wanted to go to 40, but the last year I began to despise some of the practices in kindergarten, such as overloading class sizes, declassifying classified preschoolers, no classroom aides, hoop jumping and mindless paperwork to get services for students, lack of regard to the developmental needs of 5 year olds, reduced support staff, and complete lack of respect to veteran master teachers by those in power. I had a child who bullied, hurt others, disrupted instruction, lied, manipulated administration and after a Sept-December of his nonsense and the district's lack of action, I decided to retire at the end of the school year. Then, 28 days later is was injured by the very same student while trying to protect other students from his abuse. Completely torn rotator cuff, and now 32 months after that, I'm still under care. My last year should have been an amazing celebration of an exemplary career.

I just retired at 55 years old after 33 years of teaching elementary school in Virginia. I love teaching; in fact, I'm quite passionate about it. Children have changed over the years with different social trends coming and going, but in the end, they are still innocent children who need a teacher who cares. What's happening in my state is runaway assessment and data driven madness. I would still be teaching if not for the administrative insanity. What gets me is that the state mandates end-of-year-tests for grades 3-5, but the locality encourages the use of online assessments so that the students "get used to" the online assessment format. IN a survey our local education association completed in 2013, elementary teachers reported an average of 52 complete six hour instructional days devoted to all forms of state and local assessments (state online tests, local mandates online assessments, local "encouraged" teacher online assessments, State mandated individual reading readiness assessments-PALs, and local reading comprehension individual assessments-F&P). That's 29% of the entire school year! Local and state administration are blind to this data, although they are SLOWLY gaining new sight. I couldn't stand to be a part of this abuse of children any longer and figured I'd be better able to fight it outside the system

In the 15 years I've been a teacher, the curriculum has narrowed to what's going to be tested, to the detriment of student writing and critical thinking skills. I've seen a push for one size fits all while I am supposed to be differentiating and individualizing. I've watched as Teaching has morphed into Monitoring student progress on a canned, on-line curriculum program so that my role is simply creating spreadsheets. I foresee what you and I called 11th and 12th grade being moved into the community colleges, as we bring back a very limited kind of vocational "career and technical education."

I retired this past June the very minute I was eligible at age 61 after 25 years in an inner city district. I am National Board Certified and was a teacher of the year in my content area. I had the challenge and satisfaction of living my dream job for almost 20 of those 25 years- worked within a wonderful, collaborative team, wrote curriculum, helped form a standout program, held school based leadership positions, and was privileged to teach many incredible, talented students. What a difference 5 years made! Steady inevitable erosion of autonomy, the dismantling of the signature program by a Broad-trained superintendent, the relentless questioning of our professionalism, the disturbing realization that the first year the evaluations counted, I would be thereafter be scrutinized by admins who were themselves incompetent at their own jobs, let alone familiar with mine....all played a role in the decision. I leave behind amazing, supportive, dedicated colleagues and wonderful students and hopefully a positive impact through years of cooperative teaching with many student teachers. I am sorry that many of the new teachers I mentored may never know the joy and satisfaction of working with stellar principals and veteran and new colleagues to craft impactful programs that actually serve the needs of our students and communities. I am moving on to continue and expand my own creative work in the arts.

I am planning on retiring early in 2 years. Public education stopped being public years ago with NCLB and then RttT. Public Education is in the hands of non-educators, hedge fund managers, and bean counters. The amounts of wasted work teachers have to do, and the endless hours of student testing, only support corporate bottom lines, not the furthering of learning.

Huge narrowing of the curriculum at primary school. Children being expected to achieve levels they were not cognitively capable of and no focus on discovering what they WERE good at and working outwards from there. SATS (Standard assessment tests) in year six where in many schools the curriculum becomes wholly focused on teaching to the test and anything outside is forgotten and irrelevant. Little sport and sometimes no music whatsoever; tokenistic History and Geography and huge over emphasis on a narrow prescription of English and Math. Parents being told that "levels" were all important whereas in reality they are barely relevant. Knowing the difference between our State and private sector and the continual feeling that parents were not being told the truth about what really matters in Education. Disproportionate amount of paperwork to the extent that I was working all Sunday and missing out on my own young child. Her Dad had to take her out. Above all the feeling that one could no longer express a variety of different views. There was only one right answer. Everything had to be standardized. We even had one Head teacher who made us take all our labels off drawers and equipment and re do them in exactly the same font. And whilst I never failed to teach a single child to read I was expected to follow political rather than Educational theories and my own knowledge of what worked and didn't work. Reading demands phonics AND sight vocabulary. Sometimes I wasn't allowed to use one or the other because the political thinking in terms of what was right had changed. In a nutshell I was no longer allowed to be myself. I taught for close to thirty years but ultimately I just hit the end of the road. It began to feel like a mug's game and I wanted my life back.

I will retire earlier than I planned to because of testing and evaluation scenarios run by idiots who think that every teacher having the same thing on the board in the same place is what denotes good teaching.

I retired early because I couldn't look myself in the mirror everyday knowing that what I was being asked to do wasn't developmentally appropriate for the students in my class. Until BATS came along I didn't think anyone was ever going to challenge the administrations and politicians who were promoting all of this testing and teaching methods that are so wrong for all children. Even though it's too late for me I hope the trend that the BATS started continues until teachers are heard and changes are made.

I am too young to retire but could not stay due to moral issues with teaching to the tests and a complete disgust with administration and their handling of student data & discipline. Elementary schools are not for children anymore and I refuse to be a part of this abusive system.

I left because I believed what I was asked to do was educational malpractice. I taught first grade and the direction our literacy instruction was taking was not best practice and getting worse.

I retired in June of 2015 after 24 years in Texas public schools. I specialized in teaching struggling readers, and all of my students made progress in their reading skills, until last year. Because my students--who all had either SpEd designations or 504 plans--had to take the same STAAR test that everybody else did, people who were not teachers determined that the specialized instruction they had been receiving wouldn't prepare them, that they needed to be "exposed to all the standards" in regular classrooms "with co-teach support." My very individual students, with documented special needs, were forced to have their instruction along with everybody else, at the same rate, & to the same depth. At the end of the year, none of my students had made progress, and some had several tests showing loss of previous gains. Ten teachers on our campus were not rehired, another 6 transferred to other campuses or changed districts, and 3 of us retired. I couldn't continue to participate in the data/testing nonsense that was harming children. The stress was also taking a toll on my health, with chronic pain and gastric issues bothering me every day. I was fortunate that my age & years of service allowed me to retire with full benefits, but I sure wish I could've continued to teach the way my students needed me to.

First of all let me say I LOVE teaching, but HATE being a teacher. Unfortunately, I have 11 years before I can retire. I don't know if I can make it that long. I love the kids, but it seems their needs have increased over the years and I can't meet all their varied needs. The student needs have increased and the support staff has decreased. This paired with the increase in teacher responsibilities, constant testing, reduced resources, increased demands due to teacher evaluations, expectations that teachers must volunteer time or are marked down, etc. serves to create a extremely stressful work environment. More teachers are getting sick due to this increase in stress level. I use to be excited to go to school every day, but now it is difficult to even look forward to going to work. My dream has turned into a job.

I LOVE being a teacher and was at my best when I realized I could no longer be part of this inappropriate form of educating kindergarteners. I was a worksheet-free, developmentally aligned, theme based teacher. Then I was told to "follow the manual/workshop model with fidelity regardless of children's attention and physical needs." I refuse to turn children off to learning. My husband was incredibly supportive. After I submitted my resignation letter I testified on a legislative bill focused on parents being able to opt their children out of standardized testing. It was a highlight of that last bittersweet year. NCLB and narrow minded administration played a part. I do not regret being vocal for "my kids". My students were like family and each one mattered.

I went back to school to get my credential after 15 years in the "real world"--I LOVED teaching my 7th graders literature and writing and social studies. I taught for 24 years, and loved what I did (even though there were more and more restraints on how and what I could teach) for about 20 of them. Then we got a new principal, and a new policy, and yet another "silver bullet" teaching style. For those who know it, it's called EDI (Explicit Direct Instruction). For those who don't, it's a robotic form of teaching where all students are assumed to learn at the same rate with the same form of delivery. Need I say more? And since THE TEST was the only important goal, we were informed that we 1) should only use short excerpts of works when writing our scripts (yes--to add insult to injury, we needed to WRITE THE BLOODY LESSONS USING THEIR TEMPLATES!); 2) not "waste time" after the state writing test by teaching writing anymore; and 3) since I was an experienced teachers, I should have only the difficult students, because after all the new teachers needed the advanced students to learn how to teach on. Keep in mind, I had been department head for the previous 10 years. The final straw? When a student cussed me out and I was asked what I had done to "make him do that." (Uh...told him he needed to get to work?) Basically, I no longer was allowed to teach the kids. I had to teach the curriculum that was laid on us by people who had NEVER TAUGHT. That includes the principal. And said principal did not back his teachers in any way, shape, or form--if there was a student/teacher problem, it was ALWAYS the teacher's fault. Add to that the district wide push to eliminate homework. Just too many strikes against us. I retired.

I left in January after 38 years of teaching. I could have gone on and done more, but I couldn't stand to see what CCSS was doing to schools. All the joy has been drained out of the typical school day in favor of test prep. When kids are only as valuable as their last test scores, that’s when I go. Also, I had health issues. But I would have continued working with the health issues.

I am not trusted as a professional

*I taught high school English and journalism for 27 years. First they controlled and destroyed my journalism program, then they controlled and destroyed what I could teach in English.

The last straw for me was when my principal did not think teaching entire books was a good use of our time, and that we should just teach excerpts (like are on the tests) instead. He told me my very successful independent reading program was a waste of time.

Retired June 2014 after 24 years as a Rd. Spec. previously 14 years as an early childhood educator. I loved the people I worked with, the kids and families I worked for, but hated that I was not valued for my expertise in reading, but was being handed explicit instruction as THE script to follow. (Downgraded with deviations) I spoke my mind, but it was not appreciated although some 'off the record' agreed with me. Edited to add: That is why I remain active in BATS and continue to represent public education everywhere I can. I have my representatives on my frequent contact list.

I too am fortunate that I have the years and the age to retire with a full pension. I would like to continue until age 66, which would be 5 more years, but there are an increasing number of times where I resent the demands on my personal time so I feel I am not recharging my own batteries. I feel that the district has imposed so much control in the name of "consistency' and "standardization", that our voices as professionals are being silenced.

When our ability to affect change in our classrooms became less important than test scores and answering to admins who had little control over their jobs, as professional educators we left.

If I may speak for a colleague who just retired and is not a BAT... We teach at a 7th-12th grade school.
He would have been starting his 40th year of teaching. Our admin gave him (and me, but that's another story) a "demotion" of sorts by handing off upper-level courses to young, inexperienced teachers while giving him 2 seventh-grade classes. He has never taught middle school in his 39 years. That was the icing on the cake for him. Topped off the gradual erosion of autonomy and the rise of "data-based-decision making".

I completed my masters through a joint program between my university and our school district in curriculum and instruction (reading) in 2012. My fellow teammates and I were treated at our school like we didn't know anything about teaching. We felt we were being targeted because of our age (I was in my early 50s). I was working in an extremely low income school. The union helped 2 out of 3 of us get out of the school. I went to a school in which I was happier, but was bumped to another school at 10 count. I was given a tough group at the new school, but I could handle them. The following year, I was placed in a pre-K general ed./ESE blended class. I wasn't trained for ESE or writing IEPs. I can't believe the way I was treated that year. There had been quite a few tears that year and the past 10. Between all the hoops that we had to jump through for a positive evaluation, the lack of support from yet another principal, and the promise that the next year, I would have less assistance in the classroom and more children with IEPs, I finally decided (at the urging of my entire family), to leave/retire 7 years early. These reasons are just the final straws. The system is broken.

I would if I could. Sick of being disrespected, told how to teach, what to teach, when to teach, what strategies to use for a discipline that only those of us educated in it actually understand. Disgusted and dismayed that teachers have been pillaged & plundered out of our traditional role as the "keepers of the flame" and reduced to mere facilitators (which is really just another way of saying underpaid babysitters). Tired of being treated as an insignificant employee when they expect us to put in professional hours and maintain a professional persona without requisite professional salary.

Teacher bullying/Evaluation methods that undermine/Loss of job security

I worked in an early roll-out district which started using VAM/CCSS before many districts did, in fall of 2012...i was forced to retire early when my excellent evals of 28 years became failing evals...and also because district eliminated all librarians, two weeks before school ended, and would not let me apply for classroom positions...I had no choice i could find (this was like six weeks before BATs) so I had to retire early and lose most of my pension benefits

I have had it on my radar for three years now - can't afford to, or I would. STRESS!! This is a much more stress-loaded profession than it was my first year teaching in 1987 with a very low group of kids, a textbook adoption with another first year teacher, and a brand new school building with $100,000 worth of error retrofits! If any of the past 3 years would have been my first or second, I'd be long gone. The only reason I'm still in is that I got a specialist position, so I have no grading, no parent conferences, and no state testing, so I can JUST concentrate on curriculum. (And meetings....) (And after 4 pink slips, 2 years in temp positions, 4 school changes, and now 2 more room changes just this summer... to think back that I chose this profession for the JOB SECURITY??!!)

20 years with one county and then switched last year to another school division, which made me a probationary teacher. I got pushed out by a bully principal, who pushed out all the probationary teachers. I had to resign for the end of the year with 21 years of teaching. The division did nothing to stop the harassment. Finally the principal resigned in May, but the division wouldn't undo the damage that she caused. 45 teachers left the school for new jobs, or they were pushed out. So, after 21 years in teaching, I'm not mentally ready to go back into a full time teaching job at this point, even though I love teaching. I might be later, but for now, I am exploring all options. I can't go through another year of stress like last year, I have to take care of myself and my family.

I would have worked four more years to make 40 but I became anxious about teachers always being blamed for everything that went wrong. I got tired of the negative atmosphere that was developing. I retired in 2008 with 36 years of service.

I left the classroom after 22.5 years. I will still be a teacher but in a different non teaching role. I did it because I could no longer take the nonsense of administration bullying teachers, of the pressures of testing where I was not allowed to stay in the same room with my students during the test, the inability to hold back a student who lacked the skills to move on and the fear administration had to discipline students or deal with parents.

I resigned last year in April without being much choice. I knew on the first day of school when I met the new AP that I would not last. She was all over me...nothing I did was right. The excuse was that I came back from a leave and "everything is now different." I was observed more times than I can count and most of the time it was with 6 admins. My reviews were all ineffective. The reasons were untrue and some were flat out made up. The UFT chapter leader was notified of what was going on in October and he did nothing. Neither did the guy above him and above that guy. When I started getting written up daily I knew it was time to leave. The expectation was that I finish out the year and not return but I wasn't going to keep returning daily to a place that treated another human like this. The principal didn't hide her happiness and actually did a happy dance. The parents were furious...the principal has a reputation for doing this and they knew. Some called some protested a little but the school maintains that I left on my own and they don't know why. I did hear rumors that I was fired. I walked out of that building that I starlet in in 16 years ago and never looked back. Not one goodbye from anyone and not one person reached out to me since. Yes, they knew what was going on. Sad times.

I left teaching because of unfair teacher evaluation and lack of administration support. At one point my administrator came into my room and sat with my class of middle schoolers. The boys started to use foul language which I DID NOT HEAR but which she, the administrator who was evaluating me, did hear. She did nothing but let the boys spew the "f" bomb freely. Mind you I was teaching a lesson in poetry and the use of language. When I was close to those students they were respectful and on task but when I moved away to assist other students they used inappropriate language with her tacit approval; i.e. she was the principal, she heard them swearing, she said nothing, therefore it was okay. Then when I was evaluated the administrator noted that I had no control in the classroom using this example. I was flabbergasted. Talk about non-support. Even a raised eyebrow would have stopped those kids but to do nothing was just unbelievable. I found this kind of nonsupport and undermining to be harder and harder to deal with. Discipline means everyone does what is best for students, teachers and administrators. How did she gain any advantage by undermining my class in this manner/ Needless to say I struggled for the rest of the year to keep that particular set of boys in check. After I quit I was told the District was trying to get rid of older teachers because their higher wages. I was 62 years old. I had planned to teacher for another 8 years but not under those kinds of conditions.

I left teaching middle school special ed after 20 years in June. For the past two years, I was bullied by my principal and head of special ed. Between that and testing issues- giving life skills kids their age level tests, for one thing- I had to leave. I was very close to a nervous breakdown in April. I will miss the students, but now I can focus on my own children. No regrets.

When you are the union representative to your staff, and you have to take on the constant reform issues centered around contract violations, you become the target for dismissal. Although I survived probation due to a cranky email from my administrator the harassment continued. I was administratively moved five days before the new school year, had two interim principals who brought their supervisor to each of my observations, and post observations, and was rated 'Basic' by one point. (It took a lot of work on their part to find imaginary reasons for that rating.) My health suffered because of the stress. Anxiety attacks happened daily when I was on probation. The climate in which we teach is the climate in which our students learn. The district owes about a decade worth of my classes a redo with me. As a retired teacher I have been able to volunteer as a public school advocate. What a joy to still work for the benefit of students and colleagues.

I left teaching after 8 years total private and public. There was entirely too much bullying and harassment. During my husband’s illness and death last year I was treated horribly. Harassed while he was in ICU about IEPS by my supervisor and treated unfairly by administration. I loved the children, but couldn't take the adults.

As seen in the testimonials we have gathered, teachers are leaving for a variety of reasons. The reasons have nothing to do with just plain old retiring but have more to do with the current climate generated by corporate education reform. Renowned and award winning New York Principal Carol Burris stated in a current piece for the Network for Public Education Foundation:

“If we are to turn this trend around, we need to act now to not only stop the attacks on teachers and tenure, but to stop evaluation systems designed to fire teachers based on metrics that no one understands. And we cannot forget that pay and working conditions matter. It should also come as no surprise that in states that pay teachers relatively well like New York State, the shortage does not yet exist. Even so, enrollment in teacher preparation programs in the Empire State dropped 22% in two years time. Many factors are contributing to the decline.

It is time for policymakers to step back and chart a different course. It makes no sense to cling to failed reforms. As school begins, students across the country are paying a hefty price.

How ironic it would be if the reforms based on the belief that three great teachers in a row are the key to the student success, result in students not having certified teachers at all.”

It is time to ask some very hard questions. But perhaps the hardest one we will have to answer will come from the children, and they will ask, “Where have all the teachers gone? Why are people that have dedicated their life to education suddenly leaving the profession?”

What will our answers be?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Badass Teachers Association Supports #FightforDyett

BATs we are asking you to do 2 events for the 12 Parents who are on a hunger strike to save Dyett HS.

EVENT #1 ON MONDAY -->Please take part in the social media event on Monday from 7-8 P.M. EST if you are on twitter #FightforDyett - we want it to trend. Tweet to Rahm, Will Burns, and major media outlets.   If you are NOT on twitter please post a message of solidarity on your Facebook page with this story and share it out - media has blocked out this story so sharing to everyone you know gets the word out -

EVENT #2 ON TUESDAY--> We are asking all BATs nationwide to join the hunger strikers on a 1 day solidarity hunger strike - please sign up and join here

Chicago Mayor) Mayor Rahm Emanuel (312) 744-3300
(Chicago 4th Ward Alderman) Alderman Will Burns at (773) 536-8103

Tweets you can use for the Thunderclap on Monday 7-8 p.m. EST.  Let's get #FightforDyett trending #1!! 

12 Parents on hunger strike to save their school #FightforDyett <-@CBSNews @NBCNews @abcnews @CNN @Cspan  @ajam

 @RevJJackson joins hunger strikers <-@CBSNews @NBCNews @abcnews @CNN @Cspan  @ajam  #FightforDyett

 Coalition partners and hunger strikers     <-@CBSNews @NBCNews @abcnews @CNN @Cspan  @ajam   #FightforDyett

 Chicago Organizers Lead Hunger Strike for Dyett High School  <-@CBSNews @NBCNews @abcnews @CNN @Cspan  @ajam   #FightforDyett

 12 Parents Launch Hunger Strike!!! Media Alert   <-@CBSNews @NBCNews @abcnews @CNN @Cspan  @ajam  #FightforDyett

 @RahmEmanuel @Ald4_WillBurns why do black & brown Ps have to plead 4 a community schools?  #FightforDyett

 @RahmEmanuel @Ald4_WillBurns ignoring the  #FightforDyett hunger strikers  Hunger Strike: The Fight for Dyett High School in Chicago

@RahmEmanuel @Ald4_WillBurns -> @brothajitu has a ? – Why is the choice 4 black & brown children always privatization?   #FightforDyett

 @RahmEmanuel @Ald4_WillBurns CPS activist say hunger strike only option  #FightforDyett

@RahmEmanuel @Ald4_WillBurns  #FightforDyett   Chicago Parents Launch Hunger-Strike for Community Input in School's Future

 Coalition partners and hunger strikers @ABC7Chicago @wttw @NBCNews #FightforDyett

 12 Parents on hunger strike to save their school #FightforDyett  @ABC7Chicago @wttw @NBCNews #FightforDyett

 @RevJJackson joins hunger strikers  @ABC7Chicago @wttw @NBCNews #FightforDyett



Saturday, August 22, 2015

BATs --> Opt Out of Toxic Testing Nationwide

One of the most powerful tools that we have in our fight is to refuse to give Corporate Education Reformers the data they need to close our schools, punish our children, label them as numbers, and rate our teachers. 

Please encourage all of your friends and family who have school age children who test to refuse!  The rules can be different state by state so please visit United Opt  Out website, click on Opt Out Guides by State, to learn the way to opt out in your state -

Finally, if you are a teacher, and a parent, you have the right to refuse YOUR children from testing.  If you work in the district your children go to have your spouse opt them out.  If that is not an option for you make the best choice for you and your family.  We would never advocate someone losing their job and livelihood because there are others ways that we can join the fight to save public education.

So remember..... Refusing the Test  means refusing to allow Corporate Education Reform to close our schools, punish our children, and punish our teachers.  NO DATA, NO PUNISH!

Here is a sample letter and information that LI OPT OUT provides for their parents.  LI OPT OUT initiated the most successful test refusal movement in history in New York State

Here are links to successful Opt Out movements throughout the nation

New York



Washington State