Friday, October 30, 2015

A Statement Regarding Spring Valley from the Leadership Team of The Badass Teachers Association 

We have watched closely over the last several days to reactions regarding the Spring Valley incident involving a young lady who was brutally removed from her classroom by a School Resource Officer (SRO). Many people have blamed the victim for not following a directive and thus saying she was deserving of this brutal attack by a man twice her size. We recognize that the student in question was not behaving as outlined by institutionalized norms. However, that does not justify her being attacked by an adult authority figure. All children - even those who misbehave - have a right to be treated fairly and not become victimized by those who are supposed to protect and serve. The BATs leadership team feels this incident underscores a larger problem – the dehumanization and criminalization of a young girl of color. Paul Thomas, in an article he published today All the White Responses (and the Game Is Rigged), stated:

“Many also raised voices once again about the significant negative impact that zero-tolerance policies and police in the hallways have on black and brown students, both male and female. As Kathleen Nolan has documented, zero-tolerance policies and police in the hallways often criminalize children, a dynamic almost exclusively impacting black, brown, and impoverished children.”

As educators, we need to remind ourselves that when a student acts out, our first responsibility is to try to understand the cause of that behavior. All children, regardless of issues or behaviors, have a right to the expectation that the adults responsible for their well-being will not be the ones to turn around and cause them to become a victim. To those who blame the victim – what if this was your child? This young lady suffered neck and back injuries and had her arm placed in a cast. The amount of force inflicted on her for a minor infraction was an unacceptable level of brutality and misuse of force. We need to divest from armed police in our schools and begin to rely on well-trained staff. The role of the SRO should be humane, respectful of students, and an expectation that they serve as competent members of the school community.

It is time to recognize that black and brown children deserve the right to attend schools, and live in a society, that is NOT a police state. They need, and deserve, schools that nurture and respect that they are young people who need to work through the trials and tribulations of adolescence; and while this rite of passage occurs, they have the right not to be neither dehumanized nor criminalized.  BATs will NEVER condone violence against our children.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hey, Great Lakes Education Project: Got Integrity?

The Great Lakes Education Project is a Michigan advocacy organization dedicated to advancing the charter school agenda in the state. GLEP's official mission statement says the following: "Because a zip code shouldn’t determine the education outcomes for children, GLEP believes we must expand choice, improve quality and increase accountability.  We support Governor Snyder’s “any time, any place, any way, at any pace” approach to education." But it's worth noting that Michigan leads the nation in "for-profit" charter schools, with nearly 80% of the state's charters being of the "for-profit" variety, making GLEP not so much an educational organization as a PR firm for charter school authorizers.

Recently, GLEP announced their "Got Literacy?" campaign, the goal of which seems to be to embarrass and humiliate selected Michigan schools for "failures" in their literacy efforts. Here's how the campaign works: GLEP rolls out an ad with a photo of a Michigan school sign or billboard, each of which contains a supposedly obvious or embarrassing spelling or grammar error--like the one above ("Welcome Back. Hope You Had a Good Brake." Get it? Ha ha ha. That dumb school made a dumb spelling mistake--therefore schools in Michigan are bad at literacy...). 

As it turns out, the sign in this GLEP ad is not from Michigan, and has nothing to do with the supposed “literacy crisis” in Michigan’s schools. The billboard is from Prescott High School in Arizona, the photo was taken in 2007, and was the result of a student prank--not an error made by school personnel, as inferred in the GLEP story. School officials have asked other web sites to remove the photo as it is not a fair representation of the school, and "Its sole purpose is to shame PHS." Let's hope that GLEP follows suit, removes the photo from their ad, and apologizes to the folks at Prescott High School. It would be the right thing to do.

And that's not the only misleading example that GLEP uses in this campaign. The sign to the left is another supposed example of how a school in Michigan made an obvious and embarrassing spelling error, which the masterminds at GLEP believe is an indictment of the quality of literacy education at this school.
And that probably would be embarrassing for the Michigan school in question, except for the fact that: A. This school is in Indiana, not Michigan, and B. The mistake on the digital billboard was made not by the South Bend schools, but by the advertising company that is responsible for the billboard...

"The Blue Waters Group, a public relations firm, is taking full responsibility for the error, acknowledging that the mistake was apparently overlooked by four people on staff who did not identify the missing “L” before approving the message. 'I feel terrible. It’s a mistake we made and we’re guilty of it,' said Patrick Strickler, president of Blue Waters. The misspelled billboard, to promote the South Bend, Ind., school system, went up Thursday and was not corrected until Monday. It was located near the intersection of Ironwood and State Road 23, visible to the thousands of drivers who use the road daily."

It's almost as if the good folks at the Great Lakes Education Project are purposely using misleading images on their ads to infer that Michigan's schools are not teaching literacy skills very well...except the photos aren't from Michigan, and the mistakes in question are either not really mistakes or were not made by anyone connected to a public school. Other than that, great job, GLEP!
PS...just because turnabout is fair play, it's also worth sharing the photo of the GLEP press release on the left, from March 30, 2015. The document contains a pretty obvious and embarrassing spelling/grammar mistake in the title: "GLEP's" shouldn't have the possessive in this usage--the title should read, GLEP Announces "Education Innovation Zone" Plan to Reimagine Education in Southeast Michigan.

Sorry, correcting obvious and potentially embarrassing writing errors is an occupational hazard for teachers.

You're welcome, GLEP.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Department of Education SorryNotSorry About High Stakes Testing

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The Obama Administration must think the nation’s parents, teachers and students are pretty darn dumb.

President Barack Obama and his hand-picked Department of Education are solely responsible for the knuckle dragging academic policies strangling our public schools day in, day out. Yet instead of doing anything to reverse course to proven methods that might actually help kids learn, the department trudges out its annual apology.

It goes something like this:

Hey, Everybody! So sorry about all those high stakes tests, Common Core Standards and Value-Added teaching evaluations. We know they’re bad and we’re going to stop.

Then whatever functionary drew the shortest straw toddles back into the building and for the rest of the year things continue on exactly the same as they always have.

Let’s just pause for a moment and imagine how incredibly stupid they must think we are. I’m surprised they don’t issue public service announcements reminding us to exhale, multi-colored pamphlets on the benefits of blinking, and puppet shows instructing us how to use the potty.

The Obama Administration has had 7 years to fix this mess, and the only things they’ve done are to make it worse. Most of us voted for this so-called progressive because we thought he’d improve upon George W. Bush’s astoundingly wrongheaded school policies. But instead he doubled down on them! We hired a competent janitor but he was successful only in creating greater disorder.

We thought someone with the intelligence and grace of Barack Obama would be able to understand more than the eternal C-student Bush that you can’t ensure equity by standardized testing. That’s like trying to ensure a bathtub was filling with hot water by using nothing but Tarot Cards. The cards don’t give you an accurate reading and even if they did, you’d need to adjust the faucet at some point!

We thought a Constitutional scholar would understand that a national school curriculum violates federal law – even if you get a faux state commission to propose it and slap a new name on the thing! The federal government is allowed to do some things and state governments are allowed to do others. It’s not that hard.
 Moreover, armchair generals who have zero understanding of educational pedagogy, psychology, sociology and no classroom experience have no business telling teachers what they should be teaching!

We thought a political party that claims to be on educators’ side wouldn’t then turn around and initiate a witch hunt against us using poor student test scores instead of pitch forks and torches. Every independent, peer-reviewed study shows that poor kids do badly on standardized assessments and rich kids do well.

Every statistician says you can’t use a test created to measure one thing (students) to measure another (teachers). Yet this is exactly what this so-called intellectual president mandates, and then he and the Democrats expect us to be there for them at the polls!?

In short, we expected a liberal Democrat, but got instead a Conservative Democrat in Name Only (DINO). He took far right ideas that Bush could barely officiate and made them much more efficient and thus much more damaging.

And every year like an alcoholic stumbling off a bar stool, the administration swears they’re not going to take another drink. Then they hire the head of Anheuser-Busch (John King) as a nutritionist. And some of us still believe them!

Just look at the crumbs they’re throwing out to us, peons!

Hey, Girl. We’re going to cut testing down to 2% of the school year.

That’s 23 hours! Almost 3 full days! Imagine if the dungeon master told you he was only going to put you on the rack for 2% of the time! Would you thank him? Maybe, but it would be a pretty half-hearted thank you.
Can the administration prove any positive value for standardized testing? I’m not asking them to trot out the tired party line about equity. I mean can they prove that testing actually helps children learn in any appreciable way? If the answer is no (and Spoiler Alert: it is!) then we shouldn’t be wasting any more time with it. Not 2%. Not 1%. ZERO PERCENT!

Moreover, Obama has been talking about reducing testing since he ran for office in 2008. America’s schools are still waiting for him to come through on that one. Maybe on his last day in office we’ll have a testing moratorium. Fingers crossed!

The department says, “The assessments must be worth taking.” No shit. That’s exactly the problem! They aren’t! And they’re shrouded in secrecy under the guise of test corporations intellectual property. How will we be able to determine they’re “worth taking”? Will you just tell us? THAT sure puts my mind at ease!
You know what assessments have been proven worth taking? The ones created by teachers. Yet these are exactly the kinds of tests that schools have been forced to cut back on. Perhaps this is what the administration has in mind. No more teacher-created tests. Let’s just have tests made by the professional test creators who have no idea what the heck they’re doing!

And speaking teachers, this one’s for you: “No standardized test should ever be given solely for educator evaluation.” It sounds like a condemnation of Value-Added Measures (VAM), of evaluating teachers on student test scores. However, it’s just the opposite. Notice the word “Solely.” We’re not going to give kids tests if we ONLY use them to evaluate their teachers. Well woop-de-do! Professional flunkies will talk to you for hours (if you pay them enough) about how great the tests we give now are at doing both! So no change in policy, just some purple prose to light on fire and blow the smoke up educators hind ends.

Perhaps worst of all is the use of English Language Learners (ELL), students with disabilities and minorities as props. We’re doing it all for them, they say. Bull! Shit!

The administration has nothing to say about fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). There’s nothing about sanctions on districts that don’t provide proper services for ELLs. There’s nothing about ensuring adequate, equitable and sustainable funding for all students – especially the poor and minorities. Instead the Department of Education pretends like high stakes tests are candy bars and what poor disadvantaged minority ELL disabled kid doesn’t love the soft velvety chocolate taste of a multiple choice test!?

This announcement is not reason to celebrate. It’s more of the same fake apologies soaking wet in crocodile tears and bad candor.

If Hillary Clinton wants to get elected President, she’d better do more than that. If Bernie Sanders wants a shot, he’d better do more than spout socialism about Wall Street and silence about K-12 schools.

You can only lie to our faces for so long. Despite your best attempts to trash public education in the name of saving it, we’re not so dumb as to believe any more of your evasions, deceit and dishonesty.
Is the War Really Over?  Cuomo Ends His War on Public Education?
By Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director BATs and NY BAT

I have been an educator in New York for over 28 years. I am National Board Certified and I teach in an amazing school district that supports teachers and children. I am also the mother of a child in 7th grade who has had his school career defined by a punish and blame system that is the legacy of the Cuomo Administration.  I have witnessed this administration do an immense amount of damage to education.  411 Gov. Cuomo, you don’t get to take back the damage you have done to the children and teachers of NYS.   The veiled attempt by the Democrats this week, at both the federal and state level, to all of a sudden deem there is too much testing -too late! The damage to children, education, and teachers will take years to undo.

Educators and parents in New York State have been protesting for years that the testing is over the top.  Cuomo doubled down this past year making 50% (which is actually a 100%) of a teacher's evaluation based on TEST SCORES.  The New Education Transformation Act also allows a “second” optional  ASSESSMENT for districts to negotiate.  Districts who teach children with historically low state test scores will probably opt in for the second optional assessment.  They will roll the dice to try and protect their schools from going into receivership.  So, in essence, The Education Transformation Act (which is education law in New York State) will promote testing kids MORE in struggling districts– does that look like promoting less testing?   Cuomo will continue to grow the opt-out movement by ignoring what over 200,000 opt out parents in New York State have been saying – we will not allow our children, schools, and teachers to be ranked and sorted. 

Educators and parents in New York State have been screaming from the tops of the Adirondack Mountains to the shores of Long Island.  They have warned the Governor that assessments do not effectively evaluate teacher impact on student learning. But Cuomo’s new Education Transformation Act doubled down on testing and teacher evaluations.    

Gov. Cuomo has been on the wrong side of the fight for equity in education.  There are two sides in the fight to make great schools for New  York children– those who see public education as a public good and those who see it as a private good.  Governor Cuomo has very clearly seen education as a private good.

Remember when Cuomo called public education a monopoly?

“I believe these kinds of changes are probably the single best thing that I can do as governor that’s going to matter long-term,” he said, “to break what is, in essence, one of the only remaining public monopolies — and that’s what this is, it’s a public monopoly.”  He said the key is to put “real performance measures with some competition, which is why I like charter schools.” Cuomo said he will push a plan that includes more incentives — and sanctions — that “make it a more rigorous evaluation system.”  

Cuomo has pandered to Wall Street at the expense of New York children.  Guess what?  You don’t get to take that back.

Cuomo has created two commissions filled with his "education is a private good pals."  The first commission magically disappeared without doing a thing that was good for kids and public education.  It did nothing to fix the blame and punish test agenda thrust onto kids and teachers in New York. New York now has a second commission with an attempt to do a total reboot of Common Core, but sadly this reboot continues to ignore that the top 50 most underfunded schools in New York State are in poor black and brown communities.     

What Cuomo and other Democrats (as well as Republicans) have failed to realize is that you cannot test a child out of poverty, and you cannot create an equitable education system with testing.  We all know the bottom line - Those who have sold out to Wall Street are in BIG FAT trouble (say Zephyr Teachout three times). 

In March 2015, Cuomo got the lowest job approval rating for his handling of education

Despite his cruddy poll ratings, Cuomo muscled through the test and punish education agenda, which has been the trademark of his administration, with his budget in April 2015. Cuomo’s hostilities toward public education became so volatile that he threatened to withhold  1.1 billion in state aid.  He threatened to withhold funds from schools if the NYS Legislature didn’t approve raising the cap on charter schools,  create an evaluation system so that more teachers would be deemed ineffective, make it difficult for new teachers to get tenure, and approve a backdoor voucher scheme to transfer public school money to private schools. 

How those 200,000 opt-outs looking now Governor?

Here is what Cuomo said about all those opt-outs

Parents who have chosen to have their children “opt out” of taking this month’s state exams don’t understand that the scores are “meaningless” in terms of students' grades. 

The scores are meaningless?  Why are kids taking tests if the outcomes are meaningless?  Why are teachers rated on outcomes that are meaningless? 

The suspense continued as the Governor continued to speak about the “tests.” 

“That’s their option,” Cuomo, referring to parents who have participated in the unprecedented boycott of state exams, told reporters after an Association for a Better New York breakfast in Manhattan. “What I don’t think has been adequately communicated is, we passed a law that stops the use of the grades on the test for the student. So the grades are meaningless to the student.” 

New flash Governor Cuomo, nothing in education should be meaningless to children.

 Cuomo’s polls continued to swim in the gutter over the summer of 2015. 73% of New Yorkers gave Cuomo a negative mark on education. 

Which now brings Cuomo to October of 2015

“Today, the Obama administration took an important step toward improving our nation’s education system. I agree with President Obama and Secretary Duncan that we must reverse the overemphasis on testing that has become the norm in too many of our schools, and that is exactly what we have been doing in New York. In 2014, we banned standardized testing for students in pre-kindergarten through 2nd grade, capped test preparation to two percent of learning time, and required the State Education Department to help districts eliminate unnecessary standardized tests for all other students. However, I believe that we need to do more, and that is why I have asked the State’s Common Core Task Force to examine ways to reduce the anxiety of our students by reducing the number and length of tests, as well as making sure that tests are appropriate for the age and education level of all of our students. Their review will be central to how we build on our past accomplishments. I commend President Obama for this action, and I am hopeful that this leads to a higher quality education for all American children.”

The Common Core Task Force that Cuomo has set up to examine the ways to reduce anxiety and tests for New York students is very much for the private good. 

If this commission is central to how New York plans to build on "past accomplishments", Governor, plan on building that opt out movement in 2016!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

BATs Respond to Obama Administration Announcement  on Over Testing

More information contact:
Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director BATs or Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. Executive Director BATs

Today the  Obama Administration released a statement calling for  "a cap on assessment so that no child would spend more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking tests. It called on Congress to 'reduce over-testing' as it reauthorizes the federal legislation governing the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools.” (        The Badass Teachers Association, an education activist organization with over 70,000 supporters nationwide, are reluctantly pleased with this announcement. Our vision statement has always been to refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning. Our goals have always been to reduce or eliminate the use of high stakes testing, increase teacher autonomy in the classroom, and include teacher and family voices in legislative decision-making processes that affect students.

Since No Child Left Behind and Race to The Top we have seen our children and communities of color bear the brunt of  the test obsession that has come in with the wave of Corporate Education Reform. When resources should have been used for funding and programming, politicians and policy makers were focusing on making children take more tests in hopes that equity in education would occur. It didn’t work, and it will not work. We know as educators you cannot test your way out of the education and opportunity gap. The blame and punish test agenda has not closed either the education or opportunity gap . We are reluctantly pleased that the President and his administration are finally taking a stand, but sadly the devastation has already been done.  We are confident that if the President and his administration make a commitment to work with educators, parents, and students we can fix it and make it right.

“Although this is a step in the right direction I feel we need to see what the policy is before we count this as a win. Given his actions in New York, I have no reason to trust John King, and I'm concerned that this is a ploy to get teachers on the side of Democrats aka Hillary Clinton.” – BAT Board of Director Member Dr. Denisha Jones

“The policy that stems from this statement needs to be mindful that important discussions about exactly what kind of testing is most beneficial to our students. BATS advocates for teacher-driven tests with immediate and relevant feedback that can be used to drive current instructional practices.” – BAT Assistant Executive Director Melissa Tomlinson

“The policies of Sec. Duncan and the USDOE  have caused an immense amount of damage to our educational system, student morale, and teacher morale.  I am very reluctant to be happy about this announcement and will watch closely as to what the President plans to do to fix the damage that has been done.  Will he stand up to Corporate Education Reform?  Will he end the test, blame, punish system for schools, students, and teachers? Will he return the elected school board?  Will he end mass school closings?”  – BAT Executive Director Marla Kilfoyle

The Badass Teachers Association would like to extend its voice and expertise to help get public education on the right track. Together we can work towards the real solutions that will make great schools for all children. We will be watching closely as this unfolds.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Gates Undercover

by Emily Talmage, Maine BAT

originally published on  her blog:



Several months ago, while conducting some much overdue research into the back-story of Common Core, I stumbled across a document from the Gates Foundation that painted such a frighteningly clear picture of next-gen ed-reform that I actually wondered for a time if perhaps I was hallucinating.

I wasn’t, and within a very short time, it became unmistakably obvious that the Common Core Standards, our new Smarter Balanced test, and Maine’s one of a kind (but not for long if they have their way, so watch out!) proficiency-based diploma mandate were all linked like pieces of a puzzle to a corporate-driven agenda to transform our schools into “personalized” (digital!) learning environments. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, see here  for more.)

Quite literally sick to my stomach, I emailed a union rep to ask if he knew anything about the paper I had found.

“It’s ghastly,” he replied, “but in Maine, it has been the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the Great Schools Partnership that has been behind these policies.”

Okay.  So maybe I was mistaken. Nellie Mae sounded friendly enough. So did Great Schools. (Who doesn’t like great schools?)

Just to be sure, I went to the “Awarded Grants” section of the Gates Foundation website, and typed in the words “Nellie Mae.”

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Then I typed in Great Schools Partnership.

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And then I did this:


Then, I went to the Nellie Mae page, typed in the word “Maine,” and sure enough, there on their website was page after page of grants awarded to organizations in our state.

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Now thoroughly alarmed, I emailed a state education official, asking what he knew about our proficiency-based mandate. Where had it come from and why?

“That was passed in 2012 to strengthen our high school diplomas. Who could argue with it?  Look, here are all the people who support it,” he wrote back, with links to a handful of letters written in support of the bill.
I clicked on one, saw the Great Schools Partnership logo at the top, and then did this:


Then I clicked on another.

This one was from the Maine Teacher of the Year program. That seemed curious to me. Why were Maine’s Teachers of the Year supporting something for which there was not yet any research?

And so I looked up Maine Teacher of the Year. A group called “Educate Maine” had taken over the program in 2014.

Educate Maine? Hadn’t I just seen them on the Nellie Mae page?

Sure enough…

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And, as if it hadn’t gotten horrifying enough, I read this portion of our state legislative record, in which one senator describes a trip Educate Maine had taken them on to visit a school implementing a “proficiency-based” model.




Now, of course, it all makes sense.

The Gates Foundation and Nellie Mae are clients of Bellwether Education, who suggest in their “Policy Playbook” setting up nonprofits to help create demand for personalized learning.

“Independent nonprofits can also serve as advocates for innovation with state policymakers, schools, and districts, working to spur demand for new models. For example, an organization might coordinate “field trips” for policymakers, principals, and civic leaders to visit schools in and outside the state that are implementing personalized learning model,” the playbook says.

Of course.

Coordinate field trips, to help convince lawmakers to vote for legislation that will allow you to experiment on children, and sell your products.

Have you looked to see where they’ve gone undercover in your state?


The Most Important Election You’ll Probably Skip

by Steven Singer, Member of the BAT Leadership Team

originally published on his blog:



The future prosperity of your state may be decided this November.

Will your public schools receive adequate, equitable and sustainable funding?

Will you be permitted to choose medical marijuana to treat certain ailments?

Will your state enact sensible gun reforms to keep firearms out of the hands of the criminally insane?

Will your voice be heard in future elections?

All this and more is on the table and YOU get to cast the deciding vote.

But more likely than not, you won’t show up.

Why? You’re too busy worrying about the upcoming Presidential election.

With both Democratic and Republican Presidential Primaries approaching in February through June, 2016, most people just don’t have the energy for another general election before the end of 2015.

However, most states will ask residents to cast a ballot on Nov. 3 for all kinds of important initiatives. There will be municipal, school board, gubernatorial and state legislative elections in a few states; as well as numerous citizen initiatives, and a variety of other local offices on the ballot.

Yet if history is any guide, most people will stay home while vastly important decisions are being made by the few who trudge to the polls. On the one hand, that means the results are bound to be unrepresentative. On the other, it means if you show up, your vote will have more weight than ever!

Either way, the course for the future of your state will be quietly and discreetly set for years to come.
Take my home state of Pennsylvania.

We’re holding a historic election with three state Supreme Court seats up for grabs. The last time this many seats were open on our highest court in the same year was 1704, and the body was still called the Provincial Appellate Court.

This is huge because it will determine who gets the final say on a plethora of contentious political issues.

For instance, four years ago, Republicans controlled every branch of Commonwealth government and redrew the state’s legislative districts to gerrymander in a GOP majority. They redrew district lines to ensure that conservatives got elected to public office by making boundaries around areas that have pockets of people who generally lean Republican.

With that foundation in place, the GOP ran the state into the ground. While most taxpayers didn’t agree with the corporate tax giveaways and draconian budget cuts to public services like children’s schools, there wasn’t much we could do about it. The redrawn district boundaries were such that legislators were free to do whatever they wanted without fear of reprisals from constituents.

Voters gave the GOP Governor the boot, but almost all of his good soldier legislators stayed in place. This was only possible because Republicans controlled the state Supreme Court. When those gerrymandered districts were challenged, the court backed the legislature. So, in practice, continued Republican control of state Senate and House districts was due not to voters but to the state Supreme Court.

Currently, Republicans hold the balance of power in the highest Commonwealth court by 3-2 with two vacancies. This election could rewrite that balance of power.

If Democrats win two or more seats in this Supreme Court election – thereby replacing two Republicans and one Democrat – it could change everything! Democrats would have a majority.

When redistricting comes up again in 2022, if Democrats want to re-draw the lines more fairly (or in their favor), a Democratic-controlled Supreme Court could make that possible.

Moreover, the new court would almost certainly rule on cases that will have a dramatic impact on the lives of everyday Pennsylvanians.

Perhaps the most hot button issue in the state is education funding. Republicans have been waging all out war on poor Commonwealth schools. For the past 4 years, the legislature slashed public school funding by almost $1 billion – an ideological divide that still rages between the newly elected Democratic governor and the legislature where Republicans remain in control.

Several lawsuits demanding more equitable school funding are winding their way through the state court system. These cases are bound to end up in the state Supreme Court. So if voters still care about making sure all Pennsylvania children have a fair shake at an education, voting for Democrats to retake the court may be the surest option! If recent history is any guide, Republicans sure won’t do it!

Other issues such as the death penalty and gun laws are likely to appear on the docket. Moreover, without opposition, it’s feared a GOP court could easily allow Tea Party legislators to enact so-called Right to Work and other union busting initiatives. A Democratic court could stop such shenanigans cold.

For decades, Pennsylvania politics have been like a game of tennis – power going almost exclusively from one party to another. Neither major party has held the governor’s office for more than two terms since 1955. Democrats broke the Republican Party’s hold on the state House in 2006 only to give back the chamber during the 2010 elections. So the Supreme Court remains the ultimate arbiter.

Voters will have the choice of 3 of the following candidates for Supreme Court Justice: Democrats Christine Donohue, Kevin M. Dougherty and David N. Wecht; Republicans Anne Covey, Michael A. George and Judith F. Olson; and independent candidate Paul P. Panepinto.

In my opinion, the Democrats are the strongest candidates – especially Wecht who is vowing to ban gifts for judges, tighten anti-nepotism policies, and broadcast court proceedings on television. Dougherty has strong union ties and clearly respects collective bargaining rights. Donohue is a strong supporter of personal rights including holding corporations accountable for fraudulent behavior and eliminating bias against LGBTs.
Of the Republicans, Covey is the most reasonable and has shown a willingness to reach across the aisle. The others are your typical extreme right Tea Party conservatives. Panepinto may be running as an independent, but I see little to distinguish him from the GOP candidates.

Choose carefully, Pennsylvania. Whoever you decide to support in the Supreme Court race, it will have a long-term impact. State Supreme Court justices hold 10-year terms! And three more justices will be replaced by 2018.

Whether you live in Pennsylvania or anywhere else in the US, it is vital that you get off your duff on Nov. 3 and vote. Focusing exclusively on Hillary vs. Bernie is not just myopic, it’s dangerous. Even if your candidate wins the presidency and does a fabulous job, the forces of stagnation and corporate greed could net tremendous gains in these other elections.

Unless we turn up.

Unless we vote.

When A Desk Is Not Just A Desk by Dr. Michael Flanagan

When a Desk is Not Just a Desk 

By Dr. Michael Flanagan, NY BAT and Member of the BAT Leadership Team

Full disclosure, I am writing this blog piece from my teacher’s desk during my lunch period. The reason I state that for the record is because for the past week I have been in the middle of a controversial event that has become known as ‪#‎PS24DeskGate‬. Besides being a veteran teacher, I also I work in the action steering committee of the Badass Teachers Association. We look for educationally related issues around the country in which we can support teachers and parents. This event however literally happened in my own school’s back yard.

On Wednesday October 14th, 2015 I was told by several staff members that the principal from PS 24 had removed all of her teachers’ desks and file cabinets from their classroom, making many of the teachers empty their materials onto the floor during class time, in front of their students. The desks were then dumped outside of the school during the school day, and the children from the K-5 school walked by their teachers’ furniture during dismissal. I went outside (both schools share a common trash site located on my school’s property) and observed a graveyard of discarded teacher desks and filing cabinets. In 30 years of working in public schools, I had never heard of anything quite like this.

I notified my union district rep (as I am a union chapter leader for the UFT) and then posted the pictures I took to my Facebook page and then onto the national BATs group page. The photos went viral. I was asked to push the issue by several members of the school, as they have been the recipients of bullying tactics by this principal for years. I was happy to do so, as was Priscilla Sanstead co-founder of BATs. Several journalists such as Susan Edelman of the NY Post became interested and also helped publicize the issue.

Over the course of the week, I have seen and been a part of many discussions and arguments regarding the actions of that administration. Some debated teaching philosophies, others their preferences for room configurations, Common Core alignment, so on and so forth. Throughout the week however I have maintained this position; it is NOT just about the desks. When a principal can come into a teacher’s classroom, in front of students and remove their furniture and materials, even over their objections and requests for explanations, then why should any child respect their teacher? If we as educators are not safe and autonomous in our own classrooms, then we are no more important than the file cabinets or blackboards. When I took the pictures of the desks, I knew they were not just desks. Metaphorically, they were the teachers, thrown out on the curb like so much trash. There for all of the students in the school to see, the message being “your teachers are garbage”.

Sometimes a desk is not just a desk. Sometimes it represents pride, dignity, and professionalism. Teachers are not trash, and we will not be thrown to the curb. Ever.

On Wednesday October 21st I attended a Parent Association meeting at the school, and listened to the school administrators discuss this and other issues of mismanagement at the school. There were almost two hundred concerned community members in attendance. The desks were by no means the only issue of contention, but after I heard the principal’s rambling and mostly incoherent explanation of her “vision” for forcibly removing furniture this late into the school year, I was privileged to hear the school’s UFT chapter leader take the floor and speak truth to power in front of journalists, local politicians, Department of Education officials and the hostile administrators of her school. I am including the text of the remarks prepared by the chapter leader herself and the other teachers from the school:

“Hello and thank you. Most of you know me, I am Jayne Wissner, a teacher and chapter leader of this school and I am here to speak on behalf of the teachers. PS 24 is one of the best public schools in New York City, and has been for many years. It is one of only six Bronx schools highly recognized. A majority of that success is due to the hardworking, dedicated teachers and parents. 


At any given day you can find teachers arriving at 6:30 am and leaving well beyond school hours. Teachers work on their lunchtime and many hours at home. 

Students do well on state exams, due partly to the hours of planning and preparation as well as implementation of lessons by teachers. 

Having a desk shouldn’t be the focus. Respect should be. Teachers should be respected enough to be communicated to in a professional and collaborative manner. Currently teachers’ desks are their personal workstations, housing a variety of supplies. It is a place where a teacher may sit when there is another teacher in the room or after school, to assess students’ work, prepare for the next day, etc.
At PS 24 teachers with desks are not instructing from behind their desks! Many of you parents here have been to our classrooms, have you observed that (crowd responds “no, never”). 

There is ample evidence to support most differing opinions. Teachers with desks still provide classrooms that are workshop friendly, and have for many years across the nation. Having a desk does not prevent teachers from effectively differentiating instruction or facilitating active learning. (When these desks were thrown out) teachers felt like we were being thrown to the curb. 

We agree that unity is what we need to continue the success of PS 24. Unity amongst all invested in continued growth and excellence. Educators, and parents within the community of PS 24, should work together collaboratively and professionally. Effective education begins with respect and a mindset to first and foremost do what is in the best interest for the children. Having or not having a desk should not be the focus. Thank you.” 

It is my hope that this one isolated incident enables teachers from across this country to stand up and take back our dignity and professionalism. There are too many teachers who are being bullied by administrators, politicians and the media across this country. They seek to intimidate and to crush the protections of educators, which allow us to speak-out against workplace violations and abuse. They want to silence our voices. We will not allow that to happen.

We as teachers want strong and supportive administrators, and there are many, many of them. However, we need to challenge those who overstep their authority, in order to reclaim our school community and protect our children. A teacher’s working environment is a student’s learning environment. Our classrooms are our children’s home away from home, and we will stand up to anyone in order to protect that space.

This was never just about the desks. ^0^



By:  Sergio Flores

Public schools systems in America are being privatized. Some school districts have collapsed for the lack of funding, several hundreds of public schools have  being closed and turned into charter schools, and public school teachers are being disrespected, accused, and found guilty of the alleged failure in education, and reduced to commodities, all this at the altar of the free-market ideology. Despite their record of failure, corporate reformers keep promoting and imposing their neoliberal policies with little or no resistance from teachers associations. With the public school system in crisis, teachers associations’ leaders must become true public school and teachers advocates. For that reason, public school teachers must recognize the toxic neoliberalism and elect leaders who oppose such a destructive ideology.  If you are a teacher and want to see if your president, state council representative, or board member shares neoliberal values or attitudes, I invite you read the following and then ask them what they think and what they stand for. It is safe to say that if teachers elect leaders who favor neoliberalism, they are in fact cooperating in the privatization of public education.   

Neoliberalism started officially in the 1980’ and 1990’ and after a brutal experiment in the 1970’s Chile’s Pinochet. Their most important promoters Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher popularized and implanted the neoliberal ideology which basically demands small government and a free market.  Economists and corporations have kept neoliberalism in vogue for almost fifty years despite “policies that have led to slower growth, deeper inequality, greater insecurity, and environmental degradation all over the world.”
According to the neoliberal premises, corporate reformers took an interest in public education and started a campaign to privatize it.  At the beginning, they had been covertly privatizing America’s public school system under the disguised of “education reform.” With unwarranted arguments suggesting that public service education delivered by state institutions is of low quality, unresponsive to ‘clients,’ and is risk-averse, corporate reformers imported a series of ideas from the free-market theory and promoting them as sensible solutions to the alleged failure in public education. The first steps in their privatization process were subtle but effective.  As researchers Stephen J Ball and Deborah Youdell explain in 2008:
 In some instances, forms of privatization are explicitly pursued as effective solutions to the perceived inadequacies of public service education. However, in many cases the stated goals of policy are articulated in terms of  ‘choice’, ‘accountability’, ‘school improvement’ ‘devolution’, ‘contestability’ or ‘effectiveness’.  Such policies often are not articulated in terms of privatization but nonetheless draw on techniques and values from the private sector, introduce private sector participation and/or have the effect of making public education more like a business. (Hidden Privatization in Public Education)
Years passed and positive results did not materialize.  Yet, despite the lack of success in improving public education, corporate reformers continued with their free-market policies.  Years later, when NCLB was enacted, corporate reformers changed their approach. From covertly, they moved to overtly privatizing America’s public schools. After all, as it has happened with the neoliberalism itself, no one questioned or challenged the application of their premises, their goals, or means in the area of public education –it simply “made sense.” Consequently, when this neoliberal environment firmly set in, it allowed and validated corporate reformers and billionaires to singlehandedly attempt to privatize public schools with practically no opposition from teachers’ associations’ leaders. The last example came recently, when Eli Broad announced a plan to get 50% of children in public schools attending LAUSD in charter schools.  Without consulting or considering parents or teachers, Mr. Broad seems resolute in his privatizing plan. As Diane Ravitch explains:

Eli Broad has recruited Paul Pastorek, former state superintendent in Louisiana, to lead his effort to privatize the schools of 50% of the children now in public schools in Los Angeles. Pastorek oversaw the elimination of public education in Néw Orleans. He was also a member of Jeb Bush’s far-right “Chiefs for Change,” a group dedicated to high-stakes testing and privatization. In his new post, he will press for the elimination of many public schools.
One would think that the threat to lose hundreds of public schools by the largest school district in California would motivate teachers’ association’s leaders to organize a defense. But so far, leaders have not made any comments. Tragically, this teachers’ associations’ leaders’ idleness has been the norm. Over the years, in Los Angeles, California, as well as in many other cities across the United States –Detroit, Chicago, New York, and New Orleans, for instance—when the destructive forces of privatization have been unleashed, they have encountered very little resistance. Incredibly, and despite the horrendous decades-long record of Chile’s application of neoliberal policies, and the more than twenty years of failures in the United States, corporate reformers have remained unquestioned and unchallenged.

 When the destructive NCLB was enacted around 2002, a new paradigm was imposed with no debate or consult to parents and teachers. Its premises, means, and goals for public education came from the free-market ideology. For the first time in history, millions of unsuspecting teachers were being judged with an arbitrary and flawed accountability system, and in some cases unfairly exposed in the media.  Incredibly, to this day, and notwithstanding the unfair criticism of teachers, the predictably systematic underfunding of schools, and the impossible demands on teachers, there has not been any serious effort --in writing or in action-- from any NEA or CTA leader to organize an opposition to the application of those ideological premises, values, and norms.  
Instead of a relief from the neoliberal ideas of NCLB, when President Obama was elected, more draconian measures were brought in the form of Race to the Top. What happened to the NEA representative assemblies in those years? With hundreds of thousands of public schools jobs lost, and hundreds of thousands more living and working in demoralizing conditions is impossible to consider that those leaders were unaware of the unjustified privatization that had been going on.  Yet, no campaign, intention, or plan came out of any assembly to fight the unwarranted privatization of our public school system. No leader brought any proposal to stop, or fight charter schools, merit pay, or VAM. Neither there have been any NEA’s or CTA leaders’ calls for members to defend themselves and others against the capricious firing of thousands of educators, or the unfair closing of hundreds of schools.  As  Stan Karp explains:
The two national teachers’ unions, the AFT and the NEA, have had mostly weak and defensive responses to the policy attacks of the past few years. But they are being pressed by both their members and by reality to develop more effective responses. This pressure includes the election of activist teacher leaders like Karen Lewis in Chicago ( and Bob Peterson in Milwaukee ( Years of failing to effectively mobilize their membership or develop effective responses to school failure in poor communities have taken a big toll on the ability of our unions to lead the charge in defending public education.
But even more strangely is to find no record of leaders questioning or challenging the neoliberal mantras --competition, choice, teachers as incompetent, selfish, and culprit of the poor state of public education.  Indeed, is as if leaders do not even know about teachers reaching record levels of demoralization. 
Public school systems have been struggling or even collapsing in the past ten years because of these flawed, failing, and even destructive reforms. Yet, NEA and CTA leaders are still "working" with corporate reformers on yet another idea: CCSS. With that record, anyone can see the consistent pattern of leaders going along with the corporate reforms. Undoubtedly, in any one of those assemblies, leaders could have proposed an antiprivatization defense of public education. But despite the teachers’ despair and the destruction of even complete school districts, that defense never even started.
This last NEA-RA assembly in Orlando, Florida provided disturbing evidence that leaders have no quarrel with the neoliberal ideology: Lily Eskelsen boldly explained to the assembly that NEA was a combination of union and association; she did it to please the free-market advocates, no doubt. On top of that, the assembly voted not to use the word "union" in official papers!  Could anyone not conclude that NEA leaders have free-market proclivities?  This suspicion claims for an investigation. NEA and CTA leaders consistently taking decisions that go along with the free-market reformers' plan, as when they commit to promote CCSS for Bill Gates, is a most serious issue indeed!
If teachers want to save public education, it is imperative that they acknowledge the influence of the neoliberal ideology in public school affairs and do something about it. This is no longer a matter of politics or ideology, but a pragmatic issue.  The record of free market based policies is of failure. Continuing in this direction means the privatization of our public schools. The first and most effective step teachers must take to save their schools is to elect leaders who openly opposed neoliberal policies.
Who wins, who loses, who cares?
In solidarity

Sergio Flores 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New Jersey BATs Decry the Use of Standardized Tests.

The Badass Teachers Association was created to give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.

The Badass Teachers Association of New Jersey firmly states that there is no validity in the recent release of the New Jersey Partnership for Assessment for Readiness of College and Career scores and reaffirms their mission to work to eradicate such measures that are being used to punish our children, our teachers, and our schools.

A single score on a single test cannot possibly measure the daily events that occur in our public school systems. These tests were not designed by classroom teachers and the results have been released with many inherent flaws.

- These tests were aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the implementation of which was so botched that the state of New Jersey is now working on revisions.

- The CCSS implementation was done as a top down initiative across all grade levels, creating a 'bubble' of students who do not have the educational background of having these standards throughout their educational careers, yet were subjected to these closely tied tests as an assessment.

- The administration of the test across the state was met with many issues including but not limited to - loss of internet access, computers with no sound-cards to enable text-to-speech features, classified students who did not receive accommodations that were outlined in their IEP, disorganized scheduling that caused extreme loss of instructional time and tore away at the consistency that children need to create a positive learning environments.

The validity of the cut scores remains extremely questionable in light of the knowledge that there is a direct agenda of several parties to label our schools as failing in order to close down and reorganize districts in ways that best benefits and feed the bank accounts of private interests. It is a known fact that results on standardized tests relate heavily to socio-economic backgrounds; a fact that logically precludes the conclusion that these tests are not a true measure of learning. These tests have been established as a tool to label public schools, specifically in urban communities, as failing.

The fact that the New Jersey Department of Education is not forthcoming with all of the information about the PARCC scores in one public release that includes educational stakeholders is a testament to the knowledge they hold that the educational decisions made under Governor Chris Christie are not what is best for our children.

The purpose, the client, and the reason for education is to benefit the children. As an organization, we vehemently decry the use of these tests to measure the value of our school systems, our teachers, and our students. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Disrespecting the American Teacher: 
The Saga Continues in NYC

This past week it was brought to BATs attention that a principal in NYC had tossed out teacher desks and chairs. Please keep in mind that we are now in late October, school started in September, and this seems like an immense upheaval to do to teachers and children this late in the year. 

 Here is what has been reported to us by inside sources:

#1 -
This was an act of retaliation against teachers who do not agree with her so-called vision of what the school should look like. Since this administration took office the test scores have declined. There has been a history of mismanagement of this administration's part. Several investigations have taken place. Many complaints have gone to the superintendent by parents and teachers. There is an atmosphere of fear. The principal is not approachable. At meetings she tells us we are not allowed to ask questions. We cannot be confused.
The removal of desk from teacher’s classrooms was an act of revenge. When teachers asked why, she said this is the 21st century. File cabinets were also removed. Teachers were told they are dinosaurs. Some teachers came in to school to find a post it on their desks say the desk would be removed that afternoon. There was no explanation. The file cabinets were dinosaurs, not the teachers. She said nothing about replacing them with tables. Articles from desks were put into boxes and plastic bags. Teachers had to clear out desks during instructional time. Some teachers were so fearful they pushed their desks into the hallway. The students were confused. Some of them thought that they were going to lose their desks too.
It seems as though the superintendent is protecting the principal. The superintendent is well aware of Connelly's antics.

#2 -
I am a teacher at PS 24 who had her desk and filing cabinet removed on Tuesday. Thank you and all the BATs for bringing attention to this issue. The BATs have done more in one day than our union was able to do in 7 years.
Many of the teachers are quite concerned about retaliation tomorrow [Monday, Oct 19, 2015]. Although it was mentioned that we should all wear aprons with scissors and post-its and stablers, etc in pockets, everyone is too afraid. Dr. Connelly was verbally abusive to several teachers on Friday.
This is not the first incident of her insanity. There have been several investigations into her conduct to no avail. The Superintendent has been to our school and basically gave her a slap on the wrist.
Dr. Connelly told the Super that she was buying the teachers trapezoid tables in replacement of our desks. However, the secretaries have stated this to be untrue.
I am telling you this in hope that you will continue to make this public since the parents are also concerned that there will be retribution against their children if they speak up.
You have my permission to use my words anonymously.
Once again, I truly appreciate what the BATS have done.
Thank you

#3 -
Hello! I am also an employee at PS24. While it is true teachers were told they had to remove desks and filing cabinets, it seems to be circulating that teachers aren't allowed to sit. There are computer tables with teacher chairs still where they can do work. The principal really hates the look and feel of "older" classrooms with big monstrous desks and sort of the front vs back teacher directed classroom. The biggest issue I have with this all, and so do many others who work here is that this was handled mid-October when teachers were already in the swing of things. Their entire week was spent reorganizing and trying to make a new system that will work to put things in (files, supplies, etc). I'd like to remain anonymous but feel people should know that teachers do still have a work station and chair, just not the typical desk. Is it right how it was handled? No, not at all, but teachers weren't told they can never sit, so for the people saying this is an ADA issue and contact OSHA etc, that's far off. The principal did say she doesn't want teachers who sit behind their desk all day and don't interact with the children, which truthfully removing the furniture is not going to magically change anyone who still does that (which is very few, if any, teachers in our building to begin with). The furniture is not 21st century and not going to work with the common core. These were all her reasons for doing what she did. Again, the timing and handling of the situation was poor and not the first time she mishandled a situation to upset the staff. Just thought it would be informative to hear more facts. Thanks to BAT for bringing attention to this issue!

#4 -
On Tuesday October 13, 2015, I arrived at school after the three day weekend to a post-it note asking for me to see the principal. My intention was to go to her that day during my prep period.
Early that morning Dr. Connelly forcibly opened the classroom door, banging it against the wall. My students looked up to see what the commotion was. Dr. Connelly yelled at me across the room, "Your desk has to go. And the filing cabinet too!" I said alright and asked if I could have a table to put my lesson plans and other items on. Dr.Connelly shouted, "No. I'm not giving anyone a table. Use your Teacher's Choice money to buy drawers or bins. Get rid of both of them! Today!
After Dr. Connelly stormed out of the classroom, my students stared at me, stunned. I attempted to reengage them when one asked "Why is Dr. Connelly so mad?" I did my best to diffuse the situation, however the tension was evident.
I, among others, fear retaliation. Everyone in the school knows when she is after someone. It is my hope that my anonymity will be protected so that I can continue to teach my students as best I can, despite the hostile environment.

The disrespect of the American teacher is alive and well at PS24.

The larger question here is, why are folks afraid to speak up, even parents, for fear that there would be retaliation against their child?

There are larger issues here, but the very out in the open display of removing teacher’s desks, throwing them in a heap of garbage, speaks volumes to the disrespect that both the children and teachers in this school are enduring as a result of this episode.  To make teachers “reorganize” this late in the year shows a lack of respect for what they do but most importantly impacts the children that they teach.

Good school leadership is about respecting your teachers but most importantly protecting the learning environment for kids so that it is stable, productive, and secure.  Maybe it is time for the principal of PS 24 to go back to Education Leadership School and take a class on how to respect teachers so that they can educate children in an environment that is stable and secure. 

 "A teacher's working environment is a student's learning environment."

UPDATE - 10/19/15

The Principal of PS 24 sent around this email today telling teachers if they do NOT want their desk returned to let her know.

Inside sources are telling us that teachers don't just want their desks back, they want their filing cabinets back as well.   #GiveItAllBack

Update 10/20/15

After the Principal was ordered to return the desks this is what has been happening as reported from our inside sources:

Source #1
Some teachers are intimidated but most are just annoyed by the whole situation. Our classrooms were disrupted once already, many reorganized their rooms to make things work without the desk, some purchased new containers and now to be asked to do it all again. A lot of people have the move on attitude. If desks were just returned to all then it would be a different story but now it is to some and a line has been drawn.

Source #2

I was expecting to walk in today to find a desk but instead our Associate Principal walked around making a list of who wants it and who doesn't.
Our principal is claiming the superintendent wants the list. This puts teachers in an awkward position.

Source #3  

Non tenured teachers were bullied by the A P into not taking their desks back
And part of the problem is they don't have all of the desks in addition no file cabinets are being returned [all metal stuff was taking by scrap collectors]
She says everything was in a designated trash area
[custodians are being blamed for putting them in wrong spot]

Source #4
"Principal is in trouble and was heard screaming “these b***s” when she was in her office"

Bottom line is - this Principal needs to learn to respect teachers who will collectively fight for their students to have a learning environment that is stable and secure!