Thursday, May 30, 2013

Buffalo Teachers Fed.'s Evaluations Suit - MOU Too Embarrassing for Mulgrew to Let NYC Teachers See

Just two days from now, New York City teachers probably will have a New York State-imposed evaluation system. But another red-letter day looms: the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) by all indications plans to file a notice of claim June 1 for a lawsuit to fight their evaluation system.
This is a hugely significant suit, as the BTF is aggressively fighting a flawed evaluation system, over termination use of evaluations. Whereas, the New York City teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), has promoted evaluation plans which carry terminations. Michael Mulgrew, the latter union's president casts a value-added plus Danielson Framework evaluation structure --plus a termination tie-in-- as a fair reform. (The latter union's givebacks in the last three years amount to a de facto contract.)
At the heart of the Buffalo Teacher Federation's fight are evaluations and the punitive use of them, toward 3020a terminations of teachers. The union did not trust the application of the evaluations. It secured a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Buffalo School District, pledging that they would not be used in a punitive manner to render negative evaluations. The New York State Education Department, State Education Commissioner John King, and Governor Andrew Cuomo are claiming that the agreement is illegal. The BTF is standing by their guns. State officials claim that the agreement was not submitted for approval as part of the districts' official teacher-evaluation procedure, according to Buffalo News reporter Sandra Tan. Buffalo's evaluation fight has gained national attention at the Education Week blog. In a parallel case of Los Angeles, Diane Ravitch in her blog last October cited the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) as a "Hero of Public Education," recognizing that value added modeling of teachers is "inaccurate, invalid and unstable." In similar fashion as the BTF would do this spring, the UTLA refused to sign off on the district's request for Race to the Top funds because doing so would subject members to value-added assessment.
Excerpts from Sandra Tan's "BTF going to court to enforce teacher-evaluation agreement" in "The Buffalo News," May 9, 2013:
The BTF Executive Committee unanimously approved the resolution to take legal action against the district by June 1 and file additional grievances for “non-adherence” to a pact the district made with the union in January. The agreement stated that the district would not use two years of teacher evaluations as grounds for termination.
“We will leave no stone unturned to make sure these evaluations, which everybody now realizes were flawed, aren’t being held against our teachers,” said BTF President Philip Rumore.
. . . .
Legal action by the teachers union could threaten the status of more than $30 million in state aid this year, in addition to more than $10 million in various other government funding this year and tens of millions in future years.
Rumore said the BTF will work with the New York State United Teachers union to legally challenge any effort by the state to withhold funds from the Buffalo Public Schools.
“We’re going to fight to make sure that they don’t use our kids as pawns in order for us to get this money,” he said.
Finally, the BTF may still consider rescinding, by vote of all Buffalo teachers, its approval of the teacher evaluations for the last two school years.
The use of the evaluations plan has already confirmed Buffalo teachers' suspicions, with virtually blanket ineffective ratings in certain schools.
In 2011-12, Buffalo was one of a handful of districts across the state receiving federal school-improvement grants.
To qualify for the money, the district had to have a state-approved teacher-evaluation plan in place at the six schools receiving the grants: Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Institute; International School 45; and Bennett, Riverside, South Park and Burgard high schools.
That means the 400 or so teachers at those six schools were evaluated last year. They got their evaluations about two months ago, and many reportedly were rated “ineffective.”
. . . .
Much of the resolution highlights what the union considers to be significant flaws in the teacher-evaluation formula.
In one Buffalo school, it states, 11 teachers were rated “effective” on all 22 classroom indicators but still wound up with a composite score of “ineffective.”
In other cases, where two teachers worked with the same set of students, one received 20 evaluation points, while the other teacher received zero.
“Buffalo teachers and teachers across New York State would not have entered into agreements utilizing untested, untried evaluation systems without assurances that due to its untested procedures, it would not be used against them,” the BTF executive committee statement said.
For months now, off the major media grid, people have written and talked about a seven percent quota of teachers that the UFT has agreed will be lined up for unsatisfactory "U" ratings in end of year evaluations by the New York City Department of Education, setting them in line for 3020a hearings to be stripped of their state teaching license.
NYC Educator has eloquently written earlier this week on this issue, in "Lucky 7." (NYC Educator has written an equally important, informative piece on how easily VAM evaluations have been used to terminate teachers or deny them tenure.) This is concession, along with the NYC DoE-UFT agreement on another quota, 13 percent, the figure for the cases that the UFT will agree take to an independent arbitrator. These concessions stand in bold contrast to the BTF which secured an MOU precisely against the use of evaluations for terminations. Note further the qualifier in Tan's article --the state does not require termination hearings for two successive ineffective ratings: "The state law allows districts – but does not explicitly require them – to pursue termination for any teacher who gets rated “ineffective” two years in a row. It also states that schools “shall” use the evaluations in employment decisions, including terminations." [Emphasis mine.]
The UFT already has conceded this point.

As is apparent from reportage going back over a year, the BTF has had friction over this issue for a while. This suit is the culmination. On the other hand, the UFT, under Mulgrew's leadership, has always went along, not grudgingly, but enthusiastically, along with the Danielson Frameworks, along with value-added modeling based on student high-stakes test scores. Never in Mulgrew's statements about Bloomberg or the city did you ever hear Mulgrew make a principled statement against VAM, test-based evaluations. It is a big mistake when people swoon over his sneers against NYC mayor Bloomberg. Judge Mulgrew by his actions, collaborating with the reformers on the key points.

Note Mulgrew's letter (reprinted at the end of this post) on the impending Cuomo/King-imposed evaluation scheme. Never in his statement does he say anything re repeat ineffective/unsatisfactory ratings and the termination tie-in. He has caved in on yet another critical point.

If Mulgrew confronts Cuomo, he risks the contradiction of his UFT --which supports Cuomo and other Democrats through Committee on Political Education (COPE) contributions-- confronting allied Democrats. The Insurgent Teacher blog, in "Buffalo school officials and BTF going back to court," (May 11, 2013) argues that Cuomo is too beholden to wealthy benefactors. The IT blog points out:
Sadly, the equity firms, banks, and hedge fund investors were the largest donors to politicians including Gov. Andrew Cuomo who sought out Democrats for Education Reform for support and donations. In return these politicians including the NYS Board of Regents coalesced to revamp education law and to install state education commissioners sympathetic to their reform agenda.
And it was to weaken the unions especially teachers and rid the system of tenure by copying a system of employee evaluations developed in the private sector, where the vast majority are at-will employees.

The May NSYUT newspaper, as this blog noted two weeks ago, has struck a far more critical tone re the high-stakes testing mania and how it is affecting our profession; and the same paper drummed up support for attending a June 8 rally at Albany's Empire State Plaza, near the legislature and the NYSED building. (See these links, here and here, for social media connections.) Given the critical (lest we say militant) stances that the BTF is taking --in contrast to the UFT's collaboration (forget about capitulation)-- Mulgrew and the UFT would definitely not want rank and file UFT members anywhere near their Buffalo sisters and brothers. People might start asking questions about evaluation system, their unions' stance, Merryl Tisch's role in evaluations, and too much more. Too uncomfortable as the UFT grooms Tisch-supported Bill Thompson for mayor, and here.
# # #
What Mulgrew has to say, as his friend, Andrew Cuomo's evaluation imposition looms [Again, note his skirting of the termination tie-in question, the whole issue at stake in the BTF's lawsuit]:
Dear colleagues,
Late on Saturday, June 1, State Education Commissioner John King is expected to release an evaluation plan for K-12 teachers in New York City. It will be done through a binding arbitration process and take effect in September.
The mayor and the DOE will no doubt try to spin Commissioner King’s decision to their advantage. The UFT staff will be working through Sunday to get accurate information about the new system out to you by Monday morning in a form that is both clear and concise.
The process to create a new evaluation system has been long and contentious. The final decision came to rest with the commissioner because the city Department of Education proved incapable of negotiating in good faith with us.
The UFT and the DOE each submitted lengthy proposals to the State Education Department on May 8. Arbitration hearings are taking place in Albany today and tomorrow. Commissioner King will consider the proposals and decide on the final evaluation system on June 1.
We have the opportunity to use our collective-bargaining rights to modify aspects of the evaluation plan during future contract negotiations. Practically speaking, since we are in fact-finding now, if any changes were negotiated, they would not take effect until the 2014-15 school year.
Because the commissioner’s plan must be in accordance with the 2010 state law on teacher evaluation that this union supported and helped shape, we expect it to be fair, professional and focused on teacher development to the benefit of our students. The new evaluation system as set out in state law is designed first and foremost to help teachers improve their skills throughout their careers. Teachers who are struggling will get support tailored to their individual needs.
We have our work cut out for us in September, given this DOE’s terrible track record of translating policy to practice compounded with the fact that they will probably be gone come Jan. 1. We have started working on a professional development plan and we will use our rights to make sure that the new system is implemented fairly. It is a big help that we already have an appeals process for New York City teachers nailed down that will give our members stronger due process rights than they have ever had. I hope this email clarifies where we are and what we can expect. Working together, we will make this transition. You can count on your union to continue to fight to get you the support you deserve. Thank you for all that you do for our city’s schoolchildren.
Michael Mulgrew
POSTSCRIPT: As Ravitch said in the above-cited post, the UTLA is a hero union for its stance on value-added modeling.
Because it has remained true to principle, because it insists on evidence-based evaluation, because it insists on honest accounting for the public’s dollars, UTLA is a hero of public education and joins the honor roll.
The Buffalo Teachers Federation is taking a parallel stance in refusing to allow teacher evaluations be used in teacher terminations. The UFT should act on principle and follow these other big city unions' leads.

Buff. Teachers Fed. Motion Slams APPR Toxic Stew of SLOs, LMAs, Overwork

President Barack Obama and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo set forth the highly questionable Race to the Top which distorts the teaching craft, distorts evaluation of the teaching craft, drives high stakes testing and spurs the growth of charter schools.

Refreshingly, one New York State big city, Buffalo, has a teachers union and president that have exercised critical thinking and have stood up to the madness that has strong-armed unions into rescinding their dignity and their time. The deskilling evaluative protocols appeared flawed early on. The BTF has asked questions and challenged. Finally, this month, they are making a more forward action to break from the chains of APPR mandates. The BTF is calling this action their "APPR offensive."

The union president, Philip Rumore, is recognizing ill-minded features that more New York State teacher unions should reject, and his recognition of these serious flaws should be emulated by other NYS teacher unions. This statement inherently is challenging the state-mandated legislated dictates that stem from Race to the Top compliance. (The 22 classroom performance in the classroom evaluation could well pertain to the Danielson Frameworks indicators. The DF is now being widely adopted across the United States.)
(APPR means "Annual Professional Performance Review;" SLO stands for "Student Learning Objectives;" LMA stands for "Local Measure of Achievement.")
We are watching to see how this case progresses.

The APPR resolution, as publicized, May 10, 2013
WHEREAS: As a result of an untested, untried evaluation system (APPR), Buffalo teachers, as well as teachers across New York State, received APPR composite ratings that not only put teachers’ job security in jeopardy but reflected negatively on teachers’ true performance and,

WHEREAS: In one Buffalo school, for example, as in many similar cases across New York State, eleven (11) teachers were rated as “Effective” on all twenty-two (22) “indicators” on their classroom evaluation; however, their overall “composite score” was “Ineffective”, and one teacher was rated “Effective” on twenty (20) of the twenty two (22) “indicators” and “Highly Effective” on the two (2) remaining classroom observation indicators but received an “Ineffective” rating. In some cases, the State forwarded zero (0) points out of twenty (20) for teachers where there were two (2) teachers working with the same students so that only one received the twenty (20) points and,

WHEREAS: Buffalo teachers and the school district, as with many school districts across New York State, in anticipation of the probability of such invalid results from the new, untested and untried evaluation system (APPR), entered into agreements (MOUs) that protected teachers from the inappropriate negative consequences of said APPRs and,

WHEREAS: Buffalo teachers and teachers across New York State would not have entered into agreements utilizing untested, untried evaluation systems without assurances that due to its untested procedures, it would not be used against them and,

WHEREAS: there has been
· the late approval of and lack of guidance on contradictory positions taken by NYSED in relation to the APPR,
· lack of sufficient training by the District on the APPR process,
· impossible timelines, e.g. teachers “trained” in May for submissions due at the end of May, “training” in May on Artifacts due at the end of May,
· confusing and contradictory statements by District administrators,
· insufficient time provided to complete APPRs, SLOs and LMAs during the work day,
· little or no training on SLOs, LMAs and Artifacts,
· pre-tests given in October, November, etc., instead of September,
· post-tests having no correlation with pre-tests,
· some post-tests given after the completion of first semester courses,
· teachers being evaluated, and observed without an agreement between BTF and District, on what they will be evaluated,
· requiring the use of PGS without training,
· expecting teachers (some not affected by 3012-c) to turnkey train other teachers in their buildings.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That the BTF, in concert with NYSUT/AFT/NEA will:
· Pursue legal action to ensure that as per our signed MOU, no teacher is adversely impacted by their 2011-2012 or 2012-2013 APPRs or any process or procedure associated with it, specifically including but not limited to, the service of a notice of claim as necessary for the commencement of legal action under New York State Education Law as soon as feasible but in any event, no later than June 1, 2013 and, additionally, the filing of grievance(s) pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, in addition, if necessary to the following grievances already filed relating to:
o non-adherence to January 15, 2013 MOU,
o non-validated and untimely pre and post tests – also no training during the work day for teachers on them,
o inaccurate APPR scores (2011-2012) based upon flawed system – administrators inadequately trained,
o SLOs/LMAs/Artifacts – little or no timely training, insufficient and untimely data, insufficient and inappropriate timing for completion, etc.,
o contradictory APPR directions to teachers,
o insufficient time during the workday to complete the tasks that the District is demanding of teachers,
o teachers are being evaluated without BTF, District and Professional Council Agreement.
· Pursue all legal actions to prevent the loss of funding resulting from the APPR process and/or procedures,
· If necessary, the BTF in consultation with NYSUT/AFT/NEA will consider rescinding, by vote of all Buffalo teachers, its approval of the 2011-2012, 2012-2013 APPRs, and
· Take any and all other actions to achieve the above objectives.

RECOMMENDED BY: Philip Rumore, President, BTF
MOVED: Edith LeWin, Vice President, BTF
SECOND: Barbara Bielecki, Treasurer, BTF

Monday, May 27, 2013

UPDATED: Karen Lewis Responds to Attack on Schools With Political Mobilization; and the UFT is Endorsing Thompson?

UPDATED: Surprise, Surprise: Randy Mastro and Al D'Amato, top Thompson campaign contribution bundlers

At the 18:12 minute point in the Chicago Teachers Union video on researchers' work and teacher testimonials on a closing school --autopsy of an executed school, Karen Lewis, CTU president, moves onto the ball onto the sphere of political action: "CTU releases school closings study, ramps up political activities", April 16, 2013.
More recently, she noted that in the 2011 mayoral election by which Rahm Emanuel became elected to mayor's office, thereby enabling him to control the school board, Emanuel was elected with only 22 percent of the eligible voters ("CTU Kicks Off Effort To 'Change The Political Landscape," video, May 23).
“Brothers and sisters, mayoral control is a disaster,” said Karen Lewis, president of the CTU. “We must change the political landscape in Chicago.”
She then went on to say that the Union will start getting involved in politics, in registering voters and getting involved in political education including recruiting real grassroots candidates for elective office, in Chicago and in the Illinois state legislature in Springfield. The media have read in a more pointed fashion, with several headlines like this, "CTU hosts voter registration drive, aims to have Mayor Emanuel ousted in 2015 over school closings," and "The 2015 Mayoral Campaign Begins Tonight: CTU trains registrars in effort to unseat Mayor Rahm Emanuel."
Given the CORE-lead CTU of the last three years, we can anticipate that CTU political action will be on CTU terms, on teacher advocacy, that keeps in mind teachers' interests and stances.

# # #

Lewis' and the CTU's stance will stand in contrast to the dominant faction of the United Federation of Teachers, which at the May 22 delegate assembly, had reps from various boroughs ringing the bells for former comptroller and School Board President Bill Thompson.
The choice is problematic on so many levels. He is partially himself to the education reformers' agenda, committing himself to continue parts of the Bloomberg legacy, such as charter school co-locations. And the central role of New York State Regent Merryl Tisch in his campaign is disturbing. Diane Ravitch has called Tisch the doyenne of high-stakes testing. Is it any wonder that so many Teachers College (Columbia University) students protested her award this month?
Note that the Gotham Schools site reported May 15 that Thompson with his education platform is seeking to not merely continue some Bloomberg initiatives, such as lengthening the school day, but expanding other ones:
Thompson would expand, not end, many of Bloomberg’s school policies.
He said he would replicate some of the small schools that Bloomberg has opened, continue the city’s nascent efforts to link high schools with industry partners, and revise — not abandon — the Department of Education’s method of evaluating schools.
The article continues:
But a number of items on Thompson’s platform would be extensions of Bloomberg’s policies. He said he would replicate schools such as Pathways in Technology High School and the Academy of Software Engineering that give New York City students direct paths to jobs.

Some of Thompson’s proposals could even run afoul of the union, depending on how they are implemented. He said he would “hold teachers accountable for what happens in their schools and classrooms” in part by using test scores, as is required under state law, and would launch a citywide initiative for longer school hours and school years. He said he would also work to pay “our most effective teachers” more to teach in high-need schools.

Thompson did not say how he would define effectiveness, taking a pass on a crucial issue that the next mayor will have to resolve. He also did not explain how he would pay for his costly proposals, other than by cutting “the excessive amounts of hundreds of millions of dollars” that the Department of Education has awarded in contracts to private vendors. (Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has so far been the only candidate to say he would raise taxes to support schools.)
Note that Thompson dodges the charter school issue:
And Thompson did not mention the divisive issue of charter schools at all, except to say that he would hold them to the same standards as district schools. (Because the schools are publicly funded but privately managed and authorized by state entities, the mayor has little sway over city charter schools’ operation.)
Endorsing Bill Thompson for mayor? No, our union should instead be educating its members on the differences between the candidates. The UFT should be warning against voting for Thompson.
(For on overview of the candidates, see Dana Rubinstein of Capital New York's "How different are the mayoral candidates from Bloomberg on education, actually?"
Anthony Weiner, former Queens Congressman and new entrant to the mayor's race, has staked himself to the right, asserting that city employees need to pay more of their health insurance costs. Christine Quinn, city council president, will drop out of tomorrow's education debate hosted by New Yorkers for Great Public Schools. Weiner will participate in the debate.
If Merryl Tisch's support for Thompson is not reason alone to give teachers pause enough for supporting Thompson (with money and as a top campaign advisor), there is the news that former Senator Alphonse D'Amato (Republican and stalwart ally of president Ronald Reagan) is financially supporting Thompson as well. This last point produced the ironic situation whereby front-runner Christine Quinn makes the reasonable critique in the race --ironic, as she is, with good reason, universally seen as the Bloomberg fourth-term candidate. As the New York Times reports:
“The last thing Democrats are looking for in a mayor of New York is someone who is ‘proud’ to have Al D’Amato’s support,” the e-mail said, citing a statement Mr. Thompson made to The New York Times.
Note the new New York Times interactive chart on campaign contributions to the mayoral candidates. Apparently, Randy Mastro (former Rudy Giuliani deputy mayor) and Al D'Amato are the number one and two campaign bundlers for the Thompson campaign. The site also links to a map with campaign contributions. The top fund-raiser in Manhattan, particularly in the ultra-wealthy Upper East Side district: Christine Quinn.
A Quinn campaign spokesperson continued the attack on Thompson, on points progressive teacher unionists should concur with:
On Wednesday, her campaign spokesman also belittled Mr. Thompson’s proposals on education, calling them “a mosaic of things that Christine C. Quinn has already proposed or done.”
It is important for the UFT to make a principled stand. With Weiner's entry into the race the anti-Quinn vote is further divided, potentially giving the Quinn a boost after her recent fall in the polls. Going with Thompson --simply to get a seat at the table with an insider power man-- is wrong-minded and incredibly short-sighted.

Chicago Closes 50 Schools in 1 Minute; TFA Will Pick Up the Pieces

[A bright, inspiring figure in the sad events of the school closings and popular reaction last week is the 9 year old student, Asean Johnson, speaking in defense of his school --watch this video. A great speech from a very well-spoken young man; a leader today and likely in the future. Some adults hosting him on network TV need to get over getting the giggles when a 9 year old speaks as astutely as a 29 year old.]

The sad, sad story in Chicago yesterday. Across America, we mourn for Chicago and what the CPS is doing to its schools.

The link to Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union president's statement on the occasion of the school closings.
From democraticunderground, May 23, 2013:
"In less time than it takes to boil an egg" Chicago closes 50 schools.
From the Chicago Sun-Times (May 22):

CPS makes history, closing scores of schools in less time than it takes to boil an egg

History was made in Chicago Wednesday in about 90 seconds, but most of the folks who witnessed firsthand the death of a record 50 Chicago Public Schools didn’t even realize it.

Rather than list the names of the doomed elementary schools, the Board of Education took a single group vote on most of the closings that will affect some 27,000 children. The board secretary read out the numbers assigned to each resolution and asked for the vote.

But onlookers didn’t even get that, as the board president resorted to parliamentary maneuver to speed the process along.

“Madam Secretary, if there are no objections from my fellow board members, please apply the last favorable roll call,” Board President David Vitale said, referring to the previous vote of six ayes and 0 nays. And with that, the bulk of the history — 49 of the 50 schools closed — was made in a unanimous sweep.

Tone deaf to the audience:
(From Mike Klonsky's Small Talk blog:)

Columnist Mark Brown

In the end, the board was so tone deaf to its audience that on the crucial vote that closed most of the schools, they used the parliamentary maneuver of adopting the previous favorable roll call — instead of taking the extra 30 seconds to each say “yes” once more. The average person in attendance didn’t even know the closings had been approved until it was over. -- "CPS closings vote shows it’s time for an elected school board"

Sports writer Dave Zirin

It all starts with the person who seems committed to win the current spirited competition as the most loathsome person in American political life: Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The same Mayor overseeing the closing of fifty-four schools and six community mental health clinics under the justification of a “budgetary crisis” has announced that the city will be handing over more than $100 million to DePaul University for a new basketball arena. -- The Nation
= = = = = = = = = = =
And this post on who gains from the losses during the school closures:
TFA to expand in Chicago areas where many schools were closed, quality teachers laid off.

It's hard to imagine that a record number of school closings in Chicago is so obviously opening the way for Teach for America to take over those areas.

From Katie Osgood at The Chalk Face blog:

Teach for America Has Gone Too Far

But TFA’s recent actions have sent me over the edge. Last night, on twitter, I was appalled to watch tweets fly by about a very fancy, very expensive fundraising dinner taking place in Chicago’s swanky Drake Hotel. As a union-supporter, I am used to the dirty old union halls, folding chairs, sometimes church basements, and maybe a bag of Cheetos for eats, if you’re lucky. I can barely imagine the sort of people who pay $10,000 for a table. Ok, I CAN imagine. They are the same people we must battle everyday in the EdReform Wars.

....Guess which neighborhoods TFA is targeting for their expansion? The very same communities being traumatized by the largest single number of school closings in the history of America. TFA is poised to profit dramatically from the misfortune of hundreds of teachers and thousands of students.

And how TFA has rationalized this expansion to themselves, or anyone else, is beyond me. CPS has told schools they must be closed due to “underutilization” (A suspect claim at best). They say Chicago has too few kids and too many schools, including too many teachers/staff. Due to a supposed budget shortfall of $1 billion dollars (also HIGHLY suspect), CPS says schools must be consolidated. Let me say that again, CPS is telling us that we have essentially too many teachers and buildings in the system.

And TFA wants to go into those communities after mass layoffs–where many quality veteran teachers will be displaced and many may not be rehired, teachers who fought side-by-side with the students and parents of the schools, teachers loved by the community–and offer them uncertified, poorly-trained novices many of whom have never even been to the Midwest, much less know the varied individual neighborhoods of Chicago. It’s like TFA is kicking these communities while they are down. “I know your school was just robbed from you, despite your loud, relentless, justified protest, but here are some uncertified, severely undertrained non-educators who won’t stick around long. We at TFA don’t think your kids deserve properly trained teachers dedicated long-term to your community any more than you deserve the choice of democratic neighborhood schools.”

That is truly insulting to the career teachers who are losing their jobs, to the parents and students who are losing their community schools.

TFA needs to stop thinking their group is superior to experienced teachers. Some Democratic leaders I know need to speak out about the way they are moving into communities when schools are closed.

From 2012 another condescending move by TFA toward public school teachers.

While the budget picture looks no more pleasant than it has in past years, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Jacqueline Ellis said the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, a Raleigh-based nonprofit, has offered to cover the $3,000-per-teacher placement fee that TFA would have charged the district for the 15 teachers.

The positions that TFA teachers would fill are among 21 made available by retirements, resignations and transfers.

.."The 15 teachers primarily would be placed in math, science and exceptional children's classes -- all of which can be difficult to fill, especially in a low-performing school like Neal. TFA would also like to offer training to traditionally trained teachers who are already at the school.

They wanted to "train" veteran teachers to think that all kids can succeed. The hubris is overwhelming.

A big piece of Neal's program would be the training for veteran teachers - it's all about changing the mind-set of teachers to believe that every student can succeed, Lakis said. He said TFA is still working out the framework for the training program..."

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Video and news from NYC parents' explosive Town Hall meeting on inBloom's invasion of student privacy

The parents, rising in resistance to inBloom invasion of student privacy.
InBloom is being used in several states to accomodate Race to the Top obligations for data collection and management.
LATEST DEVELOPMENTS follow the April 30 post.
The April 30 news from the NYC Public School Parents blog:
Tuesday, April 30, 2013: Video and news from our explosive Town Hall meeting on student privacy Yesterday we held a Town hall meeting at Brooklyn Borough Hall about the state and city plan to share personally identifiable student information with a corporation called inBloom inc. and other third party vendors.

About 150 people showed up, including two Regents (Regent Kathleen Cashin of Brooklyn and Regent Betty Rosa of the Bronx), and two representatives from the State Education Department (Dennis Tompkins, Chief of External Affairs and Nicolas Storelli-Castro, Director of Governmental Relations), who listened to the presentations and the passionate objections of parents. Adina Lopatin, Deputy Chief Academic Officer of NYC DOE spoke and answered questions. I also gave a presentation about inBloom and DOE provided a FAQ here. Unfortunately, inBloom and the Gates Foundation refused our invitation to attend.

Some of the disturbing revelations from Adina: The city and state have already shared confidential student data with inBloom. They don't know how much they will have to pay for inBloom's "services" starting in 2015. If there is a data breach from inBloom (as many people believe is nearly inevitable) the state will be legally and financially liable, since the Gates Foundation has insulated itself and inBloom from responsibility.

If this highly sensitive information leaks out, it could lead to class action suits against the state for many millions of dollars. Just yesterday, it was reported that LivingSocial suffered a massive breach from a data cloud. Living Social is partially owned by Amazon, which will host the inBloom data cloud. Why is NY State -- the only inBloom participant currently committed to sharing student data from throughout the state -- insisting on gambling with millions of children's privacy and security along with all these financial risks? I am left wondering, even more than before.

Here are some newsclips that capture the intense anger expressed by many parents: Village Voice: NYC Parents Grill Department of Education Over Private Student Data Cloud ; EdSurge: NYC Parents Raise Questions About InBloom; The Indypendent: How Murdoch, Bill Gates and Big Corporations Are Data Mining Our Schools; WINS radio/CBS: Parents Irate Over NYC DOE Plan To Give Student Data To Nonprofit Organization ; Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Parents eye city plan to give individual student records to private biz

Below is the video of Part II of the evening, with passionate statements and questions from the audience. Video of Part I starts with some parent outbursts, followed by introductory remarks from Margaret Kelley of the Brooklyn Borough President's office and Stephen Boese of the Learning Disabilities Association, and Adina's presentation and mine. It is still on the Livestream site, but will be posted here soon.

I have also sent follow-up questions to Adina and I will post her answers when I receive them. Thank you to all the co-sponsoring organizations and individuals, those you who came and Brooklyn BP Markowitz for hosting. Now please contact your legislators and urge them to support the Student Privacy bill!
May 27: Comptroller John Lui's letter to the Commissioner and Regents about inBloom
Liu asked New York State Education Commissioner John King to halt the sharing of personally identifiable student data with inBloom.
May 22: City Council Members Brewer, Jackson & Lander introduce resolution to protect student privacy
May 21: Western New York state parents enraged against standardized testing and sharing of student's private data:
Parents in Western NYS outraged about testing and confidential data sharing; with news video link --see at right. May 18: Video of Mayoral forum, moderated by Diane Ravitch; and will Bill Thompson ask Merryl Tisch to stop the sharing of students' personal data with inBloom?

Beginning of May 11 post, As even more states withdraw from inBloom, NY remains, and all parents should remain vigilant!
Yesterday we learned from the twitter feed of the invaluable Reuters investigative reporter Stephanie Simon that "there are no plans" for Delaware, Georgia or Kentucky to share their confidential, personally identifiable student data with the Gates-funded corporation called inBloom Inc. Moreover, Bob Swiggum, Chief Information Officer at the Georgia Department of Education has said that the furor over student privacy makes states wary of this insecure database: "I don't know how inBloom will survive this."

So, let's make a quick review of where the states and districts now stand that inBloom still claims as "partners":

*John White, the Louisiana State Superintendent announced a few weeks ago he was pulling all student data out of the inBloom cloud because of protests and privacy concerns of parents.

*Georgia, Delaware and Kentucky, all three states listed on the inBloom website as "Phase II" states, due to start piloting the system in 2013, have now said that they too are not planning to participate.

*A high-ranking Massachusetts education official recently wrote that they reconsidering their plan to share the data from their one "pilot" district, Everett, until they reassess "the security risks."

*Another pilot district, Guilford NC, has said that "the pilot program was still very much in the conceptual stage and that GCS had not even seen as much of a product demonstration at this early point in the process.”

*Officials from Jefferson County in Colorado have told parents that though they still intend to go through with this risky plan, "we have not shared any data at this point. The sharing of data would occur about a year from now....approximately January-March of 2014 (in that time frame).”

*Illinois officials have revealed that Unit 5 in Normal is not sharing its data with inBloom, though District 87 in Bloomington is still apparently participating.

So now it appears that the only current participants in the inBloom cloud that admit to sharing data at this point appear to be New York state, with its 2.7 million public school students, and (perhaps) Bloomington, Illinois, a town with a total enrollment of 5,414 students. [If anyone knows parents in either Bloomington or Normal, please let me know. Illinois is the only inBloom state where there is not yet an active contingent of parents protesting their state's involvement.]
Click to the original post for the rest of the original post

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

UFT Does Have New Contract: It's Danielson and VAM-Based Evaluations


There has been much discussion of how New York City teachers, under representation by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), have not had a new contract in the nearly four years since 2009, that is, not since outgoing president Randi Weingarten installed Micheal Mulgrew as her replacement, ratified by the UFT executive board. (How interesting it would be to see what a roll call vote would have looked like. Did the New Action members dissent from Weingarten's hand-picked choice?) The no contract angle even made a front page notice in the Chief, in the context of Mulgrew's getting re-elected in spite of producing no contract during his tenure.

Yet, teachers need to keep in mind that we do have a new contract. It exists in the extra-contractual give-backs that the UFT under Unity/Mulgrew's leadership.
Along with these points, we must note: it is a mistake to slip into the dichotomy of saying that Mulgrew is strong whereas Weingarten was weaker for us. When we look at the severity of the give-backs, we must ask, on what grounds are people asserting that Mulgrew better?

Weingarten set the cast for the current era UFT. She perennially said that new times called for teachers to concede and for unions to collaborate. She has always couched this position in language saying that teachers have to find ways to work together and so on. So, Mulgrew has followed in this position. He has only avoided clearly enunciating the collaborationist position. Whereas Weingarten would wrap her surrenders in statements calling for professionalism and cooperation, Mulgrew just concedes, without the rationale. The buzz-cut hairdo and portly physique has conned us to ignore that he has made giant concessions out-side of proper contractual procedure.

Let's look at the record, at the points by which Mulgrew has created a new contract. It must be noted that none of these items was ever presented to the membership for a ratification vote. These are priority matters to overturn, to protect our working conditions.

Teaching in New York has experienced a sea change in recent years. Unannounced observations are routine. Informal observations are treated with the weight of formal observations. Practices that would have been rejected out of hand in the past are routinely tolerated, with no systematic UFT fact-finding and push-back. Teams of network observers enter and disrupt classrooms with intrusive poking in and interrupting teacher-student interaction with questions.

As I've argued elsewhere at greater length, the union promoted this back in 2011, promoting this as helpful to teachers. Yet, as practiced in New York City, this is a nit-picking tool that can assail any but the super-human, hyper-organized teacher. In use, expect it to be used in a subjective manner, with sympathetic supervisors being fairer and biased principals to separate their friends from the pariahs. It will be rolled out officially in fall, 2013, a contract-quality change in our evaluative process, but it never faced a membership-wide discussion or vote.

It has been roundly documented: value added modeling is junk science. (For example, see here and here; test results correlate with school district poverty indices.) Again, supervisor bias can creep in. The low-totem pole teacher could get the challenging assignment; the favored teacher could get the easier classes. Last fall, the MORE caucus campaigned for a membership vote on the evaluation process. The UFT leadership (Unity) resolutely squashed the motions for a membership vote.
[UPDATE: This May 27 post at NYC Educator shows that already principals are using VAM against teachers, in one known instance, to deny tenure.]

Arguably tangential to a contract-quality job concession, but extremely influential upon teachers' working conditions, in a detrimental way, has been the Race to the Top. It has triggered many of the evaluative changes:
* Mulgrew conceded to Race to the Top. He joined in with New York City and State to endorse the state's application for Race to the Top. The stipulations of RTTT have brought forth increased numbers of school closures, an expanded number of charter schools, and test-based teacher-evaluation systems. Yet, the California Teachers Association has denounced it as hurting students; and at least 80 Ohio districts have rejected it, recognizing that the administrative costs out-weigh the benefits.

There is so much that Mulgrew has given away between 2009 and now. Strategically, in coming contract negotiations, this year or next, it will be very difficult for the union to reverse the practices. The city will be unlikely to give back on colossal encroachments it has made in the recent past.

Let's not kid ourselves. This is a terrible we find ourselves in: a de facto new contract, reached outside of proper protocols of what should happen in a union workplace. This is backroom deal-making with no membership vote. This must be challenged.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Tale of Two New York Teacher Unions and the Significance of Mulgrew/UFT's Ignoring of NYSUT's 6/8 Rally

The city union and the state union, the tale of two New York teachers' unions.

When we look at the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT, the state federation of teachers' unions) and the United Federation of Teachers (the union of New York City teachers) we see very different unions.

Centerpiece graphic from NYSUT's website.
The state union is holding a rally on Saturday, June 8 in Albany, at Empire State Plaza, which symbolically abuts both the NYSED building and the New York State Legislature, touching on many specific issues that address patterns of the worsening conditions that teachers are facing. (Special resources page for rally with leaflets and social media links such as Facebook and Twitter.) Furthermore, the timing will be important --we anticipate that one week prior, at or around June 1, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Education Commissioner John King will impose a teacher evaluation system on New York City teachers.
Of course, we can, and should, point out that the leadership of this same state federation have appeared with state officials, collaborating with some of the policies that teachers are chafing under --for example, see the cooperation with the New York State Race to the Top application. Obviously, if you support the wrong-headed policies, working conditions will deteriorate and learning conditions will deteriorate. (He signed onto not just RTTT but also its controversial components such as evaluations based on students' test scores; and he was aware of other parts that likewise could portent trouble. See this 2011 interview at Education Next.) And we would be greatly remiss if we did not recall that NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi performed the misdeed of sending a letter warning (or threatening?) teachers that followed their conscience and were active in opposing cooperation with the high-stakes tests. (See my post a month ago, "NYSUT's Iannuzzi as Discipliner, Warns Teachers on Opt-Out Advocacy; Ignores Great Anxiety Tests Can Create.")

The out-of-New York City teachers union locals are making a lot of the critiques that MORE and its allied bloggers have been making on their sites. (Find your hard copy, inserted in the latest NY Teacher or go to NYSUT's site.) True, the next step, the identification of national and state politicians, Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, Andrew Cuomo, John King, is missing but, the critiques are there, nearly reaching that point. It is instructive to note that the kind of searing critique that arises from statements published on the NYSUT site and in the NYSUT paper are far beyond the limited criticisms that appear on the UFT site and paper.

Nonetheless, the state level union is waking up. OK, so there's no mea culpa, acknowledging the mistakes of collaboration that engendered this present crisis across the state, we applaud the state union for the way that it is focusing on the worsening conditions. Maybe it was the booing at President Iannuzzi by some of the troops at the state's Representatives Assembly a few weeks back that woke up NYSUT's leadership. And yes, the rhetoric of NYSUT's literature and the statements it is printing in its newspaper could be viewed as a preventive co-optation of the percolating of radical dissidence across New York State.

We must fault Michael Mulgrew and the United Federation of Teachers for its silence/black-out of the June 8 Albany rally. (Nowhere to be found on the UFT site, not even on its calendar for June.) Moreover, the UFT's June 12 rally has been poorly publicized as of yet. At the June 12 rally we can expect simplistic signs, leaflets that are not text-rich, but whining, short soundbytes; and also, look for noise-makers which will drown out the potential for rank and file chants. Additionally, the contract rally is one which does not at all replicate the issues that the Albany rally raises. Instead, look for criticisms of Bloomberg that do not engage in the holistic analysis that the NYSUT literature has. By having an all unions contracts rally, a specific analysis of the ruinous education policies will get lost.

NYSUT's rally includes important focus on the terrible patterns. Now, don't get me wrong. The NYSUT literature is incomplete-- it stops short of the properly far reaching connection-making analysis that we would see in Chicago Teachers Union or Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE Caucus-UFT). But the fact remains that this is more of what we would like than the UFT says.

NYSUT (SORT OF) CHANNELING MORE AND CORE? Onto the close reading of the NYSUT literature. Exhibit A, NYSUT's general community oriented flyer. It criticizes the tests for crowding out quality instruction. Parts of it parallel the kinds of critiques that the UFT's dissident MORE caucus has been making. Granted, it does echo American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten's call for a moratorium on the high-stakes use of the high-stakes tests until the problems can be worked out. Preferable would be an out-right rejection. Yet, it is worth noting that Weingarten's limited critique is still far beyond anything Mulgrew has called for. Note that he has made no statement echoing her moratorium call. Again, the UFT's ignoring of the NYSUT rally speaks volumes. For Mulgrew to give attention to the NYSUT rally and its literature would inherently concede the legitimacy of the MORE caucus' critiques, as well as the points that MORE activists such as Julie Cavanagh and Brian Jones have been making since before the formation of MORE.
From the flyer:
End the over-reliance on expensive corporate-developed tests!
* Rethink the use of high stakes assessments and the negative impact on students and entire school community. Call for a moratorium on high stakes consequences for testing until the state can get it right!
* These tests put too much stress on students and reduce real learning time.
* Sensible and meaningful assessments are needed that align with instruction and accurately measure student progress.
Recall how MORE has been making parallel calls for a more holistic, comprehensive curriculum, as the Chicago Teachers Union (under the leadership of the CORE caucus) has made, in contrast to the UFT's comparative reticence on the excessive test prep focus on English Language Arts (ELA) and math to the exclusion of other subjects? Well, the next topical demand on the flyer has parts from MORE's mission statement or election platform:
Demand fair and equitable funding of our schools!
* Restore the programs that are being eliminated across the state and which research shows improve academic performance, especially in communities in need, including pre-kindergarten programs, pre- and after-school programs, art, music, foreign languages, advanced placement, etc.
Remember mayoral control? Mulgrew and the Unity-controlled UFT brazenly called for the extension of it under slight modifications. With the prospect of Christine Quinn as mayor can we really afford to gamble on more mayoral control?
What is the NYSUT position? Note how the flyer pitches to communities' desires for community input (dare I say community control?) and democratic yearnings.
Progressive unionists must say clearly that the institution of mayoral control as implemented in urban cities with majority minority populations is the exercise of a separate but equal standard.
Progressives that assert to support democracy and oppose racism should support the complete elimination of mayoral control and the complete restoration of elected school-boards. There is the grandest of double standards whereby public discourse points to instances of corruption in the old Board of Education, yet turns a blind eye to how corruption can and does happen in white, more affluent communities. Witness the suspected municipal corruption that engendered a Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) lockdown Wednesday of Ramapo, Rockland County, New York Town Hall offices. It was no man gone wild, no threat of terrorism; no, it was the securing of records that could implicate people in acts of political corruption, with 40 (!) FBI agents wheeling out documents. See the media buzz the FBI raid has raised.
Restore local control of our public schools! Fix the tax cap!
* We need to restore our democratic principle of majority rule and local control in educational decision-making.
* Our parents, teachers and local communities know better than Albany does
Goodness gracious, democratic principle of majority rule and local control, --shudders!-- what wild radical ideas! What would Mulgrew, Mendel or Barr say???
Finally, we have demands that reach beyond the school teachers, to immigrant communities and to health care workers. Wow! More radical social justice talk! What would Mulgrew, Mendel or Barr say???
Invest in public higher education!
* Make higher education available and affordable for all students!
* Pass the DREAM Act; renew the opportunity for all students to pursue higher education!
* Save SUNY Downstate! New York State public teaching hospitals provide quality community care and avenues for low-income students to become doctors and other health care professionals.
Exhibit B: NYSUT's more simply worded flyer. It has a reduced version of the above discussed flyer. With this added part: slogan against corporate control of education. OK, so it doesn't mention Pearson, but this isn't Uncle Mike's UFT.
* Against corporate control of public education!
Next, we have the latest editions of NYSUT's newspaper, NYSUT United and the UFT's New York Teacher to compare and contrast.
NYSUT United UFT and New York Teacher
Common Core implicit, critical mention apologies to the CCSS, the message: just let us get it right next time
High-stakes tests tests causing near anguish weaker commentary
Group's stance as early as 2011, NYSUT challenged the new evaluation system in court endorse VAM/ test-based evaluations, then gripe over the results
RallyJune 8, dealing with wider range of issues, reaching to the wider community; major push; literature already released, latest issue of paper has stories emphasizing issues attending to in rally promo leafletssilence on June 8 rally, diversionary June 12 rally*, narrower, dealing with a contract-oriented focus; weaker promotion so far --watch for bland, top-heavy announcements
*It is valid to have a contract rally, but the timing is conveniently distracting from the June 8 rally. Anyway, as The Chief reported in its latest issue this week, contract arbitration is expected to drag into the summer. And Mulgrew and company are essentially on record as saying that they will not seek a new contract until Bloomberg is out of office.

NYSUT United's May issue includes an article giving the overall rationale for the rally; an article with various (non-NYC) NYSUT local leaders speaking critically of the tests and for the students, "At testing forums, educators stand up for their students," in which teachers speak up to Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and referencing the Common Cause in a critical manner. Also, note the tone of this language:
"We torture our students with assessments that do not take into account learning styles," said Malone FT's Angela Spahr. "It's a free, appropriate public education we're supposed to be providing. This isn't appropriate."
By contrast, the UFT paper's editors and or writers made sure to couch any criticisms of the Common Core with praising comments. NYSUT printed a pitch by the Averill Park Teachers' Association president for the rally that skewered Pearson, inBloom, high-stakes tests, points we rarely see made in the UFT paper:
TOP TEN reasons to March on Albany in the Rally for Public Education:
10. You have realized public education is being hi-jacked by for profit organizations.
9. You are tired of reading about how ineffective you are at your own profession by people who know nothing about education.
8. You believe high stakes testing is out of control in NY.
7. You believe you have not had enough time to learn the Common Core yourself, let alone have your students tested on it!
6. You believe your students’ personal information, including their state assessment results and their IEPs and other personal data should be kept confidential.
5. You believe your effectiveness rating should be kept confidential, and don’t want a link on the district web page to this information or directions given to get this information.
4. You believe that NYS should report to the public the amount of tax payer money spent on developing, administering, grading and reviewing state assessments.
3. The word PEARSON makes your skin crawl.
2. You work in Averill Park (Insert your own school district.) and have lost about a quarter of your faculty due to unfair state budget cuts!
1. You are a caring professional who wants the BEST public education for your own students, children, and grandchildren and you know this isn't it!
NYSUT has also prominently reprinted an impassioned poem by a teacher worn-out by the test-prep focused routine that teaching has become. See Samantha Kucerak's poem, "I am a teacher, and I am tired," reprinted from the NYSUT website, on the side-bar at the right. While she writes from Homer, New York, she speaks for what thousands of New York City teachers are feeling.
In closing, the June 8 rally is an opportunity for progressive New York City teacher activists to make common cause with and to meet teachers from AFT locals across the state that are kindred spirits. Would Michael Mulgrew and his allied masters of ossified, bureaucratic unionism was to expose UFT rank and filers to the sort of leaflets, slogans and conversations that are closer to those expressed by MORE activists or their favorite national columnists, Diane Ravitch, Valerie Strauss or Susan Ohanian? (Not to mention the potential of meeting members of parent-teacher alliances from Long Island or Western New York that have been active in building test opt-out movements.) Of course not.
Let's defy Mulgrew's cynical move to ignore the June 8 Albany rally of our upstate and Long Island brothers and sisters.
Let's rally at Albany, the source of so much our working condition woes, from the state's Race to the Top application to the evaluation system that Cuomo will impose on New York City teachers just a week before.

Seattle Teachers Win Campaign Against Standardized MAP Test

Seattle Teachers Win Campaign Against Standardized MAP Test
May 15, 2013, from Democracy Now:

Following months of protest, high schools in Seattle, Washington, will no longer have to issue standardized reading and math tests. Superintendent José Banda said the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, test is now optional for high schools, but those refusing the test must find another way to gauge student performance. In January, teachers at Garfield High School began a boycott of the test, saying it was wasteful and being used unfairly to assess their performance. The boycott spread to other schools, with hundreds of teachers, students and parents participating.

Seattle Test Boycott Victory: One Step in the Struggle for Quality Education Jesse Hagopian, May 15, 2013, from Common Dreams:

“High schools may opt out of MAP in 2013-14."

This message was sent in an all-district communication blast, sent at 2:06 PM on Monday May 13th by Seattle Public School Superintendent Jose Banda, and led to spontaneous end of the day celebrations of teachers and students around Garfield High School. Students fist-bumping teachers. Teachers high-fiving each other. Spontaneous assemblies in the hallway to congratulate each other.

Until now, the “Measures of Academic Progress” (or MAP) tests were required by the Seattle School District for students in all grades (K-12). A unified group of Garfield teachers announced in January, 2013, they were no longer going to administer the tests to students at Garfield. Other Seattle schools followed suit, and the bravery of these teachers led to a national movement.
What this test told educators: "If we stand for what’s right for students, teachers can win."
Why were Garfield teachers’ celebrating the discontinuing of the MAP for our students next year?
We celebrated because we know hundreds of hours of student time will no longer be wasted on a test the district has now acknowledged is inappropriate for our students.
We celebrated because our English Language Learner students will no longer be humiliated by taking a test that is not culturally or linguistically appropriate and they will now have more hours to spend on the additional instructional time they need.
We celebrated because our special education students will not have to fidget in their chairs when they strike a computer key for the MAP test that never accounted for the student's individualized education plans.
We celebrated because our students will no longer have to stare at the dull glow of a computer screen as they contemplate what possible answers they could give to questions on material that was never part of their state-mandated curriculum.
We celebrated because our evaluations would not be tied to test scores generated by bored students who have no motivation to perform well on possibly their fifth standardized test of the year. Annoyed students have been known to select “C” for each and every answer on that silly test.
We celebrated because we still have jobs we love, and because our superintendent had to back off of his original threat to suspend teachers for ten days without pay for refusing to administer an ill-conceived test (for which the district spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year).
We celebrated because teaches, parents, and students across the country (from Austin to Boston) and around the world (from New Zealand to England) have been inspired by our resistance and are waging their own battles for quality assessment.
Perhaps most of all, we were celebrating because we are building a collaborative spirit of faculty and student solidarity at Garfield. Our students know we have their best interests at heart, and that the power of our commitment to truth can overcome the powerful.
Yet while teachers at five of Seattle’s high schools (Chief Sealth, Center School, Ballard, Ingraham, and Garfield) who joined the MAP boycott are elated by the news of this victory, Superintendent Banda’s e-mail also warned that students in grades Kindergarten through 8th grade will still be required to take the test next year.
The key to the victory over the high school MAP test was solidarity and widespread public support, and we intend to carry these lessons forward to change policy for K-8 schools as well.
Our victory, then, remains incomplete. Faculty at ORCA (K-5) and Thornton Creek Elementary have raised equally powerful arguments about the flawed use of the test at the primary grade levels. Moreover, the Department of Education released results from its 2012 study, showing the MAP to be ineffective at improving reading levels for students in the 4th and 5th grades. Similarly, the Chicago school district recently announced it was suspending the MAP for grades K-5—a clear indication the MAP isn’t serving the youngest pupils either.
For these reasons, Seattle’s high school teachers will continue to join with our K-8 colleagues to call on the Seattle School District terminate its contract with the MAP test company at the end of this school year (when the agreement expires). The key to the victory over the high school MAP test was solidarity and widespread public support, and we intend to carry these lessons forward to change policy for K-8 schools as well.
As we both continue to build the movement to scrap the MAP and celebrate our huge victory, we shouldn't forget the answer to this year's end of semester exam: if we stand for what’s right for students, teachers can win.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

32BJ Reports: Falling Further Apart: Decaying Schools in New York City’s Poorest Neighborhoods

The 32BJ union's reports of New York City School segregation echo reports, posted last year at my previous blog address, on how New York City Schools are some of the most segregated in the nation, the third most segregated, behind Chicago's schools and Dallas' schools, according to the New York Times.
Additionally, the neglect in New York City's failure to replace toxic window fixtures and lighting (the latter having received wide attention as of late) in New York's schools is just the tip of the iceberg of many environmental toxins in the schools.

From the 32BJ union: "Falling Further Apart: Decaying Schools in New York City’s Poorest Neighborhoods"
The New York City public school system, among the most diverse in the nation, has long been a stepping stone to the American Dream. But that stepping stone and the pathway it represents are crumbling. Years of deferred maintenance and inadequate facilities funding have taken a toll on public school buildings, with serious consequences for some of New York City’s most vulnerable populations. Students from the poorest families and neighborhoods attend some of the most neglected school buildings in the city. Because poorer students are generally nonwhite, this disparity in building conditions predominantly affects Black, Latino and other nonwhite schoolchildren. The U.S. Green Building Council has linked the condition of school facilities with academic performance; hence, a disparity in building conditions could contribute to widening the achievement gap.



Download the report here


The New York City public school student population is one of the most diverse in the country. Thousands of students are immigrants or come from immigrant families, seeking the American Dream. But that dream is far from reality – New York City’s public schools are some of the most racially segregated in the country and a greater percentage of students qualify for free or reduced price meals than the national average.


New York City schools are among the most segregated in the nation. More than 60 percent of New York City public school students attend schools where the population is more than 90 percent nonwhite, and more than half of schools have student populations that are at least 90 percent black or Hispanic


Almost 80 percent of New York City public school students qualify for free or reduced price meals – significantly higher than the national average of 48 percent

Download the report here


New York City public schools located in the most impoverished Census tracts, on the average, are in the worst physical condition. As the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced price meals increases, average school facility quality worsens.

Studies have linked the condition of school facilities with academic performance. Because students from the poorest families and neighborhoods attend some of the most neglected school buildings in the City, and poorer students are generally nonwhite, this disparity in building conditions could be contributing to the widening achievement gap.


As the percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced price meals increases, the SchoolStat score decreases. (A SchoolStat is a measure of a school building’s maintenance and cleanliness; SchoolStat scores range from “5=Good” to “1=Poor.”)

Download the report here


Although the U.S. Congress banned polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCBs”) in 1977, many New York City public schools still use light fixtures that contain these toxic compounds, which are known to cause cancer as well as hinder cognitive and neurological development. The City removed these toxic light fixtures from over 160 schools, but schools still awaiting light fixture replacement are poorer and have a greater percentage of nonwhite students than the schools where light fixtures were replaced.

Download the report here

New York City public school facilities and capital budgets have been cut significantly. The City spends a smaller percentage of its total education budget on maintenance and operations than six of the seven largest school districts in the country. New York City reports less than two percent of school buildings to be in “good” condition and the majority to be in only “fair” condition. The City is forced to triage a growing list of building deficiencies while hundreds of schools fail to meet accessibility, environmental, and building code criteria.

The percentage of the City’s education budget dedicated to facilities decreased almost every year during the past nine years. This includes cuts of almost $50 million to budgets for the Custodial Engineers who are responsible for the maintenance and repair of the vast majority of public schools.

A school district’s maintenance and operations (“M&O”) budget includes allocations for custodial and maintenance payroll, energy and utilities, as well as equipment and supplies. New York City’s M&O budgeted spending, as a percentage of its total education spending in fiscal year 2013, was six percent – the second lowest of any of the nation’s seven largest school districts, next to Los Angeles.

Download the report here


Many of the schools with worst BCAS and SchoolStat scores also have dozens of building code violations and most still have PCB-contaminated light fixtures – a stark reality for hundreds of schoolchildren across New York City who lack access to quality school facilities.

Download the report here


The City must invest in public school facilities to protect student safety and improve educational outcomes:

Seek new revenue streams and prioritize school facilities funding. Close tax loopholes that benefit the wealthiest New Yorkers and examine additional revenue options, including charging a fair and appropriate rent from charter schools that are co-located with traditional public schools.

Remove toxic PCBs from schools immediately. They can cause cancer and hinder neurological development, potentially setting back future economic opportunity for thousands of children across the City.

Green school buildings and train staff to operate and maintain buildings more efficiently. The City can achieve much-needed energy savings, while creating a safer and healthier learning environment for our children.

Provide all staff with adequate resources. While the cost of living continues to rise, school workers’ wage levels have been frozen for six years. Workers affected by budget cuts are working harder than ever, even during times of crisis. During Hurricane Sandy, many school maintenance workers spent the night in their schools and others worked longer shifts, assisting displaced families seeking shelter and repairing storm damage.

To ensure excellence in its schools, New York City must exercise fairness in its treatment of the men and women who work in the schools. Earning the wages and benefits they deserve, workers can focus all of their energies on creating and maintaining healthy, safe schools where our children can thrive and learn.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

P.L. Thomas, Citing Common Core, and VAM Evaluations: "A Call for Non-Cooperation: So that Teachers Are Not Foreigners in Their Own Profession"

A Call for Non-Cooperation: So that Teachers Are Not Foreigners in Their Own Profession Posted on May 7, 2013 by plthomasedd
Gandhi’s views on enhancing the vernaculars…so that Indians are “not foreigners in their own land” are directly tied to his opinions on developing communities (for “the poorest of the poor” ) and making community service an integral part of any education. (Ramanathan, 2006, pp. 235-236)
Standing in the middle of the road offers some statistical advantage to avoiding being run over since you aren’t in the prescribed lanes of traffic, but standing in the middle of the road can never assure the safety that refusing to walk into the road to begin with does.

Writing about a call for a moratorium on implementing and testing Common Core State Standards (CCSS) from union leadership, Anthony Cody ends his blog post with three questions:
What do you think? Should we join Randi Weingarten in pushing for one year’s delay in the harsh consequences attached to Common Core assessments? Will this year put the project on sound footing?
These questions about CCSS have been joined by two other calls for compromise and civility—Matthew Di Carlo challenging [at the Shanker blog, May 6, 2013, "About Value-Added And “Junk Science”] charges that value-added methods (VAM) of teacher evaluation are “junk science” and Jennifer Jennings penning an apology to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for protests at his 2013 talk at American Educational Research Association (AERA). [1]

Weingarten, Di Carlo [2], and Jennings share a call for standing in the middle of the road, a quest for ways to compromise, and these all appear reasonable positions. Ultimately, however, moratoriums, compromise, and civility are all concessions to the current education reform movement and the policies at the center of those reforms, specifically CCSS and VAM.

Teachers as Foreigners in Their Own Profession

Briefly, I want to identify how arguments about a CCSS moratorium, implementing VAM properly and cautiously, and the need for civility are concessions that render teachers foreigners in their own profession.

As long as the debate about CCSS and VAM remain how best to implement them, the essential questions remain unasked, and the agenda behind both are assured success. While I want to address the civility argument next, let me note here that calls for CCSS and VAM are inherently civil and derogatory, exposing the myopic concern for the civility of those rejecting Duncan’s discourse and policies.

The implied and stated messages of calls for CCSS and more high-stakes testing include the following: (1) Teachers do not know what to teach, or how, and (2) teachers are unlikely to perform at the needed levels of effort in their profession unless they are held accountable by external and bureaucratic means.

The implied and stated messages of calls for VAM and merit pay include the following: (1) The most urgent problem at the core of educational outcomes is teacher quality, and (2) teachers are unlikely to perform at the needed levels of effort in their profession unless they are held accountable by external and bureaucratic means.

Calls for CCSS and VAM also share another implied and stated message: Failed educational outcomes are the result of in-school deficiencies; in effect, out-of-school factors are irrelevant in the pursuit of education reform.

These messages are factually false and, despite the civility of the language, irrevocably offensive.

Standing in the middle of the road of bureaucratic, accountability-based school reform, then, may decrease the likelihood of being run over, but it concedes the road itself to those who have built it, to those who govern the laws of transportation.

To answer Cody’s second and third questions, then, No. And now to his first.

Civility: Standing in the Middle of the Road of Accountability

The call for civility exposes a foundational problem with the current education reform debate because, for all practical purposes, there is no debate.

Civility, CCSS, and VAM may all have some appeal in theory, but all of them fall apart in reality, in their implementation.

Civility is the last recourse of the powerful, those who can afford to appear civil because they hold all the power.

Through the lens of history, we must recognize that CCSS will become ”what is testing is what is taught,” as all standards movements have shown.

VAM also sits in a long history of the corrosive consequences of stack ranking, merit pay, and competition.

And this brings us back to standing in the middle of someone else’s road.

Education reform and policy have been historically and are currently under the control of political and corporate leadership who are not educators—many of whom did not even attend public schools, many of whom send their own children to schools unlike the environments they promote and implement.

The locus of power in education is catastrophically inverted; thus, we do not need more or different mechanisms for accountability-based education reform, but we do need a new era of non-cooperation.

The goal of non-cooperation must include seeking ways in which to shift the priorities of the locus of power:

* First, the central locus of power in education is the student, situated in her/his home and community.
* Next in importance is the locus of power afforded the teacher in her/his unique classrooms.
* These must then merge for a locus of power generated within the community of the school.
* Finally, the locus of power in this school-based community must radiate outward.

A Call for Non-Cooperation

Non-cooperation, as found in the philosophy and actions of Gandhi, represents another inversion—away from in-school only education reform and toward, as Ramanathan explains, “communal and educational change”:
As is evident, the take on “education” presented here is not the usual one—of teaching and learning in formal contexts of classrooms and institutions—but one that is intended to move us toward becoming collectively open to realizing that very valuable “education” often goes on outside the constraints of classrooms: in ashrams, in madrassas, in extracurricular programs, by local, politically minded youth, all drawing on local vernacular ways of healing rifts. Indeed, “education” in both these institutions is civic and community education that seems to assume Gandhian ideals of “Non-Cooperation” (and nonformal education) and that is aimed at primarily effecting changes in the community, sometimes before addressing issues relevant to formal education. (p. 230)
Non-cooperation, then, moves beyond a call for teacher autonomy; instead, non-cooperation is the act of the autonomy by “people directly involved” (Ramanathan, p. 231):
Not only do they have Gandhi’s larger philosophy of Non-Cooperation against political hegemonies [emphasis added] at their core…, but they also opened up for me a way of understanding both how Gandhianism is situated and how particular dimensions of the identities of participants (Kanno, 2003; Menard-Warwick, 2005; Norton, 2000; Pavlenko & Blackledge, 2004) get laminated. I was able to see how Gandhianism is first collaboratively interpreted in workshops, then applied and translated on the ground in most local of contexts, and then recast and reinterpreted by individuals and groups as they regroup. (Ramanathan, p. 232)
Non-cooperation is a new paradigm that begins with those most directly impacted by the institution (here, education)—parents, students, teachers. In other words, the people most directly impacted ask the foundational questions: Do we need formal education? And if so, what does that include and how should that be implemented?

This is not about seeking compromise at someone else’s table, not about standing still in the middle of someone else’s road.

The purposes of universal public education, then, is refocused in the ways that address the needs of the least among us, as Gandhi envisioned:
[Nonformal education] … will check the progressive decay of our villages and lay the foundation for a juster social order in which there is no unnatural division between the “haves” and the “have nots” and everybody is assured a living wage and the rights to freedom.…It will provide a healthy and a moral basis of relationship between the city and village and will go a long way towards eradicating some of the worst evils of the present social insecurity and poisoned relationship between the classes. (Harijan, 9-10-37, cited in Prasad, 1924…). (qtd. in Ramanathan, p. 236)
Bureaucratic accountability-based reform is ill equipped to address inequity, mismatched with goals of social justice since the paradigm is authoritarian, the locus of power exclusively with the “haves.”

Non-cooperation seeks instead, as Ramanathan explains:
[an orientation] toward viewing education in broader, community-oriented terms to draw out “the best in children,” to build a “healthy and moral” base for both “the city and the village,” to be entirely secular in its orientation (with “no room … for sectional religious training,” and to eventually transform the “homes of the pupils”[)]. (p. 237)
As well, this call for non-cooperation reframes the civility debate, as Gandhi recognized: “We must welcome them to our political platforms [emphasis added] as honoured guests. We must meet them on neutral platforms as comrades” (qtd. in Ramanathan, p. 237). Civility then follows the re-imagining of the locus of power: “Non-Cooperation…emerges as a deeply historicized awareness committed to doing the opposite of repressive, silencing ills. The quiet way in which both projects bridge perceived gulfs are reminiscent of Gandhi’s insistence on responding to tyranny by searching for nonviolent, quiet alternatives that tap the moral instincts of humans” (Ramanathan, p. 238).

Currently, since calls for CCSS, VAM, and civility all work as “repressive,” “silencing,” and “tyranny,” non-cooperation is the only alternative remaining.

The results must be “interpreting all education as ‘civic education’ and on attending to the most basic of human needs—food, clothing, shelter—before addressing any issues related to formal learning” (Ramanathan, pp. 241-242) as direct action refusing to compromise on in-school only education reform that drives arguments for how best to implement CCSS and VAM:
This close attention to “educating oneself,” of figuring out and questioning one’s own default assumptions, has echoes of Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation, and finds interesting articulation in the idea that we each need to “not cooperate” with our default views but attempt to step outside them by “educating ourselves” by learning from others. (Ramanathan, pp. 244)
In the West, specifically in the United States, we are deeply entrenched in our “default views,” most of which are tinted by commitments to competition, authoritarian structures, and the sanctity of the individual. This call, however, is a call to recognize the importance of community and social justice in our national pursuit of democracy.

Arundhati Roy confronts the tensions at the core of why compromise, moratoriums, and civility fail the narrow education debate as well as the broader democracy:
Fascism is about the slow, steady infiltration of all the instruments of state power. It’s about the slow erosion of civil liberties, about unspectacular, day-to-day injustices.…It means keeping an eagle eye on public institutions and demanding accountability. It means putting your ear to the ground and listening to the whispering of the truly powerless. It means giving a forum to the myriad voices from the hundreds of resistance movements across the country that are speaking about real issues….It means fighting displacement and dispossession and the relentless, every violence of abject poverty. (Roy, 2002; qtd. Ramanathan, pp. 246)
Now is the time for non-cooperation, not moratoriums, not compromise, and not civility on other people’s terms.

Now is the time for non-cooperation so that teachers are not foreigners in their own profession and students are not foreigners in their own classrooms.

[1] See also Jeff Bryant["Education Opportunity Network, May 7, 2013, "Why We Need A Moratorium On The High-Stakes Of Common Core Testing".

[2] Of the three calls for moderation, I do not place Di Carlo’s position as essentially equal to those by Weingarten and Jennings. Di Carlo’s nuanced and detailed discussion of VAM contributes a credible position that I find compelling to a point (such as Di Carlo conceding: “Now, I personally am not opposed to using these estimates in evaluations and other personnel policies”); however, Weingarten and Jennings present far more problems and suffer from a much greater degree of lacking credibility.