Sunday, December 8, 2013

Updated: Siding with Parents, Unions Across NY State Blast Common Core, Tests; UFT Should Attend John King's NYC Appearance

UPDATED: *Rank and file teachers chafe under Common Core's scripted lessons, test prep *Buffalo Teachers Federation Blasts Common Core Test Prep *UFT Should Show Same Solidarity and Attend Comm. King's Appearance At Elementary School *How Conditions Will Change Little in the Change from Bloomberg to deBlasio *Change the Stakes Calls for Bronx Cheer vs. King at his NYC tour *Burris: NYSED has lost its moral authority *UFT should support NYSAPE's 4 point action plan *Postscript: Disgraceful Pavlovian math lesson for Kindergarteners

Progressive teacher unionists have sought an alliance with parents. Chicago teachers built alliances with parents over school closings and other issues. In New York City teachers have an important opportunity to build a broad alliance with parents. The New York City appearance of New York State Education Commissioner John King and New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, Wednesday, December 11, 5:00 to 7:00 at P.S. 397, the Spruce Street School, 12 Spruce Street, between Nassau and William Streets, a block from City Hall park, Manhattan, is an important occasion for teachers and parents to stand shoulder to shoulder against Common Core, the associated test prep regimen, inBloom and APPR.
Principal Carol Burris in NSAPE video

At the beginning of November, 22 Unions across New York State backed NYSAPE's position on King's resignation. From Long Island to the North Country, from Western New York to the MidHudson, and from Central New York to the Capital Region. In addition, one of the state's largest teachers' unions, the Buffalo Teachers Federation (in the state's second largest city), has independently called on King to step down. The impetus for King to step down is his obstinate support for New York's continuation of implementation of the Common Core State Standards [more properly called the Common Core national standards or Common Core Gates Standards], constant test-prep, and the 400 data point collection inBloom, a Murdoch-run system for student data collection in a cloud hosted by Amazon.
 (NYSAPE's video on NYSED officials' failure to listen to parents) The New York State Allies for Public Education, whose Steering Committee includes Carol Burris, Chris Cerrone and Leonie Haimson, has a four point plan of action, 1) for King's resignation, 2) for legislators to vote for better Regents, 3) against inBloom and excessive testing, 4) for alerting local school boards that parents do not want their children's information to be stored by inBloom.
[Postscript: Change the Stakes calls for a NYC welcome and a Bronx cheer for Comm. King as he makes his NYC tour Tuesday and Wednesday --details below. They noted that as of Dec. 8 there still is no word on how to address questions for the events
Class Size Matters has an update in anticipation of a Jan. 3 State Supreme Court session on their legal appeal for an injunction on any more children's information being uploaded onto the inBloom cloud.]

 Buffalo's teacher union president Phil Rumore said, in announcing the union's call for his resignation, as reported in the Buffalo News:
By having them take a test that they weren't prepared for, hurt them. His focus on standardized testing is just ruining our kids. It's ruining our kids joy of learning, and the teachers joy of teaching.
The newspaper further reported:
Rumore said teachers across the state are under tremendous pressure to have their students perform on standardized tests. He sited the implementation of teacher and administrator evaluations based on those tests as another reason for the motion.
The News added that the last straw for the BTF was when King walked out on a parent's forum on the Common Core.

Already, mental health professionals are saying that Common Core and its curriculum is detrimental to the emotional well-being of students. See videos of statements by Mary Calamia, LICSW here and Dr. Gary Thompson here. In forum after forum in New York State, students speak of their lost enthusiasm for school, parents speak of confusing curriculum modules, teachers speak of alienation from their profession. Some of the curricular materials are culturally insensitive. The principal of a Mohawk nation elementary school reports that some of the Common Core curricular modules depict native Americans in culturally insensitive ways.

It's Not Just Common Core, How Conditions Might Change Little in the Transition from Bloomberg to deBlasio
 

King, Tisch, sitting impassively, but are they listening?
Beyond the issue of Common Core, King's
corporate-minded education "reform" policies drive a metrics-crazed regimen of myriad imposition of conditions driving teachers' alienation and exhaustion. The quantification and documentation mania that teachers are chafing under seem to come from New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, but really they are dictated by state laws and regulations, all coming from Race to the Top compliance with the Common Core. New York City teachers are not the only ones suffering; and it is critical that teachers remember that their working conditions stem from Albany, not simply from Bloomberg, and so they will continue under de Blasio, unless there is significant popular pressure directed at state education policy-makers.

Read the letter of resignation of Kathleen Knauth, a New York State principal that quit, seeking early retirement, due to the state's policies. The policies driving her to quit stem from APPR and other laws supporting New York's Race to the Top compliance.

View this video of a star teacher that also sought early retirement over the work conditions. Implicitly, the changes he cites stem from New York State's Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR).


Constitutionally and legally, the Common Core is problematic. King likes to tell us that, if anything, Common Core is law. He is skipping over the unprecedented undemocratic fashion in which it was created. The Common Core is a private creation, chartered by private trade associations of governors and of superintendents, and it was sponsored by Bill Gates. bar the federal government from writing curriculum.
Tisch's circular argument in Brian Lehrer's 8/15 radio show
The Common Core is only law in New York State because he and State Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch aggressively pushed for it along with other changes to comply with New York's Race to the Top, which states supported to get federal monies, in the wake of the 2008 Grand Recession. Effectually, the Obama administration is pushing something close to a national curriculum. Multiple federal statutes prohibit the exercise of such authority. As teachers learn in their American education history classes, such authority is the preserve of individual states.

King and other Common Core backers tell us that it is internationally bench-marked and essential for making all students college and career-ready. He is diverting education from education for the sake of being a well-rounded, independent thinker, healthy and creative young person. He cannot point to any nation that edges out fictional literature with a maximum 50 percent figure, that side-lines science and social studies, subordinating those topics to incidental discussion in English classes. He argues for the Common Core math standards, but skips over how the lead math author of the Common Core, Jason Zimba concedes that its level of math preparation would prepare students for a non-competitive community college, lopping off a high school year of math.

The Common Core's English component was written by David Coleman, someone who failed to get a teaching job and his Achieve, Inc. colleague Sue Pimentel, a lawyer by training and a test assessment professional. The math authors (including Zimba, a fellow alum of Coleman) have no kindergarten through 12 teaching experience. The lack of school experience and first hand understanding of young minds and personalities is a parallel to our modern era's replacing of a public voice with private institutions' shaping public policy.

Recent public attention has been given to how King and Tisch spearheaded the education policy setting role in New York State by the privately funded Regents Fellows, who in their founding years were provided $1 million by Tisch herself. Read "Regents Pay a Political Price for Their Free Advisers, Dissenters Warn " by the New York Times. ALEC and too many other shadowy non-governmental organizations are driving public policy. We do not need an education commissioner who actively supports a private group shaping public education policy.

Commissioner King has pressed a 400+ data point program to aggregate all sorts of student data, most of it far from any academic purpose. The security itself is of concern, in light of the recent breach of 15,000 students' records in one Long Island district. Indeed, many school system leaders and school districts are openly calling for withdrawal from the inBloom program, e.g., twenty from Westchester-Putnam alone.

John King does not care for the parents' voice. This summer on PBS he derided Common Core opponents as Tea Partiers. This much is clear from the dozen-plus videos from New York forums on the Common Core: King must go. The United Federation should support New York City Public School Parents' blog's call for people to attend the fora in the different boroughs. The blog gave this NYSED link with information on the dates and locations of the different fora.

The UFT should re-schedule its December 11 Delegate Assembly business for another date and should attend the Wednesday forum at the Spruce Street School at Spruce and Nassau Streets, by the Brooklyn Bridge, supporting parents and teachers wishing to express the daily, lived experience of the Common Core and other misguided New York State education policies. Then again, this would be an about face, as the NYS PTA and the UFT-dominated NYSUT this fall uploaded a puff piece for parents promoting the Common Core, sounding all the stock buzzwords to rally the flock to Common Core compliance. (Their shilling for the Core is not surprising, as the NYSUT's national parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers and the national PTA received $5.4 million and $500,000 respectively from the Gates Foundation, which initiated the Common Core.)
Too bad, because the UFT members in an online poll do not like Common Core's curriculum at all. The poll is buried deep in the UFT website, at pages such as this one. The numbers are actually a little worse for CCSS from when I captured the poll image.

Further, it should encourage state legislators, Assembly Education Committee members listed here, to pledge to vote for Regents that oppose King's policies.

King and Tisch's NYC tour of their faith-based Common Core (backed into a corner, King says that he has faith in the Common Core).

(Still no details on Queens or Staten Island meetings. Do King and Tisch consider them pesky suburbanites?)

Tuesday, December 10 in Brooklyn    

Medgar Evers College
1650 Bedford Avenue (map here)
6:30-8:30 PM

Tuesday, December 10 in The Bronx

Evander Childs Campus
800 East Gun Hill Road (map here
6:00-8:00 PM

Wednesday, December 11 in Manhattan

Spruce Street School
12 Spruce Street (map here)
5:00-7:00 PM

[Postscript: Controversial Kindergarten math video shared by Chris Cerrone:
What is even more troubleing is that this robotic lesson is actually on the New York State Education Department engageny.org website as a Common Core math module ideal. Parents, do you want your children to be educated like trained animals? Teachers, do you want this to be the vision of model teaching? I hardly think that this flies for progressive teaching at the Montessori School of the King's children.]