MORE has sent the following letter of solidarity along with a monetary donation to support the Dyett hunger strikers in Chicago.

Please post black and white pictures to twitter under the hashtag #FightForDyett to show your solidarity (or email to more@morecaucusnyc.org and we can tweet for you) – below see a few of the MORE members who have done so…

August 28, 2015

The Movement of Rank and File Educators, of the United Federation of Teachers, stand in solidarity with the Dyett Hunger Strikers: Jitu Brown, Prudence Brown, Anna Jones, Jeanette Taylor-Ramaan, Monique Redeaux-Smith, Aisha Wade-Bey, Nelson Soza, Cathy Dale, Robert Jones, Irene Robinson, April Stogner, Marc Kaplan and their entire community. Dyett is all of us.

We support the notion that the Dyett school community has a vision and solutions to preserving their public schools. We support the highest moral and ethical stand of putting their basic needs at the same place as their need for democratic decision making. The action of denying themselves basic sustenance to support life is the height to which they’ve reached in protecting their right to public schools their children deserve.

As we send our solidarity, we call on those elected to represent their constituents to stand with their community when the only thing they are demanding is their school.

Representative steering members of the MORE caucus,

John Antush, Lauren Cohen, Peter Lamphere August Leppelmeier, Jia Lee, Dan Lupkin, Megan Moskop, Mike Shirtzer, Kit Wainer

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The election results are in! Congratulations to everyone – we have a great team of activists!

But remember it’s crucial that every member of MORE, whether on the Steering Committee or not, continue the ongoing work to build our caucus.

Following are the 9 new Members of the Steering Committee.

In solidarity,
Gloria for Outgoing Steering

 

John Antush

John Antush
This school year let’s build MORE through the UFT elections. By identifying people to run for positions in the union, producing campaign lit, petitioning with others, and conducting outreach we can involve co-workers, recruit members, develop leaders, and promote MORE’s agenda: contract enforcement, pro-tenure, supporting parents’ right to opt out of tests, hiring more teachers of color, opposing unfair evaluations, creating a participatory democratic network of rank and file UFTers across the city, etc.. On Steering I will work with members in different districts and regions to build regional MORE clubs or chapters to hold meetings; conduct outreach to new schools; offer mutual support; and take actions. I will also work to involve members in collectively generating election materials and the “MORE Newsletter.” I’ve taught high school for 14 years and currently work at CIty-As-School. I’m a founding member of MORE and one of the downtown MORE chapter organizers.

 

Lauren CohenLauren Cohen
I am a 5th grade ICT teacher at P.S. 321 Brooklyn. As chapter leader of a large elementary school in politically-active District 15, my organizing focus will be folding that work into MORE, to increase caucus membership and prepare for the UFT election.  The work in my district has often focused on big-picture issues such as testing and evaluations, but it is equally important to develop MORE as a resource for UFT members to receive answers, assistance, and advocacy on school-based issues. I will use Nationbuilder to communicate more regularly with school workers in my district and will help create spaces –both real and virtual- for them to raise their concerns and seek support.

I enjoy public speaking and will continue to build MORE’s presence at Delegate Assemblies, rallies, and in the media. MORE’s members can depend on me to represent the caucus fearlessly in all venues. I’ve served on two prior Steering Committees and therefore bring a strong understanding of our organizational norms and goals.

Peter LampherePeter Lamphere
I teach math and robotics at Gregorio Luperón HS in Manhattan. During four UFT elections since 2004, I have learned the need to prioritize building a strong base and organization through our campaign.

This year, I will focus on developing literature, fundraising and outreach plans, including a strong fall conference and membership drive.  Also, I will continue to develop MORE’s organizing committee and the database of thousands of contacts we maintain, and contribute to local organizing in Washington Heights.

I have a long record as a MORE/UFT activist, Chapter Leader and Delegate. But more important is my commitment to MORE’s social justice unionism model. This means that we can’t win against the deformers without broader support from families, communities and working people generally.  We need not only parent and community support of our demands but also to support wider class demands against budget cuts, for #BlackLivesMatter, and so on.

Jia LeeJia Lee has been a Special Education Teacher in New York City public schools since 2001. She taught in a District 75 high school for four years before teaching in elementary schools. For the last seven years, she has served as chapter leader and is involved in local organizing as a way of empowering school communities. She served on the first MORE steering committee and sits on the most recent term. She works alongside other MOREistas and Change the Stakes, a grassroots coalition of parents, teachers and community members who are concerned with the destructive use of high stakes standardized testing and to bring awareness to the inextricable link between teachers’ working conditions and students’ learning conditions.

 

 

August Leppelmeier

August Leppelmeier
I am social studies teacher and have been active in MORE since its beginning, contributing to the original planning committee. I aim to strengthen the caucus in the union’s challenging period by seeking to advocate for all of the teachers, including the most vulnerable, such as the pre-tenured teachers and the ATRs. In addition, I believe that we also need to advocate for the students, who also can be vulnerable.

 

 

 

Dan LupkinDan Lupkin
I have been a special education teacher in a variety of schools and settings across NYC since 2005, and am currently the Technology Coordinator and UFT Chapter Leader at PS 58, a prek-5 school in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. I am eager to use the 2016 UFT elections as a springboard to spread awareness of MORE, and of our alternate vision for how our union ought to run. I also plan to continue organizing around high stakes testing, uniting teachers with parents across the city and the country to fight the privatization of public education. I am deeply committed to both the social justice and bread-and-butter unionism aspects of MORE, and seek a balanced, pragmatic approach to fusing these currents into a coherent and effective set of strategies. 

Megan MoskopMegan Moskop
Since I jumped into MORE organizing two years ago, I’ve grown as an event-planner, facilitator, speaker, strategist, and most importantly, as an organizer. Grounded in lessons learned from all of you, and from my school community, I’m motivated to keep helping our caucus grow, whether that means planning a press conference, as I did during our “Vote No” contract campaign, or helping plan local campaigns at our uptown educator support meetings.This year, I’ll focus on using our election campaign to build our membership and to sharpen and spread our movement’s vision for better schools through a better UFT.

I’ve been teaching special education at MS 324 in Washington Heights for 6 years, and this year I’ve stepped back from other leadership roles to dedicate time to our work. I am deeply committed to building and bringing more teachers into our community of honest engagement, shared learning, love and support.

Mike Schirtzer

Michael Schirtzer
I’m so excited to run for steering. MORE must defend public schools and advocate for our members. I will work hard to increase the membership in my school and get out the vote for MORE. As Delegate I will help write/raise resolutions and recruit at DAs. I will organize additional chapter leader/delegate workshops. We will hold meetings for teachers that need help in south Brooklyn and build that network. I will be the point person to steering for the high school committee to win UFT executive board seats, create a campaign, and add MORE members from those schools. I will work with union members statewide to opt-out and fight anti-public education policies in my role as VP of ST caucus. Unions are critical in ending social, economic, and racial injustice. Together we can transform and take back our union.

I am a HS teacher for 8 years and currently teach Social Studies at Leon Goldstein HS in Brooklyn where I am also the UFT Delegate.

Kit Wainer

Kit Wainer
I have been a teacher for 27 years and the Chapter Leader of Leon M. Goldstein High School for 17 years. For the past two years I have been working on local organizing, focusing on pulling together a group of MORE supporters in southern Brooklyn to discuss how they can handle issues in their schools. I have served two terms on the MORE steering committee. My plan is to continue working on southern Brooklyn local organizing and also to work on our election campaign. As someone who has played a substantial role in each of the last four UFT elections I believe I have a lot of specific knowledge of how to run election campaigns which I plan to contribute this coming year. I also want to work with some of the younger MORE members to train them in some of the nuts and bolts of petitioning and literature distribution so that they can take over the process in the future. I have also been the point person in the establishment of our non-profit corporation and hope to be able to wrap that up sometime in the fall of 2015.

E4E and Democracy

August 17, 2015 — Leave a comment

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By Mike Schirtzer

UFT Delegate/Teacher Leon M. Goldstein High School-Brooklyn

 

E4E is an organization that seeks to recruit young educators entering the school system here in New York City. Many of these teachers are attracted to the chance to meet other teachers, many of whom may be new the city as well, and a message that your voice counts. In reality it is a privately funded group that works against the best interests of our public school and educators that work in community schools. For  the most part these teachers are well intentioned, but experienced educators  have to challenge their membership in a group that works against, not for, NYC’s schools.

 

One E4E teacher I know told me how seniority rights need to change. He told me what matters most is “teachers’ performance based on test scores and how many absences they had”. We know that seniority rights are there to protect workers. Experience matters and we should never devalue that, especially when working in NYC where our schools have a variety of differences. The teachers from E4E need to be aware that our workforce is predominately women, seniority and tenure protect women’s right by ensuring they are not unfairly targeted because they take (unpaid) childcare leave or are the primary caregivers. We also need to take into account how absences may be because of childcare issues and one should not be penalized for it. It is important to recognize that age discrimination is occurring all throughout this country, companies are hiring cheaper workers who can work longer hours. Our seniority and tenure rights protect workers’ rights.

 

On the matter of rating teachers based on tests scores or the convoluted “Value Added Measures”  (VAM), all teachers and groups they may belong to need to be aware that there is not any evidence this is a fair scientific method for evaluating us. The E4E teacher told me “as a special education teacher he values test scores and can learn about the progress of his students. It should be one of multiple measures, but an important measure”. These thoughts seem to reflect the narrative that have been delivered by politicians and corporate-reformers nationwide, but again we who are in the classroom for a long time must challenge this flawed message. We know some students do not perform well on tests, because they only measure a narrow spectrum of content knowledge, if they measure anything at all. Standardized tests or VAM can not measure musical, artistic, or other creative talents. There is conclusive research from the American Statistical Association stating that VAM is an invalid form of evaluation. The other startling fact is that children from wealthy families do better on standardized exams. The direct correlation between one’s economic background and their results on these tests should never be ignored. Simply stated, poverty matters and if an educator chooses to teach in a school where there is not economic privilege, they should not be unfairly evaluated by tests.

 

I explained to the member of E4E that best teaching practices means having experienced administrators who are recognized as expert instructors  working with teachers. These administrators stress collaboration among staff members and work with newer teachers to support the development of their pedagogy. Current evaluation schemes have a negative connotation, as if the administrator or peer is there to grade you, whereas collaboration is about making everyone better for the sake of the students.

 

My fellow teacher from E4E met with me to discuss the topic of democracy in the UFT. I explained to him the view we have in MORE is it’s our responsibility to democratize our chapters. We emphasize chapters that are inclusive, work together, organize with the community, and work as a collective, because there is strength in numbers. MORE-UFT chapters have open chapter leader and delegate elections, active UFT representatives on School Leadership Teams (SLT) and PTAs, and a diverse group of educators on a consultation team that meets with the principal monthly. There has to be regular chapter meetings where member’s input is welcome and encouraged. We believe that working with parents, students, and community members is integral to ensuring our schools serve the needs of all our children. If chapters have all these elements then the UFT is democratic.

 

It is important that young educators come in to a school community and have conversations with veteran educators who will have valuable insights. You may have one position based on your experience in college or what you get from the media, but those that have been working with our children for a long time have different views that are based on empirical research. We work with our children each and every day for years. We see the impact of poverty, racism, child abuse, guns, drugs, and other injustices that may not fit into the “bad teacher” or “bad schools narrative”. Experienced teachers base their views on what works and what does not in their classrooms, conversations we have with educators in the chapter and around the city. Having discussions with members in your building and in nearby schools is extremely important in growing as an educator and democratizing our schools.

 
The E4E member reiterated to me that his voice needed to be heard. I told him we, in MORE-UFT, believe we do not speak for ourselves; we listen to each other at chapter meetings; we listen to our students; we build relationships with parents and the communities we serve. We organize together to make positive change. Since he sought me out to discuss democracy in our union, I think it was important for him to realize that the best way for his voice to matter was to start by listening to others in his chapter. He, like every E4E member, signs a declaration in order to become a member, this is not democratic at all. These few teachers who declare their loyalty to this organization and lobby politicians on their behalf, do not represent the many voices in our school communities. E4E may seem like a place where his voice is heard and he can “influence policy makers” as he said, but it is more important that we, as teachers, listen to the major stakeholders in our school, our children, their parents, the communities we are a part of, and experienced educators who have dedicated their lives to making their school community a better place.

Please see the attached fact sheet on E4E for more info and the links below

E4E-_An_Educator_Fact_Sheet-3

https://raginghorse.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/educator-4-excellence-and-the-strings-they-pull/

http://theassailedteacher.com/2013/02/19/the-shill-game-e4e/

http://chaz11.blogspot.com/2013/02/where-did-educators-4-excellence-get.html

http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com/2015/02/beware-of-e4e-geeks-bearing-gifts-for.html?m=1

 

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For Immediate Release

August 14, 2015

 

MORE-UFT, a rank-and-file caucus within the NYC teachers union, stands with parents of Change the Stakes, NYCOPTOUT and NYCpublic in response to New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia’s statement indicating that schools may be subject to sanction and have federal Title I funding withheld for having high percentage of opt outs. These funds are intended to support the neediest students in the state. The tests have sparked controversy, both in regards to the content, which many parents and educators consider poorly designed and developmentally inappropriate, and to the high stakes attached to them, in particular, their unreliable use in the teacher evaluation system, a practice that is widely criticized and currently under review in an Albany court.

Charmaine Dixon, parent of a soon to be fourth grader at P.S. 203 in District 22, Brooklyn, states, “We opt out for justice. High stakes testing has only had horrible consequences for schools with disproportionate number of Black and Latino students. Show us one instance in which a school was asked what they needed. Being aware of this, I’m horrified at her (Elia’s) response to punish our schools and our students.”

“These tests are used to rate my teachers. But the tests don’t nearly begin to reflect what I learned from them. I think this is totally unfair. That’s why I opted out in 8th grade,” says Evan Cauthen-Brown, a new Brooklyn Tech student that graduated in June from PS/IS 187 in Washington Heights.

“It is vital that someone speak up in defense of the brave parents and students who are standing up for their rights, their educators and schools, and public education at large by refusing to participate in a testing regime they deem harmful for their children, since our union leadership has so stubbornly refused to do so,” said Dan Lupkin, a UFT Chapter Leader and Brooklyn elementary school teacher.

Jia Lee is a public school parent, teacher and UFT Chapter Leader at the Earth School in Manhattan where more than 100 students boycotted the exams. She states that the expanding opt out movement is a, “growing ground-up awareness by parents, teachers and students who don’t want to be evaluated based on an invalid metric.” Ms. Lee testified to a U.S. Senate committee on the negative consequences of the high stakes attached to flawed standardized tests.

The UFT leadership has shown hesitancy in supporting the opt out movement, refusing to endorse the I Refuse resolution introduced by MORE-UFT that is supported by nearly every local across New York State. MORE also called for a resolution of “No Confidence” in Elia at the UFT delegate assembly, only to be told by the union leadership that Elia was “a friend to teachers unions and someone we can work with.”

MORE-UFT is the Social Justice Caucus of the United Federation of Teachers. We are rank-and-file educators challenging the current leadership of the UFT in the 2016 union elections in order to fight for the public schools our children deserve.

Media Contact

Charmaine Dixon/ NYCOPTOUT/ Parent at P.S. 203, District 22

Nancy Cauthen/ Change the Stakes/ Parent of Brooklyn Technical H.S. Student

Dan Lupkin/ MORE/ Elementary School Teacher

Jia Lee/ MORE/ Special Education Teacher

media@morecaucusnyc.org

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Over 60 people, many of whom were newly elected Chapter Leaders and Delegates, joined us at our Hardcore Summer Series Training last week!

Veteran Chapter Leaders Kit Wainer, Yelena Siwinski, and Norm Scott (check out their video presentations) led workshops on the nuts and bolts of leading your chapter, gaining support in your building, working with the school community to build a strong union chapter, and being able to counter anti-teacher administrators.

Thank you to all those who came out!  There will be a second session will be August 20th and we will have a Fall workshop with mentoring for  Chapter Leader/ Delegates in October, details to follow.

THURSDAY, July 23rd How To Build an Opt‐Out Movement in Your School
4pm‐7pm
The Dark Horse, 17 Murray St. NYC, Near City Hall, Chambers St, WTC
Drink specials: $4 drafts, $6 well drinks & $7 wine

High Stakes Testing and the Teacher Evaluation System are suffocating public education. As Diane Ravitch states ‐ the only way to save our schools is to starve the data beast. That is the mission of the opt out movement. Find out how teachers around the state are working together with parents to organize against high stakes testing and fight for the schools our students deserve!

 

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By Mike Schirtzer

Teacher/UFT Delegate- Leon M. Goldstein High School Brooklyn

Over a year before the 2016 Presidential election our AFT union leadership has already endorsed Hillary Clinton. The political move comes after two phone polls and one town hall meeting which supposedly included the input of 1,150 members. Our AFT is made up of over 1.6 million members. This is not a very scientific study or a good sample size. Mrs. Clinton may or may not be a good choice, but the manner in which our union endorsed her was problematic.

With the recent decision by the Supreme Court to hear a case that may mean the end of public sector unions as we know it and the continued anti-worker, union-busting policies from elected officials on both sides of the aisle from Scott Walker to Andrew Cuomo, now is the wrong time to be making back-room political deals that further distance our union from its members. This is the moment to engage our members, to make them feel like active participants in our union.

For far too long UFT/AFT leadership has been overly complacent and allowed member interest in the union to wither away. With this critical presidential election coming and the continued attacks on our unions, this should be the perfect moment to get all our members involved. They could have done that by offering more than a couple of limited phone polls and poorly advertised website questionnaire. They could have used this time to galvanize our members, to remind prospective nominees that anti-worker, anti-union, and anti-public education policies are not in the best interest of our nation. These very policies have widened the income gap and led our country to near financial ruin. Our union needs to properly vet each candidate to know where they stand on testing, common core, union rights, tenure, charter schools, and then share that information with each and every AFT member. We can then make informed decisions that will help our students, our schools, and our union.

It is fine if AFT President Weingarten is personal friends with Mrs. Clinton, but that is not a reason to give away our endorsement. The last twenty-five years of political endorsements have not helped our union or our schools, in fact, we could argue it has done further harm. They could have engaged the membership in a vibrant discussion on strategies and whether political endorsements are in the best interest of those we serve. AFT could have surveyed every member via email, held town hall meetings in all of the locals and throughout New York City with UFT members and parents like we did in the battle against Cuomo’s anti-education policies.

None of this was done, instead another top down decision was made in some back-room during the middle of the summer. This could have been the the right time for our union leadership to change direction, make our union more democratic, listen to diverse voices within the union, even to dissenters like ourselves who may disagree, but offer educated insights. Instead they chose to do what they always do; fail to engage the membership and then make a decision on our behalf.

We need new union leadership that is made up of members who are in the classroom, who speak with and for school based educators. A leadership that has new ideas, new voices, and actively seeks member participation. While we are upset at this endorsement process, it is just another example of the systematic failure of this leadership that has allowed our union to become weakened, our members to become disinterested, and public schools to be disenfranchised.

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By John Giambalvo: Teacher at Information Technology High School and a member of MORE-UFT

Looking back from today’s perspective, it is hard to believe that America’s minimum wage  -the smallest amount businesses are legally required to pay their employees- was once enough to support a whole family. Nevertheless, that useto be the truth in America. According to the Pew Research Center, that wage reached all time peak in terms of purchasing power in 1968 (here). That year, people who relied on it were able to buy and spend more than at any other time before or since.

The amount they earned per hour? $1.60 (here).

New York State’s minimum wage reached its peak two years later. The rate then was $1.85.

That was enough to allow a family of four to pay the rent, put food on the table and clothes on the back of their kids as they pursued upward social mobility or even just lived out their lives in relative dignity.

Historic purchasing power is tricky to understand. Essentially, it measures the amount that people are actually able to buy after factoring in for inflation. It is how we are able to discern the fact that workers today simply do not make as much as they did 45 years ago.

Since this peak in American History, year after year with little exception, the purchasing power for minimum wage workers -the amount they are actually able to buy after factoring in for inflation- has significantly fallen. New York’s 1970 minimum wage would equate to $11.34 an hour in today’s money (here). The federal amount would be $9.81. The actual minimum wage in New York State today is lower than that. It stands at just $8.25 ($7.25 for federal). That’s quite a slide -more than thirty seven percent lower than it once was.

This slide has pulled many minimum wage earners further past a very important line -that of poverty.  In today’s reality, many who depend on minimum wage find themselves living way, way below the federal poverty level for a family of four (here). If that family lives in Massachusetts, the bread winner(s) will have to work one hundred and ten hours every week just to afford a two bedroom apartment (here). McDonald’s once suggested a budget for its employees that spent $150 per month for a car payment, nothing for gasoline and just $25 a day for spending money  -and that was assuming a two income household (here). This Mcdonald’s employee relies almost as much on food stamps for her and four children to get by as her salary.

If you don’t find these facts disturbing, then that’s OK. I can accept that not everyone shares my opinion about increasing the wage. One thing you should consider , however, is that these realities have a great effect on public school teachers.

Given the state of affairs for minimum wage workers, it really should not come as a surprise that half -half- of all school-aged children in America now live in poverty (here and here).
Half!

This is a really important concept to grasp here. Imagine your average class of, say, thirty students. Divide them in half -with fifteen students living below the poverty line and fifteen living above it. Now imagine how each half would succeed in school. If all of the research is correct, you’ll wind up seeing some stark differences in how they perform.

You will see it in test scores (Diane Ravitch):

… No matter what standardized test you look at, the results portray the influence of socioeconomic status on test scores .Despite outliers, the kids with the most advantages are at the top, the kids with the fewest advantages are at the bottom. This is true of international tests, state tests, federal tests, the ACT, the SAT…”

You will see it in graduation rates (the Federal Government):

“…About 68 percent of 12th-graders in high-poverty schools ..graduated with a diploma. Since 1999–2000, the average percentage of seniors in high-poverty schools who graduated with a diploma has declined by 18 percentage points, from 86 to 68 percent…”

(also the American Psychological Association):

“…In 2009, poor (bottom 20 percent of all family incomes) students were five times more likely to drop out of high school than high-income…”

And you will see it in college readiness rates (ACT):

“…only 20 percent of students from low-income families met at least three of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, compared to 62 percent of students from high-income families…”

Poverty, as it turns out, is a great indicator for how successful a student will be in school (here) and beyond (here). It matters. In fact, it matters a great deal.

Remember that class of thirty that was divided evenly among poor and non poor students? Imagine that it wasn’t so evenly divided. Imagine that the majority of the students in your class lived well above the poverty line. Under that scenario, chances are, your students would be more successful and you would be deemed a pretty good teacher. Sounds pretty rosy, doesn’t it?

In contrast, imagine that most of the students in your class lived below the poverty line. Imagine that twenty lived in poverty and just ten of your students didn’t. Imagine the same standards, the same indicators and the same zero sum results that I described in the several links and quotes above. Not so rosy anymore, is it?

Finally, try to understand the plain truth of it all: That most of the fifty percent of American students who live below the poverty line are clustered together in the same high-poverty schools and many of the students who live above it are similarly clustered in their own low-poverty schools. Whole classrooms -in fact whole schools and even districts- are populated with students who live only under the poverty line, while others are populated with those who do not. In this sense, New York City isn’t that much different from the rest of the state or the nation. Poor people and non-poor people do not, generally speaking, live near one another (here) so they don’t generally populate the same schools and classrooms.

Under this scenario, where most, or even all of your students lived below the poverty line, chances are they wouldn’t perform well in your class, or in school at all. And chances are you’d be universally deemed a bad teacher because of it.

You may be deemed bad by our friends over at StudentsFirst(here):

“…students in New York City’s highest poverty districts are more than twice as likely to be taught by teachers who aren’t effective than students in New York City’s wealthiest districts…”

Or by the Center for American Progress (here):

“…. high-poverty schools have greater proportions of chronically ineffective teachers …”

You may be deemed bad by Arne Duncan (here via  Marci Kanstoroom):

“…many high schools that serve disadvantaged students and students of color lack highly effective teachers…”

Or by the New York Post (here)

“….Teachers who received bad performance ratings in the past school year were likelier to be teaching in high-poverty schools…”

Or by any one of the plethora of people and organizations who would like to point out that ‘the worst’ teachers are clustered in high-poverty schools.

Education reformers have become obsessed with the concept of poor educators. This bad teacher narrative has taken root in the US and has completely swept across our entire profession. It has become so profound that it is spoken about more than any other education related topic. It has fueled the growth of high stakes tests, ‘tougher accountability’ for teachers, the recent attack on tenure and has even helped lead to the rise of the charter school movement, as parents seek out alternatives for “bad schools”, filled with these “bad teachers” we keep hearing so much about. Reformers from Arne Duncan to Cami Anderson, from Michelle Rhee to John King have made entire careers by exploiting this narrative. It has been codified in comedy movie titles and news headlines ad nauseum. The narrative has become so ridiculous that movie stars and comedians have had to come to the rescue of the reputation of teachers all over the country. Forget a fair wage, forget improved living standards, forget poverty. Ineffective teachers, claims the narrative, have failed our students and are failing our schools.

Of course, they never mention that it’s only those schools located in poor areas and only those students living in poverty who are being failed.

I hope you see the point I’m making: Poverty doesn’t just matter for how well our students may perform in school. It also matters for how successful we are deemed as employees. It matters for our job. It matters for our career. It matters for whether or not we, as members of a well-respected and honorable profession, can do things like pay our rent, put food on our table and clothes on the backs of our kids. It doesn’t only  guarantee a certain percentage of our students (half) will be inhibited from performing as well as others in school (here again) and beyond (and here again). Poverty fuels the entire ‘bad teacher’ narrative and has lead to policies whichhave eroded our job protections and have threatened our job security.

And if you’re a teacher in the suburbs who believes that concentrated poverty is relegated to the urban and rural areas of the New York, think again (and again and again and again and again). Poverty is growing in the suburbs as well -at some very alarming rates.

Nothing traps people in poverty more than low wages (see here or here or here or here or here for how it is in the UK or here for one perspective from Ireland). And nothing promises to be a quicker fix for low wages than increasing wages.

So if you’d like to see an end to the education wars or an end to the current regime of high stakes testing, or an end to an unfair teacher evaluation system that has somehow had to be change four times now in the last five years; if you’d like to see an end to the constant cycle of downward pressure exerted on you and your colleagues, it’s only common sense to support policy outside of education that addresses poverty in New York. Supporting a significant increase to the minimum wage will lift a lot of boats. It will allow the parents of many of our students to lift themselves back above the poverty line and will increase the chances that their children -our students- can be more successful in school.

So if you’re one of the many teachers who believe that it is just not moral to pay people $15 to ‘flip burgers’, or if, like teaching assistant Suzann Ritchel of East Northport, NY, the prospect of a 15% minimum wage leaves you openly wondering whether or not ‘fast-food workers [are] doing more important work than we are?’ (here), then consider one small possibility: Consider that an increased minimum wage may make all of our jobs a whole lot easier than they are now.

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The Nuts and Bolts of Leading Your Chapter

Open to all newly elected or veteran chapter leaders, delegates, consultation/SLT committee members, para-reps, and anyone interested in getting more involved in their chapter.

 

This Thursday July 9th 4pm-7pm

The Dark Horse Pub

17 Murray St. NYC (downstairs)

Near City Hall, Chambers St., WTC

 Experienced chapter leaders will provide workshops on:

Getting your members involved

Enforcing contractual rights

Planning chapter and consultation meetings

Fighting back against administration

Building allies in PTA/SLT

Filing grievances

Working with your District/Borough Representatives

Facebook link here

For those that can not make this session we will have another one on August 20th, same time and location

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A flier attacking UFT members that are not in President Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus was distributed at the June UFT Delegate Assembly. This is a response by the members of P.S. 8 in the Bronx.

Dear Mr. Mulgrew and His Unity Caucus:

We the undersigned read your Unity flyer that was distributed at the UFT Delegate Assembly. We take the insults contained therein as further evidence of the disconnect that exists between working teachers on the frontlines of classrooms and UFT Leadership.

You claim that those of us who are dissatisfied with our union’s representation are “detractors” categorized as either “alarmists,” “oppositional” or “Monday morning quarterbacks.” You toss in a French phrase and a George Orwell quote as if they demonstrate deep intellect that somehow lends credence to your insult—as if George Orwell wrote to warn about the rebels in society instead of those in power desperate to take any measure to retain that power. If you’re going to quote Orwell, the following Orwell quote best represents the Unity Caucus, “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power.”

To claim that we “never have led the fight against our enemies” is an inaccurate and disingenuous claim. Firstly, we are not in positions of leadership. More importantly we HAVE fought and ARE fighting our enemies in ways that UFT-leadership refuses to do such as writing our elected officials and challenging the absurd notion of tying our evaluations to test scores, challenging the reasonableness of the Danielson Framework which was never meant to be used as an evaluative tool, being actively engaged in the opt-out movement in our home communities, and rejecting the AFT endorsement of Hochul because we recognized that an endorsement of her was also a back-alley endorsement of Cuomo. We would also argue that challenging the Unity-controlled UFT that continues to disenfranchise working teachers is fighting the good fight.

Your claim that you know “better than anyone” because you “have been fighting these bad guys for over sixty years” is also inaccurate. You may not have noticed, but we most certainly have noticed, that for the past twenty plus years all you have been doing is ducking and weaving in the form of appeasement and as a result we, the working teachers, have been getting our derrières kicked while you remain in your ivory tower safe from all that we have been subjected to.

Contrary to the Japanese proverb you quoted, we definitely have a vision and we are taking action to see it materialize. We want a union run by those who have felt the pain of the unreasonable NYS teacher evaluation system and are committed to dismantling it and building a reasonable system in its place (and the MATRIX is not it). We want a union leadership that cries “foul” instead of “victory” when we have, in fact, been fouled.

Sincerely,

(64) PS 8 UFT Members

Roseanne McCosh                              Jemely Rosario                       Christopher Fusco

Lori Matta                                          Melissa Lugo                          Sebastian DiFatta

Cynthia Pacelli                                    Bridget Valvano                      Doug Sheeran

Stefanie Gotkin                                   Rosie Pichardo                        MaryAlice Moylan

Bernadette Centrone                           Michele Bombace                   Suzana Califano

Kate Mills                                           Mary Blastos-Chile                Christina Chiu

Justin Russello                                    MaryEllen Eager                     Monique Morales

Caitlyn Applegate                              Sandra Mejia                           Meredith Kertis

Amanda Hughes                                  Christina Rados                      Dawn Meron

Lourdes Sepulveda                              Jeanine Caughey                     Andrea Brown

Kellie Griffin                                       B. Wehr                                   Harold Beniquez

Gloria Jacobo                                      Vanessa Acevedo                    Theresa Rivas

Priscilla Roldan                                   Eudenis Estrella                      Renee Beckett

Z. Torres                                             Ivy Castore                             Nicole Sofia

Lynn Mccarthy                                  Nicole Reardon                       Joni Ernst

Lucy Lukaj                                          Greg Fusco                              Richard Moran

H.S. Lee                                              Theresa Rizzuto                     Rita Tynan

M. Lukic                                           Katrina Nrekic                        Audrey Lynch

Mary Mastrogeannes                         Stephanie Moran                    N. Mooddeen

Vicky Abbate                                      Christopher Saxton                 Tara Foley

A.M. Drain                                         Tara Foley                              Jorge Mejia

Eileen McArdle

 

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Please join MORE caucus UFT 4th Annual Summer Series.  It’s a great chance to Discuss, Debate, and Organize!

Thursdays this summer, 4pm-7pm

All are welcome!

The Dark Horse, 17 Murray St. NYC
Near City Hall, Chambers St, WTC
Drink specials: $4 domestic drafts, $6 well drinks and $7 wine.

Please click on the links to RSVP on Facebook

July 9th
Hardcore MORE Chapter Leader Training: The Nuts and Bolts of Leading Your Chapter – Part I

Open to all newly elected or veteran chapter leaders, delegates, consultation/SLT committee members, para-reps, and anyone interested in getting more involved in their chapter. Some of the topics include: Getting members involved, Enforcing contractual rights, Planning chapter & consultation meetings, Fighting back against administration, Building allies in PTA/SLT, Filing grievances

July 23rd
How To Build an Opt-Out Movement in Your School

High Stakes Testing and the Teacher Evaluation System are suffocating public education. As Diane Ravitch states – the only way to save our schools is to starve the data beast. That is the mission of the opt out movement. Find out how teachers around the state are working together with parents to organize against high stakes testing and fight for the schools our students deserve!

July 30th
MORE/UFT 101 Who, What, Why?

Are you wondering what the teacher union is all about and what it means to you and your students? Is it something you should be active in?  Can unions be vehicles for social justice? What is a caucus? How has the UNITY Caucus kept control of the UFT for over 40 years? Why did MORE form?   Meet with new and veteran teachers to discuss these questions and more in this introduction to the inner workings of the UFT.

August 13th
What is the role of UFT Elections in Building a caucus?

What should a 2016 grassroots UFT election campaign look like? Does MORE have the resources and activists to mount an effective campaign? How can we use new tools and lessons learned to ensure that organizing  for the election will build MORE? Come learn election nuts and bolts, brainstorm creative election strategies, and plan ahead for how we’ll build a campaign that builds a better union.

August 20th
Hardcore MORE Chapter Leader Training: The Nuts and Bolts of Leading Your Chapter – Part II
(See Part 1 Above)

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Jia Lee, Chapter Leader of The Earth School and a member of MORE, brought a MORE-sponsored resolution before the Delegate Assembly (DA) calling for a statement expressing opposition to the appointment of recently appointed state education commissioner Mary Ellen Elia pointing to the lack of transparency and democracy in the process of her appointment which took place under a veil of secrecy. UFT High School VP and Unity Caucus member Janella Hinds spoke in favor of Commissioner Elia, calling her a “friend to teachers unions and someone we can work with”.

Ms. Lee explained that the UFT’s support of the new commissioner  is a mistake because, “In the day after her appointment, Elia stated strong support for the Common Core Standards and high stakes testing, while criticizing parents who opt their children out of these tests.”In supporting the sentiment of Regent leader Meryl Tisch, to Elia it is just a matter of re-packaging rather than fundamental change. Elia has been a supporter of using student test scores to rate teachers. “We have an opportunity to harness and galvanize the experiences of teachers to proactively call for what students need in our schools and for our working conditions,” Ms. Lee said. “These things can no longer be compromised”.

The DA, dominated by Unity Caucus chapter leaders and delegates, voted against the resolution.

Resolution: No Confidence in New State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia

Whereas, the top down education policies under No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and high stakes accountability tied to Common Core Standards have had disastrous effects on whole child education and democratic, school-based decision making in New York State

Whereas, there was no transparency in the selection process, no public vetting of candidates, no opportunity for public input in the appointment of the new State Education Commissioner, Mary Ellen Elia

Whereas, Ms. Elia’s record makes it clear she is a strong supporter of the Common Core State Standards (even though Florida has pulled  out of Common Core) and high-stakes testing; she was an early proponent of using test scores to evaluate teachers, complete with $100 million in funding from the Gates Foundation. She also negotiated a merit pay system and supports school choice

Whereas, last January, the Hillsborough Board of Education voted 4-3 to dismiss her. Members who voted her out have been on record as criticizing her for board-superintendent tension, her salary and benefits, and constituent complaints about too much high-stakes standardized testing, some said her tough disciplinary policy disproportionately affected black students and employees who said her management style was heavy-handed.

Whereas, she failed to notify the district immediately that a 7-year-old girl had stopped breathing on a school bus and died later; she said she didn’t know the scope of the tragedy until the family sued the district.

Be it Resolved that UFT will hold a press conference and issue a press statement of no confidence in the appointment of Ms. Elia, because it does not serve the best interests of our children, educators, or public schools

Resolved that the educators of the UFT seek public vetting and member discussion before the leadership of the largest local in the state supports the appointment of any state chancellor.

Resolved that our union leadership will organize meetings at the beginning of the 2015/16 school year throughout the boroughs, for working UFT educators to discuss this appointment, state educational policies, and develop our own vision of statewide educational policies that will best serve all our children

Be it further Resolved that the the UFT will fight for a renewed statewide emphasis on the arts, music, libraries and physical education for all of our children.

"A say in the priorites of our Union? (UFT) Sure, we'd like MORE."

A plea for union democracy

The Nuts and Bolts of Leading Your Chapter

Open to all newly elected or veteran chapter leaders, delegates, consultation/SLT committee members, para-reps, and anyone interested in getting more involved in their chapter.

Thursday July 9th and August 20 4pm-7pm

The Dark Horse Pub

17 Murray St. NYC (downstairs)

Near City Hall, Chambers St., WTC

 Experienced chapter leaders will provide workshops on:

Getting your members involved

Enforcing contractual rights

Planning chapter and consultation meetings

Fighting back against administration

Building allies in PTA/SLT

Filing grievances

Working with your District/Borough Representatives

RSVP and share our Facebook event here
Chapter Leaders and Delegates join our email support listserve here
Email: ChapterLeaderMeetup+subscribe@googlegroups.com
email more@morecaucusnyc.org

Why Join MORE?

May 12, 2015 — Leave a comment

"Demand MORE from the UFT"

MORE’s central priority will be the development of a UFT caucus. Our aim is to reach UFT members with our message of a more active and democratic union that can effectively fight back against what we have called the “ed deform” agenda and for the basic union rights of our members. We seek to reach members “where they are.” Different subsets of the membership experience the attacks on our profession and on our rights differently. For some, the testing frenzy has already transformed our work lives dramatically. For others, the new evaluation process and life under a terrible contract occupy center stage. Many of our members work under horrific and abusive administrators and that reality overshadows everything else.

Our hope is to reach rank and file members and help them become more actively involved in our efforts to turn things around. This will include helping members build stronger and more effective union chapters in their schools, connecting members with others around the city who are combatting the impacts of standardized testing on our working conditions and our students learning conditions, encouraging members to join us in various efforts to challenge the UFT leadership and turn the union into one that can lead the fight on all of these fronts.

Please join us now
http://more.nationbuilder.com/join_us

 

 

Monday 5:30-6:30pm

UFT Headquarters
Executive Board Meeting

52 Broadway in Manhattan 2nd Floor

Absent Teacher Reserves and Leave Replacement Teachers would appreciate your support. They have been asking for an ATR Chapter to represent our unique interests for a long time now.  We have filed a complaint with the UFT Executive Board concerning the Chapter Election process. ATRs are being compelled to vote and run for office at schools we are just passing through in May and might know nothing about instead of being permitted to vote for our own ATR representatives.

The UFT Executive Board will officially respond to our complaint and we will have an opportunity to voice our support.

 

NYC Teachers Rally & Speak Out

Against High Stakes Testing!

Tuesday May 5, 2015 @ 4:30pm

Washington Square Park

 

  We Speak Out For. . .

  • Diverse and authentic assessments used to inform instruction. Less time spent on test prep and bureaucratic paperwork so teachers can focus on planning meaningful instruction.

  • Culturally responsive, collaborative, and student-centered curriculum.

  • Well-rounded and robust programs including arts, physical education, and career and technical education for all.

  • Re-claiming a moral profession in unethical times.

*Spread the word  *Bring signs & banners  * Encourage you organization or chapter to endorse the event.

 

CONTACT US AT TESTING@MORECAUCUSNYC.ORG

Let us know if you’d like to say a few words during the Speak Out.

Sponsored/Endorsed by: MORE (Movement of Rank and File Educators)

Who Controls the UFT?

April 30, 2015 — 2 Comments
By Michael Fiorillo, Teacher, Newcomers HS
MORE Steering Committee 
To most teachers, often overwhelmed by ever-increasing demands that have little or nothing to do with providing the best education for their students, the UFT seems remote from their daily experience. Beyond welfare fund services, when they think about the Union at all, it is often in terms of hefty dues deductions. Rarely so they think the union fighting for them, and with good reason: it rarely does other than little pantomimes of fighting back.Teachers less and less see the Union as a vehicle for improving their lives at an ever more demanding job where they are increasingly less secure and respected. Higher salaried senior teachers often feel they have a target on their backs. New teachers see achieving tenure as an ever-receding mirage – as an obstacle course as they engage in a 3, 4, or more year endurance contest with their principal and/or local Superintendent. And if they get past that will they survive long enough to get a pension? The silence and impotence of the Union is apparent. How often do we hear exasperated, demoralized teachers asking, “Where is the Union?”The Union often feels like a distant and largely irrelevant force because of the inbred, anti-Democratic practices of an ever-more indifferent leadership, which often seems complicit with the dysfunction and outrages we daily face in the schools. The UFT’s ruling faction, Unity Caucus, has been in power for over half a century, and suffers from most of the ills of too much power held over too long a time: out-of-touch, unwilling to consider new ideas, and often identifying more with management and so-called “education reformers” than with their own members.What is Unity Caucus?
Caucuses are the political parties that seek to govern the union. Unity caucus has had sole, unlimited policy-making control since the UFT was founded in the early 60’s. The UFT has had opposition caucuses vying for political power over the years, but Unity has structured the UFT in a way to assure them complete control and the creation of an entrenched political machine that has passively accepted, and sometimes actively collaborated with, policies inimical to teachers and students.

The lack of union democracy has very tangible consequences for teachers. Lately, virtually all of those consequences have been negative, and have correlated with declining participation from the rank and file. Less than 20% of active teachers voted in the last election and 52% of those who did vote were retirees. Unity has so rigged the election process, every single member of the 101 member UFT Executive Board is Unity endorsed.

Members must commit to a loyalty oath to ALWAYS support whatever dictates come down from the leadership and NEVER speak against them publicly. Hundred of chapter leaders are Unity Caucus members and if it comes down to supporting the interests of the teachers who elected them or the union leadership most Unity chapter leaders will force feed policies from the top to their members, thus putting the needs of the caucus over their colleagues.

Teachers who attempt to go above a Unity chapter leader to the borough or district reps are stonewalled since these reps have been appointed by the leadership since the UFT ended elections of District Reps in 2002, thus bringing Unity’s centralized, top-down governance to both the school, district and borough levels.

Other than a few exceptions, getting even part-time work at the Union is conditional on Unity Caucus membership, a powerful incentive for closely-policed conformity.

There are many reasons for the scapegoating, disrespect and attacks that public school teachers have been suffering for a generation. One of the reasons they’ve been so successful is that the Union leadership’s continuing anti-democratic practice has made it rigid and sclerotic, dangerously dependent on “friends in high places” – especially since their most important friend, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, was recently indicted – and unwilling to tap into the knowledge and energy of its rank and file. Unity Caucus is so wedded to decades of power, so scared of the membership and intent on managing it instead of representing it, that they risk the destruction of the Union itself along with the mission of public education as we know it.

It follows that the survival of public education and teacher unions themselves are bound up with issues of union democracy. The continued entrenchment of the Unity Caucus Machine virtually guarantees the continuing success of attacks on teachers, their benefits, working conditions and dignity. If we are serious about saving public education and the teaching profession, then we must be serious about taking back our Union from the out-of-touch Unity Caucus Machine that controls it.

Download the latest issue of The High School Teachers Voice here

The School Renewal Program rolled out last November was designed to support “low performing” schools. Since then, a disproportionate number have been the targets of charter co-location proposals. While some have already been approved, more are on the way. This Wednesday three charter school co-location proposals targeting Renewal Schools will be put to a vote by the Panel for Educational Policy. This opportunism on behalf of charter operators is not only shameful but it defeats the promise of The School Renewal Program. Show your support for public schools and demand the PEP vote NO on all charter co-location proposals!

Panel for Educational Policy Meeting
WED April 29th @ 6pm
M.S. 131 
100 Hester Street, Manhattan
New York, NY 10002
Opportunism in Charter Schools  (1)

ATR Petition to Print Out for Distribution

ATRs have been prime staff casualties of school closures, which are driven largely by high-stakes test scores; the Bloomberg-era Fair Funding Formula continues to be a disincentive against principals’ hiring ATRs; the position state in itself is illegitimate and unacceptable: the ATR status is created simply to break tenure and seniority; as ATRs are overwhelmingly over the age of 45, the placing of teachers in this position is age discrimination;

Absent Teacher Reserve teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, and other excessed NYC DOE employees are denied the right to representatives from within their own ranks; they can only vote for chapter representatives if they happen to be working in a school with an election during their rotation assignment; Denying ATRs their own representatives violates the principle of no dues without representation.

Whereas, the ATR position has now been embedded in the UFT contract in Section 16 of the 2014 DOE-UFT contract, therefore be it Resolved, that the UFT will immediately create a Functional Chapter to represent the interests of ATRs, Leave Replacement Teachers and Provisional Teachers, with borough-level proportionality.

We UFT members ask president Mulgrew for his pledge to create these chapters.

ENDORSED BY: Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE)

Please mail petitions by June 8, 2015 to: P.O. Box 150150, Kew Gardens, NY 11415

 

***Press Conference***
Our School Community Matters! VOTE NO on the Success Academy Co-Location at JHS145x Educational Complex
Friday April 24, 3:30 
Bronx Borough President’s Office 
851 Grand Concourse, at 161 Street 

CALL 311 TODAY to demand a change of location for the co-location vote regarding the Bronx schools at 1000 Teller Ave
.

It’s no secret that embattled Success Academy charter schools CEO Eva Moskowitz loves standardized testing. In a recent op-ed she wrote, “Tests aren’t perfect but something’s rotten in Denmark (or the Bronx) when a school has a 90 percent failure rate. Not having this data is as foolish as not installing a smoke detector.” One would hope Eva isn’t referring to the English Language Learners (ELL), Special Education students and Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) who predictably score lower on standardized tests (and just so happen to be routinely barred from attending her Success Academies) as “rotten.” Regardless, she considers them displaceable. A proposal to co-locate grades 3 through 5 of her Success Academy Bronx 3 charter school on the site of three district middle schools at 1000 Teller Ave. is pending approval and the community is mobilizing to prevent it.

Moskowitz wants to move into the building because it is considered “under-enrolled.” That’s for two reasons: 1) the school included a fifth grade class up until two years ago when the district suddenly eliminated it; and 2) the formula that determines a building’s capacity does not take into account the lower capacity of special education classrooms protected by law to contain no more than 12 students at a time whereas general education classrooms are allowed up to 30. According to Jim Donohue, an 8th grade English teacher at Arturo Toscanini (MS145), there are no unused classrooms in the entire school. Should the proposal go through, 17 classrooms would be lost and their occupants displaced.

On April 16th a public hearing before the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) was held to gather community feedback on the proposed co-location. The auditorium at 1000 Teller Ave., home of Bronx middle schools Arturo Toscanini, the Urban Science Academy and New Millennium Business Academy, was packed with over 600 parents, teachers, students and community members. The overbearing orange of Success Academy t-shirts overwhelmed the crowd, yet the opposition was palpable. One student who spoke against the proposal said, “Why is Success Academy trying to invade our community when their schools have 2,500 empty seats? You are trying to break our community. You are taking away our main privilege – our space – which we need.”

Many people echoed that sentiment and directed comments to Ms. Moskowitz and Governor Andrew Cuomo, neither of whom were in attendance. One student declared, “This school is my school. Buh-bye. Leave.”

Sadly, the comment of a retired employee whose wife attended the school rings true: “This community has never gotten any respect.” Subsequent to losing a chunk of it’s student body, 1000 Teller Ave. was designated a Renewal School on account of low standardized test scores and lack of adequate operating funds. Twenty-six percent of the student body are ELLs, ten percent are in Special Education and 40 students receive SIFE programming. These populations typically do not fare well on biased standardized tests. According to the NYC DOE websiteRenewal Schools are supposed to be “accountable” for improving test scores or they will face “consequences.” It seems like engaging an entire school community in a Hunger Games-like fight for space during the weeks of high stakes testing and potentially forcing them to reorganize and re-establish their school community next school year is being set up to fail. Ostensibly, Renewal School status entitles struggling schools to needed supports. Taking away space, a resource closely linked to academic outcomes,  is working at cross purposes. If 1000 Teller Ave. can’t raise test scores under these circumstances they could face being closed and replaced. Ms. Moskowitz’s bold plans are indeed upsetting the challenging Renewal School process while positioning her to benefit from the fallout. Her actions give lie to the claim that she is driven by the interests of students, especially this city’s most disadvantaged.

Monday evening, while Ms. Moskowitz entertained guests at a Spring benefit that earned her 9.3 million dollars, a collection of public officials and NYC DOE administrators were seen touring 1000 Teller Ave.  A vote on the proposed co-location is scheduled for April 29th but to Jim Donohue, it feels as though the deal is done.

Mr. Donohue’s speech before the April 16th panel captured both the widely felt sense of community pride and the madness of pitting children against each other:

I’ve been here for 16 years, and they will have to drag me out of here to get me to leave, because I love my job. I love my co-workers, I love my principal, I love my assistant principal….but most of all, I love my students. They would tell you what I just said was “mad corny” but it’s true. I know that you folks from the Success Academy love your jobs, and your co-workers and your students, and I’m not here to attack you, or your school, or Ms. Moskowitz.

I admire your passion, and you’ve brought a lot of adorable kids here tonight. But I’d like you to imagine something. Imagine a warm April evening like this one 5 years from now. Imagine 8 busloads of people wearing GREEN shirts pull up in front of the SUCCESS ACADEMY COMPLEX, former home of public school MS 145.  (we’ll be out of your hair by then). What do these green-shirted people want? They want 15 of your classrooms. Maybe, like I did tonight, you overhear one of the green-shirted folks say to a child “These Success Academy people want to deny you an education!” What are you going to do? Will you agree with them? Success Academy teachers- will you quietly pack up your classrooms and move, as (incredibly)  I’m expected to do?

 

 

 

 

By Mindy Rosier

me and august 2

I broke out my dressy clothes, some earrings, and my red lipstick for last night’s fundraiser for Eva Moskowitz. I was not a guest. As a mere teacher, I could not afford to attend the Third Annual Spring Benefit that began at 6:30 pm. Cocktails and dinner were served and of course you needed to dress to the nines. Since Cuomo was busy puffing away on cigars in Cuba, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries from Brooklyn took over as the keynote speaker. Other guests included Eli Broad, Campbell Brown, Katie Couric, Daniel S. Loeb, even our ole school  chancellor Joel Klein. Seats started at $1,250.00 and tables began at $15,000.00. I wasn’t there to party, I was there to make some noise.

I got there early with some of my dapperly dressed friends. About 5 of us, including fellow MOREista August, walked over to Cipriani on 42nd Street holding some cleverly informative flyers. We handed them out to the guests. What was great about this action, was that this flyer was in the Success Academy colors. Guests thought that we were the welcoming committee and gladly took them. They thanked us and smiled, even the stepford wives like teachers. After about 20 or so minutes, more than 50 loud protesters arrived onto the scene, circling around the front entrance. These protesters were from several advocacy groups such as NYCC, Citizen Action, Strong Economy for All Coalition, VOCAL, AQE, as well as the amazing Hedge Clippers. These Hedge Clippers work to uncover the influences that hedge funds and billionaires use to sway government and politics in order to bolster their own power and wealth. Their most recent post was quite timely, posted early yesterday morning.  Hedge Fund Hypocrisy: The Double Standard of Success Academy is a great article that you all should read. “Success Academy doesn’t attract just handfuls of hedge fund managers – more like hordes.” They included a list of “over 50 hedge fund managers and hedge fund spouses who have notable ties to Success Academy. Though the hedge fund industry’s affinity for Success Academy is well known, this is the first time such a list has been published.”

Back to the protest…

For approximately 45 minutes we chanted and did mic checks in front of Cipriani. When we first got there, there was a small protest “pen” off to the side. This little pen was completely ignored. There were four or five police officers keeping an eye on us and when it was obvious that we were not going away, they moved the “pen” around us already in action. This space was considerably larger than what they had originally planned for. The police officers didn’t seem to mind us protesters, but the guests visibly did. I believe the only reason why the “pen” was moved, was because those guests did not want to walk past or through us. Also, during this time, we still had a couple of others continue giving out those flyers to those scragglers. I would so love to post this incredible flyer, but was advised that I shouldn’t by the authors, whose decision not to post I will respect. It stated some of Success Academy’s proud “solutions” with counter information….you know, the truth.

Pamela Garcia, parent and member of NYCC gave a powerful mic check and led commanding chants. Others did a mic check too. I was given the floor after one of those guests made a comment putting us protesters down for not seeing how incredible Success Academy is. I responded back to her, “you can tell that to my special needs students who were almost kicked out by her last year.” That prompted a Hedge Clipper to get me going. I don’t need a mic or any other kind of amplifier. I still proudly have my booming Brooklyn voice.

We concluded our protest chanting, “we’ll be back.” We most definitely will……

Overall, this was one of my favorite protests. I am proud to have stood by so many from different organizations and the wonderful people in them. Even though some of our messages might be slightly different, we still had common ground and united we spoke up and out….AND loudly at that!

Earlier this morning, a dear friend sent me this article by Eliza Shapiro from Capitol NY which is behind a pay wall. It is about last night’s event and how much money Miss Eva took in. Her oh so generous friends made her empire over $9 million richer. How nice for her!

Even earlier this morning, I checked out the feed of Success Academy on Twitter and I found the posts appalling. Here are some of those gems….

“We have not just closed the education gap. We’ve reversed it.” – @MoskowitzEva #RedefiningPossible #InsideSuccess

and another….Founder @MoskowitzEva to guests: “Visit our schools and become an ambassador for #edreform.” #RedefiningPossible

and another… “I stand here because I unequivocally support quality public ed & that’s what @MoskowitzEva & SA provide.” –@RepJeffries #RedefiningPossible,

then there is this one…”City govt & union bosses are institutionalizing failure. We will unapologetically back you up while you fight for kids.” – @campbell_brown

let’s not forget.. “You push these kids because their path is tougher and they have to be stronger.” – @campbell_brown #RedefiningPossible

and finally there is this….”If we want fewer people in prison it starts with reforming education.” – @DanLoeb #RedefiningPossible Yes, because Mr. Loeb knows exactly how to fix this problem. Easy to say when you are worth how much???

Last night was one of many protests that I have gone to in the name of saving public education. It will also be far from my last. As long as there are Evas in this would determined to destroy my beloved profession and bust up unions, I will stand loud and proud for my kids, because they do not deserve anything less.

success me

Victor

MORE sends its deepest condolences to our friend and fellow defender of public education, Noah Gotbaum and his family, over the death of his father, Victor.

Victor Gotbaum was among the most prominent union leaders during the glory days of public employee unionism. A great organizer and defender of worker’s interests, Victor Gotbaum led District Council 37, the umbrella organization for most unionized city employees, from 1965, when DC 37 had 35,000 members, until 1987, when it had well over 100,000.

Victor Gotbaum was a lifelong New Yorker, a WWII veteran, a precociously early opponent of the Vietnam War, and a fighter for the rights of working people. During the fiscal crisis of 1975 and after, also known as “The Banker’s Coup,” his immediate reflex was to fight the austerity being imposed on working New Yorkers, and DC 37 members demonstrated the power of working people, coming close to shutting the city down in opposition to the budget cutbacks that took almost a generation to recover from.

Victor Gotbaum understood and devoted his life to expanding the power of workers, and we will use this moment to reflect upon how we will carry on that tradition, as he did, with intelligence, passion and commitment.

Again, our deepest condolences to Noah and his family for their loss.

victor 2

September 5, 1921 – April 5, 2015

To the Public School Families and Educators of New York-

I would like to thank the many of you who have gone way out of their way to stand up for our schools, for their children’s educators, and for public education in New York. Governor Cuomo’s attacks have galvanized parents , students, and educators across the state, and have united in us in solidarity to protect our schools. So many of you have volunteered your time, attended rallies, spoken with your friends in person and through social media, signed letters and petitions, contacted elected officials, opted your children out of the state tests, and otherwise demonstrated your resistance to the data-obsessed, privatization-oriented corporate “school reform” agenda typified by Cuomo’s budget proposals.

I must make clear, though, that this is no time to declare victory or let up on the pressure; the budget that passed is a brutal one for public education in NY, different from Cuomo’s original proposals in only minor and cosmetic ways, though the Times and our the deeply compromised UFT leadership suggest otherwise. The funding secured, though it represents an increase, STILL does not satisfy the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. The teacher evaluation system, though technically kicked down the road a bit to high stakes testing advocate Meryl Tisch and other like-minded bureaucrats at the State education department, is already pretty well established at this point, and it is everything we feared as far as escalating the testing regime, disempowering and demeaning educators (including principals), and almost certainly exacerbating the looming teacher shortage. Raising the charter cap (some would say the true heart of Cuomo’s proposals because charters are the main interest of his most ardent financial backers, hedge fund managers) has also been delayed for a few months, another fight soon to come. The Assembly Democrats who we thought had our backs threw us under the bus.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t take stock and appreciate how far we have come; we have mobilized in a way that is unprecedented, with staff, parents, and students uniting to stand up for the kids and for public education in solidarity across the state in the face of a concerted divide-and-conquer strategy (now being further utilized to attempt to placate parents in wealthy districts where opt-out rates and other forms of parental resistance are high). But we cannot allow ourselves to think that we have won and sink into complacency; the enemies of public education have struck a significant blow here, and though the changes will not be visible in the halls of our schools immediately, it will not take long before we see the effects, among the most visible of which is likely to be the high teacher turnover which is so harmful to a school, whether caused by getting fired for having the wrong kind of students or simply becoming demoralized by being made scapegoats for society’s ills. If we truly believe that the children and educators of New York are more than a score, this must be only the beginning of our resistance to Cuomo’s depredations.

Sincerely,

Dan Lupkin
Technology Coordinator/UFT Chapter Leader
PS 58, The Carroll School
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, N.Y.

 

Cuomo and Mulgrew

April 1, 2015 — 9 Comments

cuomo mulgrew

“The hedge-fund billionaires and Governor Cuomo haven’t gotten their way,” declared UFT President Michael Mulgrew in his official response to Cuomo’s budget deal on March 30. Unfortunately he is wrong. Tests will play a greater role in our evaluation, outside evaluators will be brought in, and it will now take a new teacher four years instead of three to reach tenure. It seems to us that they definitely “got their way”!


UFT members mobilized impressively to fight Governor Cuomo over this budget. This was a welcome development after the UFT leadership failed to rally against Bloomberg’s failed policies, charter schools, or for a good contract. Should we be thankful and praise our UFT leaders for leading a series of protests over the past few weeks, or do we shout from the mountain-top that the reason our union has suffered another defeat is that the Unity/UFT leadership has been unwilling and unable to launch the kind of sustained fight that could have prevented this latest setback? It is time to do the latter.

For years opposition caucuses have tried to pressure the union to change course and rally our members to defend our rights. From 2009-2014 we insisted that the UFT had to mobilize for a good contract. The Unity/UFT leadership’s strategy, however, was to wait for Michael Bloomberg to leave office. The result was a contract with wages that failed to keep up with inflation and belated back pay – yet to be delivered – without interest. When MORE raised resolutions calling for the UFT to stand against the use of standardized student tests for teacher evaluation, Mulgrew replied that tying our careers to such tests was a step forward for us. He even went on to tell us how we needed to be held accountable: “the days of walking into a school, getting your keys to the bathroom and being left alone are over” When MORE proposed that the union demand developmentally appropriate standards and curriculum, as an alternative to Common Core, and when we called for an end to high stakes testing, we were labeled as extremists. Not only has the union leadership conceded over and again to our enemies, but it has refused to involve rank and file members in any significant policy decisions. Now is the time to change that.

After years of not fighting back, after years of waiting out Bloomberg, after years of letting charters expand, in March 2015 the union leadership  finally turned to UFT members and asked them to mobilize. Many chapters responded with great demonstrations of solidarity, sign making, hands around schools, videos, meetings with local politicians, and support from the community. There are many more voices to be heard, however, and the UFT has yet to mobilize them. Many of our members continue to face principals who harass them on a regular basis. They have had their pedagogy reduced to checkbox rubrics, and have been forced  to become test prep machines. Their energy, enthusiasm, and confidence in their union are sapped. Many are fixated on the daily struggle for survival on the job and can’t think about the state or national context. It is hardly surprising that members in such schools were not quick to heed the UFT’s rallying cry. The actions, therefore, proved too weak and came too late. Albany legislators understood that UFT leaders had neither the desire nor the capacity to summon a wave of social protest strong enough to disrupt routine politics and pressure lawmakers to rebuff the Governor.

While grassroots parent groups are leading the opt-out movement, UFT leaders have done nothing to support them. Recent endorsements of the opt-out strategy from New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten are welcome. And we hope Michael Mulgrew will soon get on board. But we need more than endorsements. Our union should commit its vast resources to help build this movement of civil disobedience to starve the testing beast that is meant to destroy us.

This week Governor Cuomo won a substantial victory. As he did after negotiating the 2014 contract, our union President dressed up a defeat as a victory. We need a union leadership that is honest with the membership and can admit that we have suffered a setback. We need a union that can engage its members in strategic discussion to develop the kind of response that can raise the political heat on politicians and stop the attacks on us. Anyone who reads the national news can see the dark clouds on the horizon. Midwestern governors, such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, have pushed legislation designed to wipe out our bargaining rights. Governor Cuomo is slowly following in their footsteps. Next year, he will undoubtedly propose more “reforms.” The only way to fight this is to revitalize our union. It’s time to make our union democratic, allow for all voices to have representation, time to get our members involved in local actions, and support the growing opt-out campaign. We also need our union to stop embracing measures like common core and the accompanying testing madness that is degrading our profession and killing whatever joy is left in our classrooms.

The union-initiated forums we had over the last several weeks and the local action committees that were formed need to continue and grow. A brief injection of mobilization wasn’t enough to stop Cuomo this time, but if we use it as a starting point to infuse life back into our union we stand a better chance of preventing the next round of attacks. Let’s organize and campaign for real reform, such as smaller classes, wrap around services, and diverse assessments designed by teachers and used to diagnose students, not to intimidate teachers.

Last spring UFT leaders showed up to chapters to sell us a contract. They must do the same when administrators are ruining our schools and when chapter leaders are not doing their jobs. We need organizers to help members stand together and defend themselves, and to support those members who want to bring a union back to a demoralized faculty. When members in one school are under attack from an abusive principal the UFT needs to reach out to members in surrounding schools and involve them in the effort to defend their colleagues. Such actions can put meaning back into the ages old union motto, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Michael Mulgrew can continue to hurl epithets at the Governor. But he and his supporters share in the blame. MORE’s vision of unionism is an organization that can inspire members with confidence, encourage more of them to become active, and organize the kind of broad fightback that can reverse the attacks on teacher unionism and public education. The Unity/UFT model of unionism features militant-sounding leaders who talk tough, but rely on their ability to make backroom deals with local and state legislators. That model just failed again. Lets join together and take back our union, before it is too late.

As you may know, a determined group of teachers at John Dewey High School have blown the whistle on Principal Kathleen Elvin.

Since her arrival at Dewey in March 2012, Elvin’s  brutal and mercenary  policies have involved blatant and virulent harassment —–mainly directed against 55 plus teachers.

Simultaneously, Elvin oversees corrupt and fraudulent Credit Recovery and Project Graduation programs designed to pass through and ultimately send to graduation hundreds of students—in the process, establishing for Dewey bogus school statistics and for Elvin, financial remuneration!

During the past week alone, Elvin’s sickening practices have been exposed by the CBS Evening News, WPIX and the The New York Post.

On Wednesday, March 25th 2015, CBS News Chief Political Correspondent, Marcia Kramer brought the issue of Kathleen Elvin at Dewey directly to the attention of Mayor DeBlasio and Chancellor Farina during a meeting at Brooklyn Automotive High School.

Regrettably, the Mayor and Farina seem poised to cover up this scandal. The effect of such a policy would be disastrous for the teachers and students of John Dewey!

At this critical time, your help is greatly needed to maintain public pressure and hopefully hasten the departure of Elvin and her cronies from Dewey, restoring in the process, a desperately needed measure of decency and integrity to a once proud and respected NYC High School!

Please utilize your blogs to the fullest possible extent showing your solidarity and support for integrity, public education and the efforts of a truly courageous and dedicated group of teachers!

MORE calls on the Mayor and Chancellor to immediately remove the principal as they conduct their investigation. The C-30 panel should have the final decision on new administration.

#ProtectOurSchools Rally

March 30, 2015 — 1 Comment

MORE rally resize

UFT members, parents, and supporters of public schools all around New York State took part in rallies, protests and  forums, created wonderful signs, reached out to the press and used social media to spread our love for public schools. These actions culminated in a rally at Governor Cuomo’s Manhattan office with thousands of people demanding that the Governor work with us, not against us.

MORE believes these actions should be the start, not the end, of a mass mobilization of educators and parents to have our voices heard. Too many decisions have been made without our input. This needs to change now!

Our due process tenure rights are under attack as is the very concept of being in a union. We must continue to build actions alongside parents, students, and the communities we serve to show our strength.

MORE was well represented at the Rally To Protect Our Schools on March 28 with Mindy Rosier, Jia Lee, and Patrick Walsh all featured as speakers.

Mindy Rosier – Jeremy Dudley – Teachers

http://youtu.be/bhHlmaCD21E

Jia Lee – Teacher

http://youtu.be/gyFpIuJWxIQ

Patrick Walsh

http://youtu.be/JwSrN_nT3EA


rally crowd

 

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Lauren Cohen, co-chapter leader from P.S. 321 in Brooklyn, raised a resolution on behalf of MORE in opposition of standardized testing and supporting parent’s right to opt-out. It also called for our union to take in active role in defending teachers who are conscientious objectors, an end to test based evaluations, and to educate our members on opt-out (full text below). UFT leadership from Unity caucus controls the Delegate Assembly and voted down our resolution, but most independent chapter leaders and delegates voted for it. The vote was so close, they had to count a second time.

 

Resolution Opposing Standardized Testing

WHEREAS, the volume of mandated standardized testing to which students are subjected in the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) has increased many times over in recent years, and

WHEREAS, the results of such tests cannot be used for diagnostics or remediation or other educational purposes, and

WHEREAS, such testing generates results that are used for high-stakes decision-making regarding both students, teachers, and schools

WHEREAS, such tests fail to measure the most important qualities schools should seek to develop in students, such as relationship-building, character, ethical development, critical thinking, persistence, imagination, insight, and collaboration, amongst others, and

WHEREAS, as a result, many students who develop these valued but unmeasured qualities, but who have extreme difficulty with standardized and other paper-and-pencil tests, experience these tests as stressful to the point of abuse, and

WHEREAS, the increasing focus on such testing causes severe distortions of schooling, inflicting trauma on many students and changing schools into test-prep factories

WHEREAS, the 2007 UFT task force on testing found that “The use of data from student test scores on standardized tests to evaluate teachers may appear simple,… but it is wrong” and The American Statistical Association  warned that “Value Added Measure scores themselves have large standard errors”

WHEREAS there is nationwide opposition to the developmentally inappropriate Common Core standards and, as education historian and professor Diane Ravitch said, “They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.”

THEREFORE, BE IT

RESOLVED, that the UFT declare its opposition to the use of state- or federal-mandated standardized tests for the purposes of making grade promotion, graduation, teacher evaluation, or other high-stakes decisions regarding students or teachers, and

RESOLVED, that UFT supports the right of parents and guardians to choose to opt-out their children from any or all state- or federally-mandated testing, and supports the right of teachers to discuss freely with parents and guardians their rights and responsibilities with respect to such testing, all without any negative consequences from NYC DOE, and

RESOLVED, that UFT will fully support and protect members and others who may suffer any negative consequences as a result of speaking about their views of such testing or about the rights and obligations of parents and guardians with respect to such testing

RESOLVED, that UFT will use its organizational capacity to inform members in every chapter about the right of parents/guardians to opt-out their children from state or federal mandated testing and will take an active role in producing and distributing opt-out literature using materials from changethestakes.wordpress.com, coreteachers.org, and NYSAPE.org, including sample parent opt-out letters.

RESOLVED, that UFT will fully support and, if necessary, defend members who are conscientious objectors to administering standardized assessments

RESOLVED, that UFT will demand an immediate halt to all Common Core based testing, curriculum and standards, until it has been properly field tested

And be it further RESOLVED, that the UFT will continue to mobilize members and parents to achieve these goals through actions such as rallies, forums, and school-based protests.

 

by James Eterno

Former Chapter Leader

Jamaica High School

One of the agenda items at the UFT Executive Board meeting for Monday, March 23 is a resolution to adopt a guide and bylaws for Chapter Elections (see below).  Chapter Leader and Delegate elections are scheduled this spring for the United Federation of Teachers.

In putting out its election guide, the UFT has once again given the cold shoulder to Absent Teacher Reserves and Leave Replacement Teachers, a huge group that includes way over a thousand teachers who belong to no UFT Chapter.  As a Leave Replacement Teacher, I am one of these teachers without a permanent home. We are being disenfranchised in reality, if not on paper, as the new procedures will allow ATR’s to vote and run for office in the school they are assigned to in the first week of May (see below).  This is patently absurd.  We might not even be in that school when it holds its Chapter Election in May or June.

Last month I filed a complaint with the Federal Department of Labor that the UFT is violating federal labor law by not allowing us a reasonable opportunity to serve in the highest policy making body of the union: the Delegate Assembly.  Part of the DOL complaint says the following:

The Landrum Griffin federal regulations say this concerning eligibility to be candidates for union office:  “Every member in good standing is eligible to be a candidate and to hold office subject to reasonable qualifications in the union’s constitution and bylaws that area uniformly imposed.”  Why should being an ATR cause us to lose any chance of being elected to the UFT’s highest policy making body: The Delegate Assembly?  Teachers who are filling in as Leave Replacements or those covering vacancies provisionally also belong to no Chapter and cannot run for Chapter Leader or Delegate.  This is unconscionable.

The union’s response is to say that we can run for office in the school we are assigned to in the first week of May.  It would be as if a person took a business trip to Hawaii for a week, a month or a few months and was told she/he could vote in Hawaii’s election and could run for Governor of Hawaii.

Continue Reading…

Join us on Saturday, March 28th at Noon at 633 Third Avenue at 41st Street (outside Cuomo’s Manhattan office) 

Bring your kids, bring your colleagues, bring your neighbors, and bring your friends!  Spread the word far and wide!

It’s time to do what we do best: make our voices heard in support of public education!

This Saturday, we will join thousands of students, parents, teachers, community members, and education leaders from across the city and state. Together, we’ll stand up on behalf of our kids, our schools, and each other!

ProtectOurSchools-RallyFlier-english new

Sign up for the event via Facebook HERE, then invite everyone.

By

Mindy Rosier

I am a proud product of NYC public schools and I have been a teacher for almost 18 years. I feel that teachers can make a difference in any capacity. We need to educate ourselves on this road to justice. The truth is not pretty out there and we need to make an impact. We need to be fierce and unrelenting. We ALL have a voice and we need to use it loud and clear. We are fighting for our schools, our children, and our livelihoods and I will not let anyone take that away from us! I am here for many reasons, but today I am here to call out Gov Cuomo for failing to fund CFE. This is a disgrace and ALL of our children suffer because of this.

My school for the last 8 plus years is P811, which is a D75 school in Harlem. We have about 100 students with true special needs including autism and students with emotional and learning disabilities. We have an amazing team of teachers, paraprofessionals, counselors, and therapists. Our school is also co-located with the first Success Academy school and we have always been the “have nots” while they have been the “haves.” We are not allowed on their floors, but I have seen pictures. Why can’t our floors, our classrooms, even our bathrooms look like theirs? If our school was able to double dip, meaning receive both public and private funding, our teachers would not have to spend their own hard earned money on things for their classrooms and students. We get $77 this year for Teacher’s Choice. How many teachers spend only $77? Our children need books and lots of them, computers from this decade, manipulatives and toys that would promote learning, understanding, critical thinking, and creativity. These are just a few things and if our schools had more money, our students would truly benefit from it.

Shame on you Governor Cuomo! I call you out and I demand you to fully fund our schools!

My school is owed almost $900,000. How much is your school owed?

http://www.howmuchnysrobbed.nyc/

"MORE UFT pin"

UFT Chapter Leader and Delegate Elections
1. The UFT will announce guidelines for chapter leader and delegate elections this spring.
The elections will be held in May or June.
2. Each chapter must have an election committee. Election committee administers the
election according to UFT guidelines. The chapter leader or anyone running can not be
on the committee.
3. Election committee should have members from different grades, titles, departments to
oversee nominations, voting, and counting. If you are running make sure you have an
ally on the committee
4. Every chapter member votes for chapter leader. Only teachers vote for school based
delegate(s).
5. Non-teachers (guidance counselors, secretaries, paraprofessionals, OTs, PTs, nurses,
etc.) also elect their own delegates and chapter leaders in city-wide “functional chapter”
elections.
6. Notification of nomination period and election must be posted on your chapter’s UFT
bulletin board. We strongly suggest all notifications be distributed in member’s mailboxes
and sent out via chapter email, if your chapter leader is using one.
7. If your chapter leader has not called for election by May 1st, ask him/her when it is. If an
election is not called then get in touch with your UFT Borough Representative:
Brooklyn: 718-852-4900
Bronx: 718-379-6200
Manhattan: 212-598-6800
Queens: 718-275-4400
Staten Island: 718-605-1400
If you are considering running for Chapter Leader and Delegate, or have a friend that is; please
contact more@morecaucusnyc.org to set up a meeting near you. We can advise you on best
strategies for winning an election campaign and organizing your chapter.
MORECAUCUSNYC.ORG
Facebook.com/MOREcaucusNYC
Twitter @MOREcaucusNYC

WhattoKnowforChapterLeadersElections

D15 Rally

By Norm Scott

I stopped by and was pleasantly surprised to see hundreds of people organized by Brooklyn’s District 15. I’m proud to say that a number of MORE chapter leaders and supporters played a major role in this, but also that the UFT did their part in a good spirit of working together on this project.

District 15, the home of the NYC opt-out movement (along with District 6 in upper Manhattan) had a different focus than the standard UFT line, with high stakes testing and common core having equal weight to Cuomo’s anti-public school proposals, which is the UFT’s line. There was room for all positions at this rally — and that is important – the UFT leadership did not and could not take sole control of the message.

#ProtectOurSchools #AllKidsNeed #CallOutCuomo

More photos and videos to come from all the MORE-UFT chapters that mobilized to fight back against the attacks on our public schools!

 

"Demand MORE from the UFT"

UFT Chapter elections are coming up this spring: Step up and be a leader in your building! Join MORE in making the UFT work for NYC’s educators and communities.

If you’re interested in running for Chapter Leader or Delegate in your school, or, if you just want to help your union chapter do a better job protecting members’ rights, join us at a Chapter Building Workshop on Saturday, March 14th! YOU DON’T NEED TO HAVE ATTENDED PART I OF THE SERIES

We’ll help you make plans to build a stronger, more organized, and more involved UFT chapter in your school.

Spread the word and invite all your teacher friends!

MORE Chapter Building Workshop
Saturday, March 14th, 12:00-3:00pm
CUNY Graduate Center
365 5th Ave at 34th st. NYC room 5409

Free childcare is available, but e-mail more@morecaucusnyc.org to reserve it.

If you are unable to make it, e-mail us (more@morecaucusnyc.org)! We have a team ready to help any one who wants to revitalize our union chapters at the school level.

AGENDA:

12-12:30
Introduction

12:30-1:30
Brainstorming: how to protect our public schools
(facilitated by Change the Stakes)

Organizing against Cuomo in our Chapters
-How to Talk to Parents
-Collaboration and Coordination between schools and the community

1:30-2:30 (choose one)
UFT Chapter Leader Elections
-Nuts & Bolts Follow-Up: Running in Elections
-Campaigning
-Mapping Your School
-Getting Out the Vote

OR

Organizing Without Being a Chapter Leader- mobilizing your chapter to become more active

OR

Teachers Under Attack Breakout- fighting back against the culture of fear

We will be serving pizza and soft drinks during our post workshop meet and mingle from 2:30-3:00pm.

Facebook link here

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Parents, Teachers, and Grassroots Organizations From Around New York State Join Together To Defend Public Education From Cuomo’s Attacks.

For Immediate Release:

Contacts: Jia Lee 

Nancy Cauthen 

media@morecaucusnyc.org

Governor Cuomo has proposed detrimental changes to our public schools that do not serve the best interests of our children. Excessive testing, teacher evaluations tied to test scores, lack of funding, charter school expansion, school closings, and state takeover of our local schools are some of the many concerns shared by parents, educators, and children across New York State.

The real stakeholders have come together to protect our schools and stand up for our children. It is time for the Governor to listen to his constituents. We want an end to the attacks on our schools and the opportunity to work together for real reform. The testing regime has diverted resources from arts, music, after-school activities and has focused instruction on bubbling in the “correct” answer instead of critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity.

Please join us at any of our many actions across the state: “Hands around schools” events, rallies at local schools, distributing fliers at parades and events, presentations at parent, community, and teacher union meetings, opt-out workshops, forums, and protests at Cuomo’s regional offices.

Parents, teachers, administrators, and our elected officials will all be involved in this collective campaign to stop Governor Cuomo’s attacks, end the over-testing of our children, and to protect our most valued public institution, our schools.

We invite you to join us at any our events or contact us to set up an interview with our teachers and parents.

http://www.nysape.org/eventspressletters.html

Change the Stakes (changethestakes.org) is a group of New York City parents and educators working together to promote alternatives to high stakes-testing.

Movement of Rank and File Educators-MORE (MOREcaucusNYC.org) is caucus of the UFT that represents working educators from across New York City fighting for the public schools our children and educators deserve.
New York State Alliance for Public Education  is a group of over 50 parent and educator groups from around the state. We are supporters of public education who believe excessive high-stakes testing and inappropriate sharing of private student data without parental consent threatens the futures of our students, schools, and state.

  Events Happening Near You!

Do you have questions about current education policies? Have concerns about Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget and how it will affect our public schools? Want answers and a space to discuss the issues? Are you ready to find out how we can 
make a difference? 
 
Forums and other events are being held all over the state, organized by local educators, parents and concerned community members. 
 
Grassroots community coalition NYSAPE (New York State Alliance for Public Education) has a list of what’s going on in your community!
Click on this link to find out what is 
happening near you: 
 
To set up a forum near you or to have one of our teachers and/or parents from
 speak at your PTA meetings,
please contact us at more@morecaucusnyc.org

Why I am a Teacher Activist

February 19, 2015 — 1 Comment

#WhyImTeacherActivist

By Mindy Rosier

I have been a teacher for almost 18 years and the last 8 ½ with the DOE. I am now a newly delegate, however, I do feel it is important to share my story with you all to show you that you don’t need to have an official position to help organize your school. You can make a difference in any capacity. You need to educate yourself on this road of activism and justice. The truth is very ugly out there and we need to make an impact. We need to be fierce and unrelenting. We all have a voice and we need to use it loud and clear. Today we are fighting for our schools, our kids, and our livelihoods and I will be damned to let anyone take that away from us!

For way too long I was a complacent special ed teacher in Harlem who did what everyone else did. I complained with co-workers which really got nothing done other than cause more complaining.

My little District 75 school has been co-located with Success Academy for years. In fact, they began in my building. Over the years we have lost so much space to them, and what we gave up was never enough. In Oct 2013, Moskowitz came up with a plan that got pushed through via Bloomberg and his cronies that would have essentially kicked out my school. Enough was enough! During this time, I met Community Education Council 3’s VP Noah Gotbaum, Sen. Perkins, and a few others who spoke up for my school and something began stirring inside of me. Mayor de Blasio came into office and overturned that decision and saved my school. Of course Moskowitz got upset. In late November, I met Maria B. from the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) and she basically gave me a crash course in organizing. She saw something in me that I didn’t even think was possible. I was very quiet, and mostly kept to myself, but I was very angry and she tapped into that. A press conference was planned on the corner of my school. She told me who I needed to call including community leaders, elected officials, and parents. I contacted the media and I discovered how useful Twitter can be for getting the word out. Our press conference was amazing. Many great people showed up to speak and even though I did not know of MORE at the time, I found out later that some of them was there as well. I will never forget how Noah Gotbaum said to me that day, “you need to speak up.” I have never shut up after that. ( Here is the link to the complete story I wrote for Crooks and Liars about what happened to my school and our battle with Eva Moskowitz.) At the end of March, Maria organized another press conference but this time on the steps of Tweed. So once again, I helped contact community leaders, elected officials, parents, my fellow educators, and the media. New York Communities for a Change was involved in the planning of this too. Maria encouraged me to speak at this press conference from a teacher’s perspective. This was on school day morning and I got permission to take a personal day for this. As nervous as I was, I gave my speech. Noah felt my schools’ story was very important and wanted me to share it again at the Save Our Schools Rally a couple of days later.. After several elected officials, I gave my speech to hundreds of people at the NY Public Library and proudly marched to Governor Cuomo’s office.

By this time, I had grown more confident. I took to social media with no abandon and I met MORE. In the following months, I helped fellow MOREista Patrick, who is in the gen ed school in my building, write up a proposal for our two schools by providing him all the information needed for my school so that we could become a combined Community Learning School. We got accepted!! My admins have been very hands off on this new adventure and they just recently said that they are trusting me with this and are basically giving me free reign. Also throughout  this time, Fran S from UFT was also a driving force to help our school and would advise me when I needed to write something up and who to contact.

Over the summer, I was out of commision because of ankle surgery, however, I was still strong on social media. I still read, still got angry, and I did my own kind of protesting from my comfy chair. Once I was able to walk again, I did not stop and I have had my hands in many things. With the knowledge of how to organize people and how to make social media very useful, I never stopped. I created a daily online paper that collected top public education and political stories. I wrote some blogs. I wanted everyone to wake up and know what it is going on.There are too many complacent people out there, too many people not know what’s going on or simply not caring. It has become my mission to educate others, to mobilize, to organize and of course agitate. I am not above hijacking a hashtag to get the truth out there. I did so with #DontStealPossible when that came out and I have no problem sending out hundreds of tweets out daily. It is truly important to have conversations with everybody in your school and in your community.

This past year, I have come alive. Not only have I completely changed as a person, but all of this activism has revitalized me as a teacher. I have always loved being a teacher but knowing that I am also fighting for my students has given me the energy, the excitement, and desire to do more. My voice does matter and I encourage all of you to think about this and be loud and proud.

I will conclude with this. My journey over the past year will be one I will never forget. I have made many friends in several organizations including AQE, and as a “thank you” for all of the work they have done for me and my school, I pay it forward and assist them on issues that they are involved in that I too believe in. I have and will continue to march, rally, and protest. I will continue to use social media to the best of my abilities and I will continue to be at events with elected officials and get the truth out there. I will work hard to make my school an amazing Community Learning School, I will continue to be there for my school staff in any way I can be and I will keep fighting for my kids. I am a very passionate person when I believe in something and I believe it shows. I will never forget what Maria from AQE, Noah Gotbaum, and Fran S., did for me in helping to create the activist I am today. I will continue to speak up and speak out.  I will also forever be grateful to MORE for allowing me to grow with them and to fight alongside of them. We have lots of work to do and I am not going anywhere! I am far from being done yet and our battles are many.

Now, I know I have touched many nerves over my journey such as those in Success Academy, Families For Excellent Schools, and moaning Mona Davids and her puppet Sam, and that makes me VERY happy. To me that means I am doing something right. Everyone reading this little blog piece is powerful. Tap into that power, and give ‘em hell!!!

 

What is your #WhyImTeacherActivist story?

Submit your story to more@morecaucusnyc.org

In Solidarity!

 

 

 

Dear UFT Leadership

By Jia Lee

There have been several points along my 14 years as a public school special education teacher when I felt I’d had enough. Many teachers across the country are fleeing the profession, retiring as soon as possible and publicly stating why. When I presented my reasons for becoming a conscientious objector to high stakes testing before the US Senate, some may have viewed it as a risky step, but for me, it was a moment of absolute clarity. The “I Refuse” Resolution reclaims our pedagogical and professional rights and values. It is why over forty locals across New York State have passed this exact resolution. It supports the values of Teachers of Conscience and initiates a means of directly countering Governor Cuomo’s education proposals with the moral force of teachers acting as individuals and collectively in the interests of their students and themselves.

We are at an unprecedented time of policy-making in education that is being driven by those who have very little or no experience teaching. Some of us have joined grassroots groups to organize forums to educate the public about our work and why their children are more than a test score. Sadly, we must also educate the leadership of the largest and most influential local teachers union in the world. At the United Federation of Teachers Delegate Assembly on February 11, 2015, Sterling Roberson, the Vice President of Career and Technical Education stated, in opposition to the resolution, “… the union is against over-testing, but testing is important for parents to know where their child is compared to other children.” The goal and purpose of education in this day and age, we would hope, is to prepare our students to collaborate with each other to solve the immense problems our world faces. We work with beautifully diverse student populations, whose strengths and talents should never be used to compare, rank, sort and place labels based on faulty, opaque metrics.

Mr. Roberson used the term “diagnostic,” as if these tests are being used to provide some kind of useful information that would inform our instruction, or as he put it, “Tell parents where their children are.”  Where has he been? Teachers no longer have access to the tests, and scores arrive at the end of the year. We no longer have the ability to know how our students answered, let alone have the ability to engage in any kind of meaningful dialogue around the items. They are useless for the purposes of teaching and learning. That is because they are not meant to be diagnostic. The sole purpose of the tests is to evaluate teachers. There is ample research which demonstrates that these tests are not indicators of school, teacher or student success or failure. In fact, they are indicators of students’ socioeconomic status, access to resources and other outside-of-school factors. High stakes tests are not diagnostic: they are tools for profit and managing the teaching workforce, made possible by alignment with the Common Core and a climate of rigid enforcement that is taking over our public schools.

Diagnostic exams in schools can be thought of as akin to those used in medicine. Various tools are used to assess a patient’s condition, and physicians often use more than one tool to synthesize the outcomes, in order to provide a comprehensive diagnosis that suggests a path for treatment. The information is immediate and informs professional judgement about the patient’s condition and possible ways of treating them. Imagine if the results of X-rays were not made available to doctors or their patients until months later, and the results came in the form of a 4, 3, 2 or 1. I’d hope that Sterling Roberson himself would say this type of practice is medically useless, if not dangerous.

To continue with this analogy, imagine the X-rays were then viewed by a minimally-trained temp hired by a major corporation with other financial interests in this field, which then determines the score as an indicator of the doctor’s ability to practice medicine. It is absurd, and a danger to both patient and doctor. How out of touch from what is happening in schools and classrooms has our leadership become that they refuse to acknowledge the obvious faults in their own arguments?

It is time for our union leadership to acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of teachers are in fight or flight mode. The moment of clarity for me came two years ago, when one of my most creative and hard working students suddenly scratched into her test booklet, “Dear Testing People, I hate writing because of this test.” Before she could let out another painful word, I gently pulled away her test booklet. When the extended testing time was up, I showed her the notebooks filled with stories she had written and responses to her reading that led to her typing book reviews on several major online platforms. Her test form indicated the “999” refusal. This beautiful little girl is more than a test score and always will be.

We need our union leadership to be an integral part of educating the public, so that the promise of public education, which we all know is still an aspiration, can be realized. However, it seems that they first need a lesson on the intended purposes, workings and consequences of these tests for students and teachers.

If they’re unwilling to learn, then they should step aside and let rank and file teachers speak and act for themselves and their students.

 

MORE logo

 

For Immediate Release:

Contact:

Jia Lee

Mike Schirtzer

media@morecaucusnyc.org

 

While Governor Cuomo is Waging War Against Public Schools, Parents and Teachers Call For An End To Unjust Testing!

 

Public education as we know it is in mortal danger here in New York State. The anti-public education Governor Andrew Cuomo is attempting to get rid of what is left of teacher, parent and student rights with his destructive agenda for our schools. 

 

Parents statewide are opting their children out of standardized testing, but Cuomo has rejected this call and wants to add more value to these tests by tying a majority of teacher’s evaluations to standardized exam scores.

 

Public school educators from all around the state stand stand firmly with parents and our students who have decided to opt-out. Instead of attacking public education, we call on Cuomo to come visit our schools, speak with children, parents, and teachers. These misguided attacks are taking away from the real issues that are harming our schools; child poverty, lack of resources, class sizes, and narrowed curriculum due to the over emphasis on standardized testing.

 

Unfortunately our UFT leadership does not feel the same. Our caucus, The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), raised the “I Refuse” resolution at the February 11th UFT Delegate Assembly. It calls for union opposition to standardized high stakes testing that is currently pushed by the Federal and State governments, because this testing is not being used to further instruction for children, to help children, or to support the educational needs of children. The UFT leadership voted against this resolution.

 

MORE also supports it because, “assessment practices that accompany Common Core State Standards – including the political manipulation of test scores – are used as justification to label and close schools, fail students, and evaluate educators”.

The speaker opposing the resolution representing our union leadership said “standardized testing is necessary” and refused to stand with parents, students, classroom teachers and over forty teacher unions from all across the state.

 

MORE member, public school parent and teacher, Jia Lee testified to the United States Senate that “the focus on testing has taken valuable resources and time away from programming in social studies, the arts and physical education. At my school, we no longer have a librarian and our parent association works full-time to fund needed arts programs that are not provided for in our budget.”

 

The use of standardized test scores to evaluate students and teachers has been proven to be invalid, as Ms. Lee stated: “The American Statistical Association has warned The Value Added Measured scores themselves have large standard errors, even when calculated using several years of data. These large standard errors make rankings unstable, even under the best scenarios for modeling. In New York State, the tests change every year, and the cut scores shift.” 

The time has come for UFT leadership and Governor Cuomo to listen to class-room teachers, our students, and their parents in ending their support for the non-stop testing of our children.

 

About MORE: MORE is a caucus in the UFT that organizes for a member-driven union. We fight for the public schools our children deserve. “Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions!”

StopAttacksOnTeachers

MORE believes that it is crucial that UFT members get involved in the fight-back against Cuomo’s proposals. Therefore, we urge members to do the following:

  1. Attend the district meetings (click here for locations) that the UFT is promoting to speak out against the Governor’s agenda. Although the union needs to be prodded to do much more than this we believe it is important that we have strong showings at these gatherings.
  2. Plan activities in your school. Every chapter is different and some are more active than others. But throughout the city members are upset and they should be asked to do something. If all you can realistically do is get members to call local legislators than we urge you to do that. If you believe you can organize a picket outside your school — or in conjunction with nearby schools — we urge you to do that. If it is possible for you to reach out to and involve the parents of your students, that will make whatever you plan even more effective.

We believe this is a very high priority for our organization over the next few months. If you would like help strategizing about how to do this, have ideas to build our fight back, or questions, please contact the steering committee (steering@morecaucusnyc.org).

refuse the tests

MORE has endorsed the following resolution and will urge the leadership of our UFT to do the same.

 

Resolution to Support “The I Refuse Movement” to Oppose High Stakes Testing

WHEREAS, the purpose of education is to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives, not solely prepare that populace for college and career; and

WHEREAS, instructional and curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and

WHEREAS, the education of children should be grounded in developmentally appropriate practice; and

WHEREAS, high quality education requires adequate resources to provide a rich and varied course of instruction, individual and small group attention, and wrap-around services for students; and

WHEREAS, the state assessments are not transparent in that–teachers and parents are not allowed to view the tests and item analysis will likely not be made available; and

WHEREAS, the assessment practices that accompany Common Core State Standards – including the political manipulation of test scores – are used as justification to label and close schools, fail students, and evaluate educators; therefore be it

RESOLVED that NYSUT opposes standardized high stakes testing that is currently pushed by the Federal and State governments, because this testing is not being used to further instruction for children, to help children, or to support the educational needs of children; and be it further

RESOLVED, that NYSUT advocates for an engaged and socially relevant curriculum that is student-based and supported by research; and be it further

RESOLVED, that NYSUT will embark on internal discussions to educate and seek feedback from members regarding standardized high stakes testing and its impact on students; and be it further

RESOLVED, that NYSUT will lobby the NYS Education Department (NYSED) to eliminate the use of high stakes testing; and be it further

RESOLVED, that NYSUT will ask that all of its members have their own children refuse to take the Grade 3-8 assessments: and be it further

RESOLVED, that NYSUT will organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to high stakes testing; and be it further

RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution will be sent to the NYSED, the Governor of NYS, and all members of the NYS legislative branch; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that after this resolution is passed by the UFT Delegates Assembly, an appropriate version will be submitted to the American Federation of Teachers for consideration at the AFT July 2015 Convention and to NYSUT for consideration at the 2015 RA.

 

 

UFT Must Fight Back Now!

January 27, 2015 — 2 Comments

teachers24n-1-web

Governor Cuomo has launched an attack on our rights. We believe the UFT needs a more aggressive response. Our union should work to activate members at the school, district, and borough level to demand equitable and adequate funding for our schools and to stop the testing madness. We believe that we have a golden opportunity to form alliances with parent organizations who are already working on these issues.

Specifically we propose that the UFT:

  • Organize multi-school meetings of UFT members and parents to build solidarity and plan a response

  • Plan local phone banks, school-based and district-wide pickets and rallies

  • Build toward borough and city-wide rallies

  • Pass and support the “I Refuse” opt-out resolution

This approach has the potential to transform the debate about teacher quality and evaluation to one about school funding and test-driven curricula. More importantly, it can rebuild membership confidence in their union by getting members together, letting them see that they are not alone, and generating a spirit of active unionism. We will need that for this battle and for battles to come.
If you agree with this approach we invite you to join us to help spread the word and to work with us to strengthen our union.

By Mindy Rosier

I attended my first CEC75 meeting on 01/22/15 in the conference room at Tweed and overall found it to be a very informative meeting filled with concerned parents.

Superintendent Gary Hecht began this meeting because Chancellor Farina was running late from another meeting. He announced that the annual Parent Engagement events in the boroughs will begin in April and encouraged all to attend. The dates and locations for these events can be found on the D75 calendar of events.

Chancellor Farina arrived a few minutes later and began her portion by sharing that there will now be a total of 7 borough D75 offices.They will be fully staffed and all services needed can and will be assessed based on need. She will also chose their directors.

She then went on to discuss principals and how they will be dealt with. A three tier system for supervision will based on how those principals are doing and their needs. The better the principal the more autonomy they will receive.

As for schools themselves, she does not want any of them to be closed. Farina feels they need to be helped first before being made accountable.

Farina strongly feels that teachers should be trained in language learning via speech practices. She highly believes in these practices and feels all educators and their students would benefit from training. Speech services will be a mission for her.

She feels that inclusion is an issue. It is not for everybody. She wants to make sure all of those students are getting the appropriate support and “how many kids are too many kids” needs to be properly evaluated.

Farina is a firm believer in assisted technology and she already has several pilot programs in effect.

She too stressed Parent Engagement days in the different boroughs and reiterated those dates and where they could be found.

Farina then moved on to how we must give proper training to leaders and that they must match AP’s to their students. In other words, a former elementary special education teacher turned AP, will be assigned to an elementary school.

She praised all of the new Pre-K programs and shared how they all will truly make a difference. She encouraged these young children to draw as they are future indicators on how those students will be. She wants assessment folders to contain lots of artwork. (She even went on that they will be using children’s artwork to decorate the new borough offices.)

Finally, Farina discussed that we must know about the needs of the city. She has put faith in superintendents to support and to supervise and emphasized that they WILL be held accountable.

*Opened up for questions-

I asked Farina the question about Cuomo’s plan of 50% of our evaluations based on tests. She made a face and then she kind of tap danced around the question. Farina went on about how teachers need to be evaluated. I did not appreciate her trying to change the angle of my question. I was very clear and I know she understood me so I said that evaluations were not the problem, it’s being tied to the tests that is the problem. She then went on to say that there is a think tank already formed and they “need to figure out target progress.” She concluded her “non-explanations” by saying that she hears me…. (I had discussed her response with another attendee and he felt she seemed to be skeptical about basing evaluations on computers.) Maybe it is too early to have a definitive answer but it is not too early to come up with a “what-if?” plan. I was completely dissatisfied with her response. If there is in fact a “think tank,” who is in it? Educators? Parents? Retail workers? After quickly going through a couple of more questions, she left the conference area.

The superintendent of D75, Gary Hecht then took some questions. Surprisingly, he gave a lot of great responses. A few parents brought up the Common Core with their children’s instruction. He stressed that the CC must be aligned with the capabilities of the student. Hecht gave an example that a child in gen ed in the 8th grade is different than an 8th grade student in special ed. Having an IEP “means we have to see kids differently.” “We need to look at data, look at IEP’s.” He feels that current measures are not appropriate. “They are too challenging and kids will react.” I took this as an opportunity to ask him about high stakes testing and how I feel it is wrong to subject our students to them. Hecht said he is against them because the kids suffer. He agreed with me that it is heartbreaking seeing those kids struggle like they have been. Hecht explained that since those tests come from a state level, nothing can be done right now. He believes alternate assessments would be best for them. A new commissioner will be chosen soon and a dialogue on testing will be one of the priorities. Hecht continued that IEP’s should be the determining factor of achievement and growth. He encouraged all of us to contact NYS Regent Dr. Betty Rosa.  She is a former D75 principal from D6.

Hecht also said that parents, teachers, advocates, etc. must work collectively together to say what’s best for our students.

He answered a few more questions before answering one from a parent who asked about Safety Agents in schools. Hecht explained that they have been working closely with Safety Agents and Police Departments. There has been training sessions to help Safety Agents understand the needs of these D75 schools.

Although I was not happy with Farina, I saw a light of hope in Hecht. I truly hope he will not disappoint.

jia-lee-senate-testimony-01-21-15

Jia Lee, who is a special education teacher at the Earth School in Manhattan, testified at a senate hearing on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on January 21st. As an act of conscience, Jia joined two other teachers last year in refusing to administer high-stakes standardized tests, citing their negative impacts on students. She is a parent who has opted her own child out of testing, joining thousands of parents around the nation. Jia is a leader of MORE, UFT Chapter Leader, and an active member of our sister organization Change the Stakes.

View Jia’s testimony at 1:03

 

Below is the written statement she submitted prior to her testimony. Her verbal presentation had a few changes, so we recommend watching the testimony on the video link above.
Testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee
Hearing on the Impact of NCLB’s Testing and Accountability
Jia Lee
The Earth School, NYC
January 21, 2015
Thank you Chairman Alexander and Senator Murray for this opportunity to offer my remarks
regarding the impact of No Child Left Behind’s testing and accountability provisions on our
public school children. I thank you for your vision and for this opportunity. I have an eleven
year-old son in sixth grade, so I speak to you as both a public school parent and a teacher.

Business practices are informing education policy, so I would like to start there. The use of
competitive, performance based practices have long been assumed to motivate workers.
Microsoft, Expedia and Adobe Systems are just some of the companies who adopted stack
ranking, the now infamous practice of applying rewards, consequences and rankings based
on performance. These same business advisors informed many of our nation’s biggest
school districts, including mine. In the past few years, businesses have abandoned this
practice because they have proven to have disastrous affects on collaboration, problem
solving, and innovation. The high exodus of workers seen in these businesses are attributed
to stack ranking (Oremus, 2013). Studies, including those sponsored by the Federal
Reserve Bank , find that incentive-based practices only work for the most menial tasks that
do not require critical thinking (Ariely, et. al., 2005). What was bad for business has been
disastrous for public education, a field already plagued with recruitment and retention
challenges. Educators with valuable experience are leaving the profession in droves and
enrollment in teacher preparation programs is abysmal.

Furthermore, multiple choice, high-stakes tests have reliably padded the profits of education
corporations, draining public tax dollars but have been unreliable in measuring the diversity
of students’ capabilities and learning. The use of those same tests in evaluating teachers is,
simply put, statistically invalid. The American Statistical Association has warned “The VAM
scores themselves have large standard errors, even when calculated using several years of
data. These large standard errors make rankings unstable, even under the best scenarios
for modeling.” In New York State, the tests change every year, and the cut scores shift. The
results are norm-referenced, ensuring a stack ranking of students with approximately 50%
below the curve. We are playing a dangerous game with our children’s futures and public
education, cornerstones of our democracy. As a special and general education teacher, I
have seen these tests incite anxiety and can provide numerous examples of times when
students stated that all they accomplished throughout the year meant nothing.

I have worked in different schools, some of which, through no fault of their own, have
become increasingly data driven as opposed to student driven. I am fortunate to currently
work in a public school that was founded on the principles of whole child education, where
we, the teachers, collaborate to develop curriculum and create relevant assessments. It is
the antithesis of stack ranking.

This year, our 4th and 5th graders are immersed in a study we call Rights and
Responsibilities. Students develop questions around the origins of the United States, the
Constitution, and discuss the complex struggles and progress we have made as a nation.
My class decided to divide themselves into groups to study three different perspectives from
the colonial era – the Native people, European colonists and the African slaves. They are
the researchers, using primary and secondary sources to learn about key events, figures,
and cultural and political ideas. My integrated co-teaching class consists of students with
disabilities, or I should say, all abilities, and they work in heterogeneous groups to present
their understandings through a variety of mediums: creating art pieces, choreographing
original dance pieces, presenting timelines, developing maps, conducting process dramas,
and giving oral reports. They are learning “how” to learn, developing lifelong skills:
researching, analyzing information from multiple sources, collaborating with others and
sharing what they’ve learned in creative and thought-provoking ways. They are the
stewards of their own learning, guided by their interests and passions. I share this not as a
best practice but to emphasize the importance of fostering learning environments that value
a culture of trust, diversity, and teacher autonomy not a focus on test preparation. Teachers’
working conditions are inextricably linked to students’ learning conditions.

When parents and educators voice concerns, they have been accused of coddling. I want to
challenge that assumption. The great crime is that the focus on testing has taken valuable
resources and time away from programming in social studies, the arts and physical
education. At my school, we no longer have a librarian and our parent association works full
time to fund needed arts programs that are not provided for in our budget. We are one of
the lucky schools. What about schools where parents must work just to survive? I know
schools that no longer have money for basics such as soap for the bathrooms. There is
nothing more painful to watch or forced to be complicit to than the minimalizing that is
happening in our schools. Teachers, students and parents find themselves in a position of whether or not to push back or leave. Who is left to receive these tests and accompanying
sanctions? Who are the children receiving scripted curricula while losing recess, physical
education, music and civics lessons? It is our students from the most marginalized
communities. A current study by the Southern Education Foundation finds that more than
50% of our public school children are living in poverty, an all time high in fifty years (Layton,
2015). Black and Latino students live disproportionately at or below the poverty line, and it
is no accident that we are faced with the most segregated school system in history, with a
disproportionate number of school closures happening in the poorest communities- all at the
hands of using invalid metrics. It is what pushes me past my comfort zone and to speak out.

Last year, over 50% of the parents at our school refused to allow their children to take the
NYS Common Core aligned ELA and Math tests and we were not alone. The Latin root of
assessment is to “sit alongside.” Until we have teachers and policymakers “sitting
alongside” and getting to know our students and our classrooms in deep and meaningful
ways, we cannot fully understand the state of public education. (I sit here as the sole female in a field dominated by women-from verbal testimony) No corporate made multiple-choice test will give you that data. Last year, I decided that I am obligated and accountable
to my students and families, and that is why, as a conscientious objector, I will not
administer tests that reduce my students to a single metric and will continue to take this
position until the role of standardized assessments are put in their proper place. Along with
two other teachers at my school, we formed Teachers of Conscience, a position paper and
call to action at local levels.

We just celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr. In his Letter From a Birmingham Jail,
King affirms that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” He quotes St. Augustine who said “an unjust law is no law at all.” So long as education policy continues to
be shaped by the interests of corporate profiteering and not the interests of our public
school children, we will resist these unjust testing laws. It is time to abandon faulty business
assumptions in public education. We are experiencing a historic resistance to high stakes
testing. Chicago Public Schools just voted to back away from PARCC assessments and
another state joins the nine who have already withdrawn from the assessment consortium.
Let us abandon stack ranking of our children and schools. We need future generations to
explore problems that have far more complex solutions than a multiple choice test. Let us
do the work of teaching and help us hold our state officials accountable for delivering on
funding, as promised through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

I am hopeful that we can sit alongside each other and do the hard work of answering the
questions most central to our democracy: What is the purpose of public education in a
democratic society? How can we ensure that all children receive an enriching and equitable
education? How do we support teachers and schools in carrying out their missions to
educate all? Thank you.

 

Jia Lee, MORE candidate and teacher at the Earth School is one of the conscientious objectors who refuses to administer the NY State Test this year.

Jia Lee, MORE candidate and teacher at the Earth School is one of the conscientious objectors who refuses to administer the NY State Test this year.

The members of MORE proudly support our colleague, Jia Lee, who will be testifying at a senate hearing on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal education policies on Wednesday, January 21st 2015. Jia has taught at all school levels from high school to elementary school. She currently serves as the UFT chapter leader at the Earth School on the Lower East Side. She is a parent who has opted her child out of testing, joining thousands of parents around the nation. She has become a leader of the opt-out movement.

Jia has been a strong advocate for teachers, parents and students, especially on the testing issue in her school, in MORE and in Change the Stakes. Last year she and other teachers at her school declared themselves “teachers of conscience” a form of conscientious objection in relation to the overwhelming negative impact of high stakes testing. In a letter to NYC Chancellor Carmen Farina, they wrote:

Dear Chancellor Carmen Fariña,

We are teachers of public education in the City of New York. We are writing to distance ourselves from a set of policies that have come to be known as market-based education reform. We recognize that there has been a persistent and troubling gulf between the vision of individuals in policymaking and the work of educators, but we see you as someone who has known both positions and might therefore be understanding of our position. We find ourselves at a point in the progress of education reform in which clear acts of conscience will be necessary to preserve the integrity of public education. We can no longer implement policies that seek to transform the broad promises of public education into a narrow obsession with the ranking and sorting of children. We will not distort curriculum in order to encourage students to comply with bubble test thinking. We can no longer, in good conscience, push aside months of instruction to compete in a city-wide ritual of meaningless and academically bankrupt test preparation. We have seen clearly how these reforms undermine teachers’ love for their profession and undermine students’ intrinsic love of learning.

As an act of conscience, we are declining the role of test administrators for the 2014 New York State Common Core Tests. We are acting in solidarity with countless public school teachers who have paved their own paths of resistance and spoken truthfully about the decay of their profession under market-based reforms. These acts of conscience have been necessary because we are accountable to the children we teach and our pedagogy, both of which are dishonored daily by current policies.

Read the full statement here:   https://teachersofconscience.wordpress.com

The voice of the classroom teacher will be in extraordinarily capable hands in the person of Jia Lee at the national forum at the US Senate Education Committee hearing.

StopAttacksOnTeachers

Now, more than ever we need a revitalized union that involves and mobilized all its members. You can do this by getting active in the upcoming UFT chapter leader and delegate elections. All schools (chapters) will have an election this spring.

Our tenure rights, pensions, our very jobs are coming under attack from politicians on both sides of the aisle and the corporate billionaires who fund them. Schools have become places of fear; teachers are scared of losing their jobs, students are afraid of tests, administrators who lack classroom experience violating our contractual rights. Teachers were once highly respected members of society who dedicated their lives to making the world a better place. Now we face attack after attack from those who have an economic interest in destroying the public education system. The plan is simple; close down our public schools, destroy unions, drive down wages, and increase their profits.

How do we fight back, how do we defend public education while advocating for the children we serve? Unions are the answer! You need to start in your school. Revitalizing your own chapter is where you start.

This is where MORE can help. We have to start from the bottom up. We have to organize ourselves, get people in our schools involved in the fight and educate parents and community members. The best way to do this is during the upcoming chapter elections.

Start with your chapter, if your chapter leader is not responsive or not interested in calling chapter meetings or seeking input from members then it is time for a change. Luckily it’s the right time, get in touch with MORE, we can set up a local meeting near you, help you run, offer support, and workshops. MORE can put you in touch with nearby UFT members who are facing the same challenges you are.

Our long time chapter leaders can advise you on best practices for winning elections and how to defeat the incumbent. MORE members can help in getting your staff involved in taking back our schools from the culture of fear. Our vision of unionism is one where UFT members in the schools work together, empower each other, get mobilized, have each others back, and then build alliances with nearby schools and communities.

No UFT member should ever be left alone! We ARE our union. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.

Come to MORE’s January workshop to learn how to build a stronger and more active chapter.

January 24th 12:00-2:30pm
CUNY Graduate Center
365 5th Ave at 34th st NYC room 5409
Free childcare is available – please email more@morecaucusnyc.org to reserve.

We will be serving free pizza and soft drinks during our post workshop meet and mingle from 2:30-3:00pm.

If you can not make this workshop email: more@morecaucusnyc.org  to set up a meeting near you

 

BROCHURE 1BROCHURE 2

This Thursday, January 8th, there will be a Public Hearing on Success Academy in District 1 at P.S.20 Anna Silver School, located a 166 Essex Street in lower Manhattan. 

We need to let our voices be heard!

Join us in telling Success Academy CEOs and decision-makers that It is not acceptable for our public schools to be invaded by an entity that…

-does not educate “all” as they claim

-steals resources, and

-misinforms the media and the general public. 

If space is not found within a school, we, as tax payers. should not have to fund their rent and we certainly should not have to fund their renovations. 

This needs to stop, and we need you to be part of it! 

Here’s what you can do…

Please RSVP on this invite and sign up for public comment at 5:30 on Thursday night at the hearing.

Print out and hand out our pamphlet on The Truth About Charters.

Also, take a moment to sign and share this petition on there being no need for Success Academy in D1.

MORE will see you there!

See our fliers here- please print and distribute

BROCHURE 1

BROCHURE 2

stronger together

Dear Merryl Tisch, Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents:

We are a group of education leaders from across the state that have shared concerns with the direction of education policy in this state and how it ultimately affects our students. On December 18th, 2014, the Governor’s office submitted an open letter to you that outlined questions to be discussed when developing the state’s educational policy in the coming year.

The questions the Governor’s office posed relied on the state’s testing data being valid and reliable. Since there have been many questions regarding the validity and reliability of the data, we believe it is important that SED make public responses to the following questions so any discussion that occurs will be transparent. Experience has shown that when policy is formed without the input of all stakeholders, chaos ensues; furthermore, we have seen how disastrous policy can be when predicated upon incomplete and erroneous data. We believe this disconnect has led to the turbulence between the practitioners and the policy-makers for the last several years.

We believe improvements need to be made for the state to move beyond the current problematic foundation: SED needs to make clear that its underlying assumptions parallel the actual experiences of all students of the state of New York. Could you answer the following questions in a timely manner?

No previous cohort of students (K-12) had ever received instruction so heavily tied to the Common Core or standardized tests. Could such experimentation on our children create significant and systemic unintended negative consequences?

These consequences could be more devastating as this is not a localized experiment where local professionals can modify it as they see fit. This is a statewide experiment where local control has been removed and subsequently, practitioners and parents feel powerless to adjust and adapt to meet the needs of their children. Given the consistent and pervasive anecdotal reports of students’ increased stress reactions, school phobias and medications being prescribed for anxiety (especially in our elementary population), has SED been monitoring the emotional and physical health effects of this curriculum/testing initiative on our students?  What has SED found in its research? If SED has not been monitoring for unintended negative consequences, why not?

Much of the discussion about schools, teaching and student outcomes assumes that the results on the State’s ELA and Math assessments are both valid and reliable.  In order for the label “College and Career Ready” to have any real meaning, the data that the state produces must parallel the experience of the actual students in the school districts upon entering the college educational system.  For example, if a school sends 90% of its students to four-year schools and 80% of those students graduate in four years, yet the state assessments only put the percentages of college and career ready students at 40%, whose data is considered more valid?  Has SED surveyed districts to examine this discrepancy? What has SED found in its research?  If SED has not been monitoring for discrepancies, why not? Doing so would provide more accurate data about college and career readiness.

The initial study that established the State’s “College and Career Readiness” benchmarks was done on students from New York City schools who were attending two-year CUNY schools.  This narrowed the pool by eliminating students that went on to four-year colleges.  The smaller subgroup selected makes the data very specific.  It also makes it harder to extrapolate generalizations regarding all the students of our state.  What steps have been taken since then to make the “college and career readiness” benchmarks a more reliable and valid measure of all our students?  What has SED found in its research?

In 2013, both you and Commissioner King stressed that the low test scores were “just a baseline” and should not be overemphasized, making the exams experimental.  Has new information materialized in the last year to make SED more confident that the test scores are now a more accurate reflection of the deficits in student learning as a result of teacher ineffectiveness, and not just the continued fallout that exists with the Common Core roll out? What has SED found in its research?

Last year, you followed the feedback from the Commissioner’s Forums on Common Core.  In fact, you attended some of the meetings.  How would you try to synthesize the feedback from parents with the desires of the Governor?  Would you be willing to take the questions from the Governor’s office to the people of the State in another listening tour? If not, why not?

Thank you for your time and consideration in these matters.  We look forward to an open dialogue which will help us all ensure that our school children are in fact being prepared for the 21st century and beyond and ultimately to improve education in the state of New York.

Sincerely,

Beth Dimino, Port Jefferson Station TA, Suffolk County
Joseph Karb, Springville FA, Western NY
Michael Lillis, Lakeland Federation of Teachers, Hudson Valley
Michele Bushey, Saranac TA, North Country
Kevin Coyne, Brentwood TA, Suffolk County
Orlando Benzan, Brockport TA Rochester
Beth Chetney, Baldwinsville TA, Central NY
Megan DeLaRosa, Shenendehowa TA, Capital Region
Laura Finn- Spencer, Smithtown TA, Suffolk County
Lauren Cohen, UFT, New York City

From the Stronger Together caucus of NYSUT

http://stcaucus.weebly.com/

By Mindy Rosier

SA

There are many forces set to destroy public education that we must fight, but fighting this “evil” is near and dear to my heart. I received information last week that there will be a Public Hearing on Success Academy in District 1 on January 8th. I also kept seeing Eva Moskowitz in the media.

As usual, the more I read, the more angry I got. First came a link claiming the city is dawdling in their charter school plans here. So she planned a City Hall press conference which she canceled after Farina said she anticipates on accommodating up to 8 out 14 of Moskowitz’s schools, though no locations were mentioned. Farina further stated that if any of her schools could not be co-located within existing public schools, the city could seek funding for her to receive private space in the article found here. Thank you Governor Cuomo! Then a little birdie on Twitter shared this gem with me. It is of Success Academy’s 990 Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax for the period of 07/01/2012-06/30/2013. During this time period, Success Academy’s annual revenue more than doubled. Yet Moskowitz can’t afford to pay rent??? We all remember that statement don’t we?

The next day, NY Daily News Reporter Ben Chapman, who must have heard from this birdie too, put out this article. Not only does he state what I just did, he also reported that Moskowitz’s salary jumped, too.  Campbell Brown put in her two cents by saying, “she is worth every penny.” What’s that saying…. “birds of a feather flock together,” it is all so true.

By last Friday, a report on Mayor de Blasio written by Juan Gonzalez from the NY Daily News came out, and it is my opinion that de Blasio made some bold statements that he needs to uphold. He should not cave in to Moskowitz or Cuomo. This article can be found here. On charter schools, “We would never take our kids out of (public) school for a political purpose, and that’s what it was,” de Blasio said. “I think anyone who helped organize those protests [against Success Academy’s not being given free space] took advantage of those kids and used them as political pawns.” The city’s cooperation “comes with some rules,” he said. “We expect (charter schools) to represent the same population as in the district they are housed, meaning just as many English-language learners, just as many special ed kids, (and) not move out kids who don’t test as well.” Finally on this issue, “there was an election,” de Blasio added. “I said what I believed in. We’re (implementing) these policies. They can protest like anyone else, but we’re following through on a vision that I put forward to the people of this city.” I know many have a problem with our mayor for so many things. I personally do not agree with everything he says or does. However, in general, I have found that it is impossible to please everyone, but we either have to make do or fight back. I choose to fight back.

So now we get to why this issue is near and dear to me, I will start by saying that I know what it is like to be in co-location with Moskowitz. Her chain of Success Academy schools began in my building eight years ago. She has gutted my District 75 school over and over. During these eight years, we lost our art room, the music room, the technology room, the science room, a library, and classrooms, so she could expand and have a block room, a karate room, and a dance room.

Moskowitz’s school has become the “haves” while my school along with another general ed. school in my building became the “have nots.”

Last year her plan, pushed through via Bloomberg and his stooges would have essentially kicked out my school. If we had lost this space, federal, state, and local laws that were put in place to PROTECT these most vulnerable children would have been violated. What about Section 504 that protects children with disabilities? Why was that was so blatantly ignored?

We fought back in every way we could, with the help of  AQE, CEC3, local leaders, and elected officials and organizations. Plus, de Blasio said even before he was our mayor, and many times since, that he would not displace any special needs children.

Then came the media blitz brought to everybody by Families for Excellent Schools. They spent over $6 million with ads that were full of lies. You saw the faces of 194 students and some of their families begging not to be thrown away over and over again.

The reality was, Success Academy wanted to expand in a building that had NO free space. Moskowitz’s students were NOT getting kicked out. This was a planned move on their part and the general public had no idea what the truth actually was. Even when de Blasio did find space for Success Academy, much to our relief, Moskowitz still had to make a dig by saying the original space was still ideal.

Even months later, she still had no qualms about almost kicking out and disrupting the lives of our students and their families. She still claims she was the victim in this article. Moskowitz was quoted as saying, “they are trying to kill us.”

I will end with this, the original purpose of charter schools were to enrich the schools they co-locate with. This has NEVER happened. When asked to help out and to share their methodologies they flatly refused. While my school and the other schools in our building make do with what we have, we know that while we struggle, they have fancy bathrooms and all that extra enrichment space that our students are denied. Charter school advocates have proven to us over and over again, that what they have is never enough. They have taught their students that if you bully a school long enough, you can get your way.

By the grace of God, we are protected from Moskowitz now that we are a Community Learning School. But it doesn’t mean she won’t try again. What she did to us she has done and will do to other schools.  That is why we have been and will continue to fight back.

I will be speaking up at the upcoming hearing in January along with other MORE members, and you can count on us to be at any other Success Academy Public Hearings that will no doubt come forth like the hearing in January in D14 in Brooklyn followed by this PEP in the Bronx. We need to let our voices be heard. It is not acceptable for our schools to be invaded by an entity that does not educate “all” as they claim, that steals our students’ resources, and misinforms the media and the general public. If space is not found within a school, we as taxpayers should NOT have to fund their rent and certainly not their renovations. #EnoughIsEnough! These are OUR public schools, OUR students and this lunacy needs to stop now!

Please take a moment to sign and share the following petition. By signing this petition, you are telling Moskowitz that we do not need her “Success” in the District 1 community and that you support the schools that TRULY serve our children. Also, please join MORE at the January 8th hearing by RSVP’ing to this link.

"organize agitate educate Susan Anthony MORE"

@MOREcaucusNYC

@MindyRosier

Peace and Condolences

December 23, 2014 — 3 Comments

MORE wishes to express our deepest condolences and sends our warmest thoughts to the families of murdered NYPD officers Wenjian Lui and Rafael Ramos.
All murder is wrong. All murderers should be brought to justice. This is true when police officers are victims and when civilians are victims.

While we reject the language of those who would exploit this horrific event for political gain, let us work as a city and a nation, together, to create a better, peaceful, compassionate, and equitable world. Losing a loved one, because of the violent act of civilian or officer, should be something we can all agree must end.

Justice for Eric Garner!

December 11, 2014 — 8 Comments

On July 17, 2014 Eric Garner was held in a chokehold by an NYPD officer until motionless. Eric Garner died shortly after being taken away in an ambulance.  The incident was captured on film, and Garner’s death was declared homicide by the medical examiner.

The police officer responsible for Eric Garner’s death was not indicted.  Since the announcement of the grand jury’s decision not to indict, thousands upon thousands have marched, sat-in, blocked traffic and shut down bridges demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner and his family.

MORE, the social justice caucus of the UFT, stands with the Garner family and all the thousands calling for justice.  We encourage New York City Educators to organize their coworkers and march on NYC on Dec. 13th to demand an immediate end to police brutality and justice for Eric Garner.

As educators in New York City, we work with and are part of communities that are most affected by racist policing practices in this city.  We work everyday with young people that are constantly criminalized, stopped, frisked on their way to and from school and sometimes even arrested inside our school buildings. The lack of even an indictment in the Eric Garner case reflects the deep-seeded discrimination prevalent in the institutions of our justice system.  Sadly, these dramatic inequities are also perpetuated in our public schools. In the last decade, Black students, who represent 33% of the student population in NYC, received 53% of suspensions, and were more likely to be suspended for minor misbehavior.i   They also received 51% of suspensions for profanity and 57% of suspensions for insubordination.ii   Research by the American Psychological Association found that students who are suspended in school are more likely to dropout or graduate late,iii and the likelihood of incarceration increases by more than 50% for students that drop out of high school.iv  From the metal detectors that greet them at the door to the suspension policies that govern our discipline codes, the New York City public school system is, for far too many of our young people, a direct line to incarceration. The same system that daily treats students as criminals because of the color of their skin, has led to the death of innocent people like Eric Garner.

We must speak up about what happens inside our schools and in the communities of which we are part. As teachers that serve a student body that is majority students of color v, we must stand up and say that their lives matter.  Black lives matter.

For this reason, we will march on Saturday with thousands of others demanding an end to racist police policies that have taken the lives of too many, and wreaked havoc on the lives of too many others. The violence and criminalization at the hands of the NYPD must end today.

 

There are several ways to get involved this Saturday.  Please click links for more information on each event:

Justice For All March in Washington DC

(http://www.uft.org/campaigns/justice-all-march)

Millions March in New York City (http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2014/12/09/blacklivesmatter-group-young-black-organizers-calls-march-millions-13th-dec)

Teachers Unite Full Court Press Against School PushOut (http://www.teachersunite.net/content/join-full-court-press-against-schoolpushout)

 

[1]

i NYCLU. (2011). “Education interrupted: The growing use of suspensions in New York City’s public schools,” pg. 3.

ii NYCLU. (2011). “Education interrupted: The growing use of suspensions in New York City’s public schools,” pg. 19.

iii Skiba, R., et al (2006). Are zero tolerance policies effective in the schools? A report by the American Psychological Association Task Force, p. 63

iv By The Numbers:  Dropping Out of High School.  Dropout Nation.  Frontline. PBS

  1. According to NYC DOE Demographic Snapshot data for 2013, Black and Latino students combined make up nearly 70% of the NYC public school system.

 

Teachable Moment

December 8, 2014 — 6 Comments

teachable-moments

 

By Mr. S (Brooklyn high school teacher)

After the grand jury decision was released on the Mike Brown case and following the protests that have taken place in New York, a few of the teachers decided we have to do something. Actually the decision to do something about racism began a few years ago when teaching my criminal law class a young lady broke down and began crying about how she was stopped and frisked on a regular basis. From that moment until now we have been struggling with what we can do to try to bring some racial justice to our school, our city, our world.

This past Thursday, the day after the grand jury decision in the Garner case was announced, we decided to have an after-school discussion where our students were welcome to express their feeling on recent events in Staten Island, Ferguson, and their thoughts on race relations. I sent my principal an email Wednesday night asking to have this after-school discussion. He promptly answered back “let’s have a meeting in the morning.” The meeting went well, we set norms and created some questions we would use in facilitation. I did sense some hesitancy to have this after school from my administration, understandably so. They wanted to make sure it was handled in manner that would make all our children representing various view points feel safe. Carmen Farina had written a letter on Wednesday night to principals encouraging schools to have events like the one we were planning. That letter helped tremendously in allowing this event to take place as I was able to refer to it several times in our planning session. 

The principal asked me to make the announcement over the loudspeaker. We wanted to let our students know that teachers were having an open forum addressing this situation. I think the announcement  was really critical. It let the entire school community, from students to school aides to other teachers, know that we were doing something to address the great injustice that had just occurred. In fact one teacher said when the words “Mike Brown and Eric Garner” came over the loudspeakers, many students look puzzled. After my announcement was over, the students in Ms. C’s class asked what this was all about. She stopped her class and began to explain what had happened. She later told me it was the perfect teachable moment and could care less if she finished her lesson on Byzantine. This was much more important. A few English and Social Studies teachers preempted their lessons through-out the day to discuss the Brown and Garner decisions.

When 3:00 came we went up to the assigned room. I was going to facilitate along with my friend Mr. G, another social studies teacher who has been very involved with all of social justice initiatives at our school. Twenty-five students walked in, a diverse group, different genders, races, and grade. Surprisingly three other teachers, one paraprofessional, the assistant principal, and the principal came as well. We made sure to greet everyone and make the atmosphere as welcoming as possible. We explained we were holding this discussion in order to have a forum where you can express yourselves, because your voice counts. 

The discussion was extremely passionate, engaging, and as in any good class, I learned more from the students then they could ever learn from me. One student said she was upset that her parents were arguing with her because they did not believe either case was about race. Our African-American students explained why it was about race and some of the feelings they have in dealing with police. Some students discussed how economics played a role in this, that poor people are forced to do illegal actions in order to survive. Some of our students discussed how the justice system is not just at all. Many of students there were actually most upset that their classmates did not know what had happened. We discussed what positive steps we can take as a school community. The students said they need to be better informed and do more reading, some wanted to organize or at least attend protests, and they want to really focus our school on restorative justice. An initiative that me, the dean, the Black Student Union and their faculty advisor have been actively pursuing. 

All in all, I’m not sure if we changed anything, but hopefully at the very least we empowered our students that their voices matter. They were happy to have adults in the room listening to them and answering their questions. We need to have more discussions like this in our classes and outside of them too.