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. 

"expect MORE from your union"

Join us at the MORE Chapter Building Workshop  Sat. 1/24

Is your chapter stressed out by an abusive administrator?

Is your school infected with a culture of fear emanating from the top?

Thinking about running for chapter leader or delegate?

Want help in running for re-election?

Has your school been targeted for co-location or “restructuring”?

Has your school had success in fighting back?

Come to MORE’s January workshop to learn how to build a stronger and more active chapter. Workshops on filing grievances, making allies, enforcing the contract, strategies for winning chapter elections, and fighting back against a culture of fear in your school.

MORE Chapter Building Workshop
January 24th 12:00-3:00pm
CUNY Graduate Center
365 5th Ave at 34th st NYC room 5409
Food and beverages will be served
email: more@morecaucusnyc.org for more info or to set up a meeting near you

RSVP HERE

if you do not have facebook RSVP at more@morecaucusnyc.org

November 2014 UFT Delegate Assembly Report

A resolution calling for the UFT to support the cause of students in Mexico who have “disappeared” and one calling for Time Magazine to apologize for their teacher bashing cover were passed at the November Delegate Assembly yesterday. The Mexican students had disappeared and were probably tortured and murdered.  Abe Levine of the ruling Unity Caucus asked for an amendment calling for the AFT to do research on the nature of the organization we were supporting before we fully support them and the body agreed to his change before passing the resolution.

Two different resolutions failed.  One was introduced by Megan Moskop who wanted the UFT to support a teacher hiring diversity petition.  She wanted it placed on this month’s agenda which is not debatable and requires a 2/3 vote to be added in.  Before she raised the motion, Unity’s Leroy Barr during his Staff Director’s Report commented that the UFT was doing much already through its Social and Economic Justice Committee to increase diversity in hiring.  Megan did get to make a few points even though her motion was for this month’s agenda so she is just supposed to make a motion.  She did not get the 2/3 vote necessary to put it on the agenda.

Another motion was raised by Marjorie Stamberg to support First Amendment rights in Ferguson Missouri.  This also failed to carry. Mulgrew noted that AFT may take a position on this.

President’s Report

 

What do we say about the elections that just passed?

Low voter turnout- 28% in NY State, lowest number ever. That’s what the people who don’t like us are always pushing for. If we vote and get our people out to vote, we’re in a good place.

You all have TVs, so Mulgrew didn’t get into details.
Governor’s races are a problem.

 

Tons of mailers. We need to spend some time and money organzing people to actually get out to vote. Fewer mailers.

 

Tech bond act passed- millions of dollars to technology in NYC.

 

94 struggling schools in NYC

 

1. We want to o set up meetings jointly w/ DOE and UFT folks in schools. Farina keeps saying, and keeps getting beaten up over collaboration. When she says trust she means trust for the whole school community. Integrity. Shared responsibility. Must move from being an individual profession to a team profession. The job is too hard; we can do it better together. Successful schools should be sharing ideas. She’s been clear that the hunger games are over.

 

2- Automotive & Boys and Girls: special cases

UFT Submitted a plan a while ago, but it was rejected. It is clear that SED was going to close the schools. Long hours to come to agreement. We feel this is a good plan for how to move forward without closing the schools. (Will not close until we first try to help them.) These two schools have never been treated fairly. They have huge numbers of of high need kids. Now we have a planning committee. Change in conditions of work environment now. Plan will include more work time including at least one week during the summer. Teachers from these schools must reapply for their positions before a personnel committee, 50% will be chosen by UFT. (if dispute, it is taken to Mulgrew and Farina). We want to show people that this is how it should  work.

Note: During Question period Mulgrew added “teachers that are not hired at these two schools will be placed at another school for one year, for five successive years.”

(Editorial- Mulgrew says people displaced from these two schools won’t become ATRS but annual placement for ATRs is precisely how ATRs were used before the infamous 2011 rotation agreement when the UFT inexplicably agreed to weekly movements from school to school.  Then again, it is indefensible that the UFT agreed to give up preferred placement when schools close in the infamous 2005 contract.  No real gain here, just easing the loss a bit.)

Please see more on how this is similar to the original ATR plan by Randi Weingarten here

Aris and Amplify
Contracts have been cancelled for both.

Tenure Lawsuit
Motion to dismiss California copycat case to end tenure in NYS filed by us in late October.  Should hear an answer by November 28.

Consultation and Paperwork Committees
Every school needs a Consultation Committee.  Must bring up school-wide issues during the contractually mandated monthly consultation meetings with the principal.  The newly empowered Superintendents can help resolve problems if we have raised them at the school level first.  The same applies to paperwork.  We need to bring the issues up at the school level first.

Arbitration on Arrears for Retirees
Last night the arbitrator ruled that there would be arrears paid to those UFT members who retired between 2009 and June 2014.  Intent was for everyone to get the money up front (Editorial: That’s already not happening).  We will work with arbitrator to make everyone whole.  $60 million in a $5 billion contract should not be difficult to fix. Lucky we had a clause to reopen this if there was a problem.

Leroy Barr Staff Director’s Report.

The next DA is December 17; he also announced other upcoming events with special emphasis placed on the UFT committee that helps the homeless.

Question Period

Question: What is being done about principals who make our members’ jobs more difficult?

Answer: Superintendents are now in place who will oversee like the law says they should.  Since Superintendents serve at the pleasure of the Chancellor, none would dare do much under Bloomberg but now they are empowered under Farina.  Superintendents are now educators.  15 have been replaced. Farina says there needs to be trust.  Principals must respect staff.  Fixing accountability system is next.

 

Question: Can administration dictate binders that call for everything including what colors they should have be submitted?

Answer: No, this is an example of something that should be worked out in consultation and if it can’t be resolved, then take it up with the District Representative.

 

Question: Aren’t we creating new ATRS in Automotive and Boys and Girls?

Answer: People have to reapply for their jobs because we changed the working conditions by adding a mandatory week of work in the summer.  Persons not rehired will be placed in schools for a year if they cannot find a new position.

 

Question: A principal says there is no money in the budget for supplies.  Is this a proper excuse for not having supplies?

Answer: File a grievance under Article 7R.  The School Leadership Team is required to discuss the budget.  Schools have to decide how to use their money.  Administrator per session has been abused in recent years.

 

Question: There is a leaky roof at Clara Barton High School that is leaking into an electrical box.  Isn’t this a dangerous situation where we should walk out?

Answer: We are informing the School Construction Authority immediately.  This is a dangerous situation and we will do what it takes to ensure safety of the school.

 

Writers: James Eterno, Megan Moskop, Mike Schirtzer

Commentary may or may not represent the official positions of the MORE caucus

Screenshot 2014-11-11 22.46.29Screenshot 2014-11-11 22.29.47

Did you know that although more than 67.5% of our NYC students are Black and Latino/a, only 37% of teachers share their background? Did you know that since 2002 that number (based on new hires) has fallen by over half (57.4%), while the number of white teachers hired in the city has increased by 23%?

It’s true. BUT, our educational leaders have a clear path towards remedying this problem, and we’re helping the Teacher Diversity Committee of NYC push for those changes with the Petition to Increase Teacher Diversity in New York City.  The clock is ticking though- you have just 10 more days to get involved, and we need everyone!

On Tuesday, November 25, we will go to the PEP (Panel for Educational Policy) meeting to support the Teacher Diversity Committee as they present the Petition to Increase Teacher Diversity in New York City!

Now, join us in the push to get as many signatures as possible before then. If you’ve been gathering  signatures since August from your co-workers and community members, thank you! It’s time to finish up and turn in your petitions.

We’ve already gathered several hundred signatures, but if we want Chancellor Fariña and the PEP to prioritize this important work, we still need your help! If you haven’t already begun, sign on, and share the petition online.  Then print a hard copy and collect signatures around your school/community so that you can have conversations about this important work.

Finally, bring hard copies of the petition to the UFT Delegate Assembly on Tuesday, November 18th, and join us in formally asking our union to sign on in support of a more diverse teaching corps. If you can’t make it to the meeting, mail your completed petitions ASAP to: Teacher Diversity Committee of NYC, c/o Ahern, P.O. Box 1025, New York, NY 10002.

To read the petition in it’s entirety, download a hard copy here, or read our August blog post.

If you’re sharing the petition online here are some sample Tweets or messages that you can use:

Charter schools continue to receive a windfall to the tune of tens of millions of potential dollars in free space, either in a public school or in a city-subsidized private space, more per pupil funding than public schools, and an essentially unfettered ability to expand at the expense of existing public schools. The charter school giveaways are nothing short of a death sentence for the sustainability of New York City’s public school system

The financial burden of providing and paying for charter school space and services for co-locations will be crippling. This will be especially difficult once the cap of charter schools is reached. As of now there are currently 28 charter schools left on the cap in NYC, but there will be “more” because existing charters can expand grades without being included in the cap. The city is required to find the resources to pay. Only after $40 million is spent on private charter rent, will the state contribute to an undetermined amount of assistance. We need funding policies that will support the facilities and space needed for the approximately 93.4%of public school children learning in overcrowded and substandard facilities.

Charters schools receive MORE per pupil funding than public schools. This creates even greater inequity in our school system favoring the approximately 7.6% of NYC’s school children who currently attend charter schools. Combine that with the millions in private funding charters receive from millionaire and billionaire donors who have an interest in privatizing our education system and the goal becomes clear: undermine and dismantle every child’s right to go to the school of his or her choice. The new policy will force students to fill out an application, win a lottery, and adhere to undemocratic governance and a set of rules that leave families vulnerable to discrimination and push-out, not to mention increased segregation in an already segregated school system. We need policies that seek to create equity and increase the integration of our school system, not make it worse

The new law requiring charter space puts the expansion of public schools in New York City at risk because it encourages charter school expansion over the expansion of public schools. New York City schools have some of the highest class sizes and most overcrowding in the state. We need support to help end this crisis, not make it worse.

The financial sustainability of our school system is at risk. As more public dollars are funneled into education corporations and charter schools, fewer public dollars are available for our public schools. At a certain point, and we have heard the “tipping point” is 10% enrollment in charter schools in NYC, we will reach a financial crisis that will make it impossible to balance the funding needs for both charters and public schools, thus allowing the kind of wholesale transfer of public schools to charter operators as we have seen in New Orleans, Philadelphia, now encroaching on Camden, and state-wide in Tennessee.

Governor Cuomo not only allowed the charter school windfall to be central to this year’s budget, he was one of, if not the, architect(s). The self-proclaimed “student lobbyist” is truly a charter-hedge-funder lobbyist beholden to campaign dollars in an election year and further influenced by his national political aspirations.

Legislators from around the state, save a brave few such as state Senator Montgomery and Harlem’s Senator Perkins whose constituents have experienced the horrors and inequity of charter co-locations and expansion first hand, said precious little and took no stand in rejecting this budget.

Our Mayor, who ran on putting an end to the favor of charters at the expense of our public schools and received a clear mandate to do so by the voters in our city, was at the very least powerless to stop the giveaway and at worst raised no vocal objection, perhaps considering funding for universal Pre-K a worthy enough win, even though charters will also have the right to open Pre-K.

The true student-lobbyists, parents, students, rank-and-file educators and community members, must stand together to demand full funding and support for our public schools. We must make it clear that an investment in a system that serves ALL children that is governed by the people, not private unaccountable and non-transparent interests, is vital to the health and success of our children.

We have learned from our personal experiences that charter space support and expansion in communities results in a negative impact on the community itself, causing unnecessary strain and tension, as well as on the existing schools. But equally important, because these issues were at our doorstep, we also understand the deep systemic issues surrounding charters: the drive to privatize our public education system, the impact of charter push-out, the impact of a two-tiered system where one school is privileged over another, and the bigger picture of the undermining of public education and all that entails from worker protections, to funding, to the way children are treated.

MORE stands in solidarity with the approximately 93.4% of families who want high quality neighborhood schools for their children. We stand by our teachers involved in this fight. We cannot achieve the promise of public education if the funding, facilities and services we need to provide are at-risk. Cuomo does not stand for our children. He stands for his own political interests fueled by charter school dollars and we WILL hold him accountable!

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According to www.nyccharterschools.org, this is what we are looking at; past, present, and THEIR expected future…

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The future of our schools, our children, and our livelihoods are at stake! We need to fight!


* VERY IMPORTANT NOTE– Information obtained by the Teachers Diversity Committee (TDC) of NYC from Success Academy charter schools, showed that for the 2013-2014 school year, 13 out of 15 locations have a significantly higher percentage of white teachers than was the city wide average for public schools in NYC which in 2012, was 58.6%. The mandate to expand charters is increasing racial segregation of students and decreasing teacher diversity in NYC schools overall.

How you can help-

Charter-school co-location hearings: Join us as we stand together with parents, students, and fellow UFT’ers against the privatization of our schools and defend public schools that serve the local community. MORE stands against the proliferation of charter schools crowding out district schools for teachers, rooms and other resources in favor of charters that do not serve all our children. Charters are are often run by corporations as for-profits.

Contact: You can contact Lauren about upcoming hearings and PEPs. You can also contact Mindy, Patrick, and Julie to mobilize your school’s efforts to fight back.

Email: MORE@morecaucusnyc.org

Twitter: @MOREcaucusNYC

The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE-UFT) voted unanimously at our last General Body meeting to propose that the United Federation of Teachers, instead of sitting out this gubernatorial race, endorse the pro-public education platform presented by Howie Hawkins for Governor and Brian Jones for Lieutenant Governor.

MORE prepared to present a resolution at Wednesday’s Delegate Assembly. The UFT leadership, however, did not allow this discussion. Despite being informed in advance that MORE chapter leaders and delegates intended to raise this resolution for debate and voting, UFT leadership called time on the ten-minute new motion period, thus prohibiting this conversation. In fact, though Michael Mulgrew’s President’s Report was longer than 45 minutes, there was no mention of this Governor’s race.

Though UFT and NYSUT leadership remain silent regarding the upcoming Gubernatorial race, we pledge go to the polls and vote for the only public school positive, teacher-and-student friendly candidates in this race.  We encourage fellow friends of public education to join us in voting Hawkins/Jones!

Why? Here are just a few of the many reasons:

  • Both Andrew Cuomo and Rob Astorino vocally support the privatization of education through the expansion of charter schools. In contrast, the Green Party ticket of Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones opposes charter schools.
  • Andrew Cuomo has pushed through an expansion of testing statewide and the punitive linking of test scores to teacher evaluations. The Hawkins/Jones ticket opposes an emphasis on high stakes testing.
  • Andrew Cuomo implemented a destructive tax cap that has forced massive layoffs of teachers in upstate districts.
  • New York State AFL-CIO and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) have declined to endorse Cuomo because of his anti-education policies.
  • Astorino and Cuomo are both millionaires while Hawkins and Jones are both union activists, Hawkins in Teamsters, Jones in the UFT and PSC.
  • The Hawkins/Jones platform of a Green New Deal calls for
    • equitable funding for all of our schools,
    • reduced class sizes across the state,
    • support for programs that promote desegregation in our schools,
    • an end to zero-tolerance discipline policies driving the school-to-prison pipeline,
    • and allowing schools to develop methods of assessment organic to the learning process. 
  • To learn more, Read their letter to teachers here, and spread the word using the voter guide below. 
MORE/UFT Caucus Pro-Education Positions Hawkins/ Jones (Green) Cuomo(Dem.) Astorino(Rep.)
Against the Expansion of Charter Schools
Against High Stakes Testing, Against APPR (New teacher evals) / Supports Parents & Students’ Right to Opt Out of High Stakes Tests
Against Common Core?
Union member or Millionaire Candidates? Union Millionaire Millionaire
Fight corporate ed deform by rescinding NY’s Race to the Top application and replacing NYSED commissioner John King
Tax Top 5% and Eliminate State Property Tax Cap to Fund Schools
Supports unionism, social movements and a $15/hr minimum wage

Don’t sit this election out, vote for a real change in Education Policy!  Vote Hawkins/Jones!

Paraprofessionals:

For those of you who have paraprofessionals in the classroom, we must recognize that they are the backbone support in our schools. They help with lesson implementation, classroom management, follow agreed upon roles with the classroom and more. It is important for us educators to foster and improve our relationships with paraprofessionals. We need to listen to them as well. Hear what they have to say to help our classrooms run more efficiently. Finally, we need to respect paraprofessionals for what they do for our students and for us everyday. They are so much more than simply crisis management. This is a team effort and we need our classrooms to be run this way.

How We Can Help:

-Do you have a Para Leader in your school?

If not, you can encourage an exemplary

paraprofessional to take on this role. A Para

Leader can help with staff relationships

and offer support in your school. You can

contact the UFT to help with this position.

-Within MORE

We would love for paraprofessionals to

become members and attend our meetings.

They too have a voice and they should use it. I

am sure they could offer plenty of suggestions

to help build better relationships amongst staff,

and offer helpful techniques to aid with

classroom management.

-Help paraprofessional voices to be heard-

We would also love to have paraprofessionals

write for our blogs and to be active within our

committees.

We can also start up a Paraprofessional committee for support

and open dialog as to how to build better relationships in our

classrooms.

RESOLUTION  FOR  THE  UFT  TO  ENDORSE  HOWIE  HAWKINS  FOR  GOVERNOR     &  BRIAN  JONES  FOR  LIEUTENANT  GOVERNOR  -­  Please  raise  for  THIS  MONTH’S  AGENDA  

 

Whereas,  both  New  York  State  gubernatorial  candidates  Andrew  Cuomo  and  Rob  Astorino  vocally   support  the  privatization  of  education  through  the  expansion  of  charter  schools,  and  the  Green  Party   ticket  of  Howie  Hawkins  and  Brian  Jones  oppose  charter  schools,  and

Whereas,  Andrew  Cuomo  has  pushed  through  an  expansion  of  testing  statewide  and  the  punitive  linking   of  test  scores  to  teacher  evaluations,  while  the  Hawkins/Jones  ticket  opposes  an  emphasis  on   testing,  and

Whereas,  Andrew  Cuomo  implemented  a  destructive  tax  cap  that  has  forced  massive  layoffs  of  teachers   in  upstate  districts,  and

Whereas,  the  New  York  State  AFL-­CIO  and  the  New  York  State  United  Teachers  have  declined  to  endorse   Cuomo  because  of  his  anti-­education  policies,  and

Whereas  the  Buffalo  Teachers  Federation,  Port  Jefferson  Station  Teachers  Association,  East  Williston   Teachers  Association,  Lakeland  Federation  of  Teachers,  Diane  Ravitch,  the  Coalition  for  Public  Education,   the  Independent  Commission  on  Public  Education  and  three  local  NYC  Democratic  clubs  have  all   endorsed  the  Hawkins/Jones  ticket,  and

Whereas,  the  Hawkins/Jones  platform  of  a  Green  New  Deal  calls  for  equitable  funding  for  all  of  our   schools,  reduced  class  sizes  across  the  state,  support  for  programs  that  promote  desegregation  in   our  schools,  an  end  to  zero-­tolerance  discipline  policies  driving  the  school-­to-­prison  pipeline,   and  allowing  schools  to  develop  methods  of  assessment  organic  to  the  learning  process,  and

Whereas,  Astorino  and  Cuomo  are  both  millionaires  while  Hawkins  and  Jones  are  both  union  activists,   Hawkins  in  Teamsters,  Jones  in  the  UFT  and  PSC,  therefore  be  it,

Resolved,  the  United  Federation  of  Teachers  endorses  Howie  Hawkins  for  Governor  of  New  York  State   and  Brian  Jones  for  Lieutenant  Governor.  Be  it  further

Resolved,  the  UFT,  through  COPE,  inform  its  members  of  this  endorsement,  the  contrasts  between  the   candidates  on  key  education  issues,  and  mobilize  its  members  to  support  the  Hawkins/Jones  campaign.

Resolution  for  Full  Union  Representation  for  ATRs   Please  raise  for  NEXT  MONTH’S  AGENDA  

 Whereas,  the  Delegate  Assembly  is  the  highest  policy  making  body  in  the  United  Federation  of   Teachers,  and

  Whereas,  federal  labor  law  requires  that  policy  making  bodies  within  a  union  be  democratically   elected  with  each  member  entitled  to  a  vote,  and

 
Whereas,  Absent  Teacher  Reserves  (ATRs)  are  not  entitled  to  vote  in  Chapter  Elections  unless  they   happen  to  be  working  in  a  school  that  has  a  Chapter  Election  during  a  particular  week  that  the  ATR  is   working  in  a  school,  and

 
Whereas,  unions  can  set  up  reasonable  rules  as  to  who  can  run  for  office,  but  it  is  not  reasonable  that   ATRs  including  Leave  Replacement  Teachers  and  Provisional  Teachers  cannot  run  or  serve  as   Delegates  or  Chapter  Leaders  simply  because  they  belong  to  no  Chapter,  and

Whereas,  the  ATR  position  has  now  been  embedded  in  the  UFT  contract  in  Section  16  of  the  2014   Memorandum  of  Agreement,  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.

MORE member John Giambalvo writes with School Network Leader Nathan Dudley about the implications for teachers and students to policy changes regarding school Quality Reviews. To say Quality Reviews need to change may be a bit of an understatement and we credit John for finding common ground with Mr. Dudley so that a conversation about those changes can begin. 

“Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s recalibration of New York City’s school grading system was met with much fanfare last week. While the changes to school Progress Reports received most of the attention, the chancellor also announced changes to Quality Reviews—the intensive process by which schools are evaluated every year or two.

Fariña probably knew these changes wouldn’t grab as many headlines as the shift from A-F grades. But she may know, and we believe, that those changes could be a real game-changer for city schools.

Why? No two words cause as much anxiety for city school leaders and teachers as “Quality Review.” The influential reviews are the closest things to a standardized assessment that a school gets. The evaluators comb through classrooms; talk to teachers, students, and parents; examine data over two days; and then evaluate the school using a strict rubric.

In some schools, the preparation for the review and the review itself have been disruptive to teaching and learning. And in many cases, reviewers provided little …” (Read more at Chalkbeat.org)

MORE is moving forward on our priorities and campaigns for the fall.  We need YOU to get involved and help us campaign around tenure, charter schools, high-stakes testing, chapter leader elections, local UFT member support, diversity petition and MORE!

Ways to get involved – email us at MORE@morecaucusnyc.org or call at (347) 766-7319 to join any of these campaigns.

Please check out our events calendar at more.nationbuilder.com/calendar

  • Distribute Our Newsletter! – This is the most essential thing every member should do to build our caucus.  The newsletter is how we raise our collective voice and recruit new activists. MORE members should distribute MORE newsletters to all UFT members in their school mailboxes and try to make contacts at nearby schools as well. Download our recent copy here

Continue Reading…

The Tenure Debate:  A New York City Public Educator Perspective

by Marcus Brandon McArthur

This is a personal statement by a member of MORE. It may or may not represent the official view of the MORE caucus.

Introduction

The state of policy debate around improving public schools in the U.S. continues to disappoint.  Discussions on how to improve the system continue to be dominated by monied interests purporting to be the bearers of the 21st century “Civil Rights” torch.  Much of their analysis on the state of public education is simply political noise and a carefully crafted public relations campaign that blankets public education in a cloak of comprehensive failure.  In particular, the tenure protection for teachers, has been squarely in the crosshairs of their policy agenda.  The debate on tenure has been nefariously framed by focusing exclusively on the caricatured imaginary “bad teacher” that looms large for many Americans.  The phrase “bad teachers” is mentioned so often we are led to believe that 98% of teachers are deemed ineffective each year, not the 2% that actually are.  The ruling in the recent Vergara v. California case, which effectively eliminates tenure for public school teachers in California, has spurned a wave of copycat lawsuits seeking the same fate in other states, most prominently, New York.  These lawsuits are carefully marketed as being initiated on behalf of poor black and brown children and all those “good teachers” whose profession is debased because of the proliferation of “bad teachers” that have an irrevocable “job for life”.

Continue Reading…

MOREIssuesv3FinalCheck out this year’s first edition of our newsletter, MORE Issues!

This issue focuses on the attack on teacher tenure, the launching of the teacher diversity petition, and plight of discontinued teachers. 

Contributions from chapter leaders Jia Lee and Patrick Walsh, student Primi Akhtar, and parent Karen Sprowal.

MORE Issues – Vol 2, Issue 1 – Fall 2014

Please help us distribute at the Chapter Leader meeting (Wednesday, 9/10, 4-6pm at 52 Broadway) – email more@morecaucusnyc.org if you can help out.  

Extra copies will be available for pickup there, and at MORE’s first general meeting of the year Saturday, September 13th, Noon-3pm  (NationBuilder training starts at 11) @ The Ya-Ya Network 224 W 29th St, 14th Floor 

Local Educator Support

September 8, 2014 — 4 Comments

 

moreunion

 

UFT members in need of assistance please email: more@morecaucusnyc.org

Phone: (347) 766-7319

Contact us if you need support to:

–          mobilize your union chapter

–          run in the 2015 UFT Chapter Leader elections

–          challenge tenure denial

–          report contract violations

–          deal with an abusive administration

–          fight against infringements of members’ and/or students’ rights

–          file grievances

–          fight back against forced charter co-locations

 

You will be able to consult with one of our experienced chapter leaders. MORE can also help set up a meeting near your school. In the past, we have organized one-to-one phone calls, local happy hours, lunch meetings, study groups, and after-school diner meetings.

Contact MORE Local Educator Support in full confidentiality.

Black and Latino educators in New York who took the LAST exam and were denied employment, dismissed or demoted as a consequence between 1995 -2004 are eligible for back pay and benefits. The notice below was sent out to all those currently identified as eligible. It is estimated that between 8,000 -15,000 are eligible. The Gulino v BOE case was dragged out for 20 years by the BOE/DOE. Continue Reading…

peace-unity-justice

This is MORE’s statement on the march with the Eric Garner’s family sponsored by the UFT

Last week the UFT announced sponsorship and support for A March for Unity and Justice.  The march, with Eric Garner’s family at the helm, is billed as a coming together and a call for transparency and accountability in the wake of several prominent cases of alleged police brutality.  A firestorm of criticism of the UFT’s sponsorship of this march has played out on the pages of newspapers, social media, and countless emails between educators, politicians, and community leaders.

Continue Reading…

For Deion

August 20, 2014 — 11 Comments

candles

This is a personal statement by a member of MORE. It may or may not represent the official view of the MORE caucus.

By Julie Cavanagh

Teacher/Chapter Leader P.S.15k

One year ago I received a phone call from a former student. After a few exchanged pleasantries he interrupted me to say, “Deion is dead”.  My heart sank, a lump formed in my throat, and I listened to what is an increasingly all too familiar story of a young black man dying during a low-level police interaction.

Continue Reading…

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

A plea for union democracy

Our last summer series event of 2014 is Wednesday 8/20/14

Dark Horse Pub

17 Murray St NYC

Facebook invite here

 

UFT 101: Why Does Our Teachers’ Union Matter?

Are you entering the teaching profession or new to NYC schools? 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? Do educators, parents and students share common interests? Can unions be vehicles for social justice? Meet with new and veteran teachers to discuss these questions and more in this introduction to teacher unionism.

This promises to be a fun, interactive meeting where you can meet educators that are just coming into the school system, some going into their second year, and experienced educators too!

Save the date, our first general meeting of the new school year will be Saturday Sept. 13th in Manhattan. Check back here for more information on this and meetings/happy hours in neighborhoods across NYC.

by Julie Cavanagh, special education teacher and ChapterLeader at Public School 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and MORE candidate for President of the UFT. Originally printed in The New York Daily News on August 15, 2014.

Four years ago, a group tied to testing and publishing companies, and bankrolled with Bill and Melinda Gates’ money, brought us the Common Core Learning Standards.

Cash-strapped states that wanted to win federal Race to the Top dollars had to adopt the standards, and more than 40 states, including New York, did so.

Julie Cavanagh speaks out at a MORE press conference

Last year, our students were assessed for the first time according to the new standards. State Education Department officials predicted a steep drop, and scores plummeted. This year, small gains were predicted, and that’s what happened, to the astonishment of no one.

Predictions are easy to make when you define what constitutes proficiency.

There will be an attempt from all factions to spin the results: The state will say the reform agenda is working, the city will argue the scores show the need for pre-K, and charter schools will claim they show their importance as high-quality alternatives.

Let’s get off the hamster wheel.

The truth is, these tests were designed to create a narrative of failure, and the trends are not so different from those we saw on the old tests: we are failing our children with special needs, our English language learners, our children who live in poverty, and a disproportionate number of black and Latino pupils.

It is no surprise that the results mirror the struggles and deep flaws in our society. Of course, the goal was never to actually fix our schools — there are no profits in doing that. There are no profits in providing small class sizes, experienced educators and services like counseling, tutoring and family support — proven reforms that would benefit all students.

Instead, the focus is on unproven standards and the tests that supposedly measure our student’s competency — written by the very people who profit from their use.

 

To be delivered to Carmen Fariña and The New York City Panel for Educational Policy

Since the 2001-2002 academic year, there has been a 57.4% decrease in the number of Black teachers hired by the New York City Department of Education, and a 22.9% increase for white teachers hired during this same period of time.

We ask Chancellor Fariña and the Panel for Education Policy to:

• Make a policy statement that acknowledges the value of teacher diversity and the lack of such diversity in New York City public schools.

• Centrally monitor the racial demographic of hiring and firing in NYC public and charter schools. In public school data reports include the racial profile for the teachers and administrators in each school as is currently done for the students.

• Raise the percentage of Black and Latino teachers hired in the system overall, with a special focus on raising the percentage of male teachers in those groups.

• Raise the percentage of persons of color in the NYC Teaching Fellows program to more closely match the NYC student body demographic. Make public the number and racial demographic of NYC Teaching Fellows hired.

• Settle Gulino vs. Board of Education, in which a recent court ruling found that the NY State LAST certification exam was not validated yet was used in 2002 to dismiss thousands of NYC teachers who were disproportionately Black and Latino.

• Invest in a clear and distinct paraprofessional-to-teacher career path that offers qualified applicants provisional teaching licenses while completing graduate degree requirements and subsidizes both undergraduate and graduate tuition at CUNY and SUNY

PETITION BACKGROUND

In a school system that is 67.5% Black and Latino (as of 2012 – 13), the 34% combined percentage of Black and Latino teachers in the system is disappointing at best.

This lack of diversity reinforces already existing practices of segregation and leaves out diverse cultural perspectives that inform curriculum, pedagogy and practice. It also shortchanges our students by replicating and reinforcing false societal structures that devalue the contribution and perspectives of non-dominant racial and cultural groups.

teacher-tenure-large

So it’s June 20th (“Regents’ Week” in New York high schools) and I’m having coffee with the most wonderfully kind teacher of my school. We’re in his classroom, talking about our wives, when he starts giving me some awesome advice about marriage. He has this beautiful baritone voice and speaks in this fabulously slow, deliberate manner so, as is my habit when I listen to his wisdom, I lean my head into my right hand and just take it all in.

At that moment -I mean at that very moment- I feel some type of bump thing under my ear. My colleague’s voice fades just a bit as I begin to concentrate my attention on this area just under my ear. I pick up my head up and touch  it with the tips of my two fingers and quickly conclude that I have a lump.

My colleague’s voice fades almost completely away now as I feel all around this lump. It’s about 3/4 inch in diameter, comes up about 1/2 an inch off of the side of my face and is planted right there under my ear. There is nothing on the other side, nothing under my neck and nothing anywhere else. I can no longer hear a word coming from my colleague. I see a face and a moving mouth but no sound comes out. All I can think about it is ‘wtf is this lump?’. It doesn’t hurt, doesn’t feel sore and isn’t accompanied by any fever or discomfort. The skin around it is not brown or discolored. It doesn’t feel like a huge zit and doesn’t hurt when I press on it. Yet there it is.

One month, five doctor appointments, an X-Ray and an MRI later and I am informed that I have a tumor in my right salivary gland. I didn’t even know I had one of those.  I’m also told that there is no certainty as to whether it is cancerous or benign (although, I’m told, it’s probably benign). Finally, I’m informed that I’ll need surgery to fix this broken gland of mine.

And just like that, I am tossed into the merry Go ‘Round that is our American Healthcare System.

I dont suppose my ride will be a long one. I have recently seen this happen to someone close and  the full cycle of death by cancer is a vicious one. There are endless appointments, countless doctors who you see but don’t know, as well as more trips for procedures, surgeries and/or scary tests than you can, or care to, count. And then there are the drugs -endless amounts of drugs. They have drugs to drain your fluids and drugs to fill you with them. They have drugs to poison you and drugs to make you feel better after having been poisoned. There are drugs to make you sleep, drugs to wake you up, drugs to make you eat and drugs to make you stop vomiting when you’ve eaten too much after injecting the poison.  Witnessing these things was one thing. But by mid-July, after just 20 minutes with my head shoved into an MRI machine, I came to realize the full scope of what I suddenly hoped I was not in store for. If it’s bad -I mean if it’s really really bad- I’ll begin this slow process where I’ll first stop being myself, then stop being able to work and finally stop being anything at all. If it’s more than what it probably it is (because it probably is just a benign tumor), I will have to consider how to navigate the terrain through these lenses.

I don’t mention this because I think it matters much for an Edu blog. Nor do I mention it because I think this extreme possibility will happen to me (again, odds are that it won’t). I certainly don’t mention it for attention or sympathy. I only bring it up because I’d like you to see the landscape from my perspective as I begin talking about my job protections.

You see, at this point in the summer, it looks as though the surgery will take place sometime after the start of the coming school year. This means that I will probably have to miss at least a few days of work. My license is not in a shortage area. ‘High School Social Studies Teacher’ is a dream job, you see. The fact of the matter is that there are ten guys who are just as smart (and five who are just as handsome) who could quickly move in and do what I do for literally half of what it costs to pay my salary and the healthcare benefits that will probably save me.

I also need to say that I have seen school leaders move to get rid of teachers for something like missing work in order to address needed health issues before. I haven’t seen this once or twice mind you (although I haven’t seen it “a lot” or “often” either), but I have seen it enough over my thirteen years in the classroom to have clear recollections of being thankful for my good health on more than one occasion. And I’ve seen it enough to count myself grateful that I do not currently work under such school leaders. Those observations make me feel grateful for having the job protection of tenure.

I know what the process for a ruthless principal is to get rid of someone with sudden health issues. A principal I worked for between 2001 and 2005, and another I worked for for one semester in 2008 both followed it well. Before the health issues, the teacher is a fine and productive teacher. Suddenly, the health issues arrive and the teacher is not able to wait until the summer to take care of it. Soon after, the administrators share concerns about the teaching practices of this teacher. Before you know it, administrators and their lackies, label this person as a ‘bad teacher’. From there, it’s a quick ride out. I’ve witnessed three teachers be forced into an early retirement, one forced into a resignation from the system altogether and just this year, heard that another was forced into a medical pension that she did not wish to take.

The principals didn’t force these teachers into these positions on the grounds that they were sick. Of course, that would be reprehensible. Rather, they forced my colleagues into these positions because they were ‘bad’ at what they did. Of course, the rub is that they were only labelled ‘bad’after they became sick. Any dimwit can tell you that that’s how things work in the real world.

I make this point because just yesterday, Whoopi Goldberg jumped on the bandwagon of ‘fire the bad teachers’. I have to admit that, at face value, it is an honorable bandwagon to jump on. No one, and that includes me, wants a bad teacher teaching. A slightly closer look will reveal that Ms. Goldberg is embracing a specific form of commentary -one that happens to be called the “Bad Teacher Narrative”. That’s the commentary that chooses to discuss only the bad apples that populate our classrooms and no others. It’s a useful narrative, in that focusing on the bad apples allows people to take hard earned privileges away from all of us.  Julie Cavanaugh, the lady who ran for president of my union last time around  once mentioned that “The ‘bad teacher’ narrative as a way of explaining what’s wrong with our school system gets really old,”. Looks like she was wrong. It’s not old for Ms. Goldberg. On her show yesterday, Whoopi seemed to imply that tenure for all teachers should be removed simply because a few of us (anywhere between 1% – 3% according to testimony during the Vergara Case) may be bad. Of course, she doesn’t consider how any one of us can arrive at the label of being bad. Some of us, like my colleagues under a ruthless principal, can be fine, but then become bad suspiciously after becoming sick. Others can befall this label for other reasons that are nothing short of dishonest and corrupt. Whoopi didn’t seem to address this. No one who embraces the ‘Bad Teacher Narrative” ever seems to address this.

At this point, I would like to point out that, should Campbell Brown’s lawsuit designed to repeal teacher tenure in New York State be successful, I, along with the ‘bad teachers’, will be an ‘at-will’ employee until the New York State Legislature acts. This may stand in opposition to some things you have read in the past. The fact, however, is that New York’s Civil Service laws do not apply to teachers and will not kick in as some sort of magical backstop should Brown’s suit be successful. If she wins, teachers throughout the state will be “at-will” until some type of new laws are passed in the legislature. That is a fact.

And it leads me to an important point.  That without tenure, I’d have a lot more to worry about this year than just this damn tumor.

This post was written by a New York City High School teacher who wishes to remain anonymous.

Reposted from http://nycurbaned.blogspot.com/2014/08/on-being-sick-without-tenure.html

MORE’s 3rd Annual Summer Series: Discuss, Debate, Educate!  Session III

Join us for a discussion with Annie Tan, CORE Activist, Marilena Marchetti, former CORE member during the CTU strike, and Lauren Cohen of MORE (bios below).

Wednesday, August 13th, 4pm-7pm

The Dark Horse, 17 Murray St. NYC

Near City Hall, Chambers St, WTC, $5 Drafts & Well Drinks

RSVP on FB! Invite your friends and colleagues

READINGS:

How to Jump-Start Your Union: Lessons from the Chicago Teachers, a Labor Notes book, available from MORE $15 solidarity price,

 Strike for America, by Micah Utrecht available in hard copy or ebook from:  versobooks.com/books/1569-strike-for-america

For a short introductions, please check out “Uncommon Core,” by Micah Utrecht at jacobinmag.com/2014/03/uncommon-core-chicago-teachers-union/ or “Creating a New Model of a Social Union: CORE and the Chicago Teachers Union” by Robert Barlett at monthlyreview.org/2013/06/01/creating-a-new-model-of-a-social-union/

Also, take a look at: http://monthlyreview.org/2013/06/01/the-chicago-teachers-strike-and-beyond/

and http://monthlyreview.org/2013/06/01/creating-a-new-model-of-a-social-union/ for some additional interesting strategic questions.

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