MORE Weekly Update #9 – 05.28.12

May 30, 2012 — Leave a comment
“Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.”

Greetings Movement of Rank and File Educators!

IMPORTANT:

***Save the date for MORE’s end of year celebration on Saturday June 16. ***

Read the MORE statement on the recent Michael Mulgrew story in the news here on the MORE website.

Congratulations to those who have already won their delegate and chapter leader elections! Best of luck to those who are still running. Please contact us if you need  information on how to run an election, compose campaign literature or assistance on any other issues that are coming up. The next meeting of chapter leaders and delegates will be on Thursday, May 31 at 4:30 PM. See details listed in Upcoming MORE Events below.

Open call for MORE branding proposals! See the Spread the Word section for more details.

Sign onto the open letter written to Chancellor Walcott and the DOE requesting permission to not be required to participate in the June field tests. You can read and sign the letter here, or see below the Upcoming Events Section. The letter has already been endorsed by Movement of Rank-and-file Educators, the social justice caucus of the UFT. Please share widely with those who might be interested, including concerned parents or community members.

Please join MORE if you haven’t already, and take a moment to check out our new website at morecaucusnyc.org.

News from the 5/23 Emergency  UFT Delegate Assembly:

Read a report of the meeting by James Eterno, chapter leader at Jamaica HS, on the ICE blog. SPECIAL DELEGATE ASSEMBLY: UFT ENDORSEMENTS & MULGREW RESPONDS TO LAWSUIT

Spread the word–help build MORE!

Distribute our leaflet in your school and to other schools within your school building.

Like us on Facebook: Facebook.com/MOREcaucusNYC
Follow us on Twitter: @morecaucusnyc

Check out MORE’s website: MOREcaucusNYC.org

Are you a school psychologist or social worker?  Do you know any psychologists or social workers who would like to be more involved with their union chapter? Please email us at MORE@morecaucusnyc.org to find out how…

We want to hear from you! Check out MORE’s online discussion forum to get the latest news and goings on, and to join in the conversation.

Open call for MORE branding proposals!
Members of MORE are on the move, growing our base and building capacity, through collectively representing the Social Justice Caucus (SJC) at DAs, other events and schools across the city. What better way to get our name out there, than repping with a stylish MORE poster or t-shirt?
But before we can print posters and t-shirts, we need a logo! Submissions for any MORE logo designs are now welcomed. Please reply to this email with relevant ideas or images.

Upcoming MORE Events:

Thursday, May 31st – 4:45 PM        Chapter Leaders and Delegates Meetup

Running for CL or Delegate?  Already CL or Delegate?  Want to better organize your chapter? Gather with others who are in the same position to share strategies and ideas.

@ Grey Dog Cafe (242 W 16th St btw. 7th & 8th Aves. – 1/2/3 train to 14th St.)

Educate! Agitate! Mobilize! Join the MORE Education Committee study group about High Stakes Testing:

Thursday, June 7th – 5 to 7 PM

Session 2- The Trouble with Accountability
Readings: Chapters 8 and 9 from Diane Ravitch’s The Life and Death of
the Great American School System.
PDF of Chapter 8: http://www.ittybittyurl.com/dpc

PDF of Chapter 9: http://www.ittybittyurl.com/dpd

Thursday, June 21st – 5 to 7 PM

Session 3- Moving Forward; Working together to create discussion points.

Other Upcoming Events:

Tuesday, June 2nd      Peoples’ Assembly for Public Education

Be part of the second gathering of parents, concerned citizens, students and teachers to continue building power towards a Peoples’ Board of Education.
For details, check out: http://www.forpubliced.org/peoplesboardofed.htm

Tuesday, June 12th – 5 PM Rally for the Turnaround Schools
Stand in solidarity with the teachers, students and communities of the 24 turnaround schools at this protest against the City’s outrageous closing of these 2 dozen public schools. Rally to be held at Tweed.

Open Letter to Chancellor Walcott and the DOE

Sign on by clicking here

May, 2012

Chancellor Walcott and the New York City Department of Education

52 Chambers St

New York, NY 10007

Dear Chancellor Walcott and the New York City Department of Education,

We, the undersigned educators of the New York City schools, are writing to respectfully request that teachers across New York City not be required to participate in or proctor the Pearson stand-alone field tests that the New York State Education Department plans to administer in most schools this month and next. Our reasons for reaching out to you with this request are many-faceted, and while we will comply with any decision that is made, we would ask that you please consider our concerns with the field tests before coming to a decision.

To begin, many parents have become increasingly frustrated by the use, nature and abundance of standardized tests in our schools. We have seen this personally, in conversations with parents who express their concerns to us as their children’s teachers. And we have also seen it as a city-wide movement, which recently included a group of parents who refused to have their children sit for the New York State ELA and Math exams.  This effort by parents, organizing alongside concerned educators through the Grassroots Education Movement’s Change the Stakes committee, was supported by many more parents who said they would like to remove their children from the state exams but were concerned about the consequences. In explaining their reasons for choosing to boycott parents wrote that the increased focus on improving scores has forced teachers less time focussing on “inspiring a love of learning, fostering creativity, or encouraging critical and interdisciplinary thinking.”

Additionally, hundreds of parents organizing  with groups such as Time Out from Testing, Change the Stakes and ParentVoicesNY have now submitted letters to principals in schools across New York City stating that they “respectfully request that the school not give the [stand-alone field] tests at all, and that all students benefit from a day of instruction rather than waste yet another day on test-taking.” In the letter, parents cite concerns such as wasted instructional days and the use of their children as guinea pigs for the research purposes of “a for-profit corporation without [their] consent or permission.” We feel that as teachers it is our responsibility to be responsive to the concerns of the parents whose children we serve, and we would like to support this most recent parent effort around the stand-alone field tests.

Secondly, as teachers we agree with parents that excessive testing is damaging to our students. Indeed, the use of standardized tests to make high-stakes decisions about children, teachers and schools has been repeatedly documented by researchers to have negative consequences on children and on their education.  We have witnessed worrisome anxiety in the children we are charged with educating as the increased pressure to perform on the state exams affects them. We have seen- and in many cases been forced to comply with- a narrowing of the curriculum and the neglecting of non-tested subjects. We think that the use of time for test preparation as well as the number of days taken up by tests and practice tests is unconscionable.  Considering all this, we cannot in good faith subject our students to additional testing days in May and June without at the very least requesting permission to recuse ourselves from this practice on moral grounds.

Finally, we feel that the form and use of the stand-alone field tests are inappropriate for their stated purpose, and we lament the intended long-term strategy of increased “accountability based on tests” of which these field tests are a part. The use of stand-alone field tests for the purpose of norming state exams has been repeatedly criticized by experts. In fact, the NYS Education Department itself blamed stand alone field-testing in part for the need to re-calibrate the cut scores on the 2009 state exams that moved thousands of students across the state from passing to failing.  We also know that the field tests are meant to pilot various questions for exams that will then be used as part of the new New York State teacher evaluation system. We feel that the use of test scores in any form to evaluate teachers is inappropriate. The Board on Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences has warned that so-called “value added models” based on test scores cannot be considered fair or reliable enough to make operational decisions about teachers.  But even if such models were improved, the consequences of using tests to evaluate teachers will be damaging to students’ education for reasons mentioned previously, and will also have a negative effect on school culture. The money spent on contracts with Pearson and other for-profit companies to develop, field-test and administer these exams should instead be spent on increased resources for classrooms and on supporting the educational and non-educational needs of all children, in particular children living in poverty.

In conclusion, we would like to assert that our request is in no way intended to be insubordinate but instead to raise concerns about the field tests and to respectfully request that educators across New York City not be mandated to participate in tests to which we have moral objections. Teachers need to be empowered to stand up when we recognize injustices done to our students and ourselves, and we need unions that support teachers in taking on such challenges. Indeed, teacher protections and the ability to take collective action against injustice help us protect children. We hope that you will consider our request, and we thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Concerned teachers of the New York City Schools

Endorsed by Movement of Rank-and-file Educators, the social justice caucus of the UFT

Sign on by clicking here

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