Archives For November 2013

by Megan Moskop

Teacher/UFT Delegate

M.S. 324 Patria Mirabal, Washington Heights

On Wednesday, November 20th, the MORE caucus brought our Resolution for an End to the New Evaluation System (Advance) to the UFT’s Delegate Assembly. I came to the meeting prepared to present our resolution and ask that it be placed on the agenda for our December meeting. Below are the words I prepared to motivate our resolution if called upon. Stay tuned for my personal account of what happened at the meeting. 

In our last Delegate Assembly, President Mulgrew asserted that “We are losing teachers at a faster rate than ever before. The evaluation system is exacerbating the problem.”  For this reason, and many others, we know that Advance is detrimental to our profession. Our fellow teachers wouldn’t quit at such alarming rates if we as the governing body of their Union show them we’re fighting for them, by really fighting this evaluation system.

As a union of educational leaders, as elected delegates to the largest AFT local, we can’t just make concessions and tweaks to a broken system that fuels what we’ve termed (in the agenda’s resolution 1) “a destructive testing mania.”  Resolutions 1, 2, and 3, already on today’s agenda [to ban standardized testing in grades K-2, to create more options for local measures within advance, and to protect lesson planning freedom] are a step in the right direction, but they are not enough.

We must completely denounce the bureaucratic mess that is “Advance.” It undermines our professional judgement, jeopardizes our academic freedom, rejects our expertise, and eliminates our classroom autonomy.  Furthermore, it pushes our schools to spend precious time on paperwork, and takes focus away from our essential responsibility to educate the next generation of citizens.

Our leadership has been calling for new curriculum and more support.  Since we are good educators, we deeply value good curriculum and good professional support.  Right now, however, those things are not what we need. We don’t need new systems that are hastily shoved into our hands.   What we need is a good system within which to work and grow.  We deserve a system that enhances our work instead of undermining it.

For-profit interests, who, unlike us, did play a role in creating Advance, often paint teachers as a problem to be fixed. We are not a problem, and as long as we go along with this broken, demoralizing system, we implicitly agree that teachers, not poverty, not inequality of resources, not failing systems, not inept bureaucracies, that teachers are the problem to be fixed in our education system.

We must stand together in opposition to this system of evaluation, which reinforces the corporate-fueled notion that our teaching, and our children are standardized products to be quantified and measured.

Unlike corporate education deformers, this delegate assembly was never given input into the creation of Advance, so now, before it is too late, we must give our input by rejecting it vehemently along with the dozens of chapters and over 1,000 individuals who have signed this petition.

On behalf of our colleagues and our communities, it is our job to fully reject “Advance” and push for the creation of a collaboratively created evaluation system that demonstrates respect for our skill and our judgement as educators.

It is not enough for us to whine about waiting for curriculum and to ask for minor adjustments to a system that is fundamentally flawed because it rests on the assumption that bad teaching is the problem in the American education system.

Therefore, I call on the delegate assembly to  (reading from resolution) resolve that the UFT should mobilize teachers, parents and students towards a repeal of the Education Law 3012c and the new evaluation scheme.

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UNITY DOMINATED UFT DELEGATE ASSEMBLY VOTES FOR MINOR TWEAKS IN THE TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEM WHILE MORE CAUCUS CALLS FOR REPEAL OF EVALUATION LAW

 By James Eterno
Chapter Leader- Jamaica High School
 
The positions of the two main  caucuses (political parties) within the UFT on the topic of teacher evaluations emerged clear as day at Wednesday’s UFT Delegate Assembly in Manhattan.  Michael Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus passed a resolution calling for small changes in the teacher evaluation system called Advance to be negotiated with the new mayor. On the other hand, the Movement of Rank and File Educators introduced a resolution calling for a full scale repeal of the evaluation system law (Education Law 3012c) that ties teacher evaluations to student test scores. 

Most of the Unity dominated Delegate Assembly, including a huge group of retirees who do not have to work under the new system, agreed with the President that evaluations only need to be tweaked but there was strong support for  MORE’s position to scrap the whole system among the Delegates.

As usual, President Michael Mulgrew ignored Roberts’ Rules of Order in conducting debate.  No speakers were permitted to oppose a Unity Caucus resolution reinforced the UFT’s support for the evaluation law.  However, the UFT is calling for a moratorium on using the results of high stakes tests for teacher evaluations until alterations to the local portion of the Measures of Student Learning portion of the system can be worked out in contract negotiations.  The Unity sponsored resolution was on the regular agenda.  It was introduced a few minutes after Delegate Megan Moskop from MORE introduced a resolution for next month during the new motion period calling for the UFT to support legislation to scrap the entire teacher evaluation law.

When Megan raised the MORE resolution, Mulgrew had no choice but to allow her to speak on its behalf as it she had obtained the floor.  In Megan’s speech, she emphasized how using high stakes tests to evaluate teachers is a huge step back for the teaching profession, our members and the students.  Megan skillfully pointed to some of the points made by Mulgrew in his Presidents’ Report about how misuse of standardized testing and education profiteering is bad for kids as well as teachers.

MORE also had excellent literature in support of this resolution which noted that the UFT had a task force report in 2007 that completely opposed  using high stakes tests  in any way shape or form to evaluate teachers. MORE also was highly critical of the Danielson observation system in the resolution saying it “subjects teachers to a cookie-cutter observation system that limits professional autonomy and reduces teaching to a series of numbered scores.” Megan received energized applause when she concluded her remarks by saying teachers need a voice and that the entire 3012c law needs to be repealed.

When Megan finished speaking, UFT Vice President Janella Hinds rose to defend the evaluation system law.  Janella said that MORE misunderstood the new system as it rates teachers based on multiple measures which the UFT likes.  This was also emphasized in the Unity Caucus literature that was handed out before the meeting. Janella argued that the new system took the power to rate teachers negatively out of the exclusive hands of principals.  She added that we do not want to go back to the old system where ratings were exclusively the purview of principals.  In addition, Janella objected to the criticism of the Danielson framework which she claimed was not part of the evaluation law. She also disagreed that tenure was weakened under the evaluation law as she pointed out that each teacher rated ineffective would be visited by an independent validator the following year.

Janella also said that the problem was not so much the law as the Department of Education’s inept implementation of the law and that is why the UFT filed 17 grievances against the DOE on evaluations.  She closed by saying that how her students do on the Regents is a very important part of what she does and that MORE is trying to organize through fear which is not good. Her remarks were politely, if not enthusiastically, received.

When a Delegate raises a resolution for the following month during the new motion period, one speaker is allowed both for and against the motion and then it is voted on.  The Unity majority voted against trying to repeal the evaluation law.

Instead, they had their own resolution on the regular agenda that was introduced by Staff Director Leroy Barr several minutes later.  Leroy stated that even though the new evaluation system isn’t working, we can’t go back to the old system because we favor multiple measures to evaluate teachers.  He added how we have to fix what is broken in the new system by changing the way the local 20% of teacher ratings are measured.  He argued how we should be judged by student work including projects, group work and homework.  The Unity resolution is also calling for a moratorium on using standardized tests to evaluate teachers. 

Next up after Leroy was a Unity Delegate who told us that we have to stop worrying about being observed.  He claimed he wanted more observations.  (A big Unity theme of the day was that the observations have to be for support and to improve teaching).

At this point Mulgrew did his usual abuse of parliamentary procedure as someone called for debate to be closed.  Anyone who can read knows that Roberts’ Rules, the dictionary and common decency all tell you that it isn’t debate until both sides are heard.  According to brother Mulgrew, it is up to the body to decide if the minority should be heard so he allowed the Unity majority, including the large bloc of retirees who don’t have to worry about evaluations, to close debate.  The vote to tweak the evaluation system was largely in favor.  (I voted no.  Some Delegates who supported MORE’s call to repeal the evaluation law also voted for Unity’s resolution to tweak it. I guess something is better than nothing.)

There was another motion that called for an end to high stakes testing for grades Pre K to 2.  This was motivated illegally by Mulgrew from the chair and then by Vice President Karen Alford.  Mulgrew stated that both State Education Commissioner John King and Chancellor Dennis Walcott told him they were against standardized testing for pre K to grade 2 but Mulgrew went on to say that 36 schools were giving bubble tests to kids of this age and that he talked to a teacher who reported that some of these students could not even hold a pencil.

When the two officers completed their speeches, Mulgrew called on a Delegate who asked if tests to see how well English Language Learners understand the language would be included in this resolution.  Mulgrew did not know which prompted a retiree to move that the motion be tabled.  A motion to table is not debatable but since this was a Unity person who made the motion to table a Unity resolution, there was real confusion in the room. 

Unity people didn’t know what to do so Mulgrew once again ignored Roberts’ Rules by dismissing the voices yelling out that a motion to table is not debatable, as he allowed Leroy Barr to speak against the motion to table.  The UFT’s parliamentarian said nothing. After hearing from Leroy, the Unity majority killed the motion to table and supported the ban on standardized testing for our youngest kids.  (I voted for the ban for the record.)

President’s Report
UFT President Mulgrew called for a moment of silence for several UFT members who had recently passed away.  He then brought up on stage the people who were involved in making the new UFT TV commercial that he said received 200,000 hits on Facebook.
 
Teacher Evaluations, Excessive Paperwork, State of DOE & Transition to New Mayor,
The new teacher evaluation system a disaster as is excessive paperwork.  The schools are chaotic but the DOE is still hiring lawyers and accountability people even though they are on their way out.  Mayor elect Bill de Blasio’s people know the schools are in chaos and they acknowledge that other city agencies are in bad shape too.
 
Mulgrew then stated for the record: “God help the new Chancellor.”  The UFT is hoping for a quick transition; the process to pick the new Chancellor had not yet started.  Members need relief from overwork but the transition to a new mayor is an amazing organizing opportunity.  We can’t only be against what is going on but will have an opportunity to have an important role in creating a model school system.
 
DOE called on an outside group to evaluate the networks that supposedly support the schools and they concluded that the networks don’t work.  However, reorganizing what is by far the largest school system in the US is a massive undertaking. 
 
Arbitration on DOE mandating format of lesson plans will be held on Thursday.
 
Outside of New York City only 1% of teachers were rated ineffective in New York State.  Our enemies want 15% to be rated ineffective and want to know how only 1% of the teachers are ineffective if only 30% of the students are proficient on state tests. 
 
We are not going tack to the old teacher evaluation system.  Networks are telling principals different things concerning the implementation.. 
 
There needs to be a paradigm shift.  Administration’s job is to support teachers and we are there to help kids.
 
NYSUT Calls for Three YEAR Moratorium on Teacher Evaluation System
The President noted that our state union wants the evaluation system put on hold for three years. (That would seem to put the state union at odds with the city union that just wants the system tweaked. I must be missing something. I will try to clear this up.)
 
Common Core
NYC state lawmakers wanted to know why Commissioner John King was not holding hearings on Common Core in NYC.  Now there will be hearings in the city.
 
Common Core needs to be rolled out right.  Mulgrew is not sure if Common Core can survive if parents oppose it. Combining teacher evaluations and Common Core has resulted in a big mess.
 
Teachers were never supported properly supported but deserve proper support. 
 
December 5 Rally
UFT supports the New Day New York Week of Action from December 3-9 including a rally on December 5 at Foley Square.
 
SESIS Money Will be Going Out to Members
More money for doing SESIS work outside the school day will be sent to members in December.
 
Philippine Relief
City heavily recruited from the Philippines back in 2004. Thousands of our members have family members impacted by the recent storm.  They need medical help badly and the UFT will be sending nurses over there.
 
The Finish
There is a food and clothing drive ongoing, Over 1,400 people came out to honor Mel Aaronson for Teacher Union Day.
 
We need a shift from fighting what is wrong to leading the way to what we have to do to make the schools work. We want a happy opening to the school year in September of 2014.
 
Staff Director’s Report
Leroy Barr reported the following:
We rallied for Lexington School for the Deaf. 
 
We support the December 5 rally at Foley Square. 
 
Teacher Union Day honors the November 7, 1960 strike. 
 
The Staff Director asked the Delegates who walked the picket line in 1960 to stand and be recognized and they were applauded by the body.
 
Question Period
Question: City says there is no money for any raises.  How do we respond?
Mulgrew Answer: UFT and Principal’s Union are two main unions that did not receive the 4% and 4% pattern raises in the last round of bargaining but the city managed to find money for contracts for other unions after the collapse of the financial system.  It is amazing how the city projects annual $3 billion shortfalls and at the end of the year there are suddenly $ 4 billion surpluses.  We subsidize Wall Street investment banks. If the city just did the paperwork for Medicaid reimbursements, there is $600 million a year out there to be recovered.
 
Question: Administrators are doing multiple observations but are not reporting on positive visits, only negative reports.  What should we do?
Answer: An officer and the District Representative need to visit that school
 
Question: How would NYC teachers have done on state measures for 2012-13?
Answer:  8.6% of NYS teachers out of NYC were ineffective based on student test scores but only 4% of NYC teachers were ineffective. We have factors such as student attendance and others that control for the population we teach. We want class size to be a factor too.
 
Question: UFT created a math syllabus several years back.  Will we use it?
Answer: No.  It is not aligned to the Common Core.  We have to acknowledge that we are competing with other countries who are spending more on education.  There are 110,000 skilled jobs that can’t be filled in NYC because workers don’t have the skills.  Common Core is a good idea that is being hijacked by the corporations.
 
 
Everything Else
The new motions were on the week of action and scrapping the evaluation law.  Except for the resolutions already mentioned, the only other one covered was one opposing mandated lesson plans.  It carried unanimously.  Five other resolutions will wait until next month or will just become policy.  Who needs votes anyway?
 


ResoandFlierfor1120DA-3[Chapter Leaders, Delegates, and Rank and Filers – Please support this resolution by helping to distribute it before the Delegate Assembly on Wednesday – 4:15, 52 Broadway – and raising it during the motions period.  If you can help making copies of it let us know by emailing more@morecaucusnyc.org]

Please check out the talking points in support of the resolution in the leaflet at left.

Resolution for an End to the New Evaluation System

November 2013

WHEREAS, the new evaluation system based on NYS Education Law 3012c disproportionately weights the use of high stakes test scores over qualitative assessments as “Measures of Student Learning (MOSL)”  in determining teacher performance, leading to a proliferation of Common Core-aligned tests with devastating consequences for teaching and learning conditions in our schools, and

Continue Reading…

MORE Holiday Party 12/6

November 17, 2013 — 1 Comment
 HolidayPartyBanner
We have a lot to celebrate!
All year we’ve been fighting for better working
and learning conditions and a more democratic union.
Join us for festivities, fun, food, and drinks
 Friday, Dec. 6, 5-9pm
21 West 35th St. (between 5th – 6th Aves.) NYC
Our video link here

NYC Educators Defense Fund

November 15, 2013 — 1 Comment

MORE CAUCUS OF UFT LAUNCHES TAX-EXEMPT FUND WITH VISION OF A GRASSROOTS NYC TEACHERS UNION: “UNITED WITH PARENTS AND STUDENTS, DEFENDING QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION FOR ALL”

 

NYC Educators Defense Fund Will Press UFT Leadership to Stand with Students and Teachers, Break Ties with Corporate ‘Privatizers and Profiteers’

 NYCEDF Founding Donation Provided by Harris Lirtzman, Former Teacher and Whistleblower Who Stood Up for Students with Disabilities

New York – The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), known as ‘the social justice caucus’ of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), announced today the formation of a new tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, the New York City Educators Defense Fund (NYCEDF), with the support of an initial contribution of $12,500 by a former public school teacher, Harris Lirtzman. NYCEDF will help MORE achieve its vision of a transformed and fully empowered UFT that “organizes and educates members to resist all efforts to deprive them of their rights and to stop the corporate education ‘reform’ agenda.”

By forming NYCEDF, MORE and its allies intend to increase grassroots support for a fair contract and to organize effective opposition to the new teacher evaluation system imposed on city teachers by State Education Commissioner John King and the high-stakes testing regime that has been so detrimental to the City’s public schools and students.

“The groundswell against the so-called ‘education reform’ agenda is rapidly gaining strength here in the City and across the country. Educators now understand what a truly democratic and revitalized teachers union, working arm in arm with parents and students, can do to protect public education in New York City,” Kit Wainer public school teacher and MORE member, said. “Our hope is that NYCEDF can be a catalyst for the sort of change that will make the UFT a real leader in the fight on behalf of city teachers and the public school system.”

Mr. Lirtzman was the New York State deputy comptroller for administration from 2003 to 2007 and became a NYC public school teacher at 54.  He taught mathematics to students with disabilities at a high school in the Soundview section of the Bronx from 2009 to 2012. Mr. Lirtzman became aware of serious violations of federal law and state regulation concerning students with disabilities in his school and warned his principal about them, with no response. After being stonewalled by the NYC Department of Education, he refused to be silenced and took his case to the State Education Department (NYSED) and the US Department of Education. NYSED sustained the most serious of his allegations and placed the school and its principal under state supervision for six months to ensure that a wide-ranging compliance plan was fully implemented.

Mr. Lirtzman, who has since retired, is now an ardent supporter and friend of MORE. His donation provides money to pay for the costs of setting up and operating NYCEDF and to support its ongoing advocacy and education efforts.

“I am proud to be a member of MORE.” Mr. Lirtzman said. “The city’s teachers have been unfairly attacked for the last few years by corporate voices of something called ‘education reform.’ What these people really want to do is destroy public education and the union that represents City teachers, who work under impossible conditions every day to educate our children. I hope that NYCEDF can become a powerful advocate on behalf of public education in NYC and force the UFT to become the strong and democratic union that it should be.”

Marissa Torres, teacher and founding member of MORE, expressed the gratitude and enthusiasm felt by members of her caucus at the formation of NYCEDF. “Harris Lirtzman put his job on the line to defend the most vulnerable and marginalized students in the system,” Torres said. “His fierce determination and commitment to justice add fuel to our fire and give people hope. Now, because of his generous gift to NYCEDF, we can take our movement to a new level. We are honored and grateful for his support.”

For information on the fund or how to donate please email more@morecaucusnyc.org

One exciting and quick way to support MORE’s work is by asking your school’s UFT chapter to vote on endorsing our petition for a moratorium on the new “Advance” teacher evaluation system.

We’re all fed up with “Advance,” and all the teachers I’ve talked to wish the UFT was doing more to oppose this system and stand up for a better one.  My chapter was so excited to hear about this way of pushing the UFT to act that they suggested voting to endorsing this petition right after I showed it to them in our union meeting.

I wanted to make sure everyone had time to read up and consider their options before a vote though, so I sent them an informational e-mail, and we scheduled a secret-ballot vote for the next week.  Teachers cast simple paper ballots, they were counted by an impartial committee, and then my chapter leader and I composed a letter like the one below.

Voila!

It only took about 30 minutes, and my chapter is excited about their involvement in our fight to build a stronger union and a better evaluation system.

You can also take a vote to endorse at your next chapter meeting.

We will present the petitions and chapter endorsements at the November 20th delegate assembly, when we raise a resolution calling for a full repeal of this flawed evaluation scheme that was imposed on us.

Let us know your chapter endorsed our petition by emailing us at more@morecaucusnyc.org

Moratorium endorsement model

Date
(school name)
UFT Chapter
On (date) we, the UFT chapter of (insert school name here), voted to formally endorse MORE caucus’s Petition for a Moratorium on the “Advance” Teacher Evaluation System.
 The chapter endorses this proposal and encourages our leadership to act quickly in the face of actions that jeopardize our profession and our students’ quality of learning.
Fraternally,
(name)
Chapter Leader 
(name)
Chapter Delegate
 

submitted by Megan Moskop- Teacher/ UFT Delegate at M.S. 324- Patria Mirabal