Archives For December 2014

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