Archives For April 2018

Arizona teachers hit the streets to defend public educationFor weeks, teachers in Arizona have been wearing red on Wednesdays and “Walking In” together into their schools in a show of solidarity for public education.  In response, AZ Governor Ducey promised a pay raise by 2020 – but in a statewide vote last week teachers decided that the promises were not enough and they would turn their “walk ins” into a “walk out” on Thursday!

This follows, of course, statewide strikes spreading like wildfire from West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma to Colorado, marching on state capitals demanding better pay and funding.

Chapters across NYC will be wearing red in solidarity with Arizona teachers to send a message that they are not alone! 

Email more@morecaucusnyc.org if you chapter can participate – send in pictures from your chapter and post to MORE’s facebook page.

 

 

Parents across the state demand that the Board of Regents act immediately to remove Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. It is time the Board of Regents exercises control over the State Education Department to stop the runaway train of anti-public school “reform” that the commissioner represents.

Last week’s 3rd-8th grade ELA testing was an epic–and avoidable–fail for the children of New York State. The problems began before the tests were even administered, continued during their administration, and will persist unless there is a radical shakeup in the leadership of the State Education Department; in the way in which information about the tests and participation in the tests is communicated to families; and in how the tests themselves are constructed, administered, and scored.

The twin disasters of this year’s botched computer-based tests and an even more flawed than usual ELA test design prove that Elia is unequal to her duties and lacks the competence to helm the education department. Our children deserve better.

Leading up to the tests, some districts sent letters to parents asking whether their children would be participating in the assessments. Others, including the state’s largest district, New York City, sent home testing “info” riddled with spin, distortion, and outright lies regarding test refusal and its consequences. Many disadvantaged communities told advocates that they did not know they had a right to refuse the tests, even though it is their children who are most likely to suffer the negative effects of school closure.

Amy Gropp Forbes, a mother active in NYC Opt Out, wrote in a letter addressed to Chancellor Betty Rosa, “I urge you to issue a formal statement that clarifies a parent’s right to refuse state testing for their children. If the state allows some parents the right to opt out of state exams, it MUST give ALL parents this right, and consequences to schools and districts across the state must be equitable.” Gropp Forbes received no reply.

That the BOR and SED stood by and let this situation transpire despite having been made fully aware of the inequity–a statewide NYSAPE letter writing campaign generated over 200 complaints of “misinformation and intimidation”–is inexcusable. The absence of state-issued guidance also allowed some schools and districts to intimidate potential test refusers by instituting “sit and stare” policies.

Further evidence of a dereliction of duty on the part of BOR and SED came last week during the state ELA exam. The problems far exceeded the typical complaints associated with the state’s standardized exams. In fact, the problems were so egregious that one Westchester superintendent felt compelled to apologize to his entire community for what students had to endure. Social media flooded with teacher and proctor reports of children crying from fatigue, confusion, angst, hunger, pain, and more.

“Any good teacher knows how to judge time in lessons and assessments,” stated Chris Cerrone, school board trustee from Erie County. “As soon as I saw the format when I received the instructions I knew something was wrong. Day 1 would be short. Day 2 would be too long.”

Jeanette Deutermann, founding member of NYSAPE and LI Opt Out questioned, “Who was actually responsible for the construction and final version of these assessments? SOMEONE is responsible; that someone is Elia and the Board of Regents. The worst test since the new rollout has happened on their watch. Until a more capable leader is in place, we demand that all work on the construction of future tests be suspended immediately.”

Ulster County parent, educator, and NYSAPE founding member Bianca Tanis attributed last week’s fiasco in part to the state’s adoption of untimed testing. “Both SED and members of the Board of Regents continue to ignore the egregious consequences of untimed testing, misleading the public by claiming that the tests are shorter. For many educators, administering this test was the worst day of their career. The truth is out, and it cannot be ignored.”

“Enough is enough,” declared Dr. Michael Hynes, Superintendent of Long Island’s Patchogue-Medford district. “Not only are children and educators suffering, but with this untimed policy the state is in violation of its own law, which caps testing at no more than 1% (9 hours) of instructional time. Where’s the enforcement?”

“For a decade or more, SED and its vendors have proved themselves incapable of creating valid, well-designed, non-abusive exams that can be reliably used for diagnostic purposes or to track trends in student achievement over time,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

“Since the Common Core was introduced, these problems have only gotten worse, with tests so difficult and confusing that teachers themselves are at a loss as to how the questions should be answered. A recent report from the Superintendents Roundtable revealed that the NYS exams were misaligned to excessively high benchmarks, meaning far too many students are wrongly identified as low-performing,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator, and BATs Executive Director.

Brooklyn public school parent and founding member of NYC Opt Out, Kemala Karmen, is calling on SED to notify every single parent of their right to refuse May’s upcoming math assessment. She added, “The state can and should halt its hellbent race towards computerized testing, for which it is clearly ill-prepared; stop farming out test construction to dubious for-profit companies; truly shorten the exams; and, most important, remove high stakes attached to the assessments.”

Here’s a compilation of observations made by parents, administrators, and teachers about the numerous problems with this year’s NYS ELA state test, and the suffering it caused students.

NYSAPE calls on the Board of Regents to stand up for equitable and authentic learning & assessments and immediately remove Commissioner Elia.

#OptOut2018 Test Refusal Letter: English & Spanish

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.

Teachers around the city expressed their solidarity with the OK teachers during their 9-day illegal strike.

 

IS 230, Queens

Bard Early College High School

Liberty HS, Manhattan

Hudson HS, Manhattan

Gregorio Luperon HS, Manhattan

Please sign and then share the petition to repeal NYS Teacher Evaluation Law. Spread it to the world.

Petition to Repeal NYS Teacher Evaluation Laws 3012-c and 3012-d

 

We must return teacher evaluation to local districts free from state mandates by repealing New York State Education Laws 3012-c and 3012-d.

 

  • Evaluating teachers based on student results on tests and other student assessments that were never designed to rate educators is neither a scientifically or educationally sound way to be used for a Measure of Student Learning portion of a teacher’s rating.
  •  The Measure of Teacher Practice portion of teacher evaluations is subjective and highly unfair, particularly in NYC where the Danielson Framework has been used not to help teachers grow as professionals but as a weapon to frighten teachers into teaching to score points on arbitrary rubrics in multiple unnecessary classroom observations.

Why we are starting this petition?

The teacher evaluation system in NYS is broken beyond repair. NYS passed a flawed evaluation system into law in order to receive federal Race to the Top funds. However, the current version of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act no longer requires states to rate teachers in part based on student test results to receive federal funds.  Rating teachers on student exam scores is not recommended by the American Statistical Association as it is not a reliable way to measure teacher performance yet in New York we only have a moratorium on using standardized tests to rate certain teachers. Teachers are still rated on tests and other assessments that were never designed to rate teachers. The Measures of Student Learning portion of teacher ratings is highly unreliable. Many call it “junk science.”

NYS ELA tests cannot measure student progress under any particular standard.From a statistical standpoint, a handful of questions per standard is not a statistically sound measure of a student’s mastery of that standard.  Additionally, test passages that are on, above or even slightly below grade level cannot measure the progress of a struggling reader who enters a class two to four years below grade level. These tests cannot measure the progress of newcomers to our country who are learning English as a new language.  It takes many years for newcomers to master the nuances of the English language.  In effect, students such as these described above can make more than a year’s worth of progress and yet still not show progress on the NYS ELA due to the text complexity of all test passages.

The Measure of Teacher Practice portion of teacher ratings in New York City is based on the Danielson Framework whose creator, Charlotte Danielson, said this about teacher evaluation in Education Week:

 

“There is …little consensus on how the profession should define “good teaching.” Many state systems require districts to evaluate teachers on the learning gains of their students. These policies have been implemented despite the objections from many in the measurement community regarding the limitations of available tests and the challenge of accurately attributing student learning to individual teachers.

“Even when personnel policies define good teaching as the teaching practices that promote student learning and are validated by independent research, few jurisdictions require their evaluators to actually demonstrate skill in making accurate judgments. But since evaluators must assign a score, teaching is distilled to numbers, ratings, and rankings, conveying a reductive nature to educators’ professional worth and undermining their overall confidence in the system.

 

“I’m deeply troubled by the transformation of teaching from a complex profession requiring nuanced judgment to the performance of certain behaviors that can be ticked off on a checklist. In fact, I (and many others in the academic and policy communities) believe it’s time for a major rethinking of how we structure teacher evaluation to ensure that teachers, as professionals, can benefit from numerous opportunities to continually refine their craft.”

 

The Danielson Rubric describes an ideal classroom setting and was never intended to be used as an evaluative tool against teachers. Examples: A rubric that rates a teacher “developing” when he/she “attempts to respond to disrespectful behavior among students, with uneven results” (Danielson 2a) is not a fair rubric. A rubric that rates a teacher ineffective because “students’ body language indicates feelings of hurt, discomfort, or insecurity” (Danielson 2a) having nothing to do with how that particular teacher treats her particular students is not a fair rubric for teacher evaluations. Teachers do not just teach emotionally well-adjusted children from idyllic families and communities. We teach all kinds of children who live under various conditions. These conditions have a major impact on the emotional well-being of children.

 

Children experiencing emotional distress due to factors beyond their teachers’ control quite often have trouble concentrating in class yet to be considered “highly effective” under Danielson, Virtually all students are intellectually engaged in the lesson.” We teach children with selective mutism and other speech and language and learning disabilities yet Danielson doesn’t take this into account. Students’ emotions have an impact on their academics, and students’ emotions are impacted by many factors beyond any teacher’s control such as homelessness, marital stress in their home or divorce, loss of employment of a caregiver, physical or emotional abuse, mental illness, bullying outside of their classroom, personal illness or illness of a loved one and many other factors too numerous to list. Holding a teacher accountable for these factors that are beyond a teacher’s control is not reasonable and yet that is what some of the components under Danielson demand.

 

Teachers in NY are frustrated and demoralized by a teacher evaluation system that has robbed us of our professionalism.

 

We demand an end to this absurdity. We demand that NYS change its education laws so teachers can return to the practice of seeing their students as human beings who are so much more than a test score or a robot that must adhere to absurd requirements under the Danielson Rubric in order for their teacher to be judged “effective” or “highly effective.” NYS has created an adversarial relationship between students and their teachers and this absurdity must end now.

 

Teachers have no confidence in the evaluation system that reduces teacher worth into a meaningless series of numbers and letters. Teachers in NYC fear classroom observations are not being used to help them grow professionally, but instead teachers must teach to try to score points on Ms. Danielson’s often misused framework.

 

In NYC, there is a climate of fear in the classroom which does not lead to improved teacher practice. Four observations per year for veteran teachers is excessive. One per year or every other year is sufficient for the vast majority of veteran teachers. Ms. Danielson stated in Education Week that after three years in the classroom, teachers become part of a “professional community” and should be treated as such.

 

Danielson says:

Personnel policies for the teachers not practicing below standard—approximately 94 percent of them—would have, at their core, a focus on professional development, replacing the emphasis on ratings with one on learning.

 

We agree. To get there we must first repeal Education Law 3012-c and 3012-d and return teacher evaluation to local districts, free from state mandates.

https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/repeal-nys-teacher-evaluatio?source=c.em&r_by=230426

Mr. Jason Agosto
UFT Chapter Leader
High School of Art and Design

Mr. Michael Mulgrew
President
United Federation of Teachers
52 Broadway
New York, NY, 10004


March 29, 2018

Dear President Mulgrew and UFT Leadership,

The UFT chapter at the High School of Art and Design has been living under distress and oppression for the past two years. On January 25, 2016, Principal Manuel Urena arrived at the High School of Art and Design and his tenure as principal has produced record faculty turnover, constant violations of the UFT contract agreed to by the UFT and the DOE, violations of state and federal labor law, blatant retaliation against leaders of our chapter, and a hostile and unhealthy work environment. It is difficult enough to teach and conduct union activity under the above outlined circumstances, but what has made the situation more challenging is the silence, aloofness, and non-response of the UFT leadership in addressing these matters. Alice O’Neil, our UFT District Representative, is well aware of the issues plaguing our school and has even been a firsthand witness to some of them and yet no meaningful action has been taken by Mrs. O’Neil or UFT leadership to remedy these issues.

The Art and Design chapter presence has been silenced in our school. The threat of swift and brutal retaliation at the hands of Mr. Urena and his administration has made chapter members fearful and hesitant to engage in any union related activity. Jason Agosto, our UFT chapter chair, has been subject to the most blatant retaliation from Mr. Urena in the form of negative observation reports, spurious disciplinary letters based on unfounded accusations, as well as the maligning of his reputation amongst parents on our School Leadership Team.  What’s more disheartening, is that the UFT leadership has allowed this treatment of Mr. Agosto to go unchecked as the above mentioned actions have continued to occur on a regular basis for two years. The UFT’s non-response to the abuse and blatant retaliation of Mr. Agosto has emboldened Mr. Urena and he has used the UFT leadership’s silence to further retaliate against other vocal chapter members.

The threat of retaliation by Mr. Urena extends to all functions of the chapter within the school. Chapter members who serve on the School Leadership Team have been silenced because anyone who raises an issue that presents a problem or narrative which contradicts Mr. Urena’s is subject to retaliation in the form of negative observation reports and spurious letters to file. Mrs. O’Neil witnessed Mr. Urena in a threatening tone dismiss chapter concerns about Special Education compliance issues at a November 2, 2017 school leadership meeting but yet there was no follow up to the issue on the part of UFT leadership. The same is true for chapter members who serve on the school security team and the UFT consultation committee. This retaliation has been reported to Mrs. O’Neil and UFT leadership on a number of documented occasions but with no action taken to address it.

The Art and Design chapter’s suspicions of Mr. Urena’s anti-union animus were confirmed when in January 2017, it was revealed that Mr. Urena, through one of his Assistant Principals, attempted to recruit a probationary teacher to report information back to administration that was discussed in a December 2016 chapter meeting. Specifically, the teacher was asked to report who the vocal members of the chapter are, who was leading chapter meetings, and who would replace Mr. Agosto in the event of his removal from his position. This incident exposed Mr. Urena’s intent to retaliate against vocal chapter members and was reported directly to Mrs. O’Neil at one of her visits to our chapter on January 5, 2017 and a follow up letter was sent to President Mulgrew on February 1, 2017 describing the specifics of this ordeal. Even with all of this information being reported directly to UFT officers, no action was taken to address it. It is now the subject of a Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) complaint being litigated at the expense of the chapter leader when NYSUT lawyers refused to take on the case. The hearing this PERB complaint requires has been delayed three times since November 2017.

Mr. Urena has further sought to silence the voice of our chapter by refusing to honor School Based Option (SBO) votes on circular 6 (c6) assignments for teachers. In a consultation committee meeting on May 10, 2017, in the presence of UFT CTE Representative, Jeffrey Bernstein, Mr. Urena stated in a pointed and threatening tone, that he would not honor SBO votes and if we proceed with an SBO, he would put every teacher in meetings during c6 periods on a daily basis not allowing teachers time to plan and grade as the current split c6 assignment affords teachers the time to do. In addition, Mr. Urena further stated that if we were to pursue a grievance to force him to honor the SBO process, he would place teachers in meetings every day for their c6 assignments in response to any pursuit of a grievance. Mrs. O’Neil and Mr. Bernstein sent follow up emails to Mr. Urena on May 12, 2017 but he responded that his,“position was clear” and it was up to the Chapter to decide how we wanted to proceed. Mrs. O’Neil stated that she would address this issue with Superintendent Marisol Rosales. However, there was no follow up and the split c6 menu was enacted with no contractually mandated School Based Option vote to reflect the chapter’s participation and voice in the matter.

Our contractual rights have been been further subverted by Mr. Urena’s refusal to meet with our Chapter’s consultation committee without assistant principals present to serve as his witnesses. The contract makes clear that these meetings are to take place with only the principal and the chapter committee in attendance. District Representative Alice O’Neil advised that if Mr. Urena entered any consultation committee meeting with Assistant Principals joining him, we present Mr. Urena with an agenda and respectfully exit the meeting. We did exactly as Mrs. O’Neil directed us to do in September, October, and November of 2017. Mr. Urena, in turn, responds to our exit from these meetings with snarky quips and feigned ignorance as to why we are exiting the meeting all the while knowingly violating the contractual process for consultation.  Mrs. O’Neil stated that she would address this issue with Mr. Urena’s supervisor, Superintendent Marisol Rosales and that monthly consultation committee meetings would resume after that. To date, the UFT has not received any update from these meetings that supposedly addressed this issue with the Superintendent.

Adding insult to injury, Mrs. O’Neil reached out to Chapter leadership in December 2017 stating that she was able to secure a consultation committee meeting with our chapter committee and Mr. Urena without the intrusion of Assistant Principal observers on December 21, 2017 at 2:50pm. On the day of the meeting, Mrs. O’Neil abruptly cancelled the meeting with no explanation. Mrs. O’Neil did send Chapter Leader Jason Agosto a cryptic and vague text message with no explanation for the consultation committee meeting cancellation. These events have further silenced chapter voices as the absence of monthly consultation committee meetings all year has deprived the chapter of our voice on issues such as fiscal and budgetary matters, instructional goals, programming, and how to best serve students while honoring the contract. What’s further disheartening is that Mr. Urena has done all of this because he knows UFT leadership will never hold him accountable for it.

Mrs. O’Neil also informed Mr. Agosto on December 7, 2017 that President Mulgrew would be meeting with Chancellor Farina in the days that followed and that the High School of Art and Design was the only high school on the agenda for that meeting. Mr. Agosto nor any member of Chapter leadership has been given any details on that meeting or even if it happened at all. This is yet another example of the UFT’s failure to advocate for its members and defend our chapter from the onslaught of anti-union animus perpetuated by Mr. Urena.

The inaction by the leadership of the United Federation of Teachers in response to the decimation of our chapter at the hands of Mr. Urena is outrageous and disappointing. It makes an already difficult situation that much worse when union officers who are charged with and paid with member dues to enforce the contract in every school have allowed and even tacitly encouraged these actions. Mrs. O’Neil’s actions on December 21, 2017 showed us that UFT leadership is either incompetent or working in collusion with Superintendent Rosales and Principal Urena to undermine our chapter’s position within our school. Further evidence is the recent photo proudly displayed on the UFT website of one of our teachers receiving the UFT’s CTE Award with Mr. Urena standing confidently among art and CTE teachers projecting a false narrative of a vibrant and active UFT chapter.

The legal ramifications of these actions have caused targeted chapter members to pursue outside legal counsel at our own expense to defend our rights and livelihoods since the UFT is not carrying out their duties to do so. Continued contractual violations occur on a daily basis at the High School of Art and Design and the UFT’s leadership has been complicit in allowing them to occur despite having a consistent documented papertrail attesting to them. We demand a meeting between our chapter’s consultation committee and President Mulgrew to address these issues directly to create the working environment that our chapter members deserve. If the UFT refuses a meeting with President Mulgrew and continues to ignore our plight, we will be forced to pursue a PERB complaint against the UFT for failing to enforce the contract and defend members from anti-union animus at the hands Mr. Urena and his abusive administration.

A copy of this letter is being sent to the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE)  to be publicly posted on their website and other online platforms to inform members of your inaction and dereliction of your duties. This letter will also be sent to other labor related media outlets as well as to the other major municipal workers’ unions to express our outrage at the UFT’s ineptitude and corruption to our union brothers and sisters across New York City.

We look forward to your prompt response in addressing the above outlined concerns. If we do not receive a response, we will see you in court for the PERB complaint we will file against the UFT in response.

In Solidarity,

 

Jason Agosto

Chapter Leader

Andrew Savage

UFT Delegate

Robert Robinson

Chemistry Teacher

George Zicopolus

Math Teacher

Janice Edelman

Art/CTE Teacher

Maya Zabar

English Teacher

Ayoka Cox

Guidance Counselor

Rachel Kaplan

History Teacher