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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.

 

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/

"MORE UFT pin"

The Social Justice Caucus of the UFT

Our 2nd event of the 2014 Summer Series on Wednesday 7/30 features a discussion on the new contract. More information below and here.

A preview of the contract and our discussion by John Elfrank-Dana, Chapter Leader of Murray Bergtraum High School:

 

After alerting the UFT that my principal failed to invite me to this Advance training in July, finally there was traction and I got a belated registration request (they had to reopen it as it was closed already).
I found at least a few quite disturbing changes to Advance.

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Teachers Boycott Test

May 1, 2014 — 1 Comment

Teachers and Staff at International High School at

Prospect Heights Refuse To Administer the NYC ELA Performance Assessment Test

New York – On Thursday, May 1, 2014, most of the teachers at International High School at Prospect Heights gathered on the steps of their school to announce that they will not give the NYC English Language Arts Performance Assessment Exam. More than 50% of parents have opted their students out of taking the test, and 30 teachers and staff refused to administer the exam citing professional and ethical concerns. Approximately 95% of the students at IHSPH are English Language Learners. Thirty-five percent of students are classified as Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE), meaning they have missed more than one year of school.

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Michael Fiorillo is a teacher, MORE member and former Chapter Leader at Newcomers High School in Queens

The Corporate Reformer’s Game Plan

  • Proclaim austerity for the public schools, while continuing to expand charters
  •  Create incentives for non-educators to be in positions of power, from Assistant Principal on up
  • Maintain a climate of scapegoating and witch hunting for “bad teachers,” who are posited as the cause of poverty and student failure, doing everything possible to keep debate from addressing systemic inequities
  • Neutralize and eventually eliminate teacher unions (the first part largely accomplished in the case of the AFT). As part of that process, eliminate tenure, seniority and defined benefit pensions
  • Create and maintain a climate of constant disruption and destabilization, with cascading mandates that are impossible to keep up or comply with

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Watch the video for a sneak peek of the rally and march in front of NYC City Hall to defend public education from destructive, profit-driven corporate “reform”. Endorsed by 30+ parent, teacher, and student groups, including MORE. Featuring some great speakers, including a message from Diane Ravitch!