Archives For common core

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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TestingTomorrow, April 1st, students across NY State will take the second year of Common Core aligned tests.  Last year’s test administration was a disaster, but continue rollout this year of the standards revealed what a deeply flawed project they are. The resistance, however, is growing: parents are opting their children out of the tests in large numbers, and some teachers are refusing to administer them.*

MORE adds its voice with the following statement about why we oppose the common core:

MORE is opposed to the Common Core standards because they are inextricably linked to a reform package that includes punitive high-stakes testing, unproven and unreliable measurements of student and teacher performance and scripted curriculum produced not by teachers, but by corporations. After 30 years of manufactured crises and failed solutions, the elements of this package, including the standards, are being used as ideological battering rams to attack the very concept of public education, replacing it with a profit-making privatization scheme.

The Common Core standards are undemocratic. They were written without meaningful teacher input, and educators do not have the freedom to use them as they see fit.   Continue Reading…

nysut-logo

MORE CAUCUS OF UFT TO CHALLENGE CURRENT UFT LEADERSHIP IN STATEWIDE UNION ELECTIONS

RANK AND FILE EDUCATORS WILL BRING REAL CLASSROOM EXPERIENCE TO UNION POSITIONS

New York – The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), the Social Justice Caucus of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), best known for opposing UFT’s President Michael Mulgrew and his Unity caucus in the 2013 UFT elections will now offer a positive alternative for leadership in the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) officer elections. This is unprecedented- never before has the Unity caucus or a sitting UFT president been challenged in NYSUT elections.

MORE is running in this election against the Unity Caucus because, according to candidate special education elementary teacher Julie Cavanagh,

 
“…Rather than collaborating with those who seek to destroy us, we must harness our collective power and stand with parents and youth to end destructive education policies and fight for the economic, racial, and social justice our teachers, students, and society need and deserve.”

In a break from his union’s leadership, MORE candidate and high school teacher Mike Schirtzer calls for an immediate repeal of the Common Core State Standards,

“Teachers did not develop it, nor does it have the best interests of our students at heart.”

The standards have been supported by the current union leadership despite they way they force classroom teachers to do ever-increasing amounts of test preparation at the expense of real instruction. Students are bored with the the constant “drilling”, which deprives them of an authentic, engaging education.

MORE is challenging for statewide union office in order to initiate a change in direction, towards standards developed by pedagogical experts and field tested before implementation. MORE candidate and elementary school teacher Lauren Cohen adds,

“The Common Core is fundamentally undemocratic – not only in its implementation but in its conception. Handing teachers rigid, scripted curricula benefits corporate interests while neglecting students’ need for a developmentally-appropriate and well-rounded education.”

Public school parent, teacher, and MORE candidate Jia Lee explains that she is running for this position because,

“Our union leadership has allowed for the high-stakes use of invalid standardized tests, putting an entire generation of youth, educators, and schools at risk, and has promoted a culture of fear. It is time for democratic policies that respect the diverse needs of New York’s public schools.”

Our union leadership has done precious little to stop the over-reliance on testing, even though a plethora of research proves that measuring students only on test scores does not provide a complete picture of what a child has learned. Mike Schirtzer reiterated,

“The Unity caucus strategy has been political lobbying; they have not mobilized the UFT membership, even as schools are closed, high stakes tests proliferate, and student data is sold to the highest bidder. “

MORE believes our union must stand up in defense of our students. Reducing class size, funding the arts, offering a wide array of after-school programs, and providing full social-emotional and medical services for families would be the type of reform that would truly move our schools forward. Addressing poverty, racism, sexism, and other issues that our children face every day is what real union leadership is about.

Unfortunately, Unity caucus is stubbornly clinging to obsolete tactics that have resulted in the nearly unopposed corporate takeover of our schools. NYSUT and UFT must fight to allow working educators, students, and their parents, to determine educational policy. Policy should no longer be determined by those who seek to profit financially from our public education.MORE is challenging Unity in order to offer a slate of candidates that truly represents classroom teachers. Any policies the MORE candidates negotiate will affect them directly, because they are in the classroom each school day. That is not the case for the small clique of high-ranking Unity grandees currently dictating UFT policy.

Each new bureaucratic diktat, from Common Core to the cookie-cutter Danielson rubric to High Stakes testing, has resulted in less time for grading, lesson planning, and collaboration with administrators, parents, and colleagues. These failed policies have buried teachers under mounds of useless paperwork that do not positively impact our students. A new NYSUT leadership that includes the MORE slate will mobilize rank and file educators in the five boroughs and locals from around the state to take back our schools. Education policy should never be dictated in corporate boardrooms or political back rooms. It should be created with the input of the real experts- working teachers and parents.

The elections will take place April 5th, 2014 at the NYSUT representative assembly held at the New York Midtown Hilton. Local union presidents and delegates from around New York state will converge at this convention to cast their ballots and determine the statewide union’s direction. MORE is running an independent slate of six candidates for Board of Directors At-Large representing UFT members; Julie Cavanagh, James Eterno, Jia Lee, Mike Schirtzer, Lauren Cohen, and Francesco Portelos. They have also endorsed the candidacy of Arthur Goldstein for NYSUT Executive Vice President and Beth Dimino, President of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, for a Director At-Large for Suffolk. Only elected delegates from last year’s UFT election may vote in the NYSUT election, not rank and file members. MORE represents thousands of UFT members (including over 40% of the high school teachers who voted in the 2013 elections). UFT’s undemocratic rules do not allow for proportional representation, therefore all the NYC delegates at NYSUT convention are from the Unity caucus. These are at-large positions, meaning that any NYSUT delegate may vote for us, including those not from the UFT.

Calling all NYC Metro community activists (“voices of resistance”), families, students, civil rights advocates, voters, immigrant families, policymakers and legislators, union members, teachers, and faith leaders…

This rally and march is part of the national Testing Resistance & Reform Spring campaign. We aim to support the efforts of parents, teachers and community members to have public schools that work for the community.

Join us on May 17, 2014 in NYC!
City Hall Park (permit pending)

2:00 p.m.
Click here to RSVP Today! Continue Reading…

THIS Is Our Moment!

February 24, 2014 — 4 Comments

Dan Lupkin
Special Education Teacher/UFT Delegate
PS 58, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

MORE is the bellwether, the authentic voice of working educators in NYC.

This is Our Moment!

We are on the right side of history, several steps ahead, waiting for politicians and union leadership to catch up.

Current events bear this out; after the excesses of corporate reform reached their apex in 12 years of Bloomberg, the pendulum has begun, slowly, to return to center. Parents, students, and teachers are mobilizing en mass, and Movement of Rank and File Educators is at the forefront of the resistance. It used to be a lonely place, but it has started to become crowded lately. Positions long held by MORE, like strenuous opposition to high stakes testing and the use of VAM growth scores to evaluate teachers, were until very recently considered by the power structure to be extreme. Now, they are core tenets of UNITY* doctrine, and have the potential to be heard with a more sympathetic ear under DeBlasio and Fariña.
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Randi-VAM

by Jia Lee for MORE

UFT Chapter Leader of The Earth school

Recently, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, surprised many a disillusioned public school teacher with her new mantra: “Vam is a Sham”. This is a major shift from her previous agreement and collaboration with Race to the Top policy enforcers. She admits that she has always been leery of value-added “but we rolled up our sleeves, acted in good faith and tried to make it work.” Now, she’s disillusioned. Welcome to the world we have been living in since this all started. We now wait for a public statement by UFT leaders.

Whatever the reason, educators, parents and students welcome this realization and acknowledgement that the use of faulty metrics to measure the value of students, teachers and schools has dangerous consequences. One of the very reasons why the grassroots union caucus, Movement of Rank and File Educators, formed last year is due to the acknowledgement by educators in the ranks who already read the warning signs.

With this welcomed change of heart and, now, staunch campaign against the use of value added measures, we are aware that this could affect contract negotiations in local districts, and the union also plans to lobby the Education Department. We are also rightfully cautious, yet hopeful, that we will not be faced with the patterns of our past. With an entire generation of new teachers, many of whom were not a part of the previous contract negotiations, will we be facing concessions to our working conditions? Will we be told to continue waiting for the curriculum or improved standardized state tests that align undemocratically set Common Core Standards?

We are certain that the grassroots efforts of groups such as MORE, as well as with the movement of parents in New York City who have risen against the over reliance on test scores, have contributed to Randi’s public change of heart. We will be here to provide our experiences and support in efforts to ensure that our teaching conditions positively impact our students’ learning conditions. MORE has generated alliances with parents and students who have felt the consequences of a leadership that had, for far too long, ignored the truth about high stakes testing and the faulty metrics of value added measures.

Last year, MORE published as part of its election platform;

“Testing has narrowed the curriculum our students are being offered. Quality teaching and education is developmentally appropriate and responsive to diverse student needs and abilities. A systemic obsession with quantitative data has increased teachers’ paperwork and stripped them of their professional discretion”.

Our leadership took longer to come to this realization:

Here’s a brief glimpse of AFT leadership attitudes and alliances past and present.

In November of 2009, Randi issued this statement of support in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s press release, “Foundation Commits $335 Million to Promote Effective Teaching and Raise Student Achievement” : “This process has been a thoughtful, deliberative, collaborative way to understand—and then design and implement—systems that improve teaching and learning. These districts, working with their unions and parents, were willing to think out of the box, and were awarded millions of dollars to create transparent, fair, and sustainable teacher effectiveness models.”

The National Education Association president, Dennis Van Roekel, also issued a statement, “Collaboration and multilevel integration are important when it comes to transforming the teaching profession…These grants will go far in providing resources to help raise student achievement and improve teacher effectiveness. Our local NEA affiliates are working daily to help improve the practice of teaching.”

Our national teacher union leaders taking funds to collaborate with problematic policies that have no reliable evidence for raising student achievement and improving teacher effectiveness, back in 2009, is what started the most vocal of educators, researchers, policy analysts and even psychometricians grumbling. By August 27, 2010, the Economic Policy Institute published an open letter, Problems with Using Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers.

Just a little less than a year ago, Randi collaborated with Vicki Philips of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to author this article Six Steps to Effective Teacher Development and Evaluation (March 25, 2013) (Note that the article states: “Sponsored content by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and American Federation of Teachers.”) Under the subsection: “Include evidence of teaching and student learning from multiple sources”, they write:

“The Gates Foundation’s MET project (much but not all of which the AFT agrees with) has found that combining a range of measures—not placing inordinate weight on standardized test scores—yields the greatest reliability and predictive power of a teacher’s gains with other students. And the AFT and its affiliates are exploring ways to accurately determine what measures best serve as a proxy for our work.” Still showing outward public collaboration with the Gates Foundation, funder of ill-conceived high stakes testing and teacher evaluation policies, continued to prompt parents to opt their children out of standardized tests and by this time, the punitive practices imbued by these policies have sent invaluable educators leaving the profession or fighting for MORE.

Then, on January 10, 2014, Randi posted in the Huffington Post “Teaching and Learning Over Testing” alone and not associated with the Gates Foundation. She states that the AFT has long known that VAM is unreliable and that they have always questioned the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. The UFT’s own high stakes testing task force in 2007 came to the same conclusion. This is contrary to the earlier co sponsored written articles, but what matters is the shift that has happened.

While MORE stands in solidarity with our union president’s newly discovered position, we can not forget that she has helped negotiate contracts which include the flawed use of test scores to determine a “teacher’s  effectiveness” in districts around the country. This was against the wishes of her own rank and file and the advice of educational experts. She can not undo the damage that has already been done by her support of test based measures. In addition, Randi continues to relentlessly advocate for Common Core, while the standards are unproven, not field tested, were not created by with the input of public school teachers and parents, and have caused even more reliance on high stakes testing.

Will Michael Mulgrew admit to the truth and take back what he said just a year ago at a delegate assembly?- That the growth model (VAM) they were creating for the local measures of student learning component was a fair and excellent way to evaluate teachers because “In any class…you ought to be able to move kids from point A, wherever they began, to point B, someplace that showed some progress.”

At the November UFT Delegate Assembly, a MORE delegate made the argument that the current teacher evaluation system “Advance” is unviable, and UFT President Michael Mulgrew scowled. If Randi can have a change of heart… say it with us, Michael Mulgrew, “VAM IS A SHAM”.

by Megan Moskop

Teacher/UFT Delegate

M.S. 324- Patria Mirabal

Note: I am an active UFT and MORE member because I believe that our union can be a powerful voice for the teaching profession, the quality of our education system, and ultimately the quality of our society.  Though I am critical of our current UFT leadership, my criticism is meant to be constructive and is directed towards the goal of building a stronger, smarter, more democratic UFT.  If you’d like to get involved with the work of building a stronger union, click here to join MORE online, or come meet us at our Holiday Party this Friday (Dec 6th).

If you read my last post, you know that I came to the November 20th UFT delegate assembly ready to speak in favor of our Resolution for an End to the New Evaluation System.  Despite preparation and support from my colleagues and fellow MORE members, I was nervous.

Why was I nervous? In UFT delegate assemblies, Robert’s Rules of Order (with the addition of extra Rules of Order printed on each agenda) enable completion of the planned agenda before 6pm.  They also severely limit discussion. There are 15 minutes allotted for questions from delegates, and only 10 minutes for motions directed to the agenda from delegates. (The President’s report, however, does not have a time limit, and often occupies the majority of the meeting time.)  I have also observed many occasions on which delegates who rise to speak are belittled or treated disrespectfully.

I knew that I would need to speak as well and as concisely as I could.  So I planned, drafted, and re-drafted what I might say.  To read my plan, click here.

Armed with this plan and copies of the resolution, I arrived at the delegate assembly early to pass out the resolution so that delegates could read over it before it was time to vote.  UNITY, the caucus to which all the UFT leadership belongs,  distributed its own flyer at the beginning of the meeting. Among other things, the flyer criticized MORE, in an inaccurate and deceptive way, saying that MORE “believes that principals should have complete and unchecked authority when it comes to a teacher’s evaluation.”  I was shocked and insulted that the UNITY leadership thought their own delegates would accept such a  spurious claim.  No group of teachers would ever advocate for such a simple way of assessing our complex and valuable work, and any group of elected delegates should easily recognize such a statement as a distortion of MORE’s view.

Additionally, the flyer and the President’s report asserted that the UFT leadership was fighting “Advance. ”  I wonder, where is this fight? Most teachers I know do not feel involved in, or even aware of any kind of larger resistance to “Advance.” Instead, they are stressed out about extra standardized tests, frustrated with pushing paperwork until late at night, and striving to infuse as much genuine joy as possible into common-core aligned lessons.

The teachers I know, despite being overworked and undervalued, are tough. They are warriors who show up every day ready to help their students fight for a brighter future. President Mulgrew must see things differently though, because when he asked us to rally around the  “New Day, New York Dec 5th Day of Action”  (which is a great call for social justice involving many unions- check out the UFT flyer here) he undermined the call to action, saying, “I know we’re tired, but…”  Later, with regards to contract negotiations, the prevailing sentiment was that “our members aren’t ready for action.”

If UFT members are tired, we are tired of being forced to implement poorly planned dictates that mean more paper work, more time testing, and less time focused on our students.  We are tired of being told to do stupid things, but we are ready to fight them. We need our union to lead us in the fight for a system in which we can focus on what we love—teaching our students.

President Mulgrew and I agree that Advance gets in the way of our teaching. He called advance a “paperwork disaster” created by “the people who hate us” (referring to the corporate interests that usually bash teachers).  When I stood to raise our resolution, I adjusted my planned words to echo these ideas, and to include many of the thoughts above. Recording is not allowed in the delegate assembly, so I’m not sure exactly what words I used, but my main idea remained the same.

“Advance” reinforces the corporate notion that our teaching, and our children, are standardizable products to be quantifiably measured. We must fight for the collaborative creation of a teacher evaluation system that empowers teachers, not testing companies, not administrators, and not bureaucrats. We deserve that smart system, and so do our students.

After I spoke, Janella Hines, one of the UFT Vice-Presidents, spoke against our resolution. Debate was over, as per the rules of the Delegate Assembly*, and there was a vote as to whether or not a debate and vote on our resolution would be added to the agenda for next month. Since votes are not counted in UFT meetings (problematic!), we don’t know exactly what the totals were (I’ve heard estimates at 30-70 and 40-60), but a “visual majority” did not support adding our resolution to the next agenda.

Perhaps the majority of the UFT delegate assembly isn’t ready to fight Advance, but are you?

If so, join MORE’s campaign to reject “Advance!” Help us push the UFT leadership to be more democratic and inclusive of rank-and-file teacher input, and lend your expertise towards fighting what Diane Ravitch calls the “corporate education deform movement.” Continue this conversation with your colleagues, sign our petition, come to a meeting, contact us, or come celebrate with us at our holiday party this Friday!

 

*A side-note on the use of parliamentary procedure:

When I asked President Mulgrew about our rules of order after the meeting, he advised me to start researching. I’ll continue my research, but my first google search resulted in the following key points from the website www.robertsrules.org:

“Complementary is the right of at least a strong minority to require the majority to be deliberate- to act according to its considered judgment AFTER a full and fair “working through” of the issues involved. Robert’s Rules provides for constructive and democratic meetings, to help, not hinder, the business of the assembly.”

Though a “for” and “against” position on our resolution (as per UFT rules) was presented during the meeting, I don’t believe this constitutes a full and fair “working through, ” and I think that this rushed treatment is all too often the case with important topics in the delegate assembly.

Furthermore, the website states that, “Under no circumstances should “undue strictness” be allowed to intimidate members or limit full participation.”  I know I’m not the only delegate who feels intimidated by speaking. As for full participation, it is already decidedly limited when only 15 percent of our membership voted in the 2012 UFT elections, and the Union Hall doesn’t even have enough space to hold close to the 3, 406 elected delegates.