Archives For Jia Lee

Looking through the UFT’s guide to the new NYC teacher evaluation system, I find myself wondering how it’s being read by educators coming from schools that vary widely in terms of educator autonomy, pedagogical philosophy and levels of trust between administration and staff. We are being told that our evaluation system will require our full comprehension and maintenance of: measures of teacher practice observation option selection forms, evaluator forms, consistent update of class lists/rosters, observation options A, B, C, D, the Matrix, and MOSL options (project based learning assessments, student learning inventories, performance based assessments, and progress monitoring assessments), not to mention how this plays out for what people teach (elementary/middle/high school, alternative assessment, English as a New Language, content areas, etc).

It is easily overwhelming. We are still figuring out the last evaluation system and living through the most rapidly changing succession of teacher evaluations in history. The truth is, we are being led by our tails. There are only two things to know:

1)  We should be upset, very upset. These were closed negotiations that, yet again, involved very little, if any, teacher input in the discussion of a system that is purporting to improve student achievement. It should not be considered normal for dues paying members to be handed a deal without having any democratic process for input. Any active teacher working with students could explain the complexities of the work we do, including factors that are not in our control and which cannot be measured and quantified. This lack of teacher voice leads to the continual and misguided reliance on the use of invalid metrics we know as the value added model.

2) Teacher evaluations based on metrics with any high stakes involvement is all about perpetuating a lean production model that narrows our teaching and students’ learning. The corporate education reform agenda initiated its systematic attack on public schools by casting its teachers as the source of the problem. Our union leadership, in an effort to placate this aggressive attack on our profession, used the only strategy it knows: attempting to throw its weight around the proverbial table. Pandering  to the notion of teacher evaluation based on unfounded formulas of value added models, and doing this without acknowledging the casualties of the systemic attack thus far, is unacceptable.

The 240,000 opt outs across New York State triggered a move towards the current moratorium on the use of state standardized tests, not the negotiating of the UFT leadership as they often like to credit themselves with. The reason ENL teachers are still evaluated using the Common Core aligned NYSESLAT and teachers of students who get alternative assessments are evaluated by that is because there has not been a high percentage of opt outs for those tests.

In regard to the MoTP portion of our evaluation, please read James Eterno’s ICE Blog piece on the matter. We now have two more required observations in our agreement for tenured teachers beyond the two required by state law and practiced in most districts. In a climate of high stakes where many, if not most, of New York City’s teachers experience observations as “gotcha” opportunities for administrators to intimidate and demoralize, the increase does not promote space for continual growth in teaching practice.

It does not matter what MOSL option we choose- it becomes distorted when stakes are attached. Using performance based assessments or any tools we use to drive instruction for our students a huge problem! What kind of metric for teacher value will be attached to our authentic forms of assessment? How will they- those designated to make up the arbitrary percentages- determine the scores and how much value will be added?

As we already know, this evaluation deal has nothing to do with improving outcomes for our students but everything to do with creating a system that breaks us and our union to further the privatization agenda. It is political. This is not just a criticism of our leadership’s practices; this is a proposal to engage rank and file members in the process before it is truly too late.

Hear from three of the candidates running on the MORE/NAC slate (Movement of Rank & File Educators/New Action Coalition) in the upcoming UFT elections. Jia Lee (President), Camille Eterno (Secretary) and Jonathan Halabi (High School Executive Board) will explain why our membership needs new leaders in our union. Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus has controlled the UFT for over 50 years, and it’s time for a change. The UFT must stop collaborating with politicians and start building strong school chapters as well as unity with school communities and students, and effectively fight the forces that are working to privatize public education. Issues include: High Stakes Testing, the charterization of public schools, lack of union democracy, weakening of tenure and teachers rights, demoralization of the teaching profession, importance of Social Justice Unionism, and so much MORE!

Ballots will be mailed on May 5th to member’s homes.

Building Bridges over WBAI Radio, 99.5FM
with Mimi Rosenberg & Ken Nash
Mon., April 25, 7 – 8 pm EST

streaming @ http://www.wbai.org/playernew.html

smartphone streaming @ http://stream.wbai.org/

to listen, or download archived shows
http://www.wbai.org/server-archive.html

by Jia Lee, Chapter Leader, The Earth School

MORE/New Action 2016 Candidate for President of the UFT

The Ensure Success for All Students Act retains the requirement for 95% of students to be subject to annual testing in grades 3-8, threatening funding if districts don’t comply or parents opt out.

Here is the disturbing email that all UFT members received on Tuesday, December 1, a day before the Federal HELP Senate Committee was to vote on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), called Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). UFT President Michael Mulgrew urges us to contact our senators to “Vote Yes” and I can only stare in shock at the screen.
Continue Reading…

 

Dear UFT Leadership

By Jia Lee

There have been several points along my 14 years as a public school special education teacher when I felt I’d had enough. Many teachers across the country are fleeing the profession, retiring as soon as possible and publicly stating why. When I presented my reasons for becoming a conscientious objector to high stakes testing before the US Senate, some may have viewed it as a risky step, but for me, it was a moment of absolute clarity. The “I Refuse” Resolution reclaims our pedagogical and professional rights and values. It is why over forty locals across New York State have passed this exact resolution. It supports the values of Teachers of Conscience and initiates a means of directly countering Governor Cuomo’s education proposals with the moral force of teachers acting as individuals and collectively in the interests of their students and themselves.

We are at an unprecedented time of policy-making in education that is being driven by those who have very little or no experience teaching. Some of us have joined grassroots groups to organize forums to educate the public about our work and why their children are more than a test score. Sadly, we must also educate the leadership of the largest and most influential local teachers union in the world. At the United Federation of Teachers Delegate Assembly on February 11, 2015, Sterling Roberson, the Vice President of Career and Technical Education stated, in opposition to the resolution, “… the union is against over-testing, but testing is important for parents to know where their child is compared to other children.” The goal and purpose of education in this day and age, we would hope, is to prepare our students to collaborate with each other to solve the immense problems our world faces. We work with beautifully diverse student populations, whose strengths and talents should never be used to compare, rank, sort and place labels based on faulty, opaque metrics.

Mr. Roberson used the term “diagnostic,” as if these tests are being used to provide some kind of useful information that would inform our instruction, or as he put it, “Tell parents where their children are.”  Where has he been? Teachers no longer have access to the tests, and scores arrive at the end of the year. We no longer have the ability to know how our students answered, let alone have the ability to engage in any kind of meaningful dialogue around the items. They are useless for the purposes of teaching and learning. That is because they are not meant to be diagnostic. The sole purpose of the tests is to evaluate teachers. There is ample research which demonstrates that these tests are not indicators of school, teacher or student success or failure. In fact, they are indicators of students’ socioeconomic status, access to resources and other outside-of-school factors. High stakes tests are not diagnostic: they are tools for profit and managing the teaching workforce, made possible by alignment with the Common Core and a climate of rigid enforcement that is taking over our public schools.

Diagnostic exams in schools can be thought of as akin to those used in medicine. Various tools are used to assess a patient’s condition, and physicians often use more than one tool to synthesize the outcomes, in order to provide a comprehensive diagnosis that suggests a path for treatment. The information is immediate and informs professional judgement about the patient’s condition and possible ways of treating them. Imagine if the results of X-rays were not made available to doctors or their patients until months later, and the results came in the form of a 4, 3, 2 or 1. I’d hope that Sterling Roberson himself would say this type of practice is medically useless, if not dangerous.

To continue with this analogy, imagine the X-rays were then viewed by a minimally-trained temp hired by a major corporation with other financial interests in this field, which then determines the score as an indicator of the doctor’s ability to practice medicine. It is absurd, and a danger to both patient and doctor. How out of touch from what is happening in schools and classrooms has our leadership become that they refuse to acknowledge the obvious faults in their own arguments?

It is time for our union leadership to acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of teachers are in fight or flight mode. The moment of clarity for me came two years ago, when one of my most creative and hard working students suddenly scratched into her test booklet, “Dear Testing People, I hate writing because of this test.” Before she could let out another painful word, I gently pulled away her test booklet. When the extended testing time was up, I showed her the notebooks filled with stories she had written and responses to her reading that led to her typing book reviews on several major online platforms. Her test form indicated the “999” refusal. This beautiful little girl is more than a test score and always will be.

We need our union leadership to be an integral part of educating the public, so that the promise of public education, which we all know is still an aspiration, can be realized. However, it seems that they first need a lesson on the intended purposes, workings and consequences of these tests for students and teachers.

If they’re unwilling to learn, then they should step aside and let rank and file teachers speak and act for themselves and their students.

 

jia-lee-senate-testimony-01-21-15

Jia Lee, who is a special education teacher at the Earth School in Manhattan, testified at a senate hearing on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on January 21st. As an act of conscience, Jia joined two other teachers last year in refusing to administer high-stakes standardized tests, citing their negative impacts on students. She is a parent who has opted her own child out of testing, joining thousands of parents around the nation. Jia is a leader of MORE, UFT Chapter Leader, and an active member of our sister organization Change the Stakes.

View Jia’s testimony at 1:03

 

Below is the written statement she submitted prior to her testimony. Her verbal presentation had a few changes, so we recommend watching the testimony on the video link above.
Testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee
Hearing on the Impact of NCLB’s Testing and Accountability
Jia Lee
The Earth School, NYC
January 21, 2015
Thank you Chairman Alexander and Senator Murray for this opportunity to offer my remarks
regarding the impact of No Child Left Behind’s testing and accountability provisions on our
public school children. I thank you for your vision and for this opportunity. I have an eleven
year-old son in sixth grade, so I speak to you as both a public school parent and a teacher.

Business practices are informing education policy, so I would like to start there. The use of
competitive, performance based practices have long been assumed to motivate workers.
Microsoft, Expedia and Adobe Systems are just some of the companies who adopted stack
ranking, the now infamous practice of applying rewards, consequences and rankings based
on performance. These same business advisors informed many of our nation’s biggest
school districts, including mine. In the past few years, businesses have abandoned this
practice because they have proven to have disastrous affects on collaboration, problem
solving, and innovation. The high exodus of workers seen in these businesses are attributed
to stack ranking (Oremus, 2013). Studies, including those sponsored by the Federal
Reserve Bank , find that incentive-based practices only work for the most menial tasks that
do not require critical thinking (Ariely, et. al., 2005). What was bad for business has been
disastrous for public education, a field already plagued with recruitment and retention
challenges. Educators with valuable experience are leaving the profession in droves and
enrollment in teacher preparation programs is abysmal.

Furthermore, multiple choice, high-stakes tests have reliably padded the profits of education
corporations, draining public tax dollars but have been unreliable in measuring the diversity
of students’ capabilities and learning. The use of those same tests in evaluating teachers is,
simply put, statistically invalid. The American Statistical Association has warned “The VAM
scores themselves have large standard errors, even when calculated using several years of
data. These large standard errors make rankings unstable, even under the best scenarios
for modeling.” In New York State, the tests change every year, and the cut scores shift. The
results are norm-referenced, ensuring a stack ranking of students with approximately 50%
below the curve. We are playing a dangerous game with our children’s futures and public
education, cornerstones of our democracy. As a special and general education teacher, I
have seen these tests incite anxiety and can provide numerous examples of times when
students stated that all they accomplished throughout the year meant nothing.

I have worked in different schools, some of which, through no fault of their own, have
become increasingly data driven as opposed to student driven. I am fortunate to currently
work in a public school that was founded on the principles of whole child education, where
we, the teachers, collaborate to develop curriculum and create relevant assessments. It is
the antithesis of stack ranking.

This year, our 4th and 5th graders are immersed in a study we call Rights and
Responsibilities. Students develop questions around the origins of the United States, the
Constitution, and discuss the complex struggles and progress we have made as a nation.
My class decided to divide themselves into groups to study three different perspectives from
the colonial era – the Native people, European colonists and the African slaves. They are
the researchers, using primary and secondary sources to learn about key events, figures,
and cultural and political ideas. My integrated co-teaching class consists of students with
disabilities, or I should say, all abilities, and they work in heterogeneous groups to present
their understandings through a variety of mediums: creating art pieces, choreographing
original dance pieces, presenting timelines, developing maps, conducting process dramas,
and giving oral reports. They are learning “how” to learn, developing lifelong skills:
researching, analyzing information from multiple sources, collaborating with others and
sharing what they’ve learned in creative and thought-provoking ways. They are the
stewards of their own learning, guided by their interests and passions. I share this not as a
best practice but to emphasize the importance of fostering learning environments that value
a culture of trust, diversity, and teacher autonomy not a focus on test preparation. Teachers’
working conditions are inextricably linked to students’ learning conditions.

When parents and educators voice concerns, they have been accused of coddling. I want to
challenge that assumption. The great crime is that the focus on testing has taken valuable
resources and time away from programming in social studies, the arts and physical
education. At my school, we no longer have a librarian and our parent association works full
time to fund needed arts programs that are not provided for in our budget. We are one of
the lucky schools. What about schools where parents must work just to survive? I know
schools that no longer have money for basics such as soap for the bathrooms. There is
nothing more painful to watch or forced to be complicit to than the minimalizing that is
happening in our schools. Teachers, students and parents find themselves in a position of whether or not to push back or leave. Who is left to receive these tests and accompanying
sanctions? Who are the children receiving scripted curricula while losing recess, physical
education, music and civics lessons? It is our students from the most marginalized
communities. A current study by the Southern Education Foundation finds that more than
50% of our public school children are living in poverty, an all time high in fifty years (Layton,
2015). Black and Latino students live disproportionately at or below the poverty line, and it
is no accident that we are faced with the most segregated school system in history, with a
disproportionate number of school closures happening in the poorest communities- all at the
hands of using invalid metrics. It is what pushes me past my comfort zone and to speak out.

Last year, over 50% of the parents at our school refused to allow their children to take the
NYS Common Core aligned ELA and Math tests and we were not alone. The Latin root of
assessment is to “sit alongside.” Until we have teachers and policymakers “sitting
alongside” and getting to know our students and our classrooms in deep and meaningful
ways, we cannot fully understand the state of public education. (I sit here as the sole female in a field dominated by women-from verbal testimony) No corporate made multiple-choice test will give you that data. Last year, I decided that I am obligated and accountable
to my students and families, and that is why, as a conscientious objector, I will not
administer tests that reduce my students to a single metric and will continue to take this
position until the role of standardized assessments are put in their proper place. Along with
two other teachers at my school, we formed Teachers of Conscience, a position paper and
call to action at local levels.

We just celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr. In his Letter From a Birmingham Jail,
King affirms that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” He quotes St. Augustine who said “an unjust law is no law at all.” So long as education policy continues to
be shaped by the interests of corporate profiteering and not the interests of our public
school children, we will resist these unjust testing laws. It is time to abandon faulty business
assumptions in public education. We are experiencing a historic resistance to high stakes
testing. Chicago Public Schools just voted to back away from PARCC assessments and
another state joins the nine who have already withdrawn from the assessment consortium.
Let us abandon stack ranking of our children and schools. We need future generations to
explore problems that have far more complex solutions than a multiple choice test. Let us
do the work of teaching and help us hold our state officials accountable for delivering on
funding, as promised through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

I am hopeful that we can sit alongside each other and do the hard work of answering the
questions most central to our democracy: What is the purpose of public education in a
democratic society? How can we ensure that all children receive an enriching and equitable
education? How do we support teachers and schools in carrying out their missions to
educate all? Thank you.

 

Jia Lee, MORE candidate and teacher at the Earth School is one of the conscientious objectors who refuses to administer the NY State Test this year.

Jia Lee, MORE candidate and teacher at the Earth School is one of the conscientious objectors who refuses to administer the NY State Test this year.

The members of MORE proudly support our colleague, Jia Lee, who will be testifying at a senate hearing on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal education policies on Wednesday, January 21st 2015. Jia has taught at all school levels from high school to elementary school. She currently serves as the UFT chapter leader at the Earth School on the Lower East Side. She is a parent who has opted her child out of testing, joining thousands of parents around the nation. She has become a leader of the opt-out movement.

Jia has been a strong advocate for teachers, parents and students, especially on the testing issue in her school, in MORE and in Change the Stakes. Last year she and other teachers at her school declared themselves “teachers of conscience” a form of conscientious objection in relation to the overwhelming negative impact of high stakes testing. In a letter to NYC Chancellor Carmen Farina, they wrote:

Dear Chancellor Carmen Fariña,

We are teachers of public education in the City of New York. We are writing to distance ourselves from a set of policies that have come to be known as market-based education reform. We recognize that there has been a persistent and troubling gulf between the vision of individuals in policymaking and the work of educators, but we see you as someone who has known both positions and might therefore be understanding of our position. We find ourselves at a point in the progress of education reform in which clear acts of conscience will be necessary to preserve the integrity of public education. We can no longer implement policies that seek to transform the broad promises of public education into a narrow obsession with the ranking and sorting of children. We will not distort curriculum in order to encourage students to comply with bubble test thinking. We can no longer, in good conscience, push aside months of instruction to compete in a city-wide ritual of meaningless and academically bankrupt test preparation. We have seen clearly how these reforms undermine teachers’ love for their profession and undermine students’ intrinsic love of learning.

As an act of conscience, we are declining the role of test administrators for the 2014 New York State Common Core Tests. We are acting in solidarity with countless public school teachers who have paved their own paths of resistance and spoken truthfully about the decay of their profession under market-based reforms. These acts of conscience have been necessary because we are accountable to the children we teach and our pedagogy, both of which are dishonored daily by current policies.

Read the full statement here:   https://teachersofconscience.wordpress.com

The voice of the classroom teacher will be in extraordinarily capable hands in the person of Jia Lee at the national forum at the US Senate Education Committee hearing.

Support of Union Leaders is Sought in Call for Moratorium on New NYS ‘Test-Prep’ Teacher Evaluation Scheme

MORE and Change the Stakes Team Up for “Win Back Wednesday” Rally at UFT Delegate Assembly, UFT Headquarters, Oct. 9

 For Immediate Release

NEW YORK — On October 9th at 4:00 p.m, activists from all over the city will gather at UFT headquarters to protest the emphasis on high-stakes testing that education advocates denounce for harming students, educators, and public schools. This action will be led by two grassroots organizations: the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), known as ‘the social justice caucus’ of the UFT, and Change the Stakes, a group of parents who oppose reducing education to the pursuit of higher standardized test scores.

According to organizers, the rally is being called “Win Back Wednesday” because public education must be “won back” from the profit-driven entities behind high-stakes testing and school privatization schemes and returned to actual stakeholders: parents, students, and educators. Wednesday is the monthly UFT Delegate Assembly, when representatives elected by rank and file educators from every school in the city traditionally meet to vote on key decisions.

Organizers are hopeful that union leadership will change course, breaking alliances formed in recent years with self-described education “reformers,” whose agenda typically focuses on increased high-stakes testing and privatization of public schools. To highlight growing opposition to these policies, UFT members throughout NYC will wear anti-high-stakes testing stickers and buttons in their own schools on October 9th, and then gather for a united rally at UFT headquarters downtown after school.

“Our children’s education should never be thought of as ‘common’ or ‘standardized,’” said Mike Schirtzer, UFT delegate and MORE member, referring to the new Common Core State Standards and teacher evaluation system. “Recent educational policies have put a dangerous emphasis on high-stakes testing. The results? A narrowed curriculum. A climate of fear and competition in our classrooms. Students learning to bubble in the right answer, not how to think critically.”

“All too often, our leadership has been complicit in this assault on educational quality and equality,” Schirtzer said. “As the nation’s largest, most powerful union local, the UFT can and should lead the charge for real innovation in schools. Rank and file teachers and public school parents want leadership to say loudly and unambiguously what we all know to be true: the testing regime has run amok. We have chosen the UFT headquarters for the rally because we believe they can be a leading voice for real reform.”

Rally organizers will call on union leadership to demand a “real path to better public schools,” including reduced class sizes; a renewed focus on the arts, music, civics, and physical education; and funding for afterschool programs and wrap-around programs.

Jia Lee, NYC public school teacher and parent worries that, “Standardized testing only gives my son’s teacher this information: if he answered an item correctly or incorrectly. In my son’s school, mistakes are viewed as opportunities for learning; it’s never punitive as in these new high stakes tests. He doesn’t need the burden of thinking that his incorrect answers will cost his teacher her job.”

“While millions of dollars are being wasted on implementing these new ‘reform’ policies,” Schirtzer added, “our children lack the services they deserve and our educators enter their fifth year without a contract. The UFT leadership must use its power to say ‘enough is enough’! We are calling on them to join us in telling the public, politicians, and those that say they care about education that our children, teachers, and public schools are more than a test score!

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