Archives For June 2013

2013 MORE Summer Series

Discuss, Debate, Educate!

Forums, Guest Speakers, Open-Discussions, Get-together’s

RSVP and share our facebook event https://www.facebook.com/events/177003385802348/

Every Other Thursday this Summer!

Local 138  138 Ludlow St  (btwn. Rivington & Stanton) NYC  4:00-7:00PM

Happy Hour $3 draft beer, $3 wines, $3 well drinks
 Nearest Transit Stations: Delancey St. (F), Essex St.  (J,M,Z) 2nd Ave St (F)

The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) is a caucus in the United Federation of Teachers that was created in 2011 to transform our union into one that will stand up and fight for the rights of educators, students and communities.  MORE is building a movement against privatization, school closings, and high stakes testing. MORE challenged the UFT leadership in the Spring 2013 union election because we believe in democratic, rank and file led union. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.

 

July 11: High Stakes Testing and the Schools Our Children Deserve

We’re kicking off the summer series by taking a look at the effects of high stakes testing in our schools. Parents from Change the Stakes will be joining us to discuss why a growing parent movement against the high stakes nature of these tests is mounting not just in NYC but statewide and nationally. Discuss HST and its use as a vehicle for enabling destructive policies such as school closures & ranking and sorting students that leads to the school to prison pipeline. The socioeconomic and racial disparity in these policies has been downplayed and must be brought to light. This will be a great opportunity to discuss teacher and parent concerns as well as ways in which we can support each other and build a movement towards enabling schools that our students deserve.

 

July 25: UFT/AFT Leadership: Friend or Foe?

A full understanding of the role the UFT/AFT leadership plays is a crucial step for any caucus. Through what lens does an opposition caucus in the UFT view Unity, the dominant party in power? As potential partner, foe or something in between?

·       To what extent can a caucus challenge the leadership without being accused of promoting an antiunion mentality amongst a disaffected membership?

·       Can a caucus create pressure to force changes in policy or would such changes be cosmetic, co-opting the opposition while strengthening the leadership?

Come to an open debate and discussion on these crucial questions that must be explored before any caucus can grow!


 

August 8: How Do We Fight For a New Contract?

UFT leadership’s only fair contract strategy is to influence the Democratic mayoral primary with the hope that the new mayor will feel obliged to the UFT. The problem with this is that after the election, the UFT will have no leverage over the Mayor and we will be negotiating at our weakest. The lack of real UFT mobilization has given the green light to the DOE to violate our contract, increase the number of observations, and use partial observations against teachers.

Why Union Contracts Are Good for Educators-and the Public.

Strategies for winning a contract that: can protect us from the worst aspects of the new evaluation system

How do we protect educators’ and students Rights?

Supporting Teacher Professionalism & Checking Administrative Power

August 22: The First Days of School: How to Build an Active Chapter 

The first days of school are a busy time for teachers. In addition to setting up our classrooms and preparing lessons for incoming students, we are typically inundated with mandates and requests from administration. This summer, the Movement of Rank and File Educators will hold a discussion and training session for all teachers (not just chapter leaders and delegates) on the First Days of School, and how we can get off on the right foot educating, organizing, and mobilizing our coworkers.  Topics include but are not limited to:

·       Overcoming anti unionism/E4E

·       Overcoming apathy

·       Overcoming fear/Dealing with difficult supervisors

·       How to get your UFT chapter started and building a consultation committee

·       Getting support for first-year teachers?
When is it time to file a grievance about class sizes, programs or other matters?

If you have any ideas based on your first days of school, please contact MORE!

 

Email MORE at :  more@morecaucusnyc.org

Visit us at:  morecaucusnyc.org

facebook.com/MOREcaucusNYC Twitter.com/MOREcaucusNYC

 

The following is an op-ed written by MORE’s Joanna Yip about the effect of the Regents scoring problems on a particularly vulnerable population.

Dear Editor,

Yesterday, SchoolBook, the Daily News, and Gotham Schools reported on the Regents scoring debacle that is unfolding all over the city. I would like to call attention to the ways in which this process has already and may continue to disproportionately hurt English language learners (ELLs) in New York City. I am a high school English teacher in a school that serves ELLs exclusively, and I am furious about what this process will mean for my students.

 

According to the NYCDOE Office of English Language Learner 2013 Demographic Report, 28.7% of the city’s ELLs are in high school. 74.2% of these students were born abroad. Citywide, 69.2% are eligible for free lunch (the city wide average is 55.6%). Many high school ELLs arrived in the US in the middle of their adolescence and only had a few years to both learn English and to master a high school curriculum that assumed that they had been educated in the United States their entire lives. Imagine growing up in the United States and moving to Japan when you’re 14, and being expected to become fluent in Japanese and pass all of the exit exams required for high school graduation in Japanese. Even with translations, this is a challenge. Yet, for two of the fastest growing immigrant groups in the city who speak Arabic and Bengali, none of the Regents are translated into either of these languages.

 

As is well known, standardized tests are inadequate instruments for assessing the learning of English language learners. These students are often penalized for their still-developing language development, even when their content knowledge matches their American-born peers. English language learners typically need 5-7 years to become truly comfortable enough with English, so asking them to perform well on high-stakes Regents exams when they have only been in the country for 2-3 years is a very tall order, but one that these students take on with diligence and hard work. Shael Polakow-Suransky, formerly a principal of a school that serve high school ELLs exclusively, said it himself yesterday on the Brian Lehrer show that ELLs typically need more than 4 years to successfully perform well on those exams and graduate. Because of the increasing challenge of passing the Regents exams, graduation rates for ELLs continue to lag behind the general population. 

 

With this in mind, approximately 20 high schools in the city, all of which serve only or very large populations of ELLs, petitioned to have separate scoring sites for the Regents exams. The idea was that ELLs should be graded by teachers who have a familiarity with the writing and usage particular to those students who are learning a new language. These teachers, because of their expertise in teaching this population, understand that ELLs can still demonstrate understanding of content, even if their syntax and grammar may not be fluent. 

 

In mid-May, I attended a training session for site supervisors where I learned that the exams of ELLs would be graded in separate scoring sites, that their exams would be routed specifically to be graded by teachers who teach ELLs.  This sounded very promising and supportive of immigrant students. When scoring began on Friday, scorers at my site began seeing a few very disconcerting patterns.  The first problem was that, because many exams were not scanned properly, we saw that we were reading tests of students that came from high schools that we knew for a fact did not have many ELL students. Why were we scoring their exams when we were only supposed to be scoring the exams of ELL students? More importantly, this raised a much more serious concern, which was whether or not the exams of ELL students were being graded by teachers who have never had experience teaching ELLs.  If that was the case, we would be seeing lower scores for ELLs because the norming process for grading does not include any training on how to grade the responses of ELLs.  The Regents scoring guides for all subjects pretty much only use anchor and practice papers written by native English writers. This is true for all subject areas.

 

We found out today that, in order to route the ELL exams to the ELL scoring sites to be read by ELL teachers in the McGraw-Hill system, the students’ exam booklets had to be labeled with a particular label that would indicate that the student was an ELL when the test was scanned. When a teacher pulled up an ELL exam on the McGraw-Hill web application, there would be an indication that the student was an ELL. Yet, many administrators across the city, never received instructions, or received inaccurate instructions for placing this extra barcode label on their ELL students’ exams.  As a result, ELL students exam booklets were not labeled to indicate that they were ELLs, and were graded by teachers who have never had any training in how to score responses written by ELLs.

 

Yesterday, principals in schools that serve a large number of ELLs began receiving some of their students’ test scores back. Sure enough, there was a huge discrepancy in what teachers would have expected their students to score, based on their knowledge of the students’ classroom performance, to what they actually scored.  Furthermore, as of this evening, the sites that were designated to score ELL exams were not operational today and might not be operational tomorrow. There is still a large number of ELLs whose exams have not yet been scored. Who is going to score these exams? If the scoring sites with teachers who are specifically trained to read ELL exams are not scoring them this week, does that mean that the still remaining ELL exams are going to be scored by a very frustrated group of teachers this weekend along with the general city-wide pool of exams?

 

Not only are these tests unfair to English language learners.  This scoring process means that ELLs are going to take yet another hit because they are not being scored fairly either.

Graduations are happening, and schools are figuring out what this means for the many ELLs who often have to wait to the last minute to find out if they are going to graduate. But there are longer-term consequences as well. As the tests have gotten more difficult to pass because the standards have increased, ELLs are going to continue struggle to overcome these hurdles, but appear to be receiving very little support from the system, which seeks to hold these students accountable. Furthermore, as the teacher evaluation system comes down the pipe, what does this kind of grading system mean for the teachers and schools who serve these students?

 

When we first started the scoring process last Friday, I was very confident that this process could not only be more efficient and fair, but could mean an increase in instructional days because teachers would need less time to administer and score the exams. I have lost all faith in this system at this point, and I am incredibly disappointed in the mayor and the NYC Department of Education for allowing this to happen. All of these glitches should have been anticipated. I myself predicted back in May that exams might get lost on the way to Connecticut, and sure enough, the Daily News reported that 80 Regents exams are nowhere to be found. When my students come to me to ask what happened with their Regents exam scores, what should I tell them?

 Joanna Yip

By: Two Social Studies Teachers for MORE

By nature, social studies teachers do two things: they make it their business to know what’s going on, and they try to answer why is this happening. Perhaps this is why many of the bloggers you read just happen to be social studies teachers.

For high school social studies teachers, this June marks the first attempt at centralizing the grading process for our two exams: Global History and Geography and United States History and Government. According to the plan, student exams, when finished, are placed in a shipping box and sent (to Conneticut, of all places) to be scanned by McGraw-Hill, a private company. The scanned version of the exam is then presented to a teacher for grading over the Internet using software that has been developed by McGraw-Hill.

Teachers have been assigned to report to central grading hubs located throughout the city’s five boroughs. Each hub can accommodate approximately two hundred teachers. The process is supposed to be simple: teachers go to a URL, located on a McGraw-Hill-owned domain, and use their official Department of Education username and password (the same used for email, SESIS, ARIS and the payroll portal [each built by other for-profit corporations]). Upon entering the password, the teacher is presented the test that he or she has been assigned to grade and grades the different portions of the exams.

A few things need to go right in order for this to happen. Well, a lot of things need to go right in order for this to happen. First, the exams must reach their destination and be scanned over the two-day weekend. I’m sure McGraw-Hill swears they were. Then, the Internet connection between the exam locations and the user (the teacher, located at the school) needs to be up and running—and it needs to continue to operate throughout the entire process. Lastly, the servers (including the file server, where the scanned version of the exams are stored and the authentication servers that validate the usernames and passwords for each teacher) must be functioning.

Now, the original schedule for the week included having social studies teachers grade between the days of Monday and Thursday. We were supposed to return to our assigned school on Friday. Remember that original schedule. The fiasco that has ensued since yesterday wouldn’t be the same without referring to this original schedule.

On Monday, we all sat around while the “system” presented exams on our screens to grade. Many teachers were not able to log in (a true problem with the authentication server). Others were able to log in, but not able to access a single exam item to grade. Although the system listed many exams available to be graded, it simply did not present these exams to teachers’ screens for grading. After two hours of sitting around in the borough of Brooklyn, teachers were told to go back to their assigned schools. The system had a problem, the supervisors said. It couldn’t download the scanned exams. Teachers in Queens and Manhattan were given this news one hour later (a noon “dismissal to site” order was given at one hub at least in Queens; a 12:30 “dismissal to site” was given in at least one hub in Manhattan). At that point, teachers in all three boroughs were informed that Friday “may be a grading day.”

Overnight, the system seemed to be doing just fine. Exams were processed and seemed ready to be delivered to teachers’ screens at their “hub” schools. When teachers arrived this morning, everything seemed to be up and running. Now this was similar to the experience that high school English teachers had during the January Regents: The exams weren’t ready to be viewed on the first day, but by the second day, everything was up and running. So imagine the surprise felt on people’s faces when, at around 9:25 (just 25 minutes after everyone in the system was logged in and grading the exams), the system started to experience glitches. It would hang for long periods of time before presenting an item to grade. It would not present exams. It would freeze completely, forcing the user to log out and log back in to try to access more exams.

It limped along until about 11:30 AM (remember that time) and the folks in charge thought they had fixed the glitch. But by about 12:30 in the borough of Brooklyn and 1:00 in the borough of Queens (unknown as of this moment in Manhattan) teachers were, once again, sent back to their assigned schools and told to come back again on Wednesday.

Wednesday was another disaster with the computer system crashing and teachers being sent back to their home schools for a third straight day. Hey, we though this mayor was so concerned with the environment, yet he has people driving back and forth!

Thursday the system worked until 2:00pm then shut down. At this point we have frustrated, demoralized teachers grading exams. That’s not fair to anyone. Per session (over-time) hours are being offered for the weekend. Can this money be better used going to our classrooms and our children?

Update: Friday, over a week and half after the exams were given the system continues to fail. To say teachers are annoyed and mentally drained would be an understatement. We are not robots and this week of a fiasco, out of our home schools, in am environment where we are treated as nothing more than factory workers, teachers are “sick and tired”. The crowning moment was when we were notified that we were required to report back to the grading centers on Monday. Remember if we were in our home schools doing this the right way, we would be done already a long time ago. We try to remain as objective as possible when grading, but we’re not machines and this deteriorating situation has to be affecting the grades. Usually we use this time of year to clean up our rooms, organize our files, collaborate with our colleagues, and prepare for some of the ridiculous new reforms that seem to make its way to schools every year.

Many of us who have been assigned to reeducation—I mean, grading centers—will miss the most important day of the year, graduation day. We all know the media, politicians (both parties) and corporations have attacked teachers and our unions saying we’re the ones who are anti-children, but truth be told, watching “our kids” graduate is our favorite day of the year. Not allowing us to watch our own student’s graduate, the chance to spend one last moment celebrating with them, is an extreme disappointment for us all who have watched our students grow for the past four years.

The greatest travesty is as class-size continues to increase; after-school programs have been eliminated; arts and music, and many other courses have been reduced; yet millions of dollars are being spent on a flawed system. Where are all the “private sector always does it better” folks now? The grading system is impersonal: read the essay, punch in a score, and move on to the next one. This is supposed to a more accurate, fairer system? We think not. The art of teaching and grading continues to be done away with. Cookie-cutter rubrics, scripted lesson plans, standardized testing, and now computerized grading. Millions of dollars has been siphoned off from our public school children instead it goes to further fill the pockets of Bloomberg’s cronies and their corporations who only look to “monetize” our children

There isn’t anyone, even the most corrupt politician, who wouldn’t agree that this money being wasted on a flawed grading system could not be better utilized by going to our children, where it belongs!

So as exceptional social studies teachers we have learned the key to any great lesson is great questions.

The state law says teachers can’t grade their own students’ exams, why did this mayor feel the need to take it one step further and start this new multi-million dollar system?

Why are charter schools excused from this process?

Can the money being diverted to McGraw-Hill be better used for our children and their schools?

If teachers are being evaluated on these tests, how do we know if we have have improved or not without grading the final test?

How can we help our children improve if we don’t grade their last exam?

Is standardized grading the right answer to help all our children become “college and career” ready?

Isn’t a teacher who has taught the student better prepared to grade their essays and know if they have developed their skills?

Does the regents exam and the grading rubric take into account the child’s cognitive skills, socio-economic situation, and level of fluency with the English language?

Regents Grading Fiasco

June 19, 2013 — 7 Comments

NYS Regents Exam Grading: Unfair for Teachers and Students

 

For Immediate Release

 

 This June marks the first attempt at centralizing the grading process for two exams; Global History and Geography and United States History and Government. Completed student exams were placed in a shipping box and sent to be scanned by McGraw-Hill. The scanned version of the exam is then presented to a teacher for grading over the Internet using software that has been developed by McGraw-Hill.

 

Teachers arrived to their grading centers Monday to face one issue after another. Many teachers were not able to log in due to a problem with the authentication server. Others were able to log in but not able to access a single exam item to grade. Some of the essays were so poorly scanned that half of the content was covered. Although the system listed many exams available to be graded, it simply did not present these exams to teachers’ screens for grading. After two hours of sitting around, teachers were sent back to their home school.

 

Tuesday continued to pose problems. The software continued to freeze, worked only sporadically, then at 1:00pm it ceased to work at all. Again teachers were told to return to their home school. Teachers are hard working professionals who should not be sent from one place to another, especially when the scoring centers and home school may over an hour away from each other by public transportation. All while students await test scores to know if they are allowed to attend graduation.

 

A Brooklyn Social Studies teacher says, “The greatest travesty is the money being wasted, that could be going to our kids, is instead lining the pockets of private corporations. Bloomberg knew exactly what he was doing when he put the DOE in Tweed: the last ten years have been nothing more than an all out offensive to siphon as much money and resources as they could out of our public schools and into the hands of these corporations and wealthy individuals.”

 

The entire process was so poorly organized and shamefully inefficient. It needlessly created delays and unnecessary errors. This will inevitably require that personnel be hired and more money will be spent to grade these tests to make up for the wasted time. Teachers have always graded these tests with accuracy, diligence and in a timely fashion. McGraw-Hill was paid millions of dollars to set up a defective system. The mayor is guilty of wasting tax-payers’ dollars, that could be better utilized by reducing class-size, restoring after-school programs that were cut due to austerity measures, and giving educators the contract they deserve!

By Kit Wainer- Teacher & UFT Chapter Leader at Leon M. Goldstein High School

2007 TJC/ICE UFT Presidential Candidate

2013 MORE UFT Executive Board Candidate

The results of the 2013 UFT election revealed a startling fact: Just 18% of eligible active employees (20,728 of 115,050)  decided to vote.  On June 19th the UFT Delegate Assembly will entertain a motion to charge the election committee with the task of analyzing the problem of low voter turnout in the 2013 union elections. While it is easy to focus on the organizational minutiae of whether the election committee is the correct body to consider this question, or whether it is representative enough, it is important to keep an eye on the broader issue of the origins of low voter participation and its significance for the union as a whole. The declining participation is both a product and a symptom of our union’s weakness. More importantly, it poses an existential threat to the future of the UFT.

Low voter turnout is part of a long-term trend of increasing voter apathy over the last several union elections. It is also part of a larger and equally disturbing trend within the UFT as a whole. When I was first elected chapter leader in 1996 several of the oppositional high school chapter leaders would sit together at high school meetings and complain about the low attendance rates at monthly divisional meetings. At that time there were slightly more than 200 high schools but rarely would more than 40 chapter leaders show up at the monthly meetings. Over the past two years the number of high schools has increased to more than 400 and the turnout of chapter leaders at monthly meetings has declined to fewer than 20. At some meetings participation has been in the single digits if we count only those chapter leaders without part-time staff positions.

Although attendance at Delegate Assemblies has been steady over the past 20 years, it has been very low. The UFT’s meeting hall is large enough to seat no more than 30% of the delegates and there is only slight spillover into the secondary meeting room upstairs. Consider that a delegate’s only job is to show up at the monthly meetings. A delegate who is not coming to DAs is, therefore, not performing any aspect of his/her responsibilities. The fact that thousands of delegates have behaved the same way over decades indicates that this isn’t a problem of individual behavior. It is a larger trend. Inactive delegates are replaced by other inactive delegates.

The success of the June 12 rally is a hopeful sign. However, past membership turnout at union rallies has been uneven, at best. In spring 2005 the UFT did manage to pull off several successful protest events as a build-up to what should have been an activist contract fight. However, more recent results have been disappointing. On December 1, 2011, in the wake of the Occupy protests, the UFT participated in a city-wide union protest. Michael Mulgrew advertised the December 1 march as the one we were “building” — as opposed to other Occupy-inspired actions we were only “supporting.” Then-staff member Janella Hinds came to a high school meeting in November to impress upon us the importance of the march. She argued that if we show up with only 1000 members it will be a show of weakness. I marched in the UFT contingent that day along with the 300-400 other UFT members who heeded the President’s rallying cry.

Analyzing the causes of membership apathy requires some educated speculation. We have no polling data to indicate why people don’t vote or don’t show up. We know that we are in a larger historic climate of low levels of activism, at least compared to the decades of labor upsurges of the 1930s and 1940s, or compared to the growth of social movements in the 1950s and 1960s. However, that is only part of the explanation. Our members vote in U.S. elections at a much higher rate than they vote in UFT elections, despite the fact that going to the polls in November requires more effort than filling out and returning a mail ballot. (And despite the fact that, in my view, decisions of President Mulgrew have a greater impact on the daily lives of UFT members than do decisions of President Obama).

The low membership participation is an ironic — and dangerous — consequence of the UFT’s failures to defend the basic rights of our members.  The impact of the 2005 contract was disastrous. Our work day was lengthened. We lost the right to grieve letters in the file or transfer to other schools and the ATR crisis was born. Now we will be evaluated based on standardized test scores. And at 3020-a hearings the burden of proof will now be on us to convince a hearing officer that we should not be fired. The problem is not simply that we have lost ground. It is that the UFT leaders have spun each giveback as a victory and argued that we are better off than we used to be. Members may not analyze the causes of our decline but when bureaucrats tell them that steps backward are really strides forward, when they tell them things that contradict what they see and feel at work every day,  members simply tune the union out. UFT members have become acclimated to bureaucratic double-speak. We hear it from supervisors, from the Department of Education, from politicians. We have learned over the years to mentally change the channel. When our union representatives speak the same bureaucratic language we respond the same way.

Members respond to the union’s failures — and its refusal to admit failure — by tuning the entire union out. They don’t show up at meetings or rallies and they don’t vote. Ironically, this strengthens Unity’s hand as it frees them of the obligation of formulating coherent arguments that can convince independent delegates that they are right. Delegate Assemblies attract mostly Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus members and have become pro-leadership rallies in which the President speaks for most of the 2 hours and there is little room for serious conversation or debate. Nor does the leadership have to win over activist, critically-minded voters in order to prevail in union elections. Ironically, membership inactivity feeds the very forces that lead to more discouragement and more inaction. And an increasingly isolated union leadership is weaker, more prone to make concessions, and more likely to alienate members. The cycle is tragic but not illogical. Members who are disenchanted with the  union’s trajectory have thus far chosen apathy rather than than the project of building an alternative vision. Frustrating as it is, this decision makes sense for members who have no live experience of any other version of unionism. So many members infer from Unity’s failures that unions in general are bankrupt, or at least irrelevant.

The Unity leadership has turned off the membership and that may soon pose a serious crisis for the UFT as a whole. As some MORE members have pointed out, by acquiescing to the new evaluation procedure, Mulgrew has negotiated contractual concessions without anything in return — not even a contract. Invariably, the state and the city will want more in the very near future and the UFT leaders no longer have the ability (assuming they had the desire) to mobilize the membership to defend what rights we still have. Worse still, the 18% turnout among active members in the 2013 UFT election is a signal that the membership’s lack of investment in the UFT has now reached crisis proportions. This opens the possibility of a direct challenge to the very existence of the UFT. In the national climate of declining union membership and state legislatures moving to eliminate collective bargaining in historic union strongholds such as Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, to ignore the possibility of an assault on our collective bargaining rights would be foolish. An attack from a Tea-Party dominated legislature is unlikely in blue New York. However, a decertification drive from “reform” groups such as Educators For Excellence or Children First is a possibility. Can we be certain that the 82% of active members who don’t care who our union president is will vote to continue paying $100 per month in union dues if given the choice not to? By failing to mobilize our members for the kind of fight we should be waging in this political climate the Mulgrew regime is endangering the very union it leads. That is nothing short of grotesque dereliction of duty.

The good news is that our union’s decline is not inevitable. We can turn things around. The Chicago Teachers Union, which launched a successful strike in September 2012, has shown us that an activist, mobilized membership can fight back and win. The corporate reformers are still on the move in Chicago, but the strike checked at least part of their agenda and provided a living example that participating and organizing are worth the effort. We need that kind of change in mentality in New York.

The Unity leadership seems impervious to the lessons of our defeats in New York or the successes in Chicago. But the Movement of Rank and File Educators is committed to a unionism that is based on mobilized members in alliance with a broader social movement to save our schools from destructive reforms. We believe that a revitalized UFT can energize our members and fend off even Bloomberg-style attacks. We urge you to get involved. The future of your union may depend on it.

Today, June 12th 2012, MORE joins with all union workers of the Municipal Labor Committee in demanding a fair contract now. We will be at the City Hall Rally supporting our brothers and sisters of all municipal unions and workers everywhere.

Four years and NO CONTRACT

October 2013 will mark our fourth year with no contract between the Department of Education and the UFT. Meanwhile, our wages have been stagnant, and the DOE is already imposing new contractual terms on us. The DOE is implementing the most anti-­‐teacher interpretation of the Danielson framework possible, is transforming teachers into test prep coaches, and is making tenure elusive for most new teachers. According to Michael Mulgrew, 7% of teachers annually will have bad ratings under the new evaluation system, potentially leading to job termination. Unfortunately, the UFT leadership has cooperated with many of these policies.

We deserve more

  • Real wage increases that help us keep pace with the rising cost of living and that improve starting teacher salaries.
  • End to formal use of snapshot and informal observations.
  • Contractual protections against abusive supervisors
  • Contractual protections against any evaluation model that will allow administrators to rate everyone “ineffective”
  • Due process for untenured teachers so that all have a clearpath to tenure
  • Teacher control over Curricula
  • Right to Permanent Placement for All ATRs.
The June 1 imposition of a new evaluation process makes it even more urgent that our union begin to mobilize for a contract that restores our job protections. We need to fight for a meaningful appeal process before an independent arbitrator for all members who receive an ineffective rating. For MORE’s full statement on the evaluation system please visit here 
Waiting for a new mayor is NOT an organizing strategy.

Unfortunately, the current UFT leadership does not have an effective plan to win us such a contract. Their only strategy is to try to influence the Democratic mayoral primary and hope that the new mayor will feel obliged to the UFT after the general election. The problem with this strategy is that once the election is over, the UFT will no longer hold leverage over the Mayor. We will then be negotiating when we are at our weakest. The lack of real UFT mobilization has given the green light to the DOE to violate our contract, increase the number of observations, and use partial observations against teachers.

Negotiating won’t cut it.

We need to ORGANIZE and mobilize! The June 12th rally should mark the beginning of a campaign of membership mobilization throughout the city. Next fall, UFTers should be picketing outside schools, holding district and borough protests, and citywide actions that disrupt business as usual. That is the model the Chicago Teachers union pursued in the fall of 2012 when the CTU successfully resisted the Mayor’s demands for draconian givebacks. Our Union must learn from our brothers and sisters in the windy city and begin to mobilize here at home.

Our Working Conditions are Our Students’ Learning Conditions

MORE is dedicated to social justice unionism because we understand that a good contract is not only about our rights as educators. It is also about our ability to be the best educators we can for our students. Attacks on tenure mean attacks on our ability to stand up for our students and speak out when we see injustice. Evaluations attached to test scores mean narrowed test prep curriculum and learning environments that are toxic and lead to students being left out of education. Ultimately, we understand that a good contract for teachers means a good learning environment for students.

GET INVOLVED  join the contract committee

 If you agree with these ideas please join the MORE contract  committee.

The committee was launched by the Movement of Rank and File Educators but is open to any UFT member – regardless of political affiliation – who wants to work with us to chart a new course to win a fair contract. We are also forming a U ratings committee, to fight unfair U ratings. Contact us for more information.

The next contract committee meeting will be held June 19, after the UFT Delegate Assembly  6:15pm at Blarney Stone 11 Trinity Pl NYC (One block west of UFT).  For further details about the meeting or information, please contact contract@morecaucusnyc.org

Here is the link to this Flier- Please print and share

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We hope you are mobilizing for Wed. June 12th Citywide Labor Rally at City Hall!
Please join the MORE contingent at 52 Chambers St. DOE Building (Tweed Courthouse) between 4-4:30 pm. We march to the City Hall Rally together at 4:30

Here are some things you can do:

1.    Sign up people at  your school and bring co-workers! Use thisflier to print and get people out

2.    Bring poster paper, markers, and sign ideas, or make signs and bring them. We will be handing out this flier to UFTers at the rally.  Please make some copies to supplement the ones we’ll have on site.

3.    Get ready to chant! We will have chant sheets (download for some great slogans for you placard as well!) and plan to rally people around important points during the rally.

4.    We are having a post-rally Happy Hour near the rally 6 PM at Maxwell’s, 59 Reade St. between Broadway and Church. One block north of Chambers St. (http://www.maxwellsnyc.com).

5.    Join our Group Text! Download “Groupme” app to your cellphone (iPhone, Android,etc.). Then email your cell # to Mike Schirtzer mschir@gmail.com and we’ll send you text updates during the rally.

Rally flier

WE MAKE THE CITY RUN!

ARE WE FED UP YET? There is not one unionized city worker working with a contract right now. Over 300,000 workers in 152 bargaining units have been working without contracts for four, even five years. Now city leaders threaten us with more years of wage freezes and loss of benefits.

Yet we do it all. City workers keep the city clean, we keep it safe, we care for the city’s health, we transport people, we educate its children. WE ARE THE WORKERS WHO MAKE THE CITY RUN!

City leaders and the media have been conducting an organized attack on unionized labor, saying we cost too much money. That’s because they want to lower the standard of living for ALL workers. They target and scapegoat unionized workers because they know that where large groups of workers’ organize, all workers benefit. They want us workers to pay for their unending economic crisis.

A key ingredient in any fight back is workers’ unity. We need to unite across unions and our fight needs to be anti-­‐racist and anti-­‐sexist. That means uniting Black, Latin@, Asian & White, and female & male workers. By targeting mostly Black & Latin@ unionized bus drivers last winter, for example, the city bosses attempted to establish a pattern to drive down wages and benefits for all and put us all on the defensive. Racism & sexism work as a wedge to attack all workers and we can’t allow that! AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL.

We in organized labor determine what happens with other workers, both here in NYC and nationwide. If we fight back, ALL WORKERS GAIN.

Wednesday JUNE 12th

4 pm, City Hall FAIR CONTRACTS NOW!

MORE Meet-up Info

4:00-4:30 Gather at 52 Chambers St. Tweed/DOE HQ one block north of City Hall Park

4:30 We march together  to meet UFT contingent at City Hall Rally

6:15 Post Rally Happy Hour  Maxwell’s, 59 Reade St. between Broadway and Church. One block north of Chambers St. (http://www.maxwellsnyc.com). Near City Hall rally

Our Event Facebook Link

Follow Us on Twitter during rally for updates and to find us

Here is the Flier to share out wide

All Out For Fair Contract Rally

UFT Rank and File Says King’s Evaluation Plan Bad for Teachers, Students

While Michael Mulgrew launches a campaign to convince the membership that the new teacher evaluation system is designed to help teachers improve and give them a professional voice, Bloomberg is proclaiming victory. The truth of the matter is, this evaluation system is bad for educators and the children they serve: the system requires a tremendous amount of additional work with no compensation, time or otherwise. It will create an even greater climate of fear and effectively ends tenure as we know it; putting all educators who partner with parents to advocate for the best policies for children at risk. This system places too much value on testing and is flawed in its high stakes premise. Educators are best positioned to evaluate and assess our students and teachers, not imposed tests, not junk science, not pre-packaged rubrics.    Julie Cavanagh, Elementary School Teacher & Chapter Leader P.S. 15 Brooklyn

The day has finally come. State Education Commissioner John King has imposed a new teacher evaluation deal on New York City.  UFT president Michael Mulgrew’s attempts to claim a victory in the face of defeat are hardly convincing. In his letter to the membership Mulgrew says “Here is the bottom line: The new teacher evaluation system is designed to support, not punish, teachers and to help them develop throughout their careers. That is what we will be fighting for as this plan is implemented.” Given the enormous amount of money the DOE has spent trying to fire our colleagues over the last few years, it’s credulous to suggest that this system will be about “supporting” teachers. The media has honed in on the point that Mulgrew wants to avoid: tenure has been seriously weakened, and it will be easier to fire teachers who are seen as “ineffective” based on flawed standardized tests.

We knew already from State Education Law 3012-c, which was supported by the UFT leadership as part of Race to the Top, that two years of ineffective ratings means a teacher is presumed to be incompetent. In the new termination process for tenured teachers, the burden of proof will shift to the teacher, unlike the current system where the burden of proof is on the Department of Education to prove incompetence.[1]

King’s release states: “Teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective assessments must be rated ineffective overall. Teachers who are developing or ineffective will get assistance and support to improve performance. Teachers who remain ineffective can be removed from classrooms.” In other words, there will be more testing for our students and tests will be the ultimate determinant of a teacher’s effectiveness.  According to the outline of the plan, “Each school will have a committee comprised of an equal number of teachers and administrators who will determine, along with the principal, which assessments each school will use,” however the plan states that principals may reject this committee’s recommendations and apply their own default measures. In many schools, this is exactly what will happen.

Only 13 percent of all ineffective ratings each year can be challenged on grounds of harassment or other matters not related to job performance. Is the UFT comfortable trusting that the other 87% of ratings of “ineffective” will be based solely on teacher performance? Given the new principals Tweed is pumping out of the Principal’s Academy and their “fire your way to success” mentality, our union leadership has left us in an extremely dangerous situation.

The union leadership is pleased that the rating system will be using “the complete Danielson rubric, with all 22 points.” The potential for abuse of this complex and multifaceted rubric is enormous.

“This system will lead to educators teaching to a rubric,” says Mike Schirtzer, UFT Delegate at Leon M. Goldstein High School in Brooklyn.  “Pedagogy is a craft which no two teachers do the same, yet can still be equally effective.  This new scheme will limit teachers creativity in the classroom and our ability to differentiate styles in order to reach a diverse set of learners. Our greatest concern is the amount of time this will take from teachers to properly prepare for their classes, due to all of the assessments and/or SLO’s that need to be created, the committees need to be formed and countless hours of professional development dedicated to Common Core and Danielson, two directives that have no scientific evidence of increasing learning.”

In addition to the onerous micromanagement of the Danielson rubric, observations will be more frequent and at least one will be an unannounced observation. This is problematic, as without pre- and post-observation conferences, administrators will likely be unaware what scaffolding the teacher has done beforehand, and are likely to penalize teachers because they don’t have this information.  Mulgrew says this is not a “gotcha” system, but in practice it most certainly will be.

The new system also includes a pilot of student surveys. This encourages grade-inflation and a lack of discipline in the classroom. Research shows that student surveys don’t work in high-stakes settings. The use of such surveys poisons the relationships between teachers and students, who now in addition to their test scores bear even more responsibility for the future of their teachers’ careers.

Crucially, this agreement will not include a sunset provision, unlike districts in other parts of the state. The sunset provision was a key sticking point in negotiations, as the UFT was hoping it would be able to renegotiate the terms of this plan under a new and presumably friendlier mayor. The current deal is in place for the next four years at least, and can only be re-negotiated in collective bargaining within the framework of State Education Law 3012-c.

The mayor and his henchmen have been gloating effusively. The mayor’s statement said “Commissioner King has sided with our children on nearly every major point of disagreement we had with the UFT’s leadership, while also rejecting the UFT’s long-held demand for a sunset provision.” Dennis Walcott said he was extremely pleased with the commissioner’s announcement today and we look forward to implementing it.” Bloomberg advisor Howard Wolfson bragged on Twitter that the UFT was “shut out on nearly all their demands.”  No matter how the UFT leadership tries to spin it, this is a major defeat for teachers and students.

What Now?

The dropoff in voter turnout in the recent UFT election was already a sign of a disengaged and passive membership.  The new evaluation system and the way it was imposed are likely to further demoralize the rank-and-file and increase their cynicism toward the union.  The UFT surrendered our collective bargaining rights by turning over the key issue in the next contract to the State Education Department, calling for a biased state official to impose evaluations on us.

MORE campaigned for a membership vote on this evaluation system, and presented a petition with over 1,000 signatures to the December Delegate Assembly.  Unity opposed submitting this to the membership since they knew it would be deeply unpopular.  The fact that this has instead been imposed by the State Education Department means Mulgrew and the Unity leadership will have an alibi for what will now certainly be a deeply concessionary contract.  We must expose the leadership’s circumvention of membership in this process, and their contempt for the voices of their rank-and-file.

June 12 will be the day that city workers come together to demand fair contracts.  In light of the new evaluation system, one wonders what’s left to negotiate.  The key concessions, the biggest change to our working conditions in at least a generation, are already in place.  It will be crucial for UFT members to attend and discuss the magnitude of this sell-out, and the undemocratic way in which it was imposed on us.  Our next contract will inevitably include the new evaluation system.  It will also be the first time in this process that the membership has been consulted at all.  A campaign to vote no on this contract would send a signal to the leadership that the membership rejects this plan.

Everybody agrees that the key to this will be implementation.  Teachers must build active chapters that can be vigilant in calling out abuse of the new system.   A coordinated grievance campaign around particular issues of implementation can help us make the most of the 15 extra arbitration days to deal with systemic abuses.  MORE will be campaigning in the fall to organize and train chapter leaders, delegates and school activists to be effective in defending their colleagues and organizing strong chapters.

Teachers also need to unite with students and parents to call for an end to the high stakes testing regime that is central to this new evaluation system.  Students will now not only be taking high stakes state tests or PARCC assessments, but also regular “performance assessments” designed to assess teacher effectiveness.  Campaigns like the MAP test boycott in Seattle show the power of a community uniting to fight the standardized testing regime.

What this whole sad story tells us is that we can’t rely on our union leaders to deliver on our behalf.  They have conceded everything, and may now even prove unable to win us retroactive pay for the years we’ve spent without a contract.  It’s only by rebuilding the union from the bottom up, school by school, classroom by classroom, that we will begin to stand up to the corporate assault on our schools.  MORE is dedicated to a different kind of union, one where democracy and accountability replace backroom deals, where the members make the decisions that matter in their professional lives.  Join us!


[1] If a DOE-appointed validator disagrees with the principal’s rating, the DOE keep burden of proof.  However, validators are likely to be retired principals, in the PEP+ system, which is currently used to help fire teachers.