Archives For March 2014

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…

Change the Stakes
Changethestakes.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2014

CONTACT:
Janine Sopp, 917-541-6062, janinesopp@gmail.com
Nancy Cauthen, 646-438-1233, nkcauthen@earthlink.net

Number of NYC Parents Refusing State Tests Expected to Triple in 2014

New York City –What began two years ago as a small pocket of resistance has burgeoned into a full-blown protest movement: public school parents are demanding an end to the excessive use of standardized tests and top-down, corporate-backed reforms.  Change the Stakes estimates that three times as many NYC school children as last year – perhaps exceeding 1,000 – will refuse to take the annual English Language Arts (ELA) and math exams that begin next week.

At the Brooklyn New School, well over 200 students – nearly 80% of students in testing grades – will not take this year’s exams; last year only 4 BNS students opted out of the tests. The estimated test refusal rate at the Earth School in Manhattan is 50%, compared with 30% last year. At P.S. 446 in Brownsville, as many as 25 3rd grade parents have submitted refusal letters. At the Academy of Arts and Letters in Fort Greene, the number is 40, representing 75% of the 3rd grade. Principals say they expect the numbers to continue to rise until the exams begin April 1st.

Although children not taking the tests span the full range from 3rd to 8th grade, parents of younger children often refuse the tests because of changes in their child’s attitude toward school as a result of the testing.

Roseanne Cuffy-Scott, parent of a 3rd grader in the East Village said, “My son used to love going to school until his evenings were filled with homework assignments that confused him with complicated and poorly written math and reading questions. His assignments are stressful for both him and myself. I have to spend hours explaining concepts that he’s not ready for developmentally.” As for the tests, she said her son is nervous and “is fearful he will have to attend summer school or repeat third grade.”

Many parents refusing to have their children tested encounter supportive principals and teachers, while others are not so fortunate. Samantha De Los Santos, parent of a 3rd grader with special needs in Queens’ District 25, wants to opt her son out but says administrators and staff are pressuring her to allow her son to be tested. “They’re telling me he’ll be scored as failing if he doesn’t take the test and that he might not be promoted. They’re really scaring me.”

The lack of direction from the NYC Department of Education has led to uncertainty among administrators about how to respond to families refusing the tests; parents are still seeking guidance from the DOE. Although the new Chancellor, Carmen Fariña, has made clear her intent to be more responsive to parents, her department’s efforts have been hampered by the transition falling in the middle of the school year and pressure to tackle a multitude of issues at once.

The information vacuum has fostered misinformation, with students being threatened with various punishments – being forced to attend summer school or denied promotion as well as being excluded from graduation ceremonies and other school celebrations – for opting out of the tests.

But many parents refuse to be dissuaded from protecting their children from a public education system gone wrong. Dawn Babbush, a 3rd grade parent in Brooklyn’s District 13, asks “What has happened to our schools? How did it get this bad? The voices of trusted educators and caring parents have been completely disregarded.  Our children are being subjected to a curriculum that lacks joy and life – it’s scripted and standardized and full of test prep. Test scores are used to sort students and rank teachers, creating a climate of competition and fear. It’s no wonder teachers feel pressure to teach to the test.”

Ms. Babbush added, “This is not the education we want for our children and we will not stand for it any longer. Parents have a voice, and our elected officials need to recognize us. We’ll be paying attention come November.”

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Change the Stakes (changethestakes.org) is a group of New York City parents and educators promoting alternatives to high stakes-testing.

Taking Back OUR Schools

March 26, 2014 — 1 Comment

Click HERE for more information
Don’t Forget to RSVP

"Taking back OUR schools NYC metro march and rally"

Parent, Student, and Educator groups united to fight corporate education “reform”

IANNUZZI ANSWERS MORE-GOLDSTEIN-DIMINO CALL FOR NYSUT DEBATE; MULGEW IS SILENT

Commentary by James Eterno

Jamaica High School Chapter Leader/

2010 ICE/TJC UFT Presidential Candidate

 

The email below was sent to NYSUT President and Stronger Together leader Dick Iannuzzi, UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Revive NYSUT from several of the candidates running for office in the first ever contested NYSUT election. We are asking for a debate or some kind of open forum in New York City before the April 5 election. As you can see, President Iannuzzi has responded. We are still waiting to hear back from President Mulgrew.

I never received an answer when I asked for a presidential candidate forum before the UFT election in 2010. MORE caucus didn’t get a reply when we requested a debate between Mulgrew and MORE’s Julie Cavanagh before the 2013 UFT election. Would anyone be surprised if we don’t hear back from our UFT President now?

Yes, we understand President Mulgrew is a very busy person but when something as important as the leadership of our city or state union is at stake, don’t you think we at least deserve a response?

The lack of a reply now is especially baffling since there have been numerous candidate forums all over NYS the last few weeks ahead of the NYSUT election. I reported on one such forum that took place on Long Island a couple of weeks back.

Why is Mulgrew, and the NYC Unity Caucus he leads, so afraid of open discussion? Perhaps the fact that members of his caucus are obligated to support caucus positions in public and union forums means the leadership does not feel the need to discuss anything. I have reported repeatedly on President Mulgrew stifling dissent at UFT Delegate Assemblies.

We can only hope reports are right and some of the NYC Unity people are willing to open up their minds and vote their conscience.

Our letter to Iannuzzi, President Mulgrew, Stronger Together and Revive NYSUT:

Dear Brothers Iannuzzi and Mulgrew,

We are NYSUT members, teachers, UFT Chapter Leaders and Delegates, and many of us are members of the MORE caucus (Movement of Rank and File Educators) in the UFT which received over 5,000 votes in our first run for local office in 2013. Our caucus received over 40% from high school teachers. We are running to represent New York City educators from the UFT as NYSUT Board of Directors and Executive VP.

We write to you today concerned that districts all over our state are holding forums with candidates from their respective districts and those running for officer positions.

In the spirit of democracy and transparency we are requesting a forum at a neutral Manhattan location open to all UFT and NYSUT members, including NYSUT delegates from the UFT and the media. We believe the members of Stronger Together, Revive, and our independent slate of eight members ought to be able to express our vision for state union leadership to our members.

We look forward to hearing your response as soon as possible and working together to plan this event!

Best regards,
Julie Cavanagh

Teacher/UFT Chapter Leader P.S.15

Lauren Cohen
Teacher/UFT Delegate P.S. 321

Beth Dimino

Teacher/President of Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association

James Eterno

Teacher/UFT Chapter Leader Jamaica High School

Arthur Goldstein

Teacher/ UFT Chapter Leader Francis Lewis High School

Jia Lee
Teacher/UFT Chapter Leader The Earth School

Francesco Portelos

Teacher/UFT Chapter Leader I.S. 49

 

Mike Schirtzer

Teacher/UFT Chapter Leader Leon M. Goldstein High School

 

The response from President Iannuzzi:

Dear MORE Caucus Candidates and others:

Thank you for reaching out with your concerns and proposal.

NYSUT is committed to running a transparent and open election in accordance with the law and is willing to collaborate in any way that would provide opportunity for the voices of all statewide candidates to be heard consistent with not violating the law. As the head of the Stronger Together slate, I can assure you that this is our position as well.

I am forwarding your email to NYSUT’s General Counsel and Elections Committee for their input. I am asking Counsel to communicate directly with you and to copy me with their response.

In solidarity,

Dick Iannuzzi

President Mulgrew’s Response:

?

Faces of MORE

UNITY TURNS DOWN MORE DA RESOLUTION CALLING FOR ESCALATION OF DEFENSE OF CHAPTER LEADERS & RANK AND FILE

By James Eterno

Chapter Leader Jamaica High School

MORE”s monthly UFT Delegate Assembly Report

The March 19 Delegate Assembly was highlighted by MORE’s Kit Wainer speaking in favor of a MORE sponsored resolution for the UFT to escalate their defense of  Chapter Leaders and others who speak out against abusive administrators.  Although the motion failed, it received strong support from the Delegates
The resolution is printed here in its link

http://morecaucusnyc.org/2014/03/19/resolution-to-unite-in-defense-of-teachers-under-attack/


In motivating this resolution for placement on next month’s agenda, Kit told the Delegates there are many abusive principals and assistant principals out there and some have real personality defects. He added how some are outright anti-union and are using the disciplinary process as an intimidation tactic.

Kit then pointed out how our union provides good legal representation but this is for individuals.  We now need to raise the stakes against these supervisors by taking collective action in picketing or engaging in other public actions as a union!

UFT Secretary Emil Pietromonaco spoke against MORE’s motion.  His main argument was to say he understands the intent of the resolution but we already rigorously defend our chapter leaders and take action so there is no need for a further resolution.

The vote followed and although MORE did not win a majority, the minority is growing.  I would say close to 40% of the vote was in favor of the motion.

President Michael Mulgrew then tried to comment but was stopped dead in his tracks by MORE’s Megan Moskop who shouted for a Point of Order and didn’t wait for a microphone to tell Mulgrew he was speaking out against a resolution that had already been voted on.  Mulgrew tried to continue but Megan wouldn’t have it so Mulgrew moved on and closed the new motion period.

President’s Report
I missed the start as I was a little late but when I arrived President Michael Mulgrew was talking about Albany.
State Senate Budget
Senate introduced a bill for public scholarships for private schools.  Much of the Senate budget plan is not good, particularly with charter schools.  We expect to be at war with Eva Moskowitz.  The $4.4 million she spent on ads the last few weeks could have been used to buy a building for her schools.  There are also some good things in the Senate budget.
Where we really have friends is in the State Assembly where Speaker Sheldon Silver is speaking out for public school kids who are going to school in trailers and buildings that are falling apart.
NYC Campaign
UFT is highlighting teacher retention crisis.  It has traditionally been a problem for teachers with 0-6 years to quit but teachers with 6-15 years of experience are leaving at a rate that is up 28% in just the last two years.  These are the teachers who stabilize schools.  Abusive administrators, paperwork and large class sizes are cited as reasons for leaving as well as the salary disparity between NYC compared to the suburban districts.
Evaluations
Evaluation system with observations and artifacts is a mess.  We must simplify the evaluation system. We are now sitting with people across the table on the Department of Education side who understand the need for teacher voice in the schools.
We need to be treated as professionals but we also have to act as responsible professionals.
Contract
Negotiating Committee met last week.  We have many enemies out there who want to sabotage a contract so it’s best to keep things private and not negotiate in public.
Para-fest
It was a great success.  We have 24,000 UFT paras.
Specialized High School Admissions
Lowest number of black and brown students admitted ever this year.  UFT Task Force led by Janella Hinds made seven recommendations which basically say that there should be more than just a test to base specialized admissions on.
Staff Director’s Report
Leroy Barr reported on the aforementioned para conference and guidance conference and he gave some dates for upcoming activities.
Mulgrew came back and reported on how Chancellor Carmen Fariña wants to talk to teachers and will be at many events in the near future. He also told Delegates how the Disaster Relief Fund needs to raise funds to assist victims of the East Harlem building explosion. (By the end of the meeting well over $2,000 was collected.)
Question Period
Question: What is our relationship like with governor Cuomo?
Mulgrew Answer: Mulgrew has a good relationship with the governor but they have had some difficult conversations with him lately because of his standing with Eva Moskowitz.
Question: What does the appeals process look like for next year?
Answer: Each side will now have four hours, instead of two, to present cases.  13% of the ineffective ratings, those caused by harassment and not incompetent teaching, will be pulled to go to arbitration.  The rest of those rated ineffective will get an independent validator next year.
Question: Any signs of the hostility of the last twelve years toward us being taken away at DOE?
Answer: Yes
Question: What is the UFT’s position concerning the horse carriage drivers?
Answer: We are working through the Central labor Council.
Question: Is the ATR pool down compared to the past?
Answer: It is down to around 900 with many counselors placed for the remainder of the year.  It should not be increased much as there are no closing schools but some phase outs continue.  We are working with the DOE to come up with a common sense plan on hiring.  Previous administration contracting with Teach for America and the New Teacher Project made no sense.
Question: What should we do about many Public School Athletic League problems?
Answer: Contact Kenny Achiron.
Question: Any plans for a demonstration to counter Eva Moskowitz activities?
Answer: Our focus is on Albany and getting a contract.  She closed her schools for demonstrations and arm-twisted parents into coming.  Imagine what we could do if we took everyone from just one district to Albany.  We are very concerned with the way she uses children for political reasons.
New Motion Period
See above
Special Order of Business
There was a resolution to celebrate the 54th anniversary of the UFT that caused surprising controversy as someone spoke strongly against it, which prompted Leroy Barr to respond by recognizing the founders of the union who are still part of the DA.  The motion carried easily.
There was the Brown v Board of Education resolution that led to my regular battle with Mulgrew concerning him calling on speakers opposed to a motion.  This carried easily.  It was followed by a resolution supporting California teachers as they fight to keep due process protections and one recognizing Chicago teachers who brought national attention to the growing concerns about the overemphasis on standardized testing.  These both passed. I believe time ran out here but if the last two resolutions were acted upon, they were not controversial.  One was on raising the minimum wage and the other was on Avonte’s Law (help autistic children and their parents).

"Students are more than a test score teachers are more than a test score schools are more than a test score WE are more than a test score"

Billionaires and politicians tend to forget this.

strengthinnumbers

The MORE caucus will present this resolution at today’s UFT Delegate Assembly. Tomorrow we will publish our DA report.

Whereas, educators are fearful of reporting detrimental working and learnings conditions established by principals who work in a dictatorial

Whereas, our contract provides due process for all UFT members; and

Whereas, whistleblowers such as Francesco Portelos have been removed from schools and now falsely arrested and imprisoned for reporting abusive conditions and expressing their free speech rights; be it therefore

Resolved, that after careful consideration, the UFT will publish a list of DOE’s most abusive administrators in its newspaper, website, social media, and in a press release; and be it further

Resolved, that the UFT will escalate its defense of educators who speak out on behalf of their colleagues and students; and be it further

Resolved, that the defense of UFT members, particularly chapter leaders, who speak truth to power will include, but not be limited to, a full mobilization of our membership for protests and rallies with educators, parents, students, and concerned community members to expose despicable administrators; and be it further

Resolved, that UFT will demand the immediate removal of all administrators that are found as being abusive

“When UFT members are under attack, we must stand up and fight back!”

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.

"Charter School supporters rally in Albany Caution: ASTROTURFING IN PROGRESS"

And what would the response be if teachers shut down the public schools for a day to bus students to a political rally?