Archives For MORE caucus

In Support of Tenure

July 23, 2014 — 4 Comments

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The attacks on tenure today have nothing to do with improving teaching and learning. They are designed to undermine teachers’ unions with the goal of silencing educators’ voices.  We firmly believe that in order for public education to succeed, teachers must have tenure, a protection that allows educators to stand with parents, for children.

 

Tenure is nothing more than due process, fair hearings with an independent arbitrator where evidence can be presented in order to protect oneself from false accusations. This ensures experienced educators have job security and encourages academic freedom. These are protections all workers should have. Tenure not only empowers teachers to advocate for children and public education, but also prevents educators from becoming “at will” employees and therefore positively impacts retention of experienced educators, which research shows is a significant factor for improving student achievement and adult outcomes. Tenure also unapologetically protects teachers not only from arbitrary firing, but from being replaced by less experienced and therefore less expensive teachers as well as potential cronyism.

 

We must only look to history for compelling examples of the importance of tenure. Tenure was first established for city teachers back in 1917 to stop political patronage. Reform mayor John P Mitchell wanted to stop Tammany Hall from giving city-paid jobs to supporters who helped get politicians elected. This ended the political machine cronyism that was rampant. It was later extended to teachers across the state as a way of attracting qualified professionals to the profession. There was a historic teacher shortage in 1945, brought on by the war, when governor Thomas E. Dewey and the 165th New York State Legislature decided to extend the opportunity for tenure to teachers all across the state.

 

At the heart of the attacks on tenure is an attempt to silence educators from speaking out against so called “reform” policies that more often privilege data and profits rather than children. Far too many public education decisions are made in corporate boardrooms and political backrooms, without the input of public school stakeholders. We, along with countless others, have worked to expose and change these policies and have become pro-union and pro-public education activists in the process.  Our efforts are possible because of tenure. Any erosion of tenure will silence a great many of our voices. This will surely quicken the damage that is being done to our public schools.

 

Attacks on tenure are cloaked in civil rights language and claim to defend children from incompetent educators. The reality is there is no evidence tenure harms children and in fact while states that afford teachers tenure have some of the highest student achievement levels in the country, states without tenure have the lowest.

 

 

The Movement of Rank and File Educators, the social justice caucus of UFT, a group of working public educators and parents, stands firmly for tenure and independently arbitrated due process rights, including seniority rights, for all educators.

 

Tenure allows teachers:

 

  • to remain in this profession, despite making substantially less money than professionals in the private sector.
  • to work without fear of being fired simply because they are older or earn more than less experienced educators. In districts or schools without tenure administrators are incentivised to fire experienced educators whose retirement plans and benefits cost more than those of less experienced educators.
  • to be protected from unfair or arbitrary attacks by administrators simply because they disagree with them or advocate for children’s and/or worker’ rights.
  • to advocate for the academic freedom to meet and see all children where they are, for who they are rather than follow narrow, scripted curriculum and ‘check box rubrics’.

 

For activists, tenure secures the basic right of free speech and allows us to speak truth to power, within our schools, our union, and more broadly without fear of retribution from those in positions of power who may disagree with us. Tenure allows us to:

 

  • speak out against high stakes testing, test based evaluation schemes, and developmentally inappropriate common core standards, all of which deprive our children of a good education.
  • take to the streets, courts, internet, and the airwaves to advocate for social justice, economic, racial, and social equality in our schools and society, without fear of reprisals.
  • blow the whistle on violations that harm our children including those committed against children with special needs who have been deprived of proper services.

 

Tenure allowed eight city teachers, including Sandra Adickles, to go down south on a voluntary transfer and teach at a ‘freedom school’ during the Civil Rights Movement. Ms. Adickles’ bravery later led to a US Supreme Court decision making it more difficult for southerners to deny rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. Her trip, which was financed by the United Federation of Teachers, helped make America a more equitable and better nation -and it was made possible because Ms. Adickles enjoyed the protection of tenure which guaranteed that she would not be arbitrarily fired while she was gone.

 

Tenure is essential in protecting the best of our profession: advocacy and basic freedoms, both of which benefit not only teachers but children as well.  Critics who claim, ‘tenure is a job for life’ or ‘tenure protects incompetent teachers’ are misrepresenting the facts:

 

  • It takes several years to earn tenure in New York State
  • It provides only two job protections: 1) The school district must have cause for terminating a teacher and 2) an independent agent ultimately decides whether or not the teacher is fired.
  • Every single teacher in this state who has tenure earned it by having it approved by a site supervisor with the agreement of the school district.

 

 

Tenure has been under attack nationally and in New York City in recent years.  The number of teachers successfully completing probation has dropped to only 53%, with many having their probationary period extended to 4, 5 or even 6 years. Our union leadership has done little to oppose this shift. We in fact do not have a “tenure problem”, but we do have a teacher retention problem.  In 2013, 43% of teachers with 6-15 years of experience left NYC schools, in no small part due to the tidal wave of attacks on our profession, our children and our schools. real reforms we know will benefit our children including the need to advocate for solutions that strengthen the teaching profession and seek to support and retain experienced educators. Abolishing or weakening tenure will serve to do the opposite.

 


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The % of teachers denied tenure each year, 2006-2013 (chalkbeatny.org)

 

 

James Baldwin once said “The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it – at no matter what risk.” We agree, but we also acknowledge that tenure, more than anything else, allows us to work for that change.

 

 

Congratulations for those who have accepted nominations for the new MORE Steering Committee which takes office for a 6 month term starting on August 1. 
 
The current steering committee has proposed, that rather than having an election to choose 9 out of these 11 (or 10?) qualified candidates, that we simply accept all of them as new member of the steering committee.  This decision will be ratified at the MORE Retreat this coming week on Thursday, July 17 (11am-5pm, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 5th Ave. @ 34th st., 6 to 33rd, D,F,M,N,R to Herald Square).


Megan Behrent
has taught English at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn for 15 years. She has been a UFT delegate for FDR since 2007. In the Delegate Assembly, she has raised resolutions to support the rights of ATRs, to fight school closings/turnarounds, and to show solidarity with other unions. She is a founding member of MORE and active in the National Network of Social Justice Educators. As an education activist, she has appeared on the Melissa Harris Parry show on MSNBC and written for diverse publications including Socialist Worker, New Politics, Labor Notes and the Harvard Education Review.
Lauren Cohen entered teaching through the NYC Teaching Fellows in 2005 as a mid-year replacement for a K-2 self-contained special education teacher at a high-needs school in Harlem. She taught there for two more full school years. She spent the next 5 years at a Title 1 school in the East Village where she gained a reputation among her colleagues for speaking out against administrative mandates that were detrimental to student learning (such as canceling extended day enrichment programs in favor of test prep aligned to faulty and inaccurate Acuity results). She currently teaches at P.S. 321 in Park Slope, where the privileges available to her current students have only strengthened her resolve to fight for a more equitable system on behalf of the students she left behind. For the past two years, Lauren has worked with parents, teachers, and others in Change the Stakes, fighting against the use of standardized tests to punish schools, teachers, and students. She attended her first MORE meeting in the spring of 2012 and was thrilled to meet so many like-minded educators. She ran on the MORE slate for Elementary Executive Board in the UFT election, and she now serves as the chapter delegate for P.S. 321.
Francesca Gomes is an 8th Grade Humanities (ELA and Social Studies) Teacher at New Voices MS 443 in District 15.  She has been a member of the UFT for 13 years, and the only UFT Delegate for her school for the last five years.  She led the “Vote No” campaign at her school beginning on the first day after the 2014 contract proposal was announced.  Originally a member of Teachers for a Just Contract, she then became a member of the Independent Caucus of Educators, and is proud to have been a member of MORE since its early days.

Janice Manning is currently a fifth grade Special Education Teacher in an Integrated Co-Teaching Classroom at P.S. 503 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  This is her 10th year teaching in New York City Public Schools.  She started her teaching career as a fourth grade teacher in Fort Worth, Texas.  After teaching in Fort Worth for a year, she taught English as a foreign language in Znamenka, Ukraine as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  She began attending MORE meetings in January of this year and is passionate about working with other educators to organize ways to improve education for ALL students.
Megan Moskop is a current member of the steering committee. She is a Special Education teacher and UFT delegate at M.S. 324 in Washington Heights, where she began teaching in 2009 through Teach for America. Megan was raised by educators in North Carolina, and her first “real” teaching job was in Malta as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.  In addition to her work MORE, she serves as Learning Labs Director for the Manhattan Young Democrats, and she is a member of Teachers Unite. Deeply thankful for and inspired by her own teachers and students, Megan is committed to the improvement of learning and working conditions in schools everywhere, starting here.
Francesco Portelos is an engineer turned middle school STEM teacher. Over the last two years he has become a very strong advocate for educators and students. His advocacy did not come without sacrifice. After speaking up, he became a target and was removed from his teaching position. This did not stop Francesco. He ran and won the UFT Chapter Leader position in his school even though he is forbidden from entering the building. He has been successfully mobilizing and supporting his chapter and many other educators who read about his fight and seek his guidance from around the city and around the country. His objective is use his knowledge, leadership skills and out-of-the-box thinking to bring MORE to a point where they are successfully filling the great void left by our UFT Leaders. Read more at www.educatorfightsback.org  Follow on Twitter: @MrPortelos
Kevin Prosen is chapter leader at I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights, Queens.  He campaigned as part of MORE’s slate for the executive board in last year’s elections, and has organized mass grievance campaigns at his school involving up to 35 members of his chapter.  He has been active in the MORE chapter organizing committee this year and has been organizing outreach to other chapter leaders in the city. His writings on UFT issues have appeared inJacobin andSocialist Worker.
Mindy Rosier is a native New Yorker who graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a B.A. in Psychology and Elementary Education and Fordham University with an M.S. Ed in Early Childhood Special Education. She has been a teacher for 17 years, including 3 years at the NY Foundling Hospital and currently 8 years with the Department of Education in a District 75 school.After seeing the hardships that her school has endured and after researching the education system itself, she became active to promote an improvement in the quality of education for all children.
Mike Schirtzer is a lifelong Brooklynite, graduate of the NYC public schools and CUNY, teacher and UFT Delegate. Teaching has always been and still is his lifelong dream and his work here in MORE is just a continuation of fulfilling the goal of being the best teacher he can be! He has planned and mobilized several events, forums, and ran for UFT & NYSUT office as MORE. He was on the original planning committee, first steering committee, and organized MORE’s social media, press, contract campaign, and South Brooklyn groups.
Patrick Walsh a three-time elected UFT chapter who believes that the only force  that can  save our profession from the predators is our union and the only force that can save our union from itself is us.

 

On Wednesday July 16th 2014 we are hosting a summer series panel and open discussion on the history of groups that have competed for power and influence within the UFT. We will also examine the implications for MORE. More event Information here

Below are readings and video lectures from union/UFT historians on the background of the founding of UFT and Unity caucus, the ruling party of our union.

Suggested Readings

Democracy & Politics in the UFT, 1976 Edition

Democracy and Politics in the UFT is being reprinted in its original with no changes in order to provide a snapshot of the state of the UFT and education circa 1976 and how one opposition group approached these issues.Thanks to Vera Pavone, Ira Goldfine and Norm Scott for creating an online version of the pamphlet they produced almost 40 years ago.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/233191682/Democracy-Politics-in-the-UFT-1976-Ed

UFT/Unity Caucus Early History from “City Unions”

This chapter on the founding of the UFT and how Shanker consolidated power from the book “City Unions”. There is a lot of insight into how Unity has controlled the UFT since its inception.

 

http://www.scribd.com/doc/158371024/City-Unions-chapter-8

 

 

Here we have a series of videos about the history of our union, it’s founding, some discussions on past caucuses and dissident groups, and the relationship between non-Unity activists and the union leadership.

Historical roots of the UFT presented by Michael Fiorillo and Peter Lamphere at the State of the Union conference (Feb. 4. 2012).

Michael: Teacher unions up to 1968 (22 minutes): https://vimeo.com/45094559

Peter: Post 1968 (15 minutes):  https://vimeo.com/45094560

Both videos plus the Q&A (1 hour):  https://vimeo.com/45094713

UFT Friend or Foe- from 2013 Summer Series- How non-Unity Chapter leaders and activists relate to UFT leadership

Norm Scott: http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/07/27/uft-friend-or-foe-event/

Vera Pavone http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/08/14/uftaft-leadership-friend-or-foe-series-vera-pavone/

Ira Goldfine http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/08/14/uftaft-leadership-friend-or-foe-series-ira-goldfine/

Peter Lamphere http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/08/14/uftaft-leadership-friend-or-foe-series-peter-lamphere/

MORE Summer Series 2012- UFT Caucus History Since 1968 

Norm Scott http://vimeo.com/45705700

Michael Fiorillo http://vimeo.com/45698849

 

Join the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE) for Summer Series 2014. Discussions exploring the past, present and future of teacher unionism. All are welcome!

Wednesdays 4:00pm-7:00pm
The Dark Horse
17 Murray St. NYC
Near City Hall, Chambers St, WTC

July 16th
Who Runs the UFT? Why Are There Alternatives? A Historical Perspective 1960-2014

The UFT formed in 1960 as a merger of several organizations. By 1964 the Unity caucus emerged as the ruling party of the UFT, which they remain to this day. Throughout the union’s history various dissident groups and caucuses have contested this dominance. At different times these groups merged, ran joint slates, or disbanded. We will discuss why these groups formed and their differing visions and strategies. How is MORE related to this history? What can we learn from it?

Other Summer Series Events

July 30th
Life Under the New UFT Contract

August 13th
Lessons from the Chicago Teachers’ Union- Featuring Guest Speakers from Chicago

August 20th
UFT 101: Why Does Our Teachers’ Union Matter?

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more@morecaucusnyc.org
press inquiries media@morecaucusnyc.org

 

 

Disappointment

June 3, 2014 — 25 Comments

For the first time in almost five years, UFT members finally have a contract. But almost one quarter of the membership (23%) voted against the deal. Most of the members with whom we spoke who approved this contract only did so because they felt it was the best our union could do. We disagree, this contract does not provide the same pay raises that other municipal labor unions received in 2009 and some of those unions are already stating they will reject these terms if offered. We believe our union can and should do much better than this.

Continue Reading…

"solidarity means not making 151 other municipal unions negotiate with the insulting pattern we'd set vote NO on the UFT contract"

"solidarity means not making 151 other municipal unions negotiate with the insulting pattern we'd set vote NO on the UFT contract"

"MEMO to UFT President Michael Mulgrew from Movement of Rank and FIle Educators MERIT PAY ≠ Solidarity"

and a interest-free loan to the City is not retroactive pay

 

The NY United Teachers union is comprised of more than 1,200 local unions across NY State. This year the Movement of Rank-and-file Educators (MORE) ran six candidates for the Board of Directors. NYSUT Elections have been uncontested since 1979. The six candidates pooled their speaking time at the NYSUT Representative Assembly convention and were represented by Lauren Cohen and Mike Schirtzer. Behind them were James Eterno, Julie Cavanaugh, Francesco Portelos, Jia Lee from MORE and our union sister from Port Jefferson Teachers Association Beth Dimino.

THIS Is Our Moment!

February 24, 2014 — 4 Comments

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

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

This is Our Moment!

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

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

RSVP here!

"MORE general meeting march 8th 2014"

Randi-VAM

by Jia Lee for MORE

UFT Chapter Leader of The Earth school

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our leadership took longer to come to this realization:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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