Search results for: "randi"

Lyndsey Layton reports in the Washington Post that Richard Berman of the Center for Union Facts has sent out 125,000 letters attacking Randi Weingarten for ruining American education.

Berman’s usual stock in trade is defending tobacco companies against allegations that smoking causes cancer. He is a hired gun who says whatever corporations want said. As the article says, he has rented billboards in NYC’s Times Square and taken out a full-page ad in the Néw York Times to slander Randi.

Of course, it is not Randi his corporate masters hate: it is unions. They think teachers should be like fast food workers, paid minimum wage.

I once wrote in a post on this blog that I had a personal encounter with Berman. He boasted about his campaign to defame the Néw Jersey NEA for driving up the cost of education. Billboards, ads, etc. I asked him if he knew that the highest performing states were unionized and the lowest performing states were not. He did not know, and he mumbled that he was a PR man, not an education researcher. He was right. He is a mouthpiece for some corporate paymaster. The Koch brothers? ALEC? Some other rightwing zealot? There ought to be a law requiring disclosure of who pays for slander.

AFT President Randi Weingarten Calls for Full Release of Test Questions

WASHINGTON— Statement of AFT President Randi Weingarten following news that a portion of the Common Core-aligned testing questions were released in New York as teachers and community members protest the overuse of testing in Albany.

“Releasing just some of the Common Core-aligned test questions in the middle of the summer doesn’t cut it. Parents and educators repeatedly have called for the full release of the questions—even taking our call to the Pearson shareholder meeting this past spring.

“We renew our call for the full release of the test questions—in a timely manner and in a way that is most useful for parents, educators and kids—not in the middle of the summer and right before the test results are announced.”

###

Randi Weingarten wrote a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, criticizing his sympathetic response to the Vergara decision, which held that tenure and seniority were unconstitutional in California.

She wrote:

“This week, we needed your leadership; to demonstrate that teacher and student interests are aligned; that we must press—60 years after Brown v. Board—for educational equity; that it takes more than a focus on teachers to improve public education; that, when it comes to teachers, we need to promote strategies that attract, retain and support them in classrooms; and that, of course, removing teachers who can’t do their job in quick and effective ways is important, but so is due process, so teachers can take creative risks that enhance teaching and learning.

“But instead, you added to the polarization. And teachers across the country are wondering why the secretary of education thinks that stripping them of their due process is the way to help all children succeed.”

But Arne Duncan showed that he IS a leader: a leader in the effort to strip teachers of due process and a leader in the well-funded campaign to erode public confidence in public schools. He befriends the privatization movement. He likes to close public schools and turn them over to private operators. He is a cheerleader for charters. He admires those like Michelle Rhee who spend vast sums of money to remove any job protections for teachers. His silence and inaction on the subjects of poverty and segregation are notable. Yes, he is a leader, but on the other side.

Anthony Cody does not agree with Randi Weingarten and Linda Darling-Hammond. They recently published an article saying that California would be a model for the success of Common Core, because the new tests would be used to help schools, not to close them or to evaluate educators.

Cody posts a video from the Common Core website. Here is the script:

“Like it or not, life is full of measuring sticks: How smart we are, how fast we are, how we can, you know, compete. But up until now, it’s been pretty hard to tell how well kids are competing in school, and how well they’re going to do when they get out of school. We like to think that our education system does that. But when it comes to learning what they really need to be successful after graduation, is a girl in your neighborhood being taught as much as her friend over in the next one? Is a graduating senior in, say, St. Louis, as prepared to get a job as a graduate in Shanghai? Well, it turns out the answer to both of these questions is “no.” Because for years, states have been setting different standards for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. That’s making it too hard to know if our kids are really doing well enough overall and if they can really compete for a job some day.”

The video concludes:

“The world’s getting more and more competitive every day. But now when our kids get to the top of their staircase, they can have way more options of where their life goes from there. Clear goals, confident, well-prepared students, that’s the Common Core state standard.”

Cody writes:

“So let’s unpack the assumptions built into Common Core. First, “like it or not” we are told our world is determined to measure everything. Bizarrely, we even have a picture of someone who looks like Albert Einstein measuring the circumference of his skull, as if this has any value. And these measurements are the basis for competition – and our students are in a race against one another, and against that kid in Shanghai, who may be better prepared for a job than our kids.

“The way to make our students “confident” and “well-prepared” for this race is to set up their learning as a series of steps they must climb, and every student at a given grade must mount these steps in order, and at the same age.

“This is a powerful framework for learning, and I think it is destructive.”

He adds:

“The promise of the Common Core is that we create confident students and help the under-privileged by measuring them on a set of difficult tests, which will show that those who have always been behind are further behind than ever. I just don’t see how this builds confidence. I think that in spite of the best efforts of teachers and leaders in our state, many of our students will do very poorly on these tests. And high-poverty schools will do worse than ever. We will then be obliged to use these scores as an accurate diagnosis of our problems, and in effect this will justify and reinforce inequities, rather than challenge them.”

Cody makes a powerful argument against the assumption that standards and testing will create equity or excellence. It is more NCLB, more Race to the Top, more of the same-old same-old.

Randi Weingarten sent representatives to the Pearson shareholder meeting in London to complain about the gag orders that keeps the tests secret, after they are administered.

In a wide-ranging interview with Josh Eidelson in Salon, Rani reaffirmed her support for the Common Core but predicted that the rush to implement it has generated an anti-testing backlash that could cause it to fail.

She also said that the Newark teachers’ contract, which she once hailed as a model, has been hijacked by the Christie administration.

She blamed much of the backlash against the Common Core and the testing on the intransigence of State Commissioner Zjohn King. She said: ” The implementation of the Common Core has been worse than the implementation of Obamacare. And Obamacare, people adjusted and adjusted, adjusted when they saw problems. In New York state, at least, when they saw problems in terms of the Common Core … unfortunately what the state education commissioner did is put his head in the sand …”

In one of her very best articles, AFT President Randi Weingarten names the real retirement crisis. Many American workers, having paid into pension funds, will retire into a life of poverty because of a campaign to wipe out defined benefit pension plans.

Randi writes:

“America has a retirement crisis, but it’s not what some people want you to believe it is. It’s not the defined benefit pension plans that public employees pay into over a lifetime of work, which provide retirees an average of $23,400 annually (although some public officials fail to make their required contributions to these and then claim they are unaffordable). It’s not the cost of such plans, which may ultimately cost taxpayers far less than risky, inadequate and increasingly prevalent 401(k) plans. It’s not Social Security, which is the healthiest part of our retirement system, keeps tens of millions of seniors out of poverty and could help even more if it were expanded. The crisis is that most Americans lack the essential elements of a secure retirement–pensions and adequate savings. They’ll depend on Social Security to stave off poverty once they stop working, and it will not be enough.

“The crisis is that the economic collapse that started in 2007, triggered by fraudulent and risky financial schemes, wiped out many Americans’ personal savings and decimated many state and city pension investments. And while the stock market and many pension investments have rebounded, for numerous Americans the lingering economic downturn, soaring student debt, diminished home values, the responsibility of caring for aging parents and other financial demands have made it hard, if not impossible, to save for retirement.

“The crisis is that the median retirement savings for all working-age households–according to the Federal Reserve–is $3,000, and only $12,000 for those near retirement. And that retirement insecurity is made worse by state-sponsored pension theft in places like Illinois, where public employees are being robbed of pension funds they earned and contributed to over decades of public service.”

Matt Taibbi and David Sirota “have written about the vast sums spent to undermine the retirement security of ordinary Americans. John Arnold, for example, a former Enron executive who walked away with a fortune from the bankrupt company, has spent tens of millions in his crusade to deny public employees guaranteed benefits at retirement. This, after public pensions reportedly lost more than $1.5 billion as a result of their investments in Enron.

“Their investigations have exposed the hypocrisy of some Wall Street hedge fund managers like Dan Loeb, who seek to profit from public employee pension funds at the same time they support abolishing such benefits. The problem is the hypocrisy–not hedge funds or Wall Street per se. And it’s their disconnectedness from the economic pressures regular people face every day just to meet their basic needs, pressures that only grow once their working years are over.”

We must muster the will to protect retirees and workers so that they do not consigned to a life of poverty, courtesy of billionaires who are whipping up a public frenzy against their fellow citizens.

Randi Weingarten, on behalf of the American Federation of Teachers, sent representatives to the Pearson shareholders’ meeting in London and wrote the following letter to the leaders of the world’s biggest testing corporation. By shrouding the tests in secrecy, Pearson denies information to teachers to help diagnose student needs. The tests become useless by having no diagnostic value. Speculation abounds about hidden “Pineapple” questions and other test errors. If the lives of students and teachers and principals hinge on the tests, the tests must be made public after they are administered. Otherwise, teachers will be fired and students will be failed and schools will be closed without seeing the validity of the instruments of punishment. This is wrong.

For Immediate Release
April 25, 2014

Contact:

Marcus Mrowka
202/531-0689
mmrowka@aft.org

Kate Childs Graham
202/615-2424
kchilds@aft.org

AFT’s Weingarten to Pearson: Lift Gag Order on Testing, Meet with Stakeholders

WASHINGTON— In conjunction with the annual Pearson shareholder meeting in London, AFT President Randi Weingarten today released a letter sent to Pearson executives, board members and shareholders calling on the corporation to remove “gag orders” preventing educators from expressing concerns about Pearson-developed tests and to meet with educators, parents and other stakeholders to address their concerns regarding these tests. Pearson is the largest testing company in the world and derives 57 percent of its profits from the U.S.

Representatives from the AFT are at the shareholder meeting this morning to deliver the letter and discuss the concerns of educators, parents, students and shareholders. The AFT also launched an online action allowing educators, parents and others across the world to make the same demands of Pearson executives and board members.

“Principals and teachers in New York who recently administered the Pearson-developed Common Core tests have said they are barred from speaking about the test content and its effects on students,” wrote Weingarten. “This appears to be a result of a Pearson contract term that has been construed as disallowing them from expressing their concerns and views. …On behalf of teachers, parents, students and your shareholders, including our pension plans, I ask you to immediately remove these prohibitions (referred to as “gag orders” in the press) from existing and future contracts.”

Weingarten continued, “These gag orders and the lack of transparency are fueling the growing distrust and backlash among parents, students and educators in the United States about whether the current testing protocols and testing fixation is in the best interests of children. When parents aren’t allowed to know what is on their children’s tests, and when educators have no voice in how assessments are created and are forbidden from raising legitimate concerns about the quality of these assessments or from talking to parents about these concerns, you not only increase distrust of testing but also deny children the rich learning experience they deserve.”

Weingarten’s full letter to Pearson can be found below.

April 24, 2014

John Fallon
Chief Executive
Pearson PLC
80 Strand
London WC2R ORL
UK
john.fallon@pearson.com

Glen Moreno
Chairman
Pearson PLC
80 Strand
London WC2R ORL
UK
Glen.moreno@pearson.com

Dear Mr. Fallon and Mr. Moreno:

I was deeply disturbed to read recently in the New York Times and other newspapers of the issues teachers, principals, parents and students raised about Pearson tests. Principals and teachers in New York who recently administered the Pearson-developed Common Core tests have said they are barred from speaking about the test content and its effects on students. This appears to be a result of a Pearson contract term that has been construed as disallowing them from expressing their concerns and views. Elizabeth Phillips, the principal at Public School 321 in Brooklyn, N.Y., summarized these concerns in a recent New York Times opinion piece. On behalf of teachers, parents, students and your shareholders, including our pension plans, I ask you to immediately remove these prohibitions (referred to as “gag orders” in the press) from existing and future contracts.

These gag orders and the lack of transparency are fueling the growing distrust and backlash among parents, students and educators in the United States about whether the current testing protocols and testing fixation is in the best interests of children. When parents aren’t allowed to know what is on their children’s tests, and when educators have no voice in how assessments are created and are forbidden from raising legitimate concerns about these assessments’ quality or talking to parents about these concerns, you not only increase distrust of testing but also deny children the rich learning experience they deserve.

Continuing these practices may also have severe financial consequences for your corporation. Growing mistrust and concerns by parents, teachers and others over the asserted lack of transparency at InBloom appears to have been a driving factor in the company’s recent decision to end operations.

This is the third consecutive year that Pearson’s standardized tests have led to headline risk and reputational damage to the company. We’re concerned that Pearson is using gag orders to cover up-rather than address-problems with its standardized tests. If Pearson is going to remain competitive in the educational support and testing business, the company must listen to and respond to the concerns of educators like Elizabeth Phillips who report that the company has ignored extensive feedback.

Parents, students and teachers need assessments that accurately measure student performance through questions that are grade-appropriate and aligned with state standards-especially since standardized tests have increasingly life-altering consequences for students and teachers. By including gag orders in contracts, Pearson is silencing the very stakeholders the company needs to engage with. Poll after poll makes clear that parents overwhelmingly trust educators over all others to do what is best for their children; educators’ voices, concerns and input should be included in the creation and application of these assessments.

We intend to bring these concerns to the attention of senior management, the board and other shareholders during your annual meeting on Friday, April 25. We also are asking that you meet as soon as practical with stakeholders to discuss a comprehensive response to their concerns and to this serious threat to the company’s reputation, brand and share price. If you have representatives in the United States who meet with potential customers routinely to sell Pearson products, we believe you also can meet with stakeholders.

We look forward to your reply. Pearson must move quickly to address a serious and emerging threat to its brand, business model and ability to generate long-term value for shareholders.

Sincerelv.

Randi Weingarten
President

A fascinating article in Education Week describes a verbal tiff between the Council of Chief State School Officers and the leaders of the two major teachers’ unions.

The Chiefs, as they are known, are the state superintendents. CCSSO received at least $32 million from the Gates Foundation to “write” and advocate for the Common Core, and no matter how much parents and teachers complain and demand revisions, the Chiefs “won’t back down.” They made their certainty and intransigence clear to the union leaders.

The AFT and the NEA also were paid millions by Gates to promote the Common Core, but the unions have members and both Randi and Dennis have vocally criticized the implementation of the Common Core. In some states, the rollout has been nothing short of disastrous.

Randi Weingarten was unusually outspoken in criticizing the rush to impose the Common Core, and she warned the Chiefs that the standards were in serious jeopardy. The article makes clear that while Randi is listening to teachers, the Chiefs are not. Their attitude on full display was “full steam ahead, the critics are wrong, there is nothing but anecdote on their side.” You would think they might have reflected just a bit on the terrible results of Common Core testing in New York, where only 3% of English language learners passed the tests, only 5% of children with disabilities, only 16-17% of African American and Hispanic students, and only 31% of all students.

The advocates of Common Core claim that the new standards teach critical thinking and reflection, but there was no evidence of either critical thinking or reflection from the CCSSO or the other organizations paid to promote the standards.

Andrew Ujifusa writes:

“Anxiety over the Common Core State Standards was on full display Tuesday during the Council of Chief State School Officers’ annual legislative conference. Leaders of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, the nation’s two largest teacher unions, squabbled with state K-12 chiefs over how teachers and the general public perceive the standards, and how well they are being implemented in classrooms.”

Weingarten told those present that they do not understand how angry many parents and educators are. During the discussion, Weingarten “said that in cases like New York state, the poor rollout of the common core had led to “immobilization” among teachers and a distrust that those in positions of authority knew how to do the job right.

“Weingarten added that she expects that many of her members would call for outright opposition to the standards during the AFT’s summer convention, even though both the AFT and NEA support the standards and Weingarten said she wouldn’t back away from the common core.

“On the subject of transitioning to the common core, Weingarten told the chiefs, “The field doesn’t trust the people in this room to have their backs.”

“During the same discussion, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, while he said the union remained squarely behind the standards themselves, also expressed concern that teachers were not getting enough time to learn the standards themselves, to find common-core aligned curricular materials, and to talk to parents as well as each other.

“Those remarks triggered an irritated response from Massachusetts K-12 chief Mitchell D. Chester, who said that the two national unions seemed to be “condoning” strident and vocal common-core foes “at the peril of those [teachers] who are moving things ahead,” an accusation Weingarten denied……

“Weingarten responded that attacking her for being the messenger of concerns about the standards missed the point, telling the state chiefs, “People think we are doing terrible things to them, parents and teachers alike.”

Kati Haycock of Education Trust defended the Common Core. The Gates Foundation paid Education Trust $2,039,526 to advocate for the Common Core.

Michael Cohen of Achieve, which helped to write the standards, strongly defended them.

Gates has paid many millions to Achieve to write and promote the Common Core:

“Gates money also flowed to Achieve, Inc.; prior to June 2009, Achieve received $23.5 million in Gates funding. Another $13.2 million followed after CCSS creation, with $9.3 million devoted to “building strategic alliances” for CCSS promotion:

“June 2012

Purpose: to strengthen and expand the ADP Network, provide
more support to states for CCSS implementation, and build strategic national
and statewide alliances by engaging directly with key stakeholders
Amount: $9,297,699″

This exclusive news appeared this morning on politico.com’s education site. When Randi spoke at the Network for Public Education conference in Austin, she told the audience for the Common Core panel that she would ask the AFT executive board for permission to do exactly what is described here. She understands that many members of the AFT do not trust the Gates Foundation, do not like Bill Gates’ public statements such as encouraging larger class sizes, or his unwavering commitment to measuring teacher quality by student test scores, despite the lack of evidence for its efficacy. I welcome this change and thank Randi and the AFT for severing ties with the Gates Foundation. Gates and Pearson have bought most of American education. Those who represent teachers should be free of their influence.

By Caitlin Emma

With help from Stephanie Simon

EXCLUSIVE: AFT SHUNS GATES FUNDING: The American Federation of Teachers ended a five-year relationship with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation after rank-and-file union members expressed deep distrust of the foundation’s approach to education reform. AFT President Randi Weingarten told Morning Education the union will no longer accept Gates money for its Innovation Fund, which was founded in 2009 and has received up to $1 million a year in Gates grants ever since. The Innovation Fund has sponsored AFT efforts to help teachers implement the Common Core standards – a Gates priority – among other initiatives.

- Weingarten said she didn’t believe Gates funding influenced the Innovation Fund’s direction, but still had to sever the relationship. “I got convinced by the level of distrust I was seeing – not simply on Twitter, but in listening to members and local leaders – that it was important to find a way to replace Gates funding,” she said. Weingarten plans to ask members to vote this summer on a dues hike of 5 cents per month, which she said would raise $500,000 a year for the Innovation Fund.

- The Innovation Fund isn’t the only AFT initiative funded by the Gates Foundation. Since 2010, the union has received more than $10 million. The AFT’s executive council hasn’t formally voted to reject Gates funding for other projects, but Weingarten said she would be very cautious about taking such grants. “I don’t want to say ‘never never ever ever,'” she said, but “this is a matter of making common bond with our members and really listening to the level of distrust they have in the philanthropies and the people on high who are not listening to them.”

- Vicki Phillips, who runs the Gates Foundation’s education division, said her team is “disappointed by Randi’s decision.” She called the AFT “an important thought partner” for the foundation. “We continue to applaud the work of the Innovation Fund grantees to engage teachers in improving teaching and learning in their local communities,” Phillips said.

Cami Anderson, the state-appointed superintendent of Newark public schools, has grown increasingly high-handed in recent weeks. In driving through her so-called “One Newark” plan, she suspended principals who dissented, she stormed out of a meeting of the elected advisory board, and now she has announced she will no longer meet with the board. Read Politico’s account here.

Randi Weingarten sent the following letter to Governor Chris Christie, calling for an end to two decades of state control of New Jersey’s largest city.

“Letter from Randi Weingarten to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on the school crisis in Newark”

February 26, 2014

The Honorable Chris Christie
Governor of New Jersey
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625

Dear Governor Christie:

There is a crisis in Newark. And that crisis was made worse by your schools Superintendent Cami Anderson opting not to attend last night’s School Advisory Board meeting to hear the concerns and desires of parents, educators, students and the people of Newark.

Governor, you have complete and total control over the schools—the way they are managed, the way they are funded. The Newark community has met state requirements to regain local control twice now, in 2011 and 2013. But your administration kept changing the bar, and the state remains in control.

At the very least, then, your superintendent has the obligation to listen to the people of Newark—the people who send their children to our schools, and the people who spend their working lives trying to make a difference in children’s lives.

So we’re clear, please know I don’t condone disrespectful behavior, be it at a school board meeting or when, in my opinion, you bullied teachers. However, the potential that some at a school board meeting could be boisterous does not justify the superintendent skipping it entirely.

The people of Newark want their schools back. They don’t want the One Newark plan, and they have lost faith in the way Superintendent Anderson has managed the city’s public schools.

Let me explain. Superintendent Anderson dismantled the Global Village—a smart, community-driven effort to provide children with much-needed wraparound services. She ended the Newcomer program, which provided support for English language learners. Her “renew” schools efforts have yielded poor results. She quickly spent the sizable donation from Facebook. She suspended several administrators who disagreed with her, and she made backroom deals with charter operators. She is forcing through her One Newark plan despite public outcry. And now, under the guise of so-called budget problems, the superintendent has asked out-going state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf to allow her to waive our contract and state law, and wants to replace experienced teachers with new Teach for America recruits, who have never stepped into a classroom and have no qualifications to teach in the Newark schools.

We worked on that contract together. We agreed that it put into place policies that would be good for students and for teachers. You said yourself that it would “improve the quality of education across the City of Newark.” This is a failure of management, a failure of fiscal stewardship and a failure of instructional leadership.

Rather than deal with the fact that Newark students are suffering, school buildings are crumbling and staggering inequities persist, Superintendent Anderson would instead blame and mass fire the people who have devoted their lives to helping Newark’s children.

Instead of driving deeper divisions and distrust in Newark, we need to be focused on solutions that work—early childhood education, wraparound services, project-based learning, professional development and more. We need to make Newark schools places where kids can build trusting relationships with each other and with adults, where they can learn the critical-thinking skills they need to compete in the 21st century, and where they develop the persistence and grit they’ll need to deal with adversity.

Governor, the Newark community has made it known: They don’t want mass closings, mass firings or mass privatization. They want to regain local control of the district. They want to reclaim the promise of public education in Newark.

I ask you to listen. Give the people of Newark their schools and their future back.

Sincerely,

Randi Weingarten

cc:

Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson
Education Commissioner Chris Cerf
Newark Teachers Union President Joesph Del Grosso
AFT-New Jersey President Donna Chiera
State Senator Ronald Rice
State Senator M. Teresa Ruiz
State Senate President Steve Sweeney
State Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto

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