Archives for category: Students

In Newark, a dozen or fewer students continue their sit-in in the office of Cami Anderson, who was appointed by Governor Chris Christie to turn Newark into an all-choice district. The students demand that Anderson meet with them and the local school board or resign.

Their protest has received national and international coverage.

Margaret Mead said:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

A small group of Newark high school students continues to occupy the office of the State-appointed District Superintendent Cami Anderson.

 

They say they will remain until she meets with them or resigns.

 

Mayor Ras Baraka spoke sympathetically about the student protest:

 

“They’re obviously frustrated about not being able to have a voice in what happens around their own education,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said at a news conference outside of school district headquarters Thursday.

 

“As the mayor of this state’s largest city, I am also frustrated that I do not have a say-so in what is happening in the education of the children that exist and live in these communities,” he said.

 

At least eight students, who call themselves the Newark Student Union, seized Superintendent Cami Anderson’s office Tuesday night during a public schools advisory board meeting, and have remained on the floor where Anderson and other administrators have offices. They’re protesting Anderson’s leadership of the school district, including school building assignments and her support for charter schools.

 

The students claim the district is trying to “starve out” the Newark Student Union by purposely depriving them of food.

 

“For anyone tuning in right now, right now we’re giving a live stream explaining what’s going on. We have a food situation,” one student is heard saying in the background of the live stream. “They haven’t given it to us yet.”

 

Another student said the protesters are surviving on chips and candy they brought in themselves Wednesday night.

 

Meanwhile, a reader of the blog named Liz sent the students a pizza! Liz wrote:

 

It did get to them! If anyone wants to support them, Tony’s Pizza (973) 821-4723 delivered to them. I had it sent to 2 Cedar St 8th floor and sent them an email telling them it was coming, and they sent me a picture back of the pizza box with thank you written on it. I say we do what we can to let them know that we appreciate what they are doing.

 

 

Members of the Newark Student Union are staying in Cami Anderson’s office for a second night. They are demanding her resignation.

 

See here and here.

Bob Braun, New Jersey’s premier investigative reporter, describes a takeover of state-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson’s offices.

The dozen or so students from the Newark Student Union attended a school board meeting–which Anderson never attends–testified, then took the elevator to her office, which was unattended, except for a janitor. They proceeded to set up a communications center to Livestream their protests.

The sit-in began Tuesday night. The students stayed all night, demanding Cami Anderson’s resignation.

Who says our students today aren’t smart? Students are more daring and more clever than adults; adults sign petitions, young people take action. That is why it is youth that make revolutions.

This is a terrific short video, created by the BadAss Teachers Association. In images, it simply explains the blight that has descended on American public education because of the misguided policies of George W. Bush, President Obama, and Arne Duncan, because of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Lots of kids have been left behind, and the Race to the Top was won by Pearson and McGraw Hill.

 

 

This video, shown on PBS, documents a wonderful story: Two high schools in Birmingham, Alabama, collaborate to produce “To Kill a Mockingbird.” One high school is all-black, the other is all-white. We are reminded that desegregation peaked in the 1980s, according to the UCLA Civil Rights Project.

 

The video shows high school students working together to present the play. The video devotes more time to the historical setting of the book, the realities of life in Birmingham and the segregated South than to the production. This is not a disadvantage but a strength because the play and the novel are set in time. The video includes film footage of the segregated South in the 1930s (which the book portrays) and the 1950s (when the book was written and the civil rights movement was on the march). It includes film footage of civil rights protests in Birmingham, when the police loosed dogs on black demonstrators. It interviews black and white adults about life under segregation. It includes clips from the film that starred Gregory Peck and home-made films from local families. It interviews the actors who appeared in the 1962 film and the students who appear in the play today. It raises the irony of white families who trusted black servants to raise their children yet would not allow black children to attend the local schools or universities.

 

It is a must-see, partly for the ideas of the play, but mostly for its realistic portrayal of segregation then and now and for the reactions of today’s students. It is an important story about our history, our past and our present.

Seven outstanding teachers wrote a letter to Governor Cuomo. It was published in the Albany Times-Union, where there is a good chance he and members of the Legislature might read it. Unfortunately, it is behind a paywall. Maybe by now the paywall has disappeared. I hope so as everyone in every state should read this excellent letter.

The teachers write:

The following article was written by seven New York state Teachers of the Year: Ashli Dreher (2014, Buffalo); Katie Ferguson (2012, Schenectady); Jeff Peneston (2011, Syracuse); Rich Ognibene (2008, Rochester); Marguerite Izzo (2007, Malverne); Steve Bongiovi (2006, Seaford); and Liz Day (2005, Mechanicville)

Dear Governor Cuomo:

We are teachers. We have given our hearts and souls to this noble profession. We have pursued intellectual rigor. We have fed students who were hungry. We have celebrated at student weddings and wept at student funerals. Education is our life. For this, you have made us the enemy. This is personal.

Under your leadership, schools have endured the Gap Elimination Adjustment and the tax cap, which have caused layoffs and draconian budget cuts across the state. Classes are larger and support services are fewer, particularly for our neediest students.

We have also endured a difficult rollout of the Common Core Standards. A reasonable implementation would have started the new standards in kindergarten and advanced those standards one grade at a time. Instead, the new standards were rushed into all grades at once, without any time to see if they were developmentally appropriate or useful.

Then our students were given new tests — of questionable validity — before they had a chance to develop the skills necessary to be successful. These flawed tests reinforced the false narrative that all public schools — and therefore all teachers — are in drastic need of reform. In our many years of teaching, we’ve never found that denigrating others is a useful strategy for improvement.

Now you are doubling down on test scores as a proxy for teacher effectiveness. The state has focused on test scores for years and this approach has proven to be fraught with peril. Testing scandals erupted. Teachers who questioned the validity of tests were given gag orders. Parents in wealthier districts hired test-prep tutors, which exacerbated the achievement gap between rich and poor.

Beyond those concerns, if the state places this much emphasis on test scores who will want to teach our neediest students? Will you assume that the teachers in wealthier districts are highly effective and the teachers in poorer districts are ineffective, simply based on test scores?

Most of us have failed an exam or two along life’s path. From those results, can we conclude that our teachers were ineffective? We understand the value of collecting data, but it must be interpreted wisely. Using test scores as 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation does not meet this criterion.

Your other proposals are also unlikely to succeed. Merit pay, charter schools and increased scrutiny of teachers won’t work because they fundamentally misdiagnose the problem. It’s not that teachers or schools are horrible. Rather, the problem is that students with an achievement gap also have an income gap, a health-care gap, a housing gap, a family gap and a safety gap, just to name a few. If we truly want to improve educational outcomes, these are the real issues that must be addressed.

Much is right in public education today. We invite you to visit our classrooms and see for yourself. Most teachers, administrators and school board members are doing quality work. Our students and alumni have accomplished great things. Let’s stop the narrative of systemic failure.

Instead, let’s talk about ways to help the kids who are struggling. Let’s talk about addressing the concentration of poverty in our cities. Let’s talk about creating a culture of family so that our weakest students feel emotionally connected to their schools. Let’s talk about fostering collaboration between teachers, administrators and elected officials. It is by working together, not competing for test scores, that we will advance our cause.

None of these suggestions are easily measured with a No. 2 pencil, but they would work. On behalf of teachers across the state, we say these are our kids, we love them, and this is personal.

The following letter by Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, appeared in the Wall Street Journal in response to a column by Eva Moskowitz about “The Myth of Charter Cherry Picking” (it is behind a paywall):

 

Mulgrew writes:

 

 

Eva Moskowitz must have been staring in the mirror when she wrote her latest screed about the “big lie” about charter vs. public schools (“The Myth of Charter-School ‘Cherry Picking,’” op-ed, Feb. 9). Even as others in the charter sector are beginning to acknowledge that differences in student demographics and attrition are a real problem in comparing charters to district schools, she and her organization have refused to admit that many charters don’t educate children with the same challenges as do public schools.

 

Let’s look at one among many examples—Success Academy 3 in Harlem. It shares a building with a local public school, but her charter has half as many English-language learners, fewer than a third as many special-education students and no “high-needs” students in the special-ed category versus 12% in the public school.

 

She also confuses student mobility with student attrition. Most schools in poor neighborhoods have high student turnover. But while public schools—and some charters—fill empty seats, Ms. Moskowitz’s schools don’t. According to state records, more than half the students in one Success Academy class left before graduation.

 

While Ms. Moskowitz cites a recent report from the city’s Independent Budget Office about student attrition in charters, she neglects to mention an earlier IBO report that found that it is the less successful students who tend to leave New York City charters. And as Princess Lyles and Dan Clark note “Keeping Precious Charter-School Seats Filled,” op-ed, Feb. 3), failure to fill these seats allows a school to maintain “the illusion of success,” as the percentage of proficient students rises.

 

So when Ms. Moskowitz and her allies claim that charters educate the same kinds of children as do the public schools, who is telling the truth?

 

 

Michael Mulgrew

 

 

David Greene, a veteran educator, reflects on the meaning of respect and wonders why our society no longer respects teachers–and if it ever did. He certainly respected his teachers. They changed his life. Yet he recounts a dinner where one young upstart dropped a condescending comment about teachers having “common and ordinary intellects.”

 

Students need respect too. He writes:

 

For kids, respect is as important as motivation, often more so. I am not talking about their respect for teachers. They respect those who respect them. They want structure and authority. The teachers they are most successful with are those who enforce the code of the school yet, at the same time, show respect for them.

 

They know that the best teachers understand what Elijah Anderson calls their “code of the street” in his 1999 book of the same name. Whether that street is urban, suburban, or rural, respect from their peers, who they have to live with outside of class and school, becomes critical. “Even small children test one another, pushing and shoving…ready to hit other children over matters not to their liking.” Why? To maintain respect.

 

The state of New York shows its disrespect for teachers by imposing phony evaluation systems (APPR) and discarding teacher-made state curricula for off-the-shelf curricula from vendors. What does the state do?

 

We get APPR. The Annual Professional Performance Review is a return to the use of Frederick Taylor’s scientific management of the early 20th century. Then, corporate robber barons used scientific management to attempt to make their industrial factory workers more productive. Today, new robber barons pay the NYS Department of Education to turn college-educated teachers into low-level industrial employees that productively churn students out as if they were manufacturing Model T’s.

 

Here are 3 examples of the negative effects of APPRs based on predominantly flawed data from flawed tests with manufactured cut scores.

 

“A teacher of the year, i inherited a gifted class whose collective score was 3.2 out of 4.0. For me to be graded as a competent teacher my following year’s class, had to average 3.7. However, my new gifted students only averaged 3.5…so even though the scores improved i ‘needed improvement’.”
“This year i taught students who have IQs from 56-105. One third of my students were non-readers. What are my chances of being “effective”? More importantly, who is going to want to teach these students under those conditions?”
“Ninth grade algebra teachers have higher reported student scores on their regents exams than do global studies teachers and thus have better APPR But does that mean they are better teachers? On the august 2011 integrated algebra “regents,” test results were weighted so that a student only needed to get 34% of the questions correct to pass with a 65%. On the unweighted august 2011, global history regents a student needed to get 72% of the multiple-choice questions correct plus at least 50% on the short answer and essay questions to get the same 65% passing grade.” How is that equitable?
We get EngageNY, NYS’s version of the common core. The state decided that the long time, top rated, and nationally renowned teacher developed k-12 syllabi were not good enough and so created EngageNY.

 

Who prepared this huge website filled with everything from policy to modules (curricula) and resources? The site says it is “in house”. Here is what I found:

 

NYS says:

 

“Engageny.org is developed and maintained by the New York State Education Department to support the implementation of key aspects of the New York State Board of Regents reform agenda. This is the official web site for current materials and resources related to the regents reform agenda.”

 

The three real writers: commoncore.org, http://www.elschools.org and coreknowledge.org

 

NYS says: “the Regents research fellows planning will undertake implementation of the Common Core Standards and other essential elements of the Regents reform agenda. The Regents fellows program is being developed to provide research and analysis to inform policy and develop program recommendations for consideration by the board of regents.”

 

The reality: these 13 research fellows (none NYS teachers) are paid as much as $189,000 each, in private money; at least $4.5 million has been raised, including $1 million donated by dr. Tisch.” Other donors include bill gates, a leader of the charge to evaluate teachers, principals and schools using students’ test scores; the national association of charter school authorizers and the Robbins Foundation, which finance charter expansion; and the Tortora Sillcox Family Foundation whose mission statement includes advancing “Mayor Bloomberg’s school reform agenda.” Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Gates are expert at using philanthropy in a way that pressures government to follow their private public policy agendas.”

 

I respectively submit that they believe we teachers of “common and ordinary intellect” are no longer capable of curricula planning.

 

 

 

To friends in Washington State: Join the struggle against high-stakes testing at a rally in Olympia on February 16. Now is the time to speak and be heard in alliance with other teachers and parents. Enough is enough!

In Denver last July, the National Education Association Representative Assembly supported a campaign that would end the test, blame, and punish system that has become prevalent in public education over the past ten years. The resolution to end “toxic testing” is a powerful statement and a step we must to take to protect our students. Along with this business item, another passed that would share with educators, the rights parents have when it comes to standardized testing and their children.

At the Washington Education Association Representative Assembly in Spokane, support for parents who refuse testing for their children, also passed. A strong connection between parents and educators needs to be fostered and nurtured if the removal of toxic testing is to be realized.

To that end, a group of parents, teachers, education support professionals, and concerned citizens have banded together and are ready to step it up in order to raise awareness about testing, parental rights, and how to get support when opting out. A rally is planned for February 16, noon-3PM, in Sylvester Park in Olympia. The event includes speakers and entertainment. All who attend are encouraged to set up meetings to lobby their legislators, in an effort to end testing madness.

We need you to join us in this battle! Getting educators, parents, and students to the rally is very important. Raising awareness of parental rights is powerful. So many teachers are scared to say anything about this option due to repercussions from their districts. Concerned citizens from all areas of public education must work together so that the message can ring loud and clear: Stop toxic testing!

What we ask from you:

1. Share with your organization

a. The rally is on Presidents’ Day so what better way to make a statement than to get people to show up!

2. Get involved—Contact Becca Ritchie at r.ritchie@comcast.net if you would like to help with planning, logistics, or any other part of the rally.

3. Reach out to parents, community members, and educators who would be willing to learn about testing and/or join in this action.

4. Arrangements for donations to cover organizing costs to can be arranged through Michael Peña at waoptout@gmail.com

5. Have a sign making party to share ideas for signs to use the day of the rally.

6. Contact Shannon Ergun at LincolnTEA@hotmail.com when your organization endorses the rally.

Let’s stand together, and with a collective voice, let it be known that we will not subject our students to the toxic testing environment that has overshadowed the many joys of teaching and learning.

In Solidarity,
All 720 Washington BATs

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