Archives for category: Teachers

When the union-busting Wall Street crowd gathers with Governor Cuomo at their pretentious “Camp Philos,” there won’t be any public. School parents or teachers there. The few willing and able to fork over $1,000 were told they were not welcome. So Cuomo and his buddies want to “reform” public schools without the voices of those who matter most: Students, patents, and teachers.

The New York State United Teachers plans to picket their exclusive gabfest. Message: our public schools are not for sale.

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Picket in the Pines! Put the PUBLIC back in public education!

Sunday, May 4, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Lake Placid, NY.
Register online: http://www.cvent.com/d/h4qslh
RSVP via Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/234136926786807

WHY:

Education Reform Now, a union-bashing “reform” group run by Wall Street hedge fund managers, is hosting a retreat at Lake Placid May 4-6. The hedge-funders’ deep-pocket Political Action Committee – Democrats for Education Reform – also will hobnob at the $1,000-a-head “Camp Philos.”

These groups promote non-union charter schools, overreliance on standardized tests and Common Core, student-data collection, vouchers, merit pay, test-based teacher evaluations, privatization, and removing teacher unions from almost any role in shaping curriculum or determining working conditions.

ACT:

Picket in the pines to put the “public” back in public education! For too long, so-called “reformers” have drowned out the voices of parents and teachers. These hedge-fund propagandists have contributed to New York State’s Common Core mess, the (failed) In-Bloom push for student data, and the spread of corporate charters that undermine public schools serving all kids.

WHEN:

Sunday, May 4, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

WHERE:

Meet at the Comfort Inn
2125 Saranac Ave
Lake Placid, N.Y. 12946

REGISTER ONLINE:

Register online at http://www.cvent.com/d/h4qslh.

The deadline to register is Wednesday, April 30.

Based on participation and need, buses from NYSUT Regional Offices will be made available.

SPREAD THE WORD:

Promote via Twitter. Use the hashtag #picketinthepines.

RSVP via the official Facebook event – and share with your friends!

TENTATIVE PROGRAM:

1-2 p.m.
Lunch

2-3:30 p.m.
Presentation by Sabrina Stevens of Integrity in Education

3-4 p.m.
Picket Sign-In and Sign Making

4-5 p.m.
Picketing at the Whiteface Lodge where Education Reform Now and DFER are meeting

See you there!

Picket in the Pines:

Anthony Cody here describes teachers as “reluctant warriors,” as men and women who chose a profession because they wanted to teach, not to engage in political battles over their basic rights as professionals.

 

The profession is under attack, as everyone now knows. Pensions are under attack. The right to due process is under attack. The policymakers want inexperienced, inexpensive teachers who won’t talk back, who won’t collect a pension, who will turn over rapidly:

 

In years past we formed unions and professional organizations to get fair pay, so women would get the same pay as men. We got due process so we could not be fired at an administrator’s whim. We got pensions so we could retire after many years of service.

But career teachers are not convenient or necessary any more. We cost too much. We expect our hard-won expertise to be recognized with respect and autonomy. We talk back at staff meetings, and object when we are told we must follow mindless scripts, and prepare for tests that have little value to our students.

No need for teachers to think for themselves, to design unique challenges to engage their students. The educational devices will be the new source of innovation. The tests will measure which devices work best, and the market will make sure they improve every year. Teachers are guides on the side, making sure the children and devices are plugged in properly to their sockets.

 

First, the privatizers came for the schools of the poor, because their parents and communities were powerless and were easy marks for privatization. Then they came for the union and the teachers:

 

Schools of the poor were the first targets. It was easy to stigmatize schools attended by African Americans and Latinos, by English learners and the children of the disempowered. Use test scores to label them failures, dropout factories, close them down, turn them over to privatizers. But this was just the beginning. And now, as Arne Duncan made clear with his dismissal of “white suburban moms,” they want all the schools, and are prepared to use poor performance on the Common Core tests to fuel the “schools are failing” narrative.

 

Teacher unions are under ruthless attack by billionaires, who conveniently own the media, and provide the very “facts” to guide public discourse. Due process is maligned and destroyed under the guise of “increasing professionalism.” Democratic control of local schools is undermined by mayoral control and the expansion of privately managed charter schools.

 

Congress and state legislatures have been purchased wholesale through bribes legalized by the Supreme Court, which has given superhuman power to corporate “citizens.”

 

Teachers, by our nature cooperators respectful of authority, are slow to react. Can the destruction of public education truly be anyone’s goal? The people responsible for this erosion rarely state their intentions. With smiles and praise for teachers, they remove our autonomy and make our jobs depend on test scores. With calls for choice and civil rights, they re-segregate our schools, and institute zero-tolerance discipline policies in their no-excuses charter schools. They push for larger classes in public schools but send their own children to schools with no more than 16 students in a room. Corporate philanthropies anoint teacher “leaders” who are willing to echo reform themes – sometimes even endorsed by our national teacher unions.

 

Now, he says, as the truth gets out about the privatization movement and its bipartisan support, teachers are starting to fight back. They are joining the BATs, they are joining the Network for Public Education, they are speaking out, they are (as in Seattle) refusing to give the tests, they are organizing (as in New York City) to protest the low quality of the tests.

 

Join in the fight against high-stakes testing, which is a central element in the privatization movement. They use the data to target teachers, principals, and public schools. They use the data to destroy public education. Don’t cooperate. Join the reluctant warriors. One person alone will be hammered. Do it with your colleagues, stand together, and be strong.

 

 

 

 

A highly regarded high school science teacher at Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts was suspended in February because someone thought that his  students had created inappropriate projects that looked sort of like weapons. The teacher Gregg Schiller was suspended after two students turned in devices that could shoot small projectiles. Schiller reports daily to a district administrative office.

 

One project used compressed air to propel a small object but it was not connected to a source of air pressure, so it could not have been fired. (In 2012, President Obama tried out a more powerful air-pressure device at a White House Science Fair that could launch a marshmallow 175 feet.)
Another project used the power from an AA battery to charge a tube surrounded by a coil. When the ninth-grader proposed it, Schiller told him to be more scientific, to construct and test different coils and to draw graphs and conduct additional analysis, said his parents, who also are Los Angeles teachers.

 

The story notes that President Obama tried out a more powerful air-projectile at a White House science fair in 2012, which launched a marshmallow 175 feet.

 

Schiller’s suspension removes a popular science teacher who held a number of valuable roles in the school. Parents, teachers, and students have rallied to oppose his removal. Some think that the real reason he was removed was because he is the representative for the teachers’ union.

 

“As far as we can tell, he’s being punished for teaching science,” said Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.
Schiller teaches Advanced Placement biology and psychology as well as regular and honors biology. Students are concerned about Advanced Placement exams for college credit in May.
“The class is now essentially a free period,” said 17-year-old psychology student Liana Kleinman. “The sub does not have a psych background and can’t help us with the work.”
Schiller initially prepared lesson plans for the substitute, but the district directed him to stop in an email.
“This is really hurting my students more than anything else,” Schiller said in an interview. “I would never do anything to set up a situation where a student could be harmed.”
He coaches the school’s fencing team, and administrators have determined the team cannot compete safely without Schiller in charge.
Schiller, 43, also was the teachers union representative on the campus and had been dealing with disagreements with administrators over updating the employment agreement under which the faculty works. His suspension, with pay, removed him from those discussions.

http://www.latimes.com/science/la-me-lausd-science-teacher-20140410,0,5329192.story#ixzz2yVcx9Gwy


The new website where teachers and parents can comment on the new tests has registered 150,000 hits in the 2 or 3 days since it was launched, according to Susan Ochshorn of ECE Policy Matters.

A great place to hear from teachers.

Dear Friends,

Today this blog reached the unbelievable number of eleven million page views!

I had no idea this would happen when I wrote the first post on April 26, 2012.

Thank you for reading. More than that, thank you for participating.

Many of you contribute regularly to what must be the liveliest discussion about education on the Internet. I read your comments and pick out some that are the most interesting, the most thoughtful, the most informative, and the most provocative and post them. It may be the same day or weeks later. The important thing is that I have tried to make this blog a place where the voices of parents, students, teachers, principals, and superintendents are heard, unedited.

The rules of the blog are limited and simple. Be civil. Avoid certain four-letter words which I will not print. Do not insult your host. There are plenty of other forums for all of the above. Just not here.

As you know, the blog has a point of view, because I have a point of view. I care passionately about improving the education of all children. I care passionately about showing respect for the dedicated men and women who work hard every day to educate children and help them grow to be healthy, happy human beings with good character and a love of learning. I care passionately about restoring real education and rescuing it from those who have dumbed it down into preparation for the next standardized test. I care passionately about restoring to all children their right to engage in the arts, to play, to dream, to create, to have a childhood and a youth unburdened by fear of tests. I care passionately about protecting the public schools from those who seek to monetize them and use them as a source of profit and power.

I am in my end game. I will fight to the last to defend children, teachers, principals, and public education from the billionaires and politicians who have made a hobby of what is deceptively called “reform.” What is now called “reform,” as the readers of this blog know, is a calculated plan to turn public schools over to amateurs and entrepreneurs, while de imaging the teaching profession to cut costs.

The people who promote the privatization and standardization of public education are the StatusQuo. They include the U.S. Department of Education, the nation’s wealthiest hedge fund managers, and the nation’s largest foundations. They include ALEC, Democrats for Education Reform, Stand on Children, ConnCAN, and a bevy of other organizations eager to transfer public dollars to private organizations. Their stale and failed ideas are the Status Quo. Their ideas have been ascendant for a dozen years. They have failed and failed again, but their money and political power keep them insulated from news of the damage they do to Other People’s Children.

We will defeat them. We will outlast them. Who are we? We are the Resistance. We are parents and grandparents, teachers, and principals, school board members, and scholars. We will not go away. They can buy politicians, but they can’t buy us. They can buy “think tanks,” but they can’t buy us. Public schools are not for sale. Nor are our children. Nor are we.

On February 11 of this year, I met Vivian Connell. She was on a panel at the North Carolina Emerging Issues Forum moderated by John Merrow. Vivian was one of six people who explained why she left teaching. She described the disrespect in which the current leadership of North Carolina holds teachers and the deterioration of working conditions. She said she decided to go to law school, yet she missed teaching. She loved teaching; she misses her students. A few weeks later, I met Vivian at the Network for Public Education conference in Austin. She is beautiful, vibrant, thoughtful, filled with passion for life and service to others.

This morning I received a copy of a message that Vivian posted on Facebook. I am in awe of her spirit, her courage, her determination to make a difference and to help others. In facing life and in facing whatever happens to her, she is truly a hero, a champion of children, a champion for democracy, a woman of valor.

I will think of Vivian every time I hear the hireling of a plutocrat tell me that those of us who fight for free, high-quality public education are “on the wrong side of history.” I want to be on the side of history with Vivian.

She is the real thing. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Vivian is one of those people who are bending the arc of the moral universe. I want to be on her side. She gives all of us inspiration and hope.

 

This is what Vivian posted:

 

 

OK. Big news; long post. (Longest. Post. Ever.)

On March 12th, after months of investigating leg weakness that started just before I took (and passed, thank God!!) the NC bar exam, I was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is progressive and terminal. My likely life expectancy is 2-7 years, but more likely 3-5 years. 

And I am at absolute peace with this. Of course, it will be harder on friends and family I leave behind, and I want to inform you all. I have, of course, told family and closest friends, but many of you-

My delightful and beloved former students with whom I LOVE staying connected;

My law school friends and colleagues who participated in one of the most worthy experiences of my life;

My old friends with whom I’ve been able to reconnect and whom I’ve really enjoyed keeping up with through this crazy social media thing;

My newer but no less dear friends and associates whom I’ve met advocating for issues about which we are passionate: consumer protection, the preservation of free quality public education, and campaign finance reform – all issues serving the ideals of genuine liberty and justice for all; and

My family, friends, and neighbors from many seasons of life -

You are all important to me in diverse ways, and I do not have the energy to tell you all individually!

Everyone asks, “What can I do?”

What can you do, you ask?

Well, I made a handy dandy list of affirmative steps and invite you to consider doing one or more of them:

1) PLEASE Read this whole post and LIKE it. I will know that your LIKE does not mean that you are glad to hear that I am terminally ill. But I do want to know who knows!!

2) Do respond in any way you like through a Private Message or email, but please don’t post about it on my wall. ALS will win this war (unless I am 1 in 1700 or unless some miracle happens in clinical trials – and you can feel free to hope for that!) but I intend to win all the daily battles. I want to continue to work on issues I care about and interact here on Facebook as I always have. I am determined, as I write in my first blog post, not to have my life become “The ALS network: All ALS, All the time.” I have a LOT of living to do. I get to participate in the internationally known Duke ALS clinic and will likely have more months of quality life because of that, so I feel blessed among the cursed . There is no fighting this and no painful treatments or chemo to endure – I get to plan and enjoy the rest of my life for as long as I can, which is a genuine silver lining.

3) Help my two children know and remember their crazy mom. If you have a memory or story you’d be willing to write and share, that would be the greatest gift. Formers, some of you have written very touching and complimentary notes and messages of thanks. I have saved lots of these and will be collecting them for my kids. So any stories or comments anyone is willing to relate would be deeply appreciated by me and probably treasured by my kids after I experience my “early check out” from this big hotel where we are all staying! Leaving my children as much of me as I can is my #1 priority. I have created email accounts for each of them and I am trying to write them a message a day for the remainder of my life. If you snail mail something, I will put it in the photo and scrapbooks I am starting; alternatively, you can send your remembrance(s) it to their email accounts; message me for info about this if you are so inclined.

4) Help me do THIS: I want to raise about $15k to take our 32 students at the alternative high school here in Chapel Hill to the US. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Many of them have never even left the area, much less the state, but they are fascinated when we teach about the Holocaust. Many of them have also encountered racism and cultural hatred, and a full day at the USHMM would make a permanent positive impact in their lives. I probably cannot work another year; therefore, it is important to me to make this happen for these young people – “my kids.” I hope to have the crowdfunding site up within the week, and I will post the links in the comments here as well as in a separate post. (Many of you know that I was a world and American lit specialist. I was also a Belfer Teaching Fellow at the Holocaust Museum and taught the Holocaust for many years; therefore I am uniquely qualified to prepare our students, train chaperones, and take steps to maximize the benefits of this trip for my students.) So when I post it, you can make a small donation, then share it with friends and family; this will be my last major act as a teacher.

5) Follow my blog: vivcon.wordpress.com. Post comments there, and I will be both grateful and excited. I will be as prolific as I can after this academic year ends. I will blog primarily about the issues that drove me to law school and have become passions. After every quarterly visit to the ALS clinic, I will post an update on the progress of my disease, as well as an update on my family. Chances are I’ll feel pretty free to speak my mind on a number of issues, so you should feel free, but not obligated, to join me in this journey.

6) Make a donation to the Duke ALS clinic. The international ALS community is currently excited about a recent clinical trial that shows great promise, though it is in early stages, and, I should be frank, is unlikely to change my fate. It is a stem cell procedure that for the first time, actually reversed the progress/damage in mice. One of the 12 patients who participated in the first human trials has responded similarly. Only one. But this is one more than has ever improved in the history of the disease, so we’ll take it. Duke is trying to raise $2 million to run a trial on 5 patients. Yep. It’s $300k per patient. And there is no great lobby for ALS research: patients do not live very long, and only 1 in 100,000 people develop ALS. (See. I always knew I was special. You are supposed to laugh.)

7) If you benefited from my passion/efforts as a teacher and/or are so inclined, please support Public Schools First, NC. LIKE their Facebook page and pay attention to what is happening in this state. Resist market-based education reforms and fight to maintain in your communities and state the equitable access to quality education for EVERY CHILD that is ESSENTIAL to a just society and a healthy democracy. Like I said every time we “pledged allegiance” in my classroom: “ . . . with liberty and justice for all . . . SOMEDAY, IF WE ALL WORK AT IT.” 

8) Reach out or visit if you are inclined! We are selling our Charlotte home and putting down roots here in Chapel Hill, where we plan for the kids to finish school while I receive care at Duke. Call or visit. Things are pretty crazy now, but chances are, if you are someone who would want to visit, then you are someone we would love to see.

9) And finally, share and tell others so that I do not have to have this conversation ad infinitum!! To my wonderful new NPE friends from Austin: I took so many business cards from wonderful education advocates, but I may never get to contact everyone. Please make sure everyone knows why.

10) I have few regrets and feel very privileged to have lived the life I was given. Do not feel sorry for me or for my family; I am confident that the Maker of All Good Things will manufacture blessings from my experience. I certainly hope to walk this path in a manner with gratitude and grace.

I have enjoyed, and will continue (hopefully for several-many more years) to enjoy walking through this life with all of you. And I certainly plan to spend my time investing in my kids and advocating for a better North Carolina, a better nation, and a better world. That seems good practice, even if one does not have ALS, right?

As my students have heard me say, regardless of what we each believe about our ability to “Change the World,” we all DO change it: we each make it a little better or a little worse. I have tried to live with a determination to be on the right side of history and, when I could muster the strength, the generous side of kindness. I certainly have won some and lost some – I am not the gentlest or most patient soul – but I hope I have made the world a bit better, and I have a very short bucket list. I wish you all the courage to aspire to your highest ideals and the blessing of facing the end of your days with as few regrets as I have. 

THANKS for reading to the end, and please LIKE the post. 

Not my will, but God’s will be done. It’s really OK.

 

Boston’s Citizens for Public Schools show how a powerful group of parents, teachers, and concerned citizens can inform the public and keep the heat on legislators. I was unable to repost all the links; there were so many! Go to their website to find them all.

Here is their latest update:

CPS writes:

What a fascinating week it’s been for education news! First, there was the spectacle of leading charter school proponents busting their gaskets at the slow pace of legislative action on lifting the charter cap. Then there was the jaw-dropping statement from a state education official that the state will not force families to participate in PARCC field tests (after an earlier statement that parents had no right to opt their children out of state testing). Scroll down to read about these stories and more. We rely on our members (your voices, your actions and your membership contributions) to keep going, so if you have not yet become an official part of the CPS family, join today by clicking here!

Best regards,
Lisa Guisbond
CPS Executive Director, lisa.guisbond@gmail.com

News You Can Use About Our Schools

The Charter Cap Battle Boils Over

Tempers flared and fingers stabbed out vitriolic editorials at the news that the Joint Education Committee wanted time to hear from voters and think about proposed charter cap and school turnaround legislation.

Sen. Chang-Diaz

First, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz released a statement announcing the one-week extension. The statement was posted at the Blue Mass Group blog, prompting an interesting series of comments, including an excellent post by CPS member Shirley Kressel.

Sen. Jehlen

The Boston Herald then printed a vicious editorial attack on Senators Chang-Diaz and Jehlen, saying there should be “a special place in hell reserved for those who would deprive children of a way out of a failing school.” On behalf of CPS, my letter to the editor points out, “It takes courage to resist and not kowtow to deep-pocketed charter proponents. Parents see how charter school growth has constricted resources available for basics like art and music, gym and social workers. Lifting the cap will make this bad situation worse.”

Meanwhile, tempers flared at the Pioneer Institute, which launched this public attack on Secretary of Education Matt Malone, saying his views on charters are “characterized by bigotry and demonization.”

Some groups kept their decorum and stuck to the issues, including the Black Educators Alliance Massachusetts (BEAM), which wrote this letter on lifting the charter cap. It says, in part, “The state should not lift the cap on charter schools without addressing the funding inequities imposed on districts such as Boston and the disproportionately lower number of English language learners and students with disabilities enrolled in charter schools.”

Finally, we got a needed dose of delicious satire from EduShyster, who wrote, “a funny thing happened on the way to the charter cap-lifting fête. Lawmakers began to hear from some actual constituents-upon whom they actually depend for actual re-election-about devastated public school budgets, the loss of local control and a growing fear that more charters means dual, and dueling, school systems that educate very different students.” A tip of my cap to you, EduShyster!

Don’t forget that the State Auditor’s Office is close to completing a comprehensive audit of charter school finances and practices. We remain convinced that it would make sense for legislators to read that report before considering changing the charter school cap.

Meanwhile, if you want to add your voice to the fray, here’s a petition from the Boston parent group Quest, seeking investments in Boston public schools and maintaining the cap on charter school growth. And don’t forget to sign on to the Boston Truth Coalition’s Principles of Unity, which include this: “We believe in investing in public schools, which serve the majority of students in Boston, and we oppose lifting the cap on charters, which drain resources from district schools and don’t serve ALL students and their diverse needs.”

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Breaking PARCC News: Parents & Students Have Rights!

The PARCC test controversy continues to rage, with state officials reversing themselves on whether parents have the right to opt their children out of the field tests this spring. Recall that a Feb. 20 letter to the Worcester School Committee from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) said state law did not permit parents to opt their children out of state testing and therefore “participation in the PARCC assessment field test is mandatory.” But this week, at a Framingham forum on PARCC testing, the message was different. In answer to a question, Bob Bickerton, senior associate commissioner at DESE, said “common sense” will prevail, and “We’re not going to force the kids to take the test.”

Meanwhile, add Tantasqua to the list of school committees voting to allow parents to opt out of PARCC field testing.

Todd Gazda
And in Ludlow, MA, Superintendent Todd Gazda wrote a blog post titled, “Enough is Enough!” In it, he decries the top-down imposition of “national standards, increased regulations, standardized testing, and mandates regarding what and how our children should be taught.” He says that assessments are an essential part of education. “However, standardized tests whose scores take months to arrive, often after the student has moved on to another teacher, have a limited utility for shaping the educational environment. I am concerned that we are creating students who will excel in taking multiple choice tests. Unfortunately, life is not a multiple choice test. Enough is enough!”

Boston Globe writer Scot Lehigh interviewed U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan during his Massachusetts visit to plug his favored corporate reforms. To back up his claim that students’ lack of preparedness for college is a state and national emergency, Duncan said that 40% of Massachusetts high school students require remedial coursework in college. This is not true. Thanks to award-winning New York principal Carol Burris for her Answer Sheet blog holding Duncan and the Globe accountable for their misuse of statistics to promote Common Core testing and more charter schools. Burris insisted that Lehigh and the Globe run a “clarification” (at the end of another Lehigh oped) that set the record straight by acknowledging that just 21% of students who attend four-year universities in Mass. take at least one remedial course.

Don’t forget about CPS’s fact sheet: What we know about PARCC test refusal. And we’re keeping track of school committee resolutions on opting out, here. Please let us know if we’ve missed any.

And read all about a successful Take the PARCC test event in Somerville, then think about planning one in your community.

_____________________________________________

Reforms We Can Believe In: Equity, Restorative Justice, Diversity

How different from current U.S. school reforms is a system based on equity? In an interview published in the Atlantic, Finnish education chief Krista Kiuru describes a vision close to CPS’s heart, of a whole child education: “Academics isn’t all kids need. Kids need so much more. School should be where we teach the meaning of life; where kids learn they are needed; where they can learn community skills. We like to think that school is also important for developing a good self-image, a strong sensitivity to other people’s feelings … and understanding it matters to take care of others. We definitely want to incorporate all those things in education.”

In the interest of equitable and adequate school funding, public education advocates including the Mass. Teachers Association and the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, along with the Mass. Association of School Superintendents, the Mass. Association of School Committees and others are calling for a commission to re-examine the state’s Foundation Budget (required amount that public schools must spend on education). The budget formula, part of the state’s Chapter 70 education aid law, was passed to ensure adequate funding to meet the education needs of all students. However, the formula has not been updated in 21 years. Read this fact sheet about a bill to establish such a commission.

The Opportunity to Learn Campaign offers a tool kit and illustration of zero tolerance versus restorative justice.

The goal of diverse and inclusive public schools seems to have fallen off the agenda of our political leaders and policymakers. In this report, the author recommends that “policymakers address race-conscious policies, practices and conditions that perpetuate segregation and inequality while simultaneously tapping into the changing racial attitudes of Americans by supporting racially diverse schools.”

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For and About Teachers

Watch this video from Educators for a Democratic Union and listen to these teachers describe the way testing is getting in the way of teaching students the best way they know how.

Inspiration from Seattle teachers in this article about their successful test boycott and plans for more action.

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Upcoming Events of Interest

Charters, Publics, Pilots & Everything In Between

How are the Differences in Schools Affecting Equity in Boston? Monday, March 31 from 5-7 PM at Spontaneous Celebrations, 45 Danforth St in Jamaica Plain.

Citizens for Public Schools, Inc. | 18 Tremont St., Suite 320 | Boston | MA | 02108

Bruce Baker, Mark Weber, and Joseph Oluwole completed another study of Cami Anderson’s “One Newark,” which will hand over about one-third of Newark’s public schools to private charter operators. This will result in the layoff of hundreds of teachers. Because the lowest performing schools are largely racially segregated, and because most of their teachers are black, the authors predict that “One Newark” will lead to a disparate impact on black teachers. The outcome: a significant whitening of the teacher force in Newark.

They write:

“This brief adds a new consideration to the shift from traditional public schools to charters: if the CMOs maintain their current teaching corps’ profile in an expansion, Newark’s teachers are likely to become more white and less experienced overall. Given the importance of teacher experience, particular in the first few years of work, Newark’s students would likely face a decline in teacher quality as more students enroll in charters.

“The potential change in the racial composition of the Newark teaching corps under One Newark – to a staff that has a smaller proportion of teachers of color – would occur within a historical context of established patterns of discrimination against black teachers. “Choice” plans in education have previously been found to disproportionately impact the employment of black teachers; One Newark continues in this tradition. NPS may be vulnerable to a disparate impact legal challenge on the grounds that black teachers will disproportionately face employment consequences under a plan that arbitrarily targets their schools.”

In one of what is likely to be a tidal wave of lawsuits, the Tennessee Education Association sued the state because a teacher was denied a bonus based on the state’s flawed evaluation system.

“The Tennessee Education Association (TEA) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Knox County teacher who was denied a bonus under that school system’s pay plan after Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) data for 10 of her students was unknowingly attributed to her.

“TVAAS is Tennessee’s system of measuring student growth over time. It generates data based on student test scores on TCAP and end of course tests.

“In this specific case, the teacher, Lisa Trout, was assigned TVAAS data for 10 students after being told her evaluation would be based on system-wide TVAAS data because she taught at an alternative school.

“The TEA lawsuit cites two different memos which indicated that Ms. Trout could expect an evaluation (and bonus eligibility) to be based on system-wide data. At the conclusion of the school year, Ms. Trout was informed that her overall evaluation score, including observations and TVAAS data was a 4, making her eligible for a bonus under the Knox County pay plan.”

The system, the suit alleges, is arbitrary:

“The TEA goes on to contend that Ms. Trout and similarly situated teachers for whom there is little or no specific TVAAS data are held to an arbitrary standard in violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“Specifically, the suit notes: ” … the majority of teachers in the Knox County Schools … have had their eligibility for additional compensation (under the APEX bonus system) determined on the basis of the test scores of students they do not teach and/or the test scores of their students in subjects unrelated to the subjects they teach.”

“The suit alleges that such a system violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because some teachers are evaluated and receive bonuses based on the scores of their own students while other teachers are held accountable for students they do not teach and over which they have no influence or control.

“In short, the entire system is flawed and should be discarded.”

This is a video of my speech at the Emerging Issues Forum in Raleigh, North Carolina, on February 11, 2014.

This was an important challenge because I strongly believe that the state is on the wrong path. Its governor and legislature are far to the right of the Tea Party. They are a government that doesn’t like public education or teachers. They seem to want to drive teachers away. They don’t want good public schools. They want charters–where only half the teachers are certified. And they passed voucher legislation, for schools with no accountability.

I was fortunate in the day’s agenda, because my keynote followed directly after a very interesting panel of teachers who quit teaching because the salaries were so low that they could not afford to teach. Yet all of them loved teaching. North Carolina, once a bastion of forward-looking education, now ranks 46th in the nation in teacher pay. John Merrow moderated the panel and brought out the best in this wonderful group of teachers, whose departure was a loss to the state.

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