Archives for category: Teachers

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley writes on her blog VAMboozled that Néw York teacher Sheri Lederman rejected a settlement offer from the state.

Lederman, a veteran teacher on Long Island, is suing the state to challenge the validity of VAM. Although she has long been recognized as a superstar teacher, she got a low rating. Her husband Bruce is a lawyer, who is litigating on her behalf.

The state offered to raise her rating if she would abandon the lawsuit. The state said that the teacher evaluation process will be changed, in some fashion, but the Ledermans rejected the offer because there is no certainty that VAM will disappear.

Amrein-Beardsley explains the situation and adds useful links.



CTU to March and Rally Today for a Fair Contract, City and Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve



CHICAGO—Two days after Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Forrest Claypool declared war on public school educators by threatening $100 million in classroom cuts—roughly 1,000 layoffs—and the removal of teachers’ long-standing pension pick-up, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) will continue a series of non-violent direct actions with a mass march and rally from Bank of America (BOA) to City Hall today at 4:30 p.m.



Yesterday, the CTU withdrew nearly $1 million from its BOA account in protest of that bank and other financial institutions that sold CPS toxic interest rate swaps and are demanding a payout of at least $228 million—almost the exact same amount as cuts enacted by the Chicago Board of Education to schools and special education. In total, the City of Chicago and CPS will lose $1.2 billion on these toxic swaps, despite the CTU asking the Board for years to be a partner in challenging these rip-off deals.



Rank-and-file CTU members, CTU officers, parents, students and community organizations, public education supporters and others

March and rally for a fair contract from Bank of America to City Hall

Thursday, February 4, 2016
4:30 p.m.

Bank of America
135 S. LaSalle St.


City Hall
121 N. LaSalle St.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has had every opportunity to pursue revenue from his wealthy friends and backers. Instead, he has targeted educators and students to pay for the Board’s mismanagement. Today, Chicago’s educators and public school supporters take to the streets to continue their fight for the city and the schools Chicago’s students deserve.

The fabulously wealthy DeVos family of Michigan bankrolls vouchers and hates unions. Now they are promoting legislation to punish the teachers of Detroit for their sickout action, which brought national attention to the abysmal physical conditions in the Detroit schools.

This message was distributed by the Michigan Education Association:

“Member Call to Action

“Urgent MEA member activism is needed to stop a package of anti-strike bills that passed the Senate Education Committee today — in even more extreme versions than originally proposed.

“Members are urged to call their state senators and representatives to fight back against this latest attack on school employees and their unions.
The bills were introduced to stifle the voices of Detroit teachers participating in alleged “sick-outs” to call attention to unsafe, unhealthy, and unacceptable conditions in Detroit Public Schools. The provisions would affect school employees statewide.

“Among the more far-reaching provisions in the substitute versions of Senate Bills 713, 714, and 715:

+ Teachers involved in alleged “strike activities” would face fines and loss of their certification.

+ To be considered a strike action, only one school employee must be found to be engaging in the activity.

+ Once a strike is declared, the school’s bargaining unit would be dissolved and prohibited from representing the unit for five years, whether or not it agreed to the strike and regardless of whether the school employee(s) involved in the action belong to the unit.

+ School districts that fail to enforce strike-related sanctions against employees would face a fine of 5 percent of their total state school aid.

“The bills’ sponsor, Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) tried to say in a press conference after the committee vote that the bills have nothing to do with the situation in Detroit. However, it’s clear this is an attempt to muzzle educators and their representatives at the bargaining table.

“The full Senate may vote on the measures this week, so urgent action is needed. Contact your legislators today!”






Mike Klonsky reports that Forrest Claypool, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, reacted to the Chicago Teachers Union’s rejection of his contract offer with a threat of layoffs and cuts.



“A letter sent by Forrest Claypool to the union Tuesday said that within 30 days, CPS would stop paying the teachers’ share of pension contributions (as if they’d been paying them up until now), order school administrators to cut $50 million by laying off 1,000 teachers and “re-shuffle” $50 million that goes toward general education funding to schools. That re-shuffling of Title I and II funds will hit hardest at kids with special needs and English-language learners.


“Claypool says he will drop the threats if the union would only agree to his contract offer which CTU’s bargaining team unanimously rejected. I believe that’s called blackmail. Or maybe — hostage taking.”



When you are locked in a tough battle, be pro-active. New York opt out advocates are encouraging allies to apply for two open positions on the Board of Regents. One of the co-founders of New York State Allies for Oublic education, Jessica McNair, parent and teacher is applying. The lesson here is: get involved. Run for office. Help good candidates win. If there are no good candidates, become a candidate.


This article is behind a paywall.


I am excerpting it here:


ALBANY — The parent-led coalition that last spring spurred one of the largest test refusal rates in the nation is pushing to have a voice on the state Board of Regents, as one of the opt-out leaders and several opt-out supporters have applied for a position on the education policymaking board.

“The people in the opt-out movement, or who have opted their kids out … are people that believe in a transparent research-based process,” said Lisa Rudley, co-founder of New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of more than 50 groups statewide.
Two seats on the 17-member board will be open after chancellor Merryl Tisch, a member at-large, and vice chancellor Tony Bottar, who represents the 5th Judicial District, which includes the Mohawk Valley, said they will not run for re-election. Their departures will significantly change the dynamic of the board as it continues to be impacted by the controversy over the Common Core learning standards.

The opt-out groups have announced their endorsement of regent Betty Rosa, who represents the Bronx, as chancellor and Beverly Ouderkirk, who represents the North Country, as vice chancellor.

But the parent-led movement is looking to take it a step further by getting opt-out supporters on the board itself.

One of the most notable applicants for Bottar’s seat is Jessica McNair, 36, a New Hartford teacher, parent and co-founder of Opt Out CNY, a NYSAPE coalition member that represents nearly 4,200 parents in Central New York. Opt Out CNY this fall called for Bottar’s resignation, saying he “ignored” their concerns.

McNair told POLITICO New York that with her experience as a teacher still in a classroom setting, as well as having a first- and third-grader attending public school she has a “good read on the pulse of what’s happening.”

“Typically teachers don’t apply because the demands of serving on the Board of Regents and working in a classroom can be pretty great, however, I really feel that an educator’s voice is what’s needed on the Board of Regents right now,” NcNair said.

McNair and NYSAPE have expressed frustration over the continued use of student test scores in teacher evaluations, over-testing, the use of standards that are not developmentally and age appropriate. They also have said they are disappointed in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Common Core task force recommendations.

The task force, charged with reviewing the Common Core, made a number of recommendations in December, including placing a moratorium on the use of state test scores on teacher and principal evaluations — a hold the Regents later put in place through the 2019-2020 school year. Local assessments will be used in their place.

“We’re not really addressing the issues at hand,” said McNair, who also served as an advisor to the task force. “I feel like I’ve been very outspoken in advocating for children and that we still haven’t gotten where we need to be. I also want to be a part of the solution in advocating for kids.”

Regents board members are selected by the Legislature during a joint session in March, a process currently controlled by the Assembly Democrats, the biggest conference. The chancellor and vice chancellor are selected by the Regents board.

The Assembly has collected approximately 50 applications to fill the two positions, which have a five-year term that begins April 1, according to Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Whyland did not at have the number of applicants broken down by seat at this time, or the names of who applied. The Legislature will next schedule interviews and in March elect members to the board.











Alabama is certainly an innovative state. Its political leaders seem to want to take the “reform” drivel about innovation to the very depths. “Reformers” have been saying that teachers don’t need added degrees; they don’t need certification; they don’t need any professional education. Of course, they were promoting TFA.


But Alabama took the claim to an extreme, according to this parent in Huntsville:



It’s even worse now. The state boe passed a resolution on jan. 14, 2016 stating that anyone with a high school diploma can be an adjunct teacher.


This is worse because the subs with a hs diploma couldnt work in a single classroom for longer than a certain amont of time (5 weeks maybe?) But now they can be assigned a class and work indefinitely, as long as it’s part time.


Next, the “reformers” will tell us that we don’t need teachers at all, that computers can teach kids just as well as live humans with an education. Oh, wait, that’s what they are doing already, and they call it “personalized learning,” just you and your computer, face to face.

Jonathan Lovell is a professor of English at San Jose State University in California. In this delightful post, he portrays his development as a writing teacher and how he learned to teach without teaching. It is beautifully illustrated (using graphics to illuminate the text). And if you read it, you will see a teacher at work, learning and growing and refining his craft. 

Nancy Flanagan is a veteran NBCT teacher in Michigan, now retired an blogging. She shared the following posts about what is happening in Detroit. Let me add that in my view the public school teachers of Detroit are heroes. Despite the vilification heaped on them by politicians and the media, despite being blamed for the poverty of the children and the state’s persistent neglect, they serve. They are first responders. I name them heroes of American education and add them to the blog’s honor roll.

Flanagan writes:
“Here’s some commentary directly from Detroit PS teachers–the situation is much more complex than crumbling buildings and overstuffed classrooms. The entire system has been taken over by an Emergency Manager:
<br />
<br />–or_evidence_of_professional_courage.html
<br />
<br />ANd here are more teacher voices–both from those who were protesting via sickout and those who went in to work:
<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />What has happened in Detroit is now a template for the rest of the nation–witness the IL governor’s call for an Emergency Manager system there.”

Paul Thomas spent many years as a high school teacher in rural South Carolina before becoming a professor at Furman University. As those of you who have followed his writings know, Thomas is a powerful social critic.


He has recently written a series of articles criticizing the mainstream media for swallowing the corporate reform line about “the crisis in our schools.” He points out that the media have been complaining about our “terrible” schools for over a hundred years and predicting that the schools will ruin our economy (which has never happened).


In his first post on this topic, he cites the article by Motoko Rich in the New York Times about a high school in South Carolina that has rising graduation rates but less-than-stellar test scores. The point of the article is that graduation rates are rising because standards are falling. The article was followed up by an editorial lamenting the crisis in our schools and calling for more testing and more of the reforms that have failed for the past 15 years.



Thomas writes:



Here, then, let me offer a few keys to moving beyond the reductive crisis-meme-as-education-journalism:


Public education has never been and is not now in crisis. “Crisis” is the wrong metaphor for entrenched patterns that have existed over a century. A jet plane crash landing into the Hudson River is a crisis; public education suffers under forces far more complicated than a crisis.

Metrics such as high-stakes test scores and graduation rates have always and currently tell us more about the conditions of children’s lives than to what degree public schools are effective.

Short-hand terms such as “college and career ready” and “grade-level reading” are little more than hokum; they are the inadequate verbal versions of the metrics noted above.

The nebulous relationship between the quality of education in the U.S. and the fragility of the U.S. economy simply has never existed. Throughout the past century, no one has ever found any direct or clear positive correlation between measures of educational quality in the U.S. and the strength of the U.S. economy.

Yes, racial and class segregation is on the rise in the U.S., and so-called majority-minority schools as well as high-poverty schools are quickly becoming the norm of public education. While demographics of race and class remain strongly correlated with the metrics we use to label schools as failing, the problem lies in the data (high-stakes tests remain race, class, and gender biased), not necessarily the students, teachers, or administrators.

However, historically and currently, public education’s great failures are two-fold: (1) public schools reflect the staggering social inequities of the U.S. culture, and (2) public schools too often perpetuate those same inequities (for example, tracking and disciplinary policies).

The mainstream media’s meat grinder of crisis-only reporting on public education achieves some extremely powerful and corrosive consequences.


First, the public remains grossly misinformed about public schools as a foundational institution in a democracy.


Next, that misleading and inaccurate crisis narrative fuels the political myopia behind remaining within the same education policy paradigm that has never addressed the real problems and never achieved the promises attached to each new policy (see from NCLB to ESSA).


And finally, this fact remains: Political and public will in the U.S. has failed public education; it has not failed us.



Paul Thomas received a few complaints on Twitter about his post and he returned with a second post, in which he notes that journalists who write about education seldom seek comments from teachers, principals, and informed education scholars. Instead, they quote think-tank spokesmen, economists, political scientists, statisticians, business leaders, and others who have little or no understanding of the reality of schooling. By bypassing those who actually have experience in education, journalists recycle the “crisis” narrative while ignoring the genuine problems in education and society (e.g., resegregation, inequitable resources, the pernicious effects of high-stakes testing) that should be changed.


Thomas writes:


My argument is that since most political leaders and political appointees governing education as well as most journalists covering education are without educational experience or expertise, these compelling but false narratives are simply recycled endlessly, digging the hole deeper and deeper….


And on the rare occasion that I am interviewed by a journalist, I can predict what will happen: the journalist is always stunned by what I offer, typically challenging evidence-based claims because they go against the compelling but false narratives.


No, there is no positive correlation between educational quality and any country’s economy.


No, teacher quality is actually dwarfed by out-of-school factors in terms of student achievement.


No, charter and private schools are not superior to public schools.


No, school choice has not worked, except to re-segregate schools.


No, merit pay does not work, and is something teachers do not want. Teachers are far more concerned about their autonomy and working conditions.


No, standards do not work—never have—and high-stakes testing is mostly a reflection of children’s lives, not their teachers or their schools.


This list could go on, but I think I have made my point.


When one of the journalists tweeted that she knows how to be a journalist, “It is my profession,” Thomas felt compelled to write yet a third post on the failures of education journalists in writing about education. Basically, he replies that if journalists expect to be respected as professionals, why don’t they treat teachers as professionals?


He writes:


To be perfectly honest, education journalism has significantly failed to extend respect to educators—for decades.

The entire accountability era is built on the premise that schools are not effective because teachers simply do not try hard enough, that education lacks the proper incentives (usually negative) to demand the hard work needed for schools to excel.

The “bad teacher” mantra that has risen during the Obama presidency, and the increase of calls for and uses of value-added methods (VAM) to evaluate teachers both further de-professionalize and demonize teachers—and the great majority of education journalism has embraced, not refuted, these.


And as I have already noted, the favorite meme of education journalism remains (for over 150 years) that education is in crisis.


How would journalists feel if “journalism is in crisis” was the primary and initial given about their field, for a century and a half? Does that honor your professionalism? Especially if you have little or no power over your field, especially if your voice is nearly muted from the discussion?….


What does it say to teachers when mainstream education journalists are quoting one think tank leader with no experience in education (and a degree in a field that is not education) more than all the quoting of classroom teachers combined?


Anthony Cody read Paul Thomas’s posts about the media and suggested that his ideas should open up a wider debate about whose voices get heard in the public debates about education.


Cody was especially disturbed that the Education Writers Association, which had awarded prizes to his work in the past, would no longer give full membership to bloggers like Anthony Cody, Paul Thomas, and Mercedes Schneider (or me, for that matter). None of them will ever be eligible for prizes for their writing and investigative work. Cody received an explanation from EWA staff saying that the work of bloggers did not meet their high standards for independent journalism. “Among many factors, we look for is the media outlet’s independence from what is covered, institutional verifications, and editorial processes.”


This is almost comical: Are education journalists subsidized and/or employed by Eli Broad, Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates, the Walton family, and Michael Bloomberg more independent than bloggers who are paid by no one at all? Should all the education journalists at the Los Angeles Times be excluded from EWA since Eli Broad and a few other billionaires are underwriting education reporting there? What assurance does the public have that they are allowed to criticize Broad, who wants to control the city’s public schools? As between bloggers like Anthony Cody or Paul Thomas and reporters who work for a publisher who loves corporate reform ideas, who do you think would be more independent?


Cody suggests that EWA would do well to revise its bylaws and open its full membership to bloggers, because many are current or former classroom teachers and could add different perspectives, different experiences, and expertise to the other members of EWA.















According to The Guardian, Detroit teachers plan a sick-out onMonday.


Detroit public schools are in horrible shape. When the state took over, the district had a surplus but now it has a huge deficit.


“Detroit’s public schools have been a problem for Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, a Republican who ushered the city into the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. Most observers agree the success of Detroit is contingent upon whether its schools can be fixed.


“Snyder has made a $715m proposal to overhaul the failing district in 2016. It has so far received little support in the Michigan legislature.


“Asked about the spate of sickouts, David Murray, a spokesman for Snyder, said: “Detroit children need to be in school. In addition to their education, it’s where many children get their best meals and better access to the social services they need. There are certainly problems that [need] to be addressed, quickly.”


“Snyder’s plan would eliminate debt in the district that is equal to $1,100 per child, Murray said. That was “money that could be better spent in the classroom, lowering class sizes, raising pay and improving benefits”.


“Tom Pedroni, an associate professor at Wayne State University, said the governor’s plan was commendable for “taking seriously the notion that Detroit public schools needs debt relief”.


“We know that with the current debt figures if the issue is not addressed soon, Detroit public schools students will be losing [nearly half of the state’s per-pupil funding total],” Pedroni said, adding: “It’s unconscionable that students lose that to debt service.”


“The problem with Snyder’s plan, Pedroni said, was that it relied on governing the school district with a board of appointees, not elected members. Since 2009, under a state-appointed emergency manager, the elected board has been effectively neutered.


“There’s currently a lot of debate over whether those appointees for the new Detroit school board [in Snyder’s proposal] would be mayoral appointees or gubernatorial appointees,” Pedroni said.


“But to me, really all of those are inexcusable because what I think we see happening in the district in Detroit is really an indictment of the sort of heavy-handed power from the executive branch without any checks or balances.”


“Pedroni said this was similar to what has taken place in the nearby city of Flint. There, a state-appointed emergency manager has been alleged to have decided to use a local river as the city’s main water source. The move has been linked to an increased level of lead in household water supply.


“When in 1999 the state first stepped in and overhauled the governance of Detroit schools, the district’s budget carried a $93m-surplus. According to an analysis by the Citizens Research Council, a Michigan-based policy research group, in the most recent fiscal year the district reported a budget deficit of nearly $216m.


“An estimated 41 cents out of every state dollar appropriated for students is spent on debt service, according to the council’s report.


“Despite being under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager since 2009, Detroit public schools, the state’s largest district, is failing academically and financially,” the report said.

“Despite a depleted school enrollment, class sizes have increased and teachers have repeatedly taken pay cuts. Only one-third of high school students are proficient in reading, according to Snyder’s office.


“Teachers say students are being judged unfairly. In an open letter to the Detroit public schools emergency manager, Darnell Earley, who blasted teachers for the sickout protests last week, fourth-grade teacher Pam Namyslowski said pupils had been “set up to fail in every way”.


“We ARE [the students’] voice,” Namyslowski wrote. “We are on the front line, working side by side with them every day, trying our best to overcome numerous obstacles.


“In the winter, we often work in freezing rooms with our coats on with them. In the summertime, we survive with them in stifling heat and humidity in temperatures that no one should have to work in. We wipe their tears and listen when they are upset.”


“Successes in the classroom typically go unnoticed, Namyslowski continued, as “most cannot be measured or displayed on a data wall”.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 166,928 other followers