Archives for category: Teachers

Fred Klonsky reports on emails sent from Governor Bruce Rauner, when he was a private citizen, to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel fought in court to keep the emails under lock and key, but was eventually forced to release them by court order.

Citizen Rauner expressed his unedited views of educators in Chicago:

Gov. Bruce Rauner once told some of Chicago’s wealthiest and most influential civic leaders that half of the Chicago Public Schools teachers “are virtually illiterate” and half of the city’s principals are “incompetent,” according to emails Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration released Thursday under a court order.

Rauner made the assertion five years ago when he was a wealthy private equity executive and an active participant in Chicago school reform. His emails were part of a discussion with affluent education reform activists connected to the Chicago Public Education Fund, including Penny Pritzker, now U.S. commerce secretary; billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin; Chicago investment executive Mellody Hobson; and Helen Zell, the wife of billionaire real estate magnate Sam Zell.

“Teacher evaluation is critically important, but in a massive bureaucracy with a hostile union, where 50% of principals are managerially incompetent and half of teachers are virtually illiterate, a complete multi-dimensional evaluation system with huge subjectivity in it will be attacked, manipulated and marginalized – the status quo will prevail,” Rauner wrote in a December 2011 email arguing for a strong system of teacher and principal evaluations in the district. “It’s much more critical that we develop a consistent, rigorous, objective, understandable measure and reporting system for student growth upon which all further evaluation of performance will depend.”

We know that Governor Rauner loves charter schools, especially those that do not have unions, where the teachers are young college graduates with little or no experience.

Now we have a clue about why he has been unwilling to fund Chicago public schools.

Arthur Goldstein, veteran high school teacher in New York City, reacts here to Donald Trump Jr.’s comments about public schools and teachers.

Who should we blame for the crumbling conditions in Detroit’s schools? Teachers? Or the people in charge of the state of Michigan?

He checks the claims in Jr.’s speech and concludes:

What planet is this kid living on? I live in New York, supposedly a bastion of liberalism, we have a Democrat Governor who pushed an evaluation system specifically designed to fire more teachers. When that system didn’t work as designed, he called it “baloney,” and proceeded to push a new system, which hopefully will fire even more teachers. That’s what Democrat Andrew Cuomo considers a victory.

Every teacher I know is acutely aware of this. That’s why we’re all so fidgety. We don’t mind doing our jobs. Let me tell you something–this guy is stereotyping teachers just like Daddy stereotypes Muslims. In fact it’s not teachers who are stalling the progress of the middle class. This started with Saint Ronald Reagan, and now Republicans are all about cutting taxes for the wealthy.

Who picks up the slack? We do. We teachers pay what people like Trump and Baby Trump used to pay. Our children pay what they used to. If Baby Trump gave a golly gosh darn about folks like us he’d have been out on the streets working for Bernie Sanders instead of driving his Lamborghini to gala luncheons.

It’s absurd and obscene that we who devote our lives to helping children are vilified by the same people who make it impossible to fund their schools. It’s even worse that their remedy for public schools is making it easier for zillionaires to profit from them.

A 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles public school district, who is also NBCT, explains the Rafe Esquith situation here. The writer has the nom de plume of Geronimo. I know who he is; I have met him. But I am not telling.


ON RAFE ESQUITH’S SUIT AGAINST LAUSD

Education has been on trial for a long time in Los Angeles.

We have seen it in many forms, most notably in how business interests in education trump pedagogical interests on many fronts…corporate technology, standardized testing, Charter Schools and billionaire influence on public policy.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is misnamed. It is not a “unified” entity. It can be divided in two using hoary Edu-Marxism (apologies, but I beg your indulgence!). There is the 1% at the top of the District apparatus (or apparatchiks) who control and set policy and then there are the actual educators who are supposed to be the reason for the season–but have been demonized by the structure that ostensibly is supposed to support their efforts.

On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge Wednesday denied LAUSD request to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought by the internationally renowned fifth-grade teacher Rafe Esquith, whom they fired last October.

A veteran of the district for over 30 years, Esquith filed the defamation lawsuit against the district in August after he was placed on paid leave and assigned to “teacher jail” pending an internal investigation after a fellow teacher complained that Esquith made a joke about nudity in front of his students in regards to the production of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” the students were performing.

Huck Finn began the entire sorry process that led to Esquith’s dismissal and the current class action suit against LAUSD; it is a top level farce that Twain would have ridiculed in his day but would not have been the least surprised about.

It is most helpful to think about the people who actually run LAUSD as proprietors of a brand that should be called LAUSD, Inc.

LAUSD, Inc. is not interested in good teaching. It is not interested in good pedagogy. It is not interested in what inspires students to want to learn.

LAUSD, Inc. is interested only in LAUSD, Inc. itself.

LAUSD Inc’s greatest concern is for its brand. The apparatus set up in LAUSD headquarters functions only to propagate a self-serving system. In Ken Kesey’s famous “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, Chief, the deaf-mute Indian narrator, calls this system “The Combine.” Not that many of the people who run LAUSD have actually read that novel, but their day-to-day priorities are very different from what Education SHOULD and COULD be; it is much more mundane–the business of Education is the Business of education.

Alas, I also can not say with any confidence that many of the District’s top brass have actually read America’s most famous novel, Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”–the literature that got him into trouble in the first place. They would insist that it wasn’t part of their job description and irrelevant to their duties.

Without going down the rabbit hole of all the anti-education, anti-teacher, anti-student policies that LAUSD, Inc. has championed over the years, let us examine this one emblematic case that sort of sums up all that is wrong with how education is viewed by the LAUSD Corporation.

Rafe Esquith’s case should give people who are interested AND vested in true, meaningful education great pause.

Depressing as this telling fact is, I will not go into how completely unsurprising that not any single District Big Shot ever could make it down to Hobart Elementary School to watch Esquith’s magic in action. The author of many acclaimed bestselling books on teaching and an instructor responsible for changing hundred of young lives, his Room 56 had international guests and world class educators parade through marveling at his unconventional teaching methods–but nobody of any authority–not an LAUSD Superintendent nor even one solitary School Board member could be bothered to visit.

They were not interested in anything Hobart Shakespearean related.

Beaudry HQ gave it a big yawn.

The reality for LAUSD, Inc is, they couldn’t really care less what happens in a classroom–just don’t cause it any grief.

The LAUSD, Inc. brain trust in Beaudry is not made up of a bunch of smartypants.

This is not a group known for its inspired, intellectual curiosity.

This group who runs LAUSD, Inc. adhere to the same dynamic, corporate thinking that you would find populating the board rooms of Mobil Oil or Ralston-Purina.

Education–how you and I might think of it–does not disturb their machinations.

So much about Esquith’s case is troubling and indicative of a school district that has zero concern for the intellectual well-being of the students. If it did, LAUSD, Inc. would be championing a pedagogy VERY DIFFERENT from the one that they foist on LAUSD’s children. The leaderships view of what good education is in Rafe Esquith’s individual case is a personal tragedy for him; the leadership’s view of what “good education” is for the 600,000 students in their charge is a tragedy of grand proportions.

The investigators asked Esquith who he dated in college and who at the school disliked him. They asked for all his financial records since 2000. The “incriminating” evidence they used as the backbone from their case, the district searched his personal emails to obtain. According to the LA TIMES article http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-edu-rafe-esquith-lawsuit-20160713-snap-story.html, Esquith’s attorney, Ben Meiselas claimed that the emails were taken out of context. Elsa Cruz, one of Esquith’s former student whose email had been singled has denied that he ever sent her anything inappropriate as alleged in LAUSD’s charges. “The communications described in the statement of charges between Mr. Esquith and myself are small pieces of much larger conversations that are taken wholly out of context.” She claims that the district.”cherry-picked points “to depict our conversations as having an inappropriate or sexual nature that is completely inaccurate.”

This is the modus operendi of LAUSD. A little history lesson is in order before going back to Esquith:

In the dark days of Supt. John Deasy, the entire elected School Board was mum on his pedagogy and methodology. The Board gave him tacit cover to do whatever he wanted. It is not an exaggeration to say that Deasy went after teachers with a Dick Cheney zeal using David Holmquist, the District’s General Counsel, as his John Yoo to give him the legal cover.

This is a school system that offers cover to those at the very top. David Holmquist, whose base salary is $260,552, has fought vigorously to protect the District from any bad publicity and loyally served John Deasy’s call to purge hundreds–maybe thousands–of teachers from the ranks and vigorously prosecuted LAUSD’s Teacher Jail program. A different set of priorities and standards were devised by Holmquist for the those who screwed up and abused their positions if they were in District power offices.

Some in Los Angeles Unified were definitely more equal than others.

“I will never apologize for putting students’ interests ahead of teachers,” was Deasy’s righteous mantra during his tenure where this man arrogantly placed business and corporate interests ahead of both students and teachers time and time again. His moral courage was how much he could bully teachers such as Patrena Shankling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlIuF1em_Y0 and never to any person of power above him who was politically connected with money and influence.

If you are not sickened by what happened in Shankling’s classroom and believe that John Deasy should ever be allowed to be near educators OR children again, then you and I have very different standards of classroom behavior and decorum.

Like all of his patrons, Deasy was a man who never apologized and took great pride in his use of executive and autonomous power and privilege. This was encouraged by many of the management team whom he worked with at District Headquarters and rewarded.

Deasy enjoyed and served a life of patronage from powerful men who paid for his entire, hopscotch career through the moneyed power corridors of education. Even when he left LAUSD in abject disgrace where the toady LA TIMES editorial board could only manage to bluster about the tragedy of his downfall, he could count on the largess of the corporate benefactors who puffed up his churlish bravado. Currently, Deasy remains obscenely well-paid in the Fortress of Solitude of Eli Broad’s empire, an opulent private world where he answers to no one except the rich and powerful, re-emerging only as a paper phantom, issuing friend of the court briefs to Vergara and offering his insights to Edu Reform Managers-to-be.

One day there will be a full accounting for what happened to all those teachers and their “rights” and “due process” that LAUSD assured the public they received.

Sadly, if Rafe Esquith’s and the other hundreds of teachers in similar situations were just the work of John Deasy and David Holmquist, that would be bad enough.

The current LAUSD President Steve Zimmer, with chest thumping vigor, thundered in a campaign speech that he has proudly voted to fire EVERY SINGLE teacher who came before him for justice. Zimmer put on his most concerned, self-righteous face channeling some Texas Governor on steroids, stating that in his eyes, those hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of teachers were guilty and should not be teaching in his system.

There was zero doubt in his blankly, incurious mind.

Were the students of LA protected from a thousand dreadful teachers?

No.

LAUSD, Inc was protected.

LAUSD claims Esquith’s emails weren’t hacked, so one supposes they got them off his school computer when they sealed his classroom and his personal account was open on it. Under the pretense of an investigation, LAUSD went through thousands upon thousands of personal emails to find evidence against him. It is a chilling abuse of employee privilege that claims that right. Obviously if they were a law enforcement agency, they couldn’t do that, but LAUSD doesn’t believe it is bound by the same rules of engagement.

It begs the question if any employee is safe from their employer going through every personal detail of their lives to render judgment on that individual.

Could anybody withstand someone going through twenty years worth of emails to figure their moral worth? Would something invariably crop up?

The emails of John Deasy and David Holmquist are scrupulously under lock and key.

Reading the entire 32 page document of LAUSD’s “case” against Esquith–and please do!– http://laschoolreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Responsive-Documents-Esquith-SOC_redacted-final.pdf it clearly shows that they threw in EVERYTHING they had into their “findings”.

EVERYTHING.

They didn’t leave anything out. What is also indicative of LAUSD’s mindset is the fact they STILL used the initial Huck Finn joke as part of their indictment against Esquith despite the ludicrous nature of that comment.

This is not the work of intelligent scholars in an academic institution.

This is the work of lawyers who want to get rid of an employee that has proven troublesome to the corporation.

David Holmquist is planning to appeal this latest ruling hoping to stem Esquith’s suit. Hopefully he will fail and the dark files will be open on what LAUSD, Inc has perpetrated over the years. The East German Stassi nature of those cases highlight the brute force and cruelty that LAUSD, Inc. perpetrated on so many teachers who thought they were working for an organization called Los Angeles “Unified” because it worked for the betterment of all–not just those on the corporate end.

I have no special insight to Esquith’s particular case, although the fairness and justice LAUSD, Inc. administers to its employees is eerily similar to the justice cops administer to poor neighborhoods compared to the inhabitants of rich ones.

You may be predisposed to place your faith in the justice and righteousness of LAUSD Inc.’s wisdom and sense of proper pedagogy.

So much of the intellectual evidence is contrary to granting that good will, however. In the cases of many teachers in the system, Deasy, Holmquist and the School Board have a finger on the scale that instinctively forces teachers to prove themselves worthy of their bankrupt leadership.

I’m as anxious as you are to see this Shakespearean play’s ending. Misuse of power, according to Shakespeare, never ends well.

I don’t usually get involved in contests, but this is a special one. It is an essay contest, open to public elementary school teachers. The big prize is an all-expense paid trip to NYC for you and a friend.

The sponsor is the LilySarahGrace Foundation. The foundation was created by their father Matthew Badger. Lily, Sarah, and Grace were sisters who were tragically killed in a Christmas day fire in 2011. Their father wanted to honor their memory by encouraging the arts in schools, because his daughters were inspired to learn through their love of the arts.

At the time of the fire, I was horrified by the terrible event. Having lost a child, I grieve when any parent suffers this pain. But three children! Unbearable.

This past spring, I met Matthew and saw how he was turning this tragedy into passion to help children across the country, and I wanted to help.

To see the details, click here

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NPR reported on a new, smart wave of activism in Oklahoma: 40 teachers are running for office this year. They are running because they want to increase funding for the public schools. Most are Democrats, but some are Republicans and Independents. One of the candidates is Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year for 2016.

This is great news! The best way to change the legislature is to run for a seat at the table.

Getting elected to the State Senate or Assembly (or whatever it is called in your state) is far more powerful than posting a petition on change.org or holding a rally to get the attention of the legislators.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, and change the face of the legislature.

Go, Oklahoma teachers!

Kate Taylor in the New York Times describes education legislation that was rushed through in the closing days of the legislative session in Albany. Quietly slipped in was a provision allowing charter schools to switch to a different authorizer that would be enable them to evade state regulations about certified teachers. The primary beneficiary is Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain, which is expanding rapidly and can’t find enough certified teachers, in part because of the expansion but also because of high teacher turnover in the chain.

In the fraught final hours of the legislative session on Friday, the Republicans in the State Senate agreed to give Mayor Bill de Blasio control of the New York City schools for one more year, but in return they demanded two provisions related to charter schools.

One made it easier for the schools to switch between charter-granting organizations. The second gave the charter schools committee of the State University of New York’s board of trustees — one of the two entities that can currently grant charters — the power “to promulgate regulations with respect to governance, structure and operations” of the schools it oversees.

The broadness of the language at first left something of a mystery as to what the provision was intended to accomplish and who might have wanted it.

A few days later, the mystery cleared up a bit.

Families for Excellent Schools, a charter school advocacy group that is closely tied to Eva S. Moskowitz, the founder of the Success Academy charter school network, sent an email to the leaders of several charter networks on Tuesday calling the provisions “a massive victory.” In particular, it said in the email, the SUNY-related bit of legislation meant that SUNY would be able to waive current requirements that limit the number of uncertified teachers that charter schools can employ.

In fact, the Senate had pushed for a provision that would have done that directly, by giving teachers at charter schools three years to become certified, but the Assembly, which is controlled by the Democrats, rejected it. After that explicit provision on teacher certification was taken out, the broader language appeared.

The three-year allowance had been a top priority for Ms. Moskowitz, who faces difficulty hiring enough teachers as she rapidly expands the number of Success Academy schools. Currently, under the state’s charter school law, a charter school cannot have more than 15 uncertified teachers. Success hires mostly young teachers. Many of them are uncertified when they begin and attend a master’s program managed by Success while they are teaching.

Apparently SA likes to take uncertified teachers and mold them, rather than certified teachers who may have their own ideas.

Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Success Academy, expressed support for the idea of giving charters flexibility on the certification rules. “To continue to deliver the strongest academic results for children, as well as exceptional chess, debate and art programs, schools must hire the most highly qualified teachers available and give them extensive training and support,” he said in a statement.

Success Academy claims it is creating a national model for inner-city education. No excuses and uncertified teachers.

Eduardo Andere is an independent researcher and writer, who lives in Mexico but is currently a visiting scholar at New York University. I contacted him and asked him to shed light on what is happening in Mexico, where several protesting teachers have been killed by police. As you will see below, it is complicated.

Eduardo Andere writes:

We should be talking about teaching and learning, school improvement, teacher’s training and professionalization; instead, we are talking about street demonstrations and deaths in Oaxaca.

Nothing justifies the death of people in confrontations over politics and policies. And when teachers, schools and education policies are involved, the feeling of bitterness and frustration is even worse. Mexico has again gained international attention because of a tragic clash between demonstrators and the police last Sunday in Oaxaca. In order to understand what it is going on I have to talk a little bit about education in Mexico.

Different from the U.S. and other large countries, education in Mexico is very centralized in almost all matters. The federal government is empowered by the National Constitution (Articles 3 and 73, mainly) to implement national education, evaluation and education civic service laws. At the national government cabinet level there is an Education Department we call Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP) that is in charge of almost all important education matters including the government-labor relations with teachers, the national curriculum, textbooks, and teacher training and professionalization.

SEP is the employer of most teachers in Mexico. The labor relationship between the government and teachers is handled by a duopoly: SEP and the National Union of Workers of Education or Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE). By historical reasons, Unions in Mexico were co-opted by non-democratic governments to advance their political interests. In the past, non-democratic national legislatures, always under the simulation of democracy, passed laws to protect the union leaders and their unions. Many of those legal shields or protections are still in force. Overtime, some union leaders became very powerful and allegedly very corrupt, sometimes as powerful of more powerful that cabinet ministers. However, this powerful leaders were “institutionalized” by the system and played by the rules of the game in a dance of political favors between high political figures such as governors and even presidents of Mexico. This has been the case of the leaders of the large unions such as the teachers union, the oil-related workers’ union and electricity-related workers’ union. Perhaps the most powerful of all of them, the leader of the SNTE, was some times dubbed as the “Mexican vice-president”.

The SNTE is formed by many sections or secciones and some of those secciones have opposed to the national union leadership. The most powerful opposition force is called the CNTE, Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (National Coordination of Workers of Education). The CNTE (o La Coordinadora) isn’t empowered by the law to handle labor negotiations with the employer, i.e., SEP, because the legal right to enter into contractual negotiations with the government is, by law, only granted to SNTE. This has made the CNTE a more vociferous and combatant labor organization. On the other hand, the SNTE has very seldom taken their quarrels to the streets, they threaten, but they have always managed to settle whatever the issue with the government.

By sheer numbers Mexico’s education system is immense, in some areas even larger than the U.S. The total number of students in Mexico from pre-school to university is 36.4 million (total population in Mexico is 121 million), educated by 2 million teachers in almost 262 thousand schools (of which 7,211 are universities and colleges). It means that SEP is in charge, directly, of more that 254 thousand schools from pre-K to 12, and is the employer of around 1.2 million teachers. The system is extremely large for a centralized authority.

The source of the conflict. Right after President Peña took office on December 1st, 2012, he sent to Congress a proposal to amend the National Constitution to set off an education reform. The national congress and the majority of the state legislatures hastily approved the amendment. In tandem, the then leader of SNTE, Elba Esther Gordillo, was incarcerated and at the time of this writing (June 23, 2016) is still in jail. The Education Amendment triggered new laws, provisions and policies that were approved and enacted in 2013. The package has been dubbed since then “The Education Reform” or “La Reforma Educative.”

At the heart of the Education Reform was the intention to disentangle old and opaque—sometimes very opaque—ways to hire and promote teachers. For decades teachers were hired and promoted with written and unwritten arrangements between the SNTE and the federal and local governments. It was part of the political reciprocal favors leaders in government (many of them politicians) and SNTE granted each other, for their own sake. Over the years, teachers learned and earned the right to sell or inherit their own “plazas” (teaching tenures.) This became almost a culture. There were some efforts, but limited to some states only, to change this “opaque” system for a new open and merit-based system. It was “ok” since many people benefited from it. Teachers were only accountable to leaders, SNTE and governmental (political-driven). One of the intentions of the Education Reform was to change that.

However, the Education Reform tried to change a long-standing wrong but “culturally” accepted employment system by a new, more transparent but totally different system based primarily on standardized tests. The only way teachers and other educators could be hired, promoted or even keep their jobs, was through a system of rigorous standardized tests. This new teacher evaluation policy tops a decade-long effort to assess students, teachers and schools, based on universal and standardized tests. As of 2002 Mexico subscribed to the international frantic wave of testing and assessment that gave rise to changes in policies in many countries, such as the U.S. (No Child Left Behind), the U.K., Australia and Japan, for instance. Mexico entered, swiftly and harshly, into the era of education assessment.

Most of the teachers in Mexico have accepted, in part or in general, the new system of assessment, but some states where CNTE has a stronghold have bitterly opposed. By the way, these states happen to be the poorest in Mexico and in many instances with the lowest education performance in the national (ENLACE and PLANEA) and international (PISA) tests, but also in matriculation rates and real or authentic opportunities to learn. One of the main arguments from teachers who oppose the Education Reform is based on conditions of extreme poverty and therefore context. They say they were never listened, so they took their quarrels to the streets, blocking highways or leaving schools, therefore, closing schools for days, weeks or months. Governments, national and local, have replied with a mixture of measures: sometimes tolerance, sometimes propaganda, and sometimes police force to open highways or incarcerating aggressive demonstrators or leaders.

The two sides seem to be struck by a stalemate: the national government, SEP, says that the Education Reform is not negotiable at all, and the opposing teachers who do not want to be evaluated by the new system of assessment, want the system to change for them. Sometimes it seems pride, but at the heart of the issue, it is high politics (paraphrasing Kissinger): a sheer change in the allocation of decision-making power.

As it is written, it seems that the issue is very simple: Negotiate. But the national government has been adamant, and so are the CNTE leaders who ironically but politically gained steam by the tragic event last Sunday in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca, where eight people died and many other were wounded as the result of a violent clash between demonstrators and the police force.

As of yesterday, June 22nd, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Secretaría de Gobernación) has set up a table for negotiations with CNTE. On the other hand, SEP has insisted that the Education Reform is not for negotiation. The leaders of the business community and the owners of some newspapers and TV networks support the Education Reform; some op-ed columnists have also backed the change in the rules of the game. The CNTE is backed by teachers mainly from the poorest states, some academics and intellectuals, and left-driven political parties and extremist groups. Negotiation and more demonstrations are taking place in tandem. The coin is in the air, but at least there is a table where they are voicing their views. In the meantime, precious time is lost to enter into authentic teaching and learning policies and practices in schools. Once again, all is politics. Pedagogy follows politics.

A reader of the blog posted the following comment. She asks the question: What can a standardized test tell the teacher that the teacher doesn’t know already? The answer: nothing. To be precise, “absolutely nothing.”

 

 

She writes:

 

 

One of the most demoralizing moments of my teaching career was being forced to do ACT prep with my secondary ESL students. We would read the questions together, trying to figure out some way of breaking it down into something manageable, and then the students would furrow their brows or just check out completely, and we would all end up frustrated. And I would think, “I’ve spent the last 7 months building a safe classroom community in which students can grow and learn and express their ideas… and then I betray all of that with this absurdity?”

 

Another demoralizing moment was having to administer the ACCESS test to ELLs. We had to test every single student in the bilingual program even if they weren’t actually taking bilingual or ESL classes anymore. In addition to losing class time, the bilingual department teachers gave up every prep period and lunch period for about 5 weeks to test students individually on oral proficiency. You want to know about the life cycle of the boll weevil? I could tell you. That was on the test two years in a row. One girl had literally arrived to the U.S. the weekend before and enrolled the day before the testing began, and she had to take it. She opened the booklet, flipped through the entire thing not able to answer any of the questions and looked up at me in complete bewilderment. Luckily, I speak her native language and give her some reassurance, but I felt like a failure as a teacher and an abomination of a human being.

 

Those experiences affected me deeply, and I wish that I had had more knowledge then. I was young and new as a teacher, and frankly, I was overwhelmed. Now, I do my best to read up on what’s going on in education (thank you, Diane, for making that task infinitely easier!), and my mantra nowadays is “opt out.” There is nothing – absolutely nothing – that those tests could tell anyone that I, as the students’ teacher, couldn’t tell them first.

The BadAss Teachers Association is calling for a White House Conference on Education and Equity. Please support their efforts by signing your name.

To learn more about the BAT proposal, read here.

I received this comment from a teacher in Manatee County:

Diane – I wanted to give you an update on yesterday’s story and some context about what teachers have been doing. The Florida Department of Education’s attorney has clarified that the portfolio option is available and must be allowed based on state statute. I suspect that the districts involved were encouraged to take the hardline position, particularly based on parts of an email from a DOE official (that the Manatee Superintendent released) which did imply that a test was required or the student would have to go to summer reading camp to build a portfolio. Now the DOE has “clarified” their position, stating that a district may not exclude any of the good cause exemptions (specified in statute) in their local policy.

The FEA Delegate Assembly recently passed a New Business Item advocating for a parent’s right to Opt Out, and the union has used that in lobbying efforts. At our latest Governance Board Meeting, President McCall hosted a panel discussion on Opt Out which included one of our attorneys, Cindy Hamilton from Opt Out Florida (https://www.facebook.com/TheOptOutFloridaNetwork/posts/1075887432465602) and Luke Flynt, our Secretary-Treasurer talking about the Opt-out movement and how complicated it is to be a teacher in this political environment. The FEA website has a statement about opt out with both warnings and information including links to the Opt-out groups. (https://feaweb.org/

The union has been consistent in warning teachers not to encourage opting out for the students and parents inside their classrooms because of state law, but we have also shared the complete statutes including all of the good cause exemptions to the required passing score on FSA. We have suggested that, as parents and citizens, teachers do not lose their first amendment rights, but they should be very careful about how and when they choose to exercise them. There is real concern that the department could go after teachers’ certificates if they advocate for opting out on school time or while acting in their employment capacity.

We have also had union leaders sharing the information provided by opt-out groups in their area, but they have also provided warnings about potential consequences particularly for 3rd grade students and for meeting graduation and scholarship requirements. The commissioner has stated several times that the state assessments are required by law, and that opting out is not allowed. She has also stated that parents who do not want to take assessments should find another place to educate their children.

Clearly, the great puzzle is why the Florida legislature is all for parent choice when it comes to “choosing” a school, but opposed to parent choice when it comes to complying with an order to take tests.

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