Archives For January 2013

Statement from the Movement of Rank and File Educators, The Social Justice Caucus of the UFT (United Federation of Teachers)

In Solidarity with Garfield H.S. Teachers

We, the members of the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) stand in solidarity with the teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle who are refusing to administer standardized tests this semester. Risking their own livelihoods to stand up for authentic teaching and learning and against the proliferation of high-stakes standardized testing, they are fighting for teachers, educators, parents and, students nationwide. All over this country, teachers and students are frustrated, demoralized, and bored by the increasing pressure to raise standardized test scores and to equate those scores with learning. All of the “data” generated by these tests have become a stick to beat students, teachers, and unions, and have created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. We agree with the teachers of Garfield High School that these tests represent a profound waste of time and money, especially while too many of our schools are starved of basic resources. We stand in solidarity with these brave educators, and encourage parents, teachers and students nationwide to support them as well.

Movement Of Rank & File Educators (MORE)

Please “Like” The Teacher’s of Garfield H.S. Seattle Facebook page at

https://www.facebook.com/SolidarityWithGarfieldHighSchoolTestingBoycott

 

Official Press Release from Teachers of Garfield H.S.

January 10th 2013

 SEATTLE – In perhaps the first instance anywhere in the nation, teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School will announce this afternoon their refusal to administer a standardized test that students in other high schools across the district are scheduled to take in the first part of January. Known as the MAP test, it purports to evaluate student progress and skill in reading and math. The teachers contend that it wastes time, money, and precious school resources.

“Our teachers have come together and agree that the MAP test is not good for our students, nor is it an appropriate or useful tool in measuring progress,” says Kris McBride, who serves as Academic Dean and Testing Coordinator at Garfield. “Additionally, students don’t take it seriously. It produces specious results, and wreaks havoc on limited school resources during the weeks and weeks the test is administered.”

McBride explained that the MAP test, which stands for Measure of Academic Progress, is administered two to three times each year to 9th grade students as well as those receiving extra support services. The students are told the test will have no impact on their grades or class standing, and, because of this, students tend to give it little thought to the test and hurry through it. In addition, there seems to be little overlap between what teachers are expected to teach (state and district standards) and what is measured on the test.

Despite this flaw, McBride states, results of the MAP tests will be used by district officials to help evaluate the effectiveness of instructors who give the test. “Our teachers feel strongly that this type of evaluative tool is unfair based on the abundance of problems with the exam, the content, and the statistical insignificance of the students’ scores,” she says.

Refusing to administer a district-mandated test is not a decision the school’s teachers made casually, or without serious internal discussion.

“Those of us who give this test have talked about it for several years,” explained Mallory Clarke, Garfield’s Reading Specialist. “When we heard that district representatives themselves reported that the margin of error for this test is greater than an individual student’s expected score increase, we were appalled!”

After the affected faculty decided unanimously to make a stand against the MAP test, they told the rest of Garfield’s faculty of their decision. In a December 19 vote, the rest of the school’s teachers voted overwhelmingly to support their colleagues’ refusal to administer the test. Not a single teacher voted against the action. Four abstained from voting. the rest voted to support it.

“We really think our teachers are making the right decision,” said student body president Obadiah Stephens-Terry.“I know when I took the test, it didn’t seem relevant to what we were studying in class– and we have great classes here at Garfield. I know students who just go through the motions when taking the test, did it as quickly as possible so that they could do something more useful with their time.” History teacher Jesse Hagopian said, “What frustrates me about the MAP test is that the computer labs are monopolized for weeks by the MAP test, making research projects very difficult to assign.” Hagopian added “This especially hurts students who don’t have a computer at home.”

The $4 million MAP test was purchased by Seattle Public Schools during the tenure of former Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, who left her position in 2011 and sadly passed away in 2012. Goodloe-Johnson sat on the board of directors of Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), the company that markets the MAP test. At the time, some pointed out this potential conflict of interest for Goodloe-Johnson, but the district went ahead with the purchase nonetheless. NWEA itself warns that districts should not use the map test to evaluate teachers. We teachers of Garfield High School believe that the NWEA is right—this test should not be used to evaluate teachers. For secondary teachers the test cannot provide useful information about students’ skills and progress. Still worse, this test should not rob students of precious class time away from instruction. “We believe the negative aspects of the MAP test so outweigh the positive ones that we are willing to take this step,” said Language Arts teacher Adam Gish.

An incredible letter is making its rounds. It was an email written by a District Representative of the United Federation of Teachers to the Chapter Leaders in his district. Here is the email in full, as posted on the ICE-UFT blog:

Subject: My Apologies

To:
Date: Friday, January 4, 2013, 8:09 PM

I must apologize for today. Not for my behavior, but for not being able to present to you important information in the way that I had planned to.


My monthly Chapter Leader meetings are for me to give you important information, to teach you about different aspects of what we do as union representatives on a daily basis, to have presenters in specialty areas so that you get great information first hand from the experts in those areas and to have useful conversations about what is going on and what we are to be doing as a union representative.

It is not the place nor the time to get on a soap box and speak about what you want to speak about.  The information that I present or any other presenter speaks about is information passed down from our leadership to you so that you can act as the conduit of information to the membership in your school. We present the information, not to be filtered by you or to be changed in any way, it is to be presented to your members as you have heard it from me or any of the leadership in this union. You might not personally agree with the information given you, however, you were elected as a representative to not only be the defender of our contract and to represent, support and guide our members, but also to pass down the information given as was presented to you.

I feel that our conversations can be good and useful to others if we are all on the same page in terms of who we are as representatives and what it is that we were elected to do. We are not there to preach about one caucus or another, we are not there to talk about how you personally feel about something, we can do that one on one anytime. I do support my union and the leadership of this union, however, I do not preach where I stand in terms of the caucus that I belong to or don’t belong to, I do not bad mouth the leadership even if I don’t agree with what is being done. I support them because they are the leadership of this union and trust that they have the best interest of our members in the forefront of every decision that is made.

I thank you for your time and for what you do everyday for our members. I truly do appreciate you,

This letter crystallizes very clearly and honestly the leadership philosophy practiced by the Unity caucus. We are being led by a group who believe our union is a top-down affair. This is what corporate unionism looks like.

The final sentence of the letter says “I support them (our union leaders) because they are the leadership of this union and trust that they have the best interest of our members in the forefront of every decision that is made.” MORE believes that our union needs to put the mechanisms in place to ensure that our union leaders have “our members in the forefront of every decision that is made.”

Unfortunately, when our union leadership describes the job of a chapter leader to be “the defender of our contract and to represent, support and guide our members, but also to pass down the information given as was presented to you.”, then it is obvious that we are a long way from having the tools as union members to hold our leaders accountable.

Not only do chapter leaders have to faithfully pass down all information from Unity to the members, they cannot “speak about what you want to speak about” at the monthly district meetings with their District Leaders. That means there is absolutely no way to meet with our DLs as a district to highlight common problems and ensure they take steps to address them. Combine this with the fact that members no longer can vote for their District Leaders, since they are now appointed by Unity, and you can see that our union leadership, from District Leaders on up, are totally insulated from the will of the membership.

All we have is faith that Unity is working on our behalf. They represent us in name only, since there is no way for us as members to ensure that their priorities are our priorities.

The first step is allowing membership to elect their District Leaders again. When that happens, district meetings will no longer be a one-way transmission of information and orders from the top-down. Chapters will be allowed and even encouraged to bring up the issues that matter to them so our leaders can act upon them.

But district meetings are not the only places priorities are set. The main forum for this is the monthly Delegate Assembly. As of now, Unity keeps a tight rein on the parliamentary workings of the DA. Everyone knows how Unity wants members to vote and they usually get their way. Some District Leaders have gone as far as to pressure all of their chapter leaders to sit with them at the DA as a way to monitor which way they vote.

MORE believes that any organized UFT meeting should be open and democratic with chapter leaders, delegates, and all members given the opportunity to raise issues of their constituents’ concerns.

Join our chapter leader e-mail list by request at [email protected]c.org

On National Opt Out Day

January 7, 2013 — 2 Comments
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On National Opt Out day, the Movement of Rank and File Educators stands in solidarity with the brave parents who have stepped forward and said no to high stakes testing! The best way to stop the corporate takeover our schools is to refuse to participate. Continue Reading…

Here’s the text of the video that the Unity Caucus of the UFT is airing on local television stations about the new teacher evaluation system:

Across the country — from Los Angeles to Newark to Washington — many districts have successfully negotiated new evaluation measures. There is simply no reason New York cannot do the same for its teachers. There is simply no reason that a city that has been at the leading edge on so many other things can’t lead on this.

It’s time…to put politics aside and agree to a fair evaluation system that gives teachers the support they need to help kids succeed. That’s the way to move our schools and our city forward.

In truth, only the second paragraph comes from the UFT video. The first? It’s part of a recent piece in the NY Daily News written by a member of Educator4Excellence, an astroturf ed reform group funded by hedge fund billionaires and Bill Gates. This same group has called for the end of seniority rights, tenure, and the current salary structure.

Why is our own union leadership beginning to sound so much like an anti-union education reform group? It’s difficult to say, but one thing is clear–the evaluation deal that is currently being pushed on our members is no deal for teachers and students.

Let’s look at what the “deal” entails: Continue Reading…

MORE congratulates the UFT for the financial compensation they’ve earned our Special Education colleagues across the city. The SESIS case is another example of UFT leadership pursuing the same bureaucratic, top-down strategy it always pursues. Sometimes that strategy yields small victories. Nonetheless, because of this strategy the UFT is losing the war on several fronts.  Continue Reading…

The Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE) is pleased that Governor Cuomo’s Education Commission recommended increasing wrap-around services and expanding pre-kindergarten programming.  Educators and parents know that supporting children and families, making sure they have access to health care and other services, as well as providing robust early interventions will increase educational opportunity and outcomes for all of New York’s children, especially here in New York City.

It is unfortunate to note, however, that the report released yesterday says nothing about lowering class size. It says nothing about ensuring that a fair amount of funding reaches New York City’s classrooms. The report is silent on the need to provide fair funding for urban districts in general, where the overwhelming majority of impoverished students live.

Further, its recommendations regarding technology and teacher recruitment and retention are untested and unsupported. These are, essentially, corporate-minded reforms that we believe are not in the best interest of our children, our schools and our profession.

Continue Reading…

MORE Winter Retreat December 28, 2012

Attendance ~ 50 throughout the day

I. Social Justice Unionism

 

Discussion was wide ranging, starting out with a basic question of how to deal with a wide range of political beliefs amongst our coworkers on social justice issues. There was consensus on the importance of relating to the immediate needs of educators faced with deteriorating working conditions.

 

Action Steps decided on:

The Platform committee will produce two vision documents with specific policies and positions

1)   Specific working conditions issues (Tenure, Evaluations, Paperwork, Danielson, Common Core, Class Size)

2)   Social Justice issues (SLTs, Mayoral Control, Restorative Justice, Testing, Wraparound Service, Curriculum etc.)

Continue Reading…