Archives For September 2013

MORE Teaching

Saturday September 21st 12:00-3:00pm will be at our first general meeting of the school year. All are welcome!

224 West 29th St 14th Fl. Btwn 7th and 8th ave – Midtown NYC

Facebook link here

We will discuss how the new evaluation system and continued emphasis on high stakes testing is affecting educators, students, and parents.

Join us in organizing against “advance” and the testing culture that has harmed our schools. We”ll plan for our day of action on 10/9 and future events in support of our demand for a moratorium of the new evaluation scheme.

Our new newsletter will be available in bulk to distribute at your school and pick-up/drop-off our petition for a moratorium.

Join us for Brunch with MORE (The Movement of Rank and File Educators)

Come enjoy home-made treats, meet wonderful educator activists, learn about our movement, and support our work to improve teaching and learning conditions!

Bring you colleagues, friends, and family!

Saturday October 5, 11:30am-1:30pm

@ The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew’s Parish Hall

520 Clinton Ave

Brooklyn, NY 11238

Suggested Door Donation: $20    Youth 10-20: $10      Children Under 10: Free

*Brunch cocktails, gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options will be available.

RSVP online HERE to reserve your place at the table! (http://morebrunch.eventbrite.com)

More about MORE:

MORE, the social justice caucus of the UFT, is building a movement, and we need your support.  This fall, we’re focused on petitioning for a moratorium to end the hastily created, inaccurate NYC teacher evaluation plan, based on faulty data from high-stakes standardized tests that we believe undermine the quality of our childrens’ education.  To read our mission statement, and the need for a democracy within the teacher’s union, click here.

To join our movement, sign up Here!

"MORE teaching, Less Testing!"

A Sentiment Parents, Students, and Educators Can Enthusiastically Agree On!

Change the World

September 14, 2013 — Leave a comment
"never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world"

Remember That David Defeated Goliath

By James Eterno

Teacher/Chapter Leader- Jamaica High School

ICE/TJC 2010 UFT Presidential Candidate

READING THE TEA LEAVES AT CHAPTER LEADER MEETING: Sayanara Bill Thompson?; Don’t Expect Much Improvement on the Evaluation System with a New Mayor

We’re back in school and the UFT called for a Chapter Leader meeting on Wednesday at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriot.  Great cookies and lots of soft drinks were an enticement to listen to President Michael Mulgrew give one of his lengthy monologues.  After listening to him for over an hour, here are my quick views on what he said or at least implied:

1. The UFT will abandon Bill Thompson’s mayor campaign in a hurry  soon to achieve Democratic party unity and hope for the best opportunity to elect a Democrat as the mayor.
2. Mulgrew wants to tweak the new teacher evaluation system but we are stuck with it and the UFT will continue to promote it.  However, judging by the reaction from the Chapter Leaders, it seems like the rank and file aren’t buying.

POLITICS

From listening to Mulgrew’s remarks, at first it looked like the UFT would be sticking with Thompson.  He said that Thompson only missed the runoff by around 700 votes.  (That number was disputed by some people around where I sat.)  However, then Mulgrew stated that after twenty years of Republican mayors and the damage they have done to the school system, it is imperative that we elect a Democrat in November as our top priority. (Translation: We don’t need a three week runoff where two Democrats bloody each other and Republican Lhota could possibly sneak in.) Mulgrew even stated that we don’t want a split Democratic party.  He then told us there might soon be a special Delegate Assembly on an updated endorsement.  (Translation: We will be supporting deBlasio hopefully.)

Mulgrew was not humbled by the results (Thompson lost by around 14%) at all and took a victory lap by noting that Comptroller candidate Scott Stringer, who beat Elliot Spitzer in the Primary on Tuesday, specifically thanked the teachers for getting him in.  Mulgrew then reported on how UFT candidates won 42 out of 47 races on Tuesday and a couple of others are still too close to call.

During the question period, the Chapter Leader from Dewey High School questioned the Thompson endorsement and Mulgrew responded that it was done democratically and the Chapter Leader must not like democracy.  (I am just reporting folks; please don’t gag when UFT Presidents stand up for democracy.)

Mulgrew also reported that the outgoing mayor would be trying to collocate and even close as many schools as possible before he leaves office at the end of the year. He also noted that we would be going to the Panel for Educational Policy to urge them to have teachers, not test scores, be the final judge on which students get promoted.

NEW EVALUATION SYSTEM
President Mulgrew ceded very little ground when he talked about the state imposed new teacher evaluation system.  While members of the Movement of Rank and File Educators were handing out leaflets with a petition on the back urging for a moratorium on imposing the new system, Mulgrew was inside telling us that the UFT disagrees with the implementation of the new system by the current Department of Education administration.  Specifically, he emphasized how there is a state Public Employees Relations Board case going on and a Union initiated grievance.  He also told us that there are 150 new arbitration slots thanks to the new system so we can have many problems that can’t be worked out by October 25 taken to this expedited process. He once again insisted that we have stronger due process under the current system than we had in the past.
He then argued that the increased observations under Danielson’s framework could be positive if they are handled in a collegial way by administration but if administration plays hardball with teachers, Mulgrew recommended that teachers respond in kind by holding them to the letter of the law.
Mulgrew did admit that he was troubled by the Measures of Student Learning (MOSL) portion of the new “Advance” evaluation system, where we are judged on student test scores, but he insisted that changing and expanding what can be used for our MOSL scores would be a priority in contract negotiations.
During the question period, Mulgrew addressed lesson plans.  He told the Chapter Leaders that the Danielson framework leaves the lesson plan format up to the teacher but the DOE disputes this.  He said that our contract is still in effect in terms of freedom of lesson plan format and prohibition against ritualized collection of lesson plans by administration so we are in grievance in these areas.
Mulgrew summed up the evaluation system by predicting that two years from now, many more schools will be doing evaluation right than wrong and that teachers need to get over their fear of having other adults in their classrooms.  He also told us that we must report it to the UFT if we need questions answered on the evaluation system, if don’t have curriculum or if we have problems such as oversize classes.
NATIONAL POLITICS
The President briefly touched on the national scene when he declared that the situation is dire in cities around the country for public education.  He told us how 35% of the teachers had been laid off in Philadelphia by a Democratic mayor who was turning over much of the system to charter schools.  He then stated that 52 schools were closed in Chicago despite the valiant fight against it there and those teachers only had five months to find a new job or they were laid off.  He then stated that Los Angeles and Houston were also in bad shape.
He followed this by noting that we are not in such a bad position in NYC but that over the next couple of years we may have the opportunity to turn NYC into a model public school system. He told us we might have to change from fighting to a different mode of operation in the near future.
(Translation: Expect more Newark/DC style contract concessions in the future in NYC. Get used to being judged on junk science and constantly observed. It will make you a better teacher!)

UPDATE-I came home from Brooklyn to eastern Queens, where I live, around 7:30 pm last night.  My wife and I ate, played some games with our four year old daughter (the fun part of the day) before helping to get her to bed.  I was exhausted so I went to sleep without checking the news and woke up before 5:00 am to write this piece. I didn’t know that Thompson was fighting on. Is the UFT really considering holding out on this?

Note- James Eterno will be filing reports for MORE after each UFT Delegate Assembly during the 2013/14 school year. These are his thoughts and may/may not represent the official position of the caucus

By Dan Lupkin
Special Education Teacher & UFT Delegate
P.S. 58, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Parents and teachers are often set against each other by politicians engaging in demagoguery and cynical “divide and conquer” tactics, but the truth is that our interests and passions are far more similar than they are different. What it boils down to is that teachers (many of whom have kids in the public schools) and parents are working towards exactly the same goal: facilitating the growth of the children of New York into brilliant, confident, kind, self-actualized human beings  ready to succeed in the world on their own terms.

Politicians, particularly those pushing a particular brand of privatizing, testing-obsessed, anti-union “education reform”, have provided ample proof in word and deed that their goals are different from ours. They have not given birth to or nurtured these students*, nor do they understand the blood, sweat, and tears that a teacher invests in a student over a course of a year or more.  This crop of “education reformers” are not educators, they are business people, and their expertise is in the management of  data points on a graph. As such, a student (or a teacher) is not viewed as an individual, but as a scaled test result, a growth score. The schools are seen as spoils to be disassembled and distributed at bargain basement prices to allies and campaign contributors.

In my experience, parents and teachers across New York City agree on many of the vital education issues facing us today, though we don’t always realize it. On issue after issue, politicians like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Education Commissioner John King (and their local equivalents in most large cities) impose policies that fail and degrade the children of this country. Not surprisingly, these dangerous policies are decried passionately by the stakeholders who know our students as individuals, as learners. These issues are the ideal soil in which to sow parent/teacher solidarity, to work together to  protect the  students. Among the most pressing of these concerns are politicians pretending class size doesn’t matter, massive waves of school closings, and high-stakes testing. These are natural opportunities for collaboration between parents and teachers, instances in which the politicians are just wrong. Continue Reading…

“Advance” – The Movie

September 7, 2013 — 1 Comment

A very helpful video that explains the new evaluation system and provides suggestions for how educators should prepare themselves. A “must watch” for every UFT member!

Created by John Elfrank-Dana
Teacher/UFT Chapter Leader
Murry Bergtraum High School
Please sign MORE’s petition calling for a moratorium of the new teacher evaluation system

This post is an expanded version of our Newsletter article. To help distribute our newsletter please sign up here.

State Education Commissioner King has imposed a new teacher evaluation plan that reduces each year of our teaching to a single number based largely on students’ test scores. Up to 10%  of teachers statewide may face “ineffective” ratings.

“Measures of Student Learning”:

  • Twenty points = “growth scores” measuring changes in our students’ standardized test scores
  • Twenty points =  “local measures” determined by a school UFT/administration committee from a DOE menu, subject to a principal’s veto.

Eventually, the “growth scores” section will be 25 points and “local measures” 15 points.

“Measures of Teacher Performance”:

  • Sixty points = based on observations using the Danielson rubric

Under the new rules, if you get rated “ineffective” on the Measures of Student Learning then you automatically get a rating of “ineffective” overall. In this twisted system 40% is greater than 60%[1]

Testing will balloon rapidly as the city needs to implement tests in every grade level. New Common Core exams will expand even though the state has yet to provide a full curriculum. Furthermore, under the new Common Core-system tests question content is proprietary to Pearson or other private test developers. Teachers now are unable to properly review old test questions with students, leaving them less prepared for the state tests.

“Measures of Teacher Performance” will be based on the Danielson framework.  This overrides our contract in three important ways.

Current Contract Danielson
Section 8J points to “characteristics of good teaching” in which teachers are judged on behaviors of the teacher. Teachers evaluated on rubrics that judge us not just by our own behavior, but by the “body language” of our students.
Under article 8J, satisfactory tenured teachers can to set their own goals and methods for demonstrating professional growth,” and can request a one-to-one preobservation conference. No such option exists and we are now required to have unannounced informal observations
Section 8E of our contract states that “The organization, format, notation and other physical aspects of the lesson plan are appropriately within the discretion of each teacher.” Danielson component 1e  calls upon evaluators to rate our lesson plans.

This will open the door to principals requiring particular lesson plan formats.

We will receive a performance review from our principal by the last school day but we will not get our final rating (and cannot appeal) until September 1.

Although all ratings can be appealed to the chancellor (who has, in recent years, only reversed 0.2% of Unsatisfactory ratings on appeal), only 13% of all the ineffective ratings system-wide can be appealed to a neutral body. Before Bloomberg, 13% of all appealed ratings used to be overturned.

Teachers who receive an ineffective rating two years in a row will then face an expedited 3020-a termination hearing.

These are the biggest changes to our working conditions since our last contract. State law requires that any new contract must be consistent with this new system, and not a single UFT member has voted on it.

Mulgrew says that the plan is “professional and fair and is designed to help teachers improve their skills throughout their careers.”[2] Mulgrew and others in the current UFT leadership have focused on negotiating the “best” deal while accepting a terrible overall framework, based on standardized test scores and cookie cutter rubrics.

Bill Thompson, endorsed by the UFT in the Mayor’s race, has called the new evaluation plan “unworkable in its complexity and bureaucracy.” However, the Thompson campaign’s co-chair  is Merryl Tisch, the New York state Board of Regents chancellor, who oversees the education commissioner who imposed the plan. She disagreed with Thompson’s comments.[3] We cannot depend on the politicians to save us.

Fortunately, teachers are coming together in MORE to rebuild the UFT from the bottom up, chapter by chapter. We also need to build long-term for a city-wide and state-wide fight against fake corporate education “reform,” and improve our working conditions and our students’ learning conditions.

MORE understands teachers are not alone. Parents and students are increasingly infuriated with the battery of standardized high stakes tests that are being imposed. We can follow the example of Seattle’s Garfield High School teachers who refused to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test this past January. Their boycott spread to other Washington schools, culminating in a huge victory—the MAP will now be optional.[4] St. Paul’s union in its contract negotiations has demanded that the district stop the mandated state test for third through eighth graders.[5]

We also need to find our common ground with other NYC public sector workers, who are all without a contract. Together teachers, parents, students and other workers can fight for the preservation and expansion of all the public services working class New Yorkers depend on.


[1] MORE, “The New John King Math: 40% = 100%,” Web. July 13, 2013. http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/07/17/the-new-john-king-math-40-100/

[2]  Michael Mulgrew, “Taking Back Our Profession,” New York Teacher, September 22, 2011 http://www.uft.org/presidents-perspective/taking-back-our-profession

[3] Lisa Fleischer, “Teacher Plan Uncertain,” Wall Street Journal, June 3, 2013 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324563004578521893604212284.html

[4] Linda Shaw, “Starting Next Fall, MAP Tests Will Be Optional for Seattle High Schools,” Seattle Times, July 29, 2013 http://blogs.seattletimes.com/today/2013/05/starting-next-fall-map-tests-will-be-optional-for-seattle-high-schools/?syndication=rss

[5] Tim Post, “St. Paul teachers union wants district to drop mandated tests” http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2013/08/09/education/teachers-union-mandated-tests
"MORE petition on Moratorium on advance"

Say “NO” to Advance

MORATORIUM ON THE NEW YORK CITY TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEM

Please print out the above link and circulate in your school.

You can email [email protected] to arrange for pick up and/or drop off. Petitions can also be picked up/droped off at any of our upcoming happy hours (dates/locations to follow), general meetings (9/21,10/19) and/or our brunch(10/5).
We will have MORE members collecting/distributing at the 9/12 UFT chapter leader’s meeting at the Brooklyn Marriott  and 10/9 Delegate Assembly at 52 Broadway in NYC.
Please have in by 11/13.
Any questions/comments  please email [email protected]
Petition is available to be signed online at
Please share  this link on your social media.
Please sign only once (either hard copy or online).

MORE Teaching, Less Testing!

September 2, 2013 — 2 Comments