MORE on the UFT’s New Position on State Tests + DA/Rally Report

October 10, 2013 — 1 Comment

[MORE's statement on the UFT leadership's change of position on testing is followed by James Eterno's full report on the Delegate Assembly]

Yesterday the Unity and New Action caucuses put forth a resolution that was passed at the Delegate Assembly calling for a moratorium on high stakes decisions for the state tests this year. While we applaud the effort to stop teachers from having their evaluations tied to flawed exams as well as a curriculum and evaluation system that has been poorly implemented and largely unsupported, we have serious reservations about the resolution as it stands.

The resolution accepts Common Core Standards and the structure of the teacher evaluation system, including the use of Danielson. These current policies are harmful to our students and our teachers.

Further, the resolution offers no plan in terms of member-driven input and action to fight the destructive policies we face nor regarding the effort to stop these policies’ high stakes impact.

MORE stands firmly in calling for a moratorium on the current teacher evaluation system until an alternative that is rooted in research and what teachers, parents, and students know results in effective teaching and learning is thoroughly negotiated, vetted, and voted on by our members. Positive alternatives exist.  We need our union to stand firm in demanding a system that benefits students and supports teachers.

MORE stands firmly against the use assessments for high stakes decisions and teacher evaluations. UFT’s own committee on high stakes tests agreed in 2007 and issued a report stating as much. Curriculum and assessment must be developmentally appropriate, research based, culturally relevant and used to support teachers and promote student learning and growth.  Curriculum, and the tests connected to it, should not be used as part of a system of carrots and sticks and not in a manner that raises the bar but fails to, at the same time, provide the resources and supports to ensure our children, and their teachers, have what is needed to ensure success.

Teacher working conditions are inextricably tied to student learning conditions. We must stand in solidarity against policies that negatively impact either and for a public education system that holds true to the promise of promoting access, opportunity, and excellence for all.

Report on the Delegate Assembly and Rally

By James Eterno

Teacher/Chapter Leader Jamaica High School

UFT President Michael Mulgrew and his ruling Unity-New Action majority tried to have it both ways at last night’s UFT Delegate Assembly. Mulgrew and Staff Director Leroy Barr pushed a resolution to call for a moratorium on attaching high stakes to Common Core tests until we have curriculum and other supports in all schools. However, Barr and Mulgrew repeatedly emphasized the UFT’s support for the Common Core State Standards and the high stakes tests for teachers and students that are attached to the standards.

This basically vacuous resolution to delay using tests to make high stakes decisions was motivated by President Mulgrew in his report and then by Staff Director Barr. Their main argument is that we support Common Core and high stakes testing for students and teachers but there needs to be a moratorium in making the tests count for important decisions, such as rating teachers and students, until we have the proper materials in every school because it is unfair to students when some schools have new curriculum while others do not.

These points in favor of a delay, while having some merit, were easily refuted by two opposition speakers because the resolution does not address the main disease, only one symptom. First, Marjorie Stamberg tried to offer a substitute resolution but was denied by President Mulgrew, who repeatedly and rudely cut her off while she was speaking. Marjorie persevered and the independent Delegate told the Delegates how poverty is the problem and the Common Core, as well as the tests attached to it, are the tools of corporations that are attempting to privatize education and break the unions.

Marjorie was followed by a Unity speaker who said something about how this resolution was part of solutions driven unionism and then Vincent W. from the Movement of Rank and File Educators rose from the room on the 19th floor (Delegate meetings are held on the 2nd floor of UFT HQ while overflow Delegates and visitors can watch on video from a room on the 19th floor) to shoot down the resolution.

Vincent’s main argument is that the whole evaluation system is flawed. He pointed out to “Brother Barr” that he taught for thirteen years without the Common Core and did just fine. He then asked the UFT why their resolution did not go far enough to oppose the entire teacher evaluation system based on high stakes testing and Common Core. He closed by stating that the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) had a petition for a moratorium on the whole evaluation system. He received enthusiastic applause from more than a few Delegates.

His speech was followed by a Unity Delegate moving to close debate. The resolution carried in my opinion only because members of the ruling Unity Caucus sign a paper saying they will support the decisions of the caucus in union and public forums (the so called Unity loyalty oath). However, there was little enthusiasm for the resolution and some real dissent in the hall.

The positions of the two parties within the UFT were crystal clear at the DA: Unity-New Action support Common Core State Standards and the new teacher evaluation system so long as we have proper materials. MORE and the vast majority of the UFT members oppose Common Core, high stakes testing, Danielson observations and the entire new evaluation system and want teachers to be evaluated based on a solid research backed system that is voted on by teachers.

It is also worth noting that President Mulgrew didn’t call on anyone in the section to his left during the discussion on evaluations, even though several Delegates wearing red MORE t-shirts were raising their cards to speak. Since it was breast cancer awareness day and the UFT was encouraging people to wear pink, Mulgrew would only call on Delegates wearing pink. Some MORE Delegates wore pink hats to get around his silly limit to democracy since MORE people were decked out in red to show solidarity and protest the entire high stakes testing based evaluation system before the DA.

Unity-New Action may have won the vote but Unity needed their party discipline to have their way. On the other hand, MORE was organizing multiple Delegates who now want to distribute MORE literature to their schools. MORE gained a great deal yesterday.

Onward to the rest of the DA:

I came in a little late (I joined the MORE protest out front) but found that the attendance was a bit light for the first meeting of the year. President Michael Mulgrew was talking about reorganization grievances and the importance of school safety committees when I arrived.

Mayor’s Race
Mulgrew said we can’t get complacent when we look at the polls showing de Blasio way ahead. A Lhota election would mean the continuation of Bloomberg’s education policies. Phone banks will be open starting on October 15. We must elect de Blasio.

National Politics
A group in DC is now saying we want the government to default. This will have a direct effect on us if we default and go into recession right when contract negotiations are starting. We need the economy not to crash. Mulgrew wants to see a face saving solution.

Referendum on Casino Gambling
There is a referendum on the November 8 to open up 7 new casinos in NYS (outside of NYC) that the UFT will urge members to support. 80% of the profits are supposed to go to education.

NYC Department of Education News
Parents are concerned about what it means to be a Level 1 or Level 2 student. The Chancellor said mailing out new curriculum to schools was the largest single mailing in DOE history. DOE is getting worse by the day.

Lesson Plan Grievance
There is a Union Initiated grievance on lesson plans. DOE is saying they are not mandating lesson plans but suggesting ideas. Mulgrew asked for Delegates who were compelled to write lesson plans in a certain format to immediately get documentation to the Grievance Director. The President said that DOE is improperly using the Danielson Framework as the lesson plan can only be viewed in the context of the lesson. He also wants people to get information to the Grievance Director on curriculum maps, units of study and teachers being forced to design rubrics.

Evaluation System
We can’t get two principals to agree on what the evaluation system should mean. We need better working conditions and support. Teachers are quitting at a faster rate than ever before. Even after the mayor’s election, it will take a couple of months to figure out which way the system will go. Mulgrew acknowledged the evaluation system is not going well now. This is a pivotal time in our history. He hopes the end of the Bloomberg era will be the time when we take back our school system.

Mulgrew’s Trip to Ireland
The president reported that he was sent by the AFT to Ireland where some are blaming the depression over there on schools and discussions are going there like we had here five years ago with a non educator in charge of education.

Evaluation Resolution
Mulgrew improperly motivated the resolution on evaluations from the chair. He said he was giving information and not motivating it. We are only against tests when schools are not treated fairly. The situation when some schools have curriculum aligned to the new standards but most do not is unfair so tests should not be attached to high stakes decisions for students and teachers at this time.

Panel for Educational Policy is trying to push through as many charter co-locations as they can before Bloomberg leaves at the end of the year. We will have a new PEP in January.

Fact Finding
There will be one more hearing day in November. DOE wants one more hearing after that. The report will come back and then we will go into negotiations. Mayor tried to change our health care but thanks to Arthur Pepper, he cannot touch our health care.

Leroy Barr reported that the Making Strides against Breast Cancer Walk will be on October 20. Teacher Union Day will be on November 3 where we will celebrate the 1960 strike. Para Luncheon will be on March 15, 2014.

Question: Joe Lhota is attacking UFT. What do we do?
Mulgrew Answer: Elect Bill de Blasio mayor.

Question: School already has no money in its budget so how can school function properly?
Answer: Principal needs to know how to manage budget. The way the DOE allocates money by charging fees to use a public school while letting charter schools operate rent free is wrong. Work with the District Representative on this.

Answer even though there wasn’t a question on special education: Principals and networks are calling UFT saying we are sending in too many special education complaints. We will take them to court if they don’t comply.

Question: How do we want to change the evaluation system in the next contract?
Answer: In negotiations, we want Measures of Student Learning that are project based like portfolios to show students are growing. We will try to negotiate more options for MOSL into the next contract.

Question: Teachers being told to write goals for every student. What to do?
Answer: Get information to UFT Grievance Director.

A motion was raised by the UFT political director to support the casino referendum. It carried and was added to the agenda where it carried. Nobody spoke against although some Delegates voted against it.

Political endorsements: Letitia James for Public Advocate (finally), Melinda Katz for Queens Borough President, Eric Adams for Brooklyn borough President, and for City Council Ben Kallos, Helen Rosenthal and Paul Vallone. All carried easily.

The other items were the casino resolution, the resolution on delaying the high stakes consequences for tests and finally there was another one on testing. Time ran out after these resolutions passed and the meeting was adjourned.

For all of the Delegates who don’t show up, MORE, particularly some of the younger people, were a real presence at the DA today. Come out and show support.

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One response to MORE on the UFT’s New Position on State Tests + DA/Rally Report


    The new evaluation system should not at this time include any input from the high stakes tests in grades 3 – 8. A waiver should be requested from NYS. The regents exams can only be used as an evaluation tool for those students who have previously taken that same regents. Yes, it is complicated. And even what the UFT did was probably influenced by past MORE actions. Proper implementation of the common core probably requires that type of curriculum and instruction to be in place for 2 – 3 years before evaluation would be legitimate. Dave Levin

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