Regents Grading Fiasco

June 19, 2013 — 7 Comments

NYS Regents Exam Grading: Unfair for Teachers and Students

 

For Immediate Release

 

 This June marks the first attempt at centralizing the grading process for two exams; Global History and Geography and United States History and Government. Completed student exams were placed in a shipping box and sent to be scanned by McGraw-Hill. The scanned version of the exam is then presented to a teacher for grading over the Internet using software that has been developed by McGraw-Hill.

 

Teachers arrived to their grading centers Monday to face one issue after another. Many teachers were not able to log in due to a problem with the authentication server. Others were able to log in but not able to access a single exam item to grade. Some of the essays were so poorly scanned that half of the content was covered. Although the system listed many exams available to be graded, it simply did not present these exams to teachers’ screens for grading. After two hours of sitting around, teachers were sent back to their home school.

 

Tuesday continued to pose problems. The software continued to freeze, worked only sporadically, then at 1:00pm it ceased to work at all. Again teachers were told to return to their home school. Teachers are hard working professionals who should not be sent from one place to another, especially when the scoring centers and home school may over an hour away from each other by public transportation. All while students await test scores to know if they are allowed to attend graduation.

 

A Brooklyn Social Studies teacher says, “The greatest travesty is the money being wasted, that could be going to our kids, is instead lining the pockets of private corporations. Bloomberg knew exactly what he was doing when he put the DOE in Tweed: the last ten years have been nothing more than an all out offensive to siphon as much money and resources as they could out of our public schools and into the hands of these corporations and wealthy individuals.”

 

The entire process was so poorly organized and shamefully inefficient. It needlessly created delays and unnecessary errors. This will inevitably require that personnel be hired and more money will be spent to grade these tests to make up for the wasted time. Teachers have always graded these tests with accuracy, diligence and in a timely fashion. McGraw-Hill was paid millions of dollars to set up a defective system. The mayor is guilty of wasting tax-payers’ dollars, that could be better utilized by reducing class-size, restoring after-school programs that were cut due to austerity measures, and giving educators the contract they deserve!

By Kit Wainer- Teacher & UFT Chapter Leader at Leon M. Goldstein High School

2007 TJC/ICE UFT Presidential Candidate

2013 MORE UFT Executive Board Candidate

The results of the 2013 UFT election revealed a startling fact: Just 18% of eligible active employees (20,728 of 115,050)  decided to vote.  On June 19th the UFT Delegate Assembly will entertain a motion to charge the election committee with the task of analyzing the problem of low voter turnout in the 2013 union elections. While it is easy to focus on the organizational minutiae of whether the election committee is the correct body to consider this question, or whether it is representative enough, it is important to keep an eye on the broader issue of the origins of low voter participation and its significance for the union as a whole. The declining participation is both a product and a symptom of our union’s weakness. More importantly, it poses an existential threat to the future of the UFT.

Low voter turnout is part of a long-term trend of increasing voter apathy over the last several union elections. It is also part of a larger and equally disturbing trend within the UFT as a whole. When I was first elected chapter leader in 1996 several of the oppositional high school chapter leaders would sit together at high school meetings and complain about the low attendance rates at monthly divisional meetings. At that time there were slightly more than 200 high schools but rarely would more than 40 chapter leaders show up at the monthly meetings. Over the past two years the number of high schools has increased to more than 400 and the turnout of chapter leaders at monthly meetings has declined to fewer than 20. At some meetings participation has been in the single digits if we count only those chapter leaders without part-time staff positions.

Although attendance at Delegate Assemblies has been steady over the past 20 years, it has been very low. The UFT’s meeting hall is large enough to seat no more than 30% of the delegates and there is only slight spillover into the secondary meeting room upstairs. Consider that a delegate’s only job is to show up at the monthly meetings. A delegate who is not coming to DAs is, therefore, not performing any aspect of his/her responsibilities. The fact that thousands of delegates have behaved the same way over decades indicates that this isn’t a problem of individual behavior. It is a larger trend. Inactive delegates are replaced by other inactive delegates.

The success of the June 12 rally is a hopeful sign. However, past membership turnout at union rallies has been uneven, at best. In spring 2005 the UFT did manage to pull off several successful protest events as a build-up to what should have been an activist contract fight. However, more recent results have been disappointing. On December 1, 2011, in the wake of the Occupy protests, the UFT participated in a city-wide union protest. Michael Mulgrew advertised the December 1 march as the one we were “building” — as opposed to other Occupy-inspired actions we were only “supporting.” Then-staff member Janella Hinds came to a high school meeting in November to impress upon us the importance of the march. She argued that if we show up with only 1000 members it will be a show of weakness. I marched in the UFT contingent that day along with the 300-400 other UFT members who heeded the President’s rallying cry.

Analyzing the causes of membership apathy requires some educated speculation. We have no polling data to indicate why people don’t vote or don’t show up. We know that we are in a larger historic climate of low levels of activism, at least compared to the decades of labor upsurges of the 1930s and 1940s, or compared to the growth of social movements in the 1950s and 1960s. However, that is only part of the explanation. Our members vote in U.S. elections at a much higher rate than they vote in UFT elections, despite the fact that going to the polls in November requires more effort than filling out and returning a mail ballot. (And despite the fact that, in my view, decisions of President Mulgrew have a greater impact on the daily lives of UFT members than do decisions of President Obama).

The low membership participation is an ironic — and dangerous — consequence of the UFT’s failures to defend the basic rights of our members.  The impact of the 2005 contract was disastrous. Our work day was lengthened. We lost the right to grieve letters in the file or transfer to other schools and the ATR crisis was born. Now we will be evaluated based on standardized test scores. And at 3020-a hearings the burden of proof will now be on us to convince a hearing officer that we should not be fired. The problem is not simply that we have lost ground. It is that the UFT leaders have spun each giveback as a victory and argued that we are better off than we used to be. Members may not analyze the causes of our decline but when bureaucrats tell them that steps backward are really strides forward, when they tell them things that contradict what they see and feel at work every day,  members simply tune the union out. UFT members have become acclimated to bureaucratic double-speak. We hear it from supervisors, from the Department of Education, from politicians. We have learned over the years to mentally change the channel. When our union representatives speak the same bureaucratic language we respond the same way.

Members respond to the union’s failures — and its refusal to admit failure — by tuning the entire union out. They don’t show up at meetings or rallies and they don’t vote. Ironically, this strengthens Unity’s hand as it frees them of the obligation of formulating coherent arguments that can convince independent delegates that they are right. Delegate Assemblies attract mostly Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus members and have become pro-leadership rallies in which the President speaks for most of the 2 hours and there is little room for serious conversation or debate. Nor does the leadership have to win over activist, critically-minded voters in order to prevail in union elections. Ironically, membership inactivity feeds the very forces that lead to more discouragement and more inaction. And an increasingly isolated union leadership is weaker, more prone to make concessions, and more likely to alienate members. The cycle is tragic but not illogical. Members who are disenchanted with the  union’s trajectory have thus far chosen apathy rather than than the project of building an alternative vision. Frustrating as it is, this decision makes sense for members who have no live experience of any other version of unionism. So many members infer from Unity’s failures that unions in general are bankrupt, or at least irrelevant.

The Unity leadership has turned off the membership and that may soon pose a serious crisis for the UFT as a whole. As some MORE members have pointed out, by acquiescing to the new evaluation procedure, Mulgrew has negotiated contractual concessions without anything in return — not even a contract. Invariably, the state and the city will want more in the very near future and the UFT leaders no longer have the ability (assuming they had the desire) to mobilize the membership to defend what rights we still have. Worse still, the 18% turnout among active members in the 2013 UFT election is a signal that the membership’s lack of investment in the UFT has now reached crisis proportions. This opens the possibility of a direct challenge to the very existence of the UFT. In the national climate of declining union membership and state legislatures moving to eliminate collective bargaining in historic union strongholds such as Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, to ignore the possibility of an assault on our collective bargaining rights would be foolish. An attack from a Tea-Party dominated legislature is unlikely in blue New York. However, a decertification drive from “reform” groups such as Educators For Excellence or Children First is a possibility. Can we be certain that the 82% of active members who don’t care who our union president is will vote to continue paying $100 per month in union dues if given the choice not to? By failing to mobilize our members for the kind of fight we should be waging in this political climate the Mulgrew regime is endangering the very union it leads. That is nothing short of grotesque dereliction of duty.

The good news is that our union’s decline is not inevitable. We can turn things around. The Chicago Teachers Union, which launched a successful strike in September 2012, has shown us that an activist, mobilized membership can fight back and win. The corporate reformers are still on the move in Chicago, but the strike checked at least part of their agenda and provided a living example that participating and organizing are worth the effort. We need that kind of change in mentality in New York.

The Unity leadership seems impervious to the lessons of our defeats in New York or the successes in Chicago. But the Movement of Rank and File Educators is committed to a unionism that is based on mobilized members in alliance with a broader social movement to save our schools from destructive reforms. We believe that a revitalized UFT can energize our members and fend off even Bloomberg-style attacks. We urge you to get involved. The future of your union may depend on it.

Today, June 12th 2012, MORE joins with all union workers of the Municipal Labor Committee in demanding a fair contract now. We will be at the City Hall Rally supporting our brothers and sisters of all municipal unions and workers everywhere.

Four years and NO CONTRACT

October 2013 will mark our fourth year with no contract between the Department of Education and the UFT. Meanwhile, our wages have been stagnant, and the DOE is already imposing new contractual terms on us. The DOE is implementing the most anti-­‐teacher interpretation of the Danielson framework possible, is transforming teachers into test prep coaches, and is making tenure elusive for most new teachers. According to Michael Mulgrew, 7% of teachers annually will have bad ratings under the new evaluation system, potentially leading to job termination. Unfortunately, the UFT leadership has cooperated with many of these policies.

We deserve more

  • Real wage increases that help us keep pace with the rising cost of living and that improve starting teacher salaries.
  • End to formal use of snapshot and informal observations.
  • Contractual protections against abusive supervisors
  • Contractual protections against any evaluation model that will allow administrators to rate everyone “ineffective”
  • Due process for untenured teachers so that all have a clearpath to tenure
  • Teacher control over Curricula
  • Right to Permanent Placement for All ATRs.
The June 1 imposition of a new evaluation process makes it even more urgent that our union begin to mobilize for a contract that restores our job protections. We need to fight for a meaningful appeal process before an independent arbitrator for all members who receive an ineffective rating. For MORE’s full statement on the evaluation system please visit here 
Waiting for a new mayor is NOT an organizing strategy.

Unfortunately, the current UFT leadership does not have an effective plan to win us such a contract. Their only strategy is to try to influence the Democratic mayoral primary and hope that the new mayor will feel obliged to the UFT after the general election. The problem with this strategy is that once the election is over, the UFT will no longer hold leverage over the Mayor. We will then be negotiating when we are at our weakest. The lack of real UFT mobilization has given the green light to the DOE to violate our contract, increase the number of observations, and use partial observations against teachers.

Negotiating won’t cut it.

We need to ORGANIZE and mobilize! The June 12th rally should mark the beginning of a campaign of membership mobilization throughout the city. Next fall, UFTers should be picketing outside schools, holding district and borough protests, and citywide actions that disrupt business as usual. That is the model the Chicago Teachers union pursued in the fall of 2012 when the CTU successfully resisted the Mayor’s demands for draconian givebacks. Our Union must learn from our brothers and sisters in the windy city and begin to mobilize here at home.

Our Working Conditions are Our Students’ Learning Conditions

MORE is dedicated to social justice unionism because we understand that a good contract is not only about our rights as educators. It is also about our ability to be the best educators we can for our students. Attacks on tenure mean attacks on our ability to stand up for our students and speak out when we see injustice. Evaluations attached to test scores mean narrowed test prep curriculum and learning environments that are toxic and lead to students being left out of education. Ultimately, we understand that a good contract for teachers means a good learning environment for students.

GET INVOLVED  join the contract committee

 If you agree with these ideas please join the MORE contract  committee.

The committee was launched by the Movement of Rank and File Educators but is open to any UFT member – regardless of political affiliation – who wants to work with us to chart a new course to win a fair contract. We are also forming a U ratings committee, to fight unfair U ratings. Contact us for more information.

The next contract committee meeting will be held June 19, after the UFT Delegate Assembly  6:15pm at Blarney Stone 11 Trinity Pl NYC (One block west of UFT).  For further details about the meeting or information, please contact [email protected]

Here is the link to this Flier- Please print and share

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We hope you are mobilizing for Wed. June 12th Citywide Labor Rally at City Hall!
Please join the MORE contingent at 52 Chambers St. DOE Building (Tweed Courthouse) between 4-4:30 pm. We march to the City Hall Rally together at 4:30

Here are some things you can do:

1.    Sign up people at  your school and bring co-workers! Use thisflier to print and get people out

2.    Bring poster paper, markers, and sign ideas, or make signs and bring them. We will be handing out this flier to UFTers at the rally.  Please make some copies to supplement the ones we’ll have on site.

3.    Get ready to chant! We will have chant sheets (download for some great slogans for you placard as well!) and plan to rally people around important points during the rally.

4.    We are having a post-rally Happy Hour near the rally 6 PM at Maxwell’s, 59 Reade St. between Broadway and Church. One block north of Chambers St. (http://www.maxwellsnyc.com).

5.    Join our Group Text! Download “Groupme” app to your cellphone (iPhone, Android,etc.). Then email your cell # to Mike Schirtzer [email protected] and we’ll send you text updates during the rally.

Rally flier

WE MAKE THE CITY RUN!

ARE WE FED UP YET? There is not one unionized city worker working with a contract right now. Over 300,000 workers in 152 bargaining units have been working without contracts for four, even five years. Now city leaders threaten us with more years of wage freezes and loss of benefits.

Yet we do it all. City workers keep the city clean, we keep it safe, we care for the city’s health, we transport people, we educate its children. WE ARE THE WORKERS WHO MAKE THE CITY RUN!

City leaders and the media have been conducting an organized attack on unionized labor, saying we cost too much money. That’s because they want to lower the standard of living for ALL workers. They target and scapegoat unionized workers because they know that where large groups of workers’ organize, all workers benefit. They want us workers to pay for their unending economic crisis.

A key ingredient in any fight back is workers’ unity. We need to unite across unions and our fight needs to be anti-­‐racist and anti-­‐sexist. That means uniting Black, [email protected], Asian & White, and female & male workers. By targeting mostly Black & [email protected] unionized bus drivers last winter, for example, the city bosses attempted to establish a pattern to drive down wages and benefits for all and put us all on the defensive. Racism & sexism work as a wedge to attack all workers and we can’t allow that! AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL.

We in organized labor determine what happens with other workers, both here in NYC and nationwide. If we fight back, ALL WORKERS GAIN.

Wednesday JUNE 12th

4 pm, City Hall FAIR CONTRACTS NOW!

MORE Meet-up Info

4:00-4:30 Gather at 52 Chambers St. Tweed/DOE HQ one block north of City Hall Park

4:30 We march together  to meet UFT contingent at City Hall Rally

6:15 Post Rally Happy Hour  Maxwell’s, 59 Reade St. between Broadway and Church. One block north of Chambers St. (http://www.maxwellsnyc.com). Near City Hall rally

Our Event Facebook Link

Follow Us on Twitter during rally for updates and to find us

Here is the Flier to share out wide

All Out For Fair Contract Rally

UFT Rank and File Says King’s Evaluation Plan Bad for Teachers, Students

While Michael Mulgrew launches a campaign to convince the membership that the new teacher evaluation system is designed to help teachers improve and give them a professional voice, Bloomberg is proclaiming victory. The truth of the matter is, this evaluation system is bad for educators and the children they serve: the system requires a tremendous amount of additional work with no compensation, time or otherwise. It will create an even greater climate of fear and effectively ends tenure as we know it; putting all educators who partner with parents to advocate for the best policies for children at risk. This system places too much value on testing and is flawed in its high stakes premise. Educators are best positioned to evaluate and assess our students and teachers, not imposed tests, not junk science, not pre-packaged rubrics.    Julie Cavanagh, Elementary School Teacher & Chapter Leader P.S. 15 Brooklyn

The day has finally come. State Education Commissioner John King has imposed a new teacher evaluation deal on New York City.  UFT president Michael Mulgrew’s attempts to claim a victory in the face of defeat are hardly convincing. In his letter to the membership Mulgrew says “Here is the bottom line: The new teacher evaluation system is designed to support, not punish, teachers and to help them develop throughout their careers. That is what we will be fighting for as this plan is implemented.” Given the enormous amount of money the DOE has spent trying to fire our colleagues over the last few years, it’s credulous to suggest that this system will be about “supporting” teachers. The media has honed in on the point that Mulgrew wants to avoid: tenure has been seriously weakened, and it will be easier to fire teachers who are seen as “ineffective” based on flawed standardized tests.

We knew already from State Education Law 3012-c, which was supported by the UFT leadership as part of Race to the Top, that two years of ineffective ratings means a teacher is presumed to be incompetent. In the new termination process for tenured teachers, the burden of proof will shift to the teacher, unlike the current system where the burden of proof is on the Department of Education to prove incompetence.[1]

King’s release states: “Teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective assessments must be rated ineffective overall. Teachers who are developing or ineffective will get assistance and support to improve performance. Teachers who remain ineffective can be removed from classrooms.” In other words, there will be more testing for our students and tests will be the ultimate determinant of a teacher’s effectiveness.  According to the outline of the plan, “Each school will have a committee comprised of an equal number of teachers and administrators who will determine, along with the principal, which assessments each school will use,” however the plan states that principals may reject this committee’s recommendations and apply their own default measures. In many schools, this is exactly what will happen.

Only 13 percent of all ineffective ratings each year can be challenged on grounds of harassment or other matters not related to job performance. Is the UFT comfortable trusting that the other 87% of ratings of “ineffective” will be based solely on teacher performance? Given the new principals Tweed is pumping out of the Principal’s Academy and their “fire your way to success” mentality, our union leadership has left us in an extremely dangerous situation.

The union leadership is pleased that the rating system will be using “the complete Danielson rubric, with all 22 points.” The potential for abuse of this complex and multifaceted rubric is enormous.

“This system will lead to educators teaching to a rubric,” says Mike Schirtzer, UFT Delegate at Leon M. Goldstein High School in Brooklyn.  “Pedagogy is a craft which no two teachers do the same, yet can still be equally effective.  This new scheme will limit teachers creativity in the classroom and our ability to differentiate styles in order to reach a diverse set of learners. Our greatest concern is the amount of time this will take from teachers to properly prepare for their classes, due to all of the assessments and/or SLO’s that need to be created, the committees need to be formed and countless hours of professional development dedicated to Common Core and Danielson, two directives that have no scientific evidence of increasing learning.”

In addition to the onerous micromanagement of the Danielson rubric, observations will be more frequent and at least one will be an unannounced observation. This is problematic, as without pre- and post-observation conferences, administrators will likely be unaware what scaffolding the teacher has done beforehand, and are likely to penalize teachers because they don’t have this information.  Mulgrew says this is not a “gotcha” system, but in practice it most certainly will be.

The new system also includes a pilot of student surveys. This encourages grade-inflation and a lack of discipline in the classroom. Research shows that student surveys don’t work in high-stakes settings. The use of such surveys poisons the relationships between teachers and students, who now in addition to their test scores bear even more responsibility for the future of their teachers’ careers.

Crucially, this agreement will not include a sunset provision, unlike districts in other parts of the state. The sunset provision was a key sticking point in negotiations, as the UFT was hoping it would be able to renegotiate the terms of this plan under a new and presumably friendlier mayor. The current deal is in place for the next four years at least, and can only be re-negotiated in collective bargaining within the framework of State Education Law 3012-c.

The mayor and his henchmen have been gloating effusively. The mayor’s statement said “Commissioner King has sided with our children on nearly every major point of disagreement we had with the UFT’s leadership, while also rejecting the UFT’s long-held demand for a sunset provision.” Dennis Walcott said he was extremely pleased with the commissioner’s announcement today and we look forward to implementing it.” Bloomberg advisor Howard Wolfson bragged on Twitter that the UFT was “shut out on nearly all their demands.”  No matter how the UFT leadership tries to spin it, this is a major defeat for teachers and students.

What Now?

The dropoff in voter turnout in the recent UFT election was already a sign of a disengaged and passive membership.  The new evaluation system and the way it was imposed are likely to further demoralize the rank-and-file and increase their cynicism toward the union.  The UFT surrendered our collective bargaining rights by turning over the key issue in the next contract to the State Education Department, calling for a biased state official to impose evaluations on us.

MORE campaigned for a membership vote on this evaluation system, and presented a petition with over 1,000 signatures to the December Delegate Assembly.  Unity opposed submitting this to the membership since they knew it would be deeply unpopular.  The fact that this has instead been imposed by the State Education Department means Mulgrew and the Unity leadership will have an alibi for what will now certainly be a deeply concessionary contract.  We must expose the leadership’s circumvention of membership in this process, and their contempt for the voices of their rank-and-file.

June 12 will be the day that city workers come together to demand fair contracts.  In light of the new evaluation system, one wonders what’s left to negotiate.  The key concessions, the biggest change to our working conditions in at least a generation, are already in place.  It will be crucial for UFT members to attend and discuss the magnitude of this sell-out, and the undemocratic way in which it was imposed on us.  Our next contract will inevitably include the new evaluation system.  It will also be the first time in this process that the membership has been consulted at all.  A campaign to vote no on this contract would send a signal to the leadership that the membership rejects this plan.

Everybody agrees that the key to this will be implementation.  Teachers must build active chapters that can be vigilant in calling out abuse of the new system.   A coordinated grievance campaign around particular issues of implementation can help us make the most of the 15 extra arbitration days to deal with systemic abuses.  MORE will be campaigning in the fall to organize and train chapter leaders, delegates and school activists to be effective in defending their colleagues and organizing strong chapters.

Teachers also need to unite with students and parents to call for an end to the high stakes testing regime that is central to this new evaluation system.  Students will now not only be taking high stakes state tests or PARCC assessments, but also regular “performance assessments” designed to assess teacher effectiveness.  Campaigns like the MAP test boycott in Seattle show the power of a community uniting to fight the standardized testing regime.

What this whole sad story tells us is that we can’t rely on our union leaders to deliver on our behalf.  They have conceded everything, and may now even prove unable to win us retroactive pay for the years we’ve spent without a contract.  It’s only by rebuilding the union from the bottom up, school by school, classroom by classroom, that we will begin to stand up to the corporate assault on our schools.  MORE is dedicated to a different kind of union, one where democracy and accountability replace backroom deals, where the members make the decisions that matter in their professional lives.  Join us!


[1] If a DOE-appointed validator disagrees with the principal’s rating, the DOE keep burden of proof.  However, validators are likely to be retired principals, in the PEP+ system, which is currently used to help fire teachers.

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Wednesday June 12 Fair Contract For All Rally at City Hall NYC 4-6pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/123585811176249/

Let’s show this mayor and the next one that we are ready to take to the streets for a fair contract. For over four years UFT has been without a contract, meanwhile pensions for new members have eroded, an evaluation system that will take learning time away from our students will be imposed on us, and hundreds of schools have been closed while educators are excessed. The time is now to have OUR voices heard. join with the UFT and municipal union workers from around NYC to protest in front of city hall. All city unions are without a contract, we were asked to sacrifice, we did, now give our city workers the wages we deserve.

MORE will be there, will you? Look for us in our red MORE shirts and follow us on Twitter.com/morecaucusnyc for live updates

Contract Committee 6/19

Wednesday 6/19  6:15 (DA may end a little early or late, for those not attending DA please reserve back room)
Blarney Stone
11 Trinity Place (1 block west of UFT) NYC
Post-DA
Agenda
1. Conract Committee will host a date at the annual “Summer Series” forum at 138 ludlow St
(specific topics, guests, coordinator)
 2. New APPR and the current contract
 3. update on statements about contract
 4. New issues and plans

Summer Series

MORE will host our 2nd annual Summer Series featuring forums, special guests, and discussion on public education and union issues. Topics and presenters to be announced soon! Save the dates:

Local 138  at 138 Ludlow St (between Rivington St & Stanton St)  NYC

http://www.yelp.com/biz/local-138-new-york

Happy Hour Specials

Thursdays 4-7pm

July 11

July 25

August  8

August 22