Archives For MORE
Change the Stakes
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2014
Number of NYC Parents Refusing State Tests Expected to Triple in 2014
New York City –What began two years ago as a small pocket of resistance has burgeoned into a full-blown protest movement: public school parents are demanding an end to the excessive use of standardized tests and top-down, corporate-backed reforms. Change the Stakes estimates that three times as many NYC school children as last year – perhaps exceeding 1,000 – will refuse to take the annual English Language Arts (ELA) and math exams that begin next week.
At the Brooklyn New School, well over 200 students – nearly 80% of students in testing grades – will not take this year’s exams; last year only 4 BNS students opted out of the tests. The estimated test refusal rate at the Earth School in Manhattan is 50%, compared with 30% last year. At P.S. 446 in Brownsville, as many as 25 3rd grade parents have submitted refusal letters. At the Academy of Arts and Letters in Fort Greene, the number is 40, representing 75% of the 3rd grade. Principals say they expect the numbers to continue to rise until the exams begin April 1st.
Although children not taking the tests span the full range from 3rd to 8th grade, parents of younger children often refuse the tests because of changes in their child’s attitude toward school as a result of the testing.
Roseanne Cuffy-Scott, parent of a 3rd grader in the East Village said, “My son used to love going to school until his evenings were filled with homework assignments that confused him with complicated and poorly written math and reading questions. His assignments are stressful for both him and myself. I have to spend hours explaining concepts that he’s not ready for developmentally.” As for the tests, she said her son is nervous and “is fearful he will have to attend summer school or repeat third grade.”
Many parents refusing to have their children tested encounter supportive principals and teachers, while others are not so fortunate. Samantha De Los Santos, parent of a 3rd grader with special needs in Queens’ District 25, wants to opt her son out but says administrators and staff are pressuring her to allow her son to be tested. “They’re telling me he’ll be scored as failing if he doesn’t take the test and that he might not be promoted. They’re really scaring me.”
The lack of direction from the NYC Department of Education has led to uncertainty among administrators about how to respond to families refusing the tests; parents are still seeking guidance from the DOE. Although the new Chancellor, Carmen Fariña, has made clear her intent to be more responsive to parents, her department’s efforts have been hampered by the transition falling in the middle of the school year and pressure to tackle a multitude of issues at once.
The information vacuum has fostered misinformation, with students being threatened with various punishments – being forced to attend summer school or denied promotion as well as being excluded from graduation ceremonies and other school celebrations – for opting out of the tests.
But many parents refuse to be dissuaded from protecting their children from a public education system gone wrong. Dawn Babbush, a 3rd grade parent in Brooklyn’s District 13, asks “What has happened to our schools? How did it get this bad? The voices of trusted educators and caring parents have been completely disregarded. Our children are being subjected to a curriculum that lacks joy and life – it’s scripted and standardized and full of test prep. Test scores are used to sort students and rank teachers, creating a climate of competition and fear. It’s no wonder teachers feel pressure to teach to the test.”
Ms. Babbush added, “This is not the education we want for our children and we will not stand for it any longer. Parents have a voice, and our elected officials need to recognize us. We’ll be paying attention come November.”
MORE CAUCUS OF UFT TO CHALLENGE CURRENT UFT LEADERSHIP IN STATEWIDE UNION ELECTIONS
RANK AND FILE EDUCATORS WILL BRING REAL CLASSROOM EXPERIENCE TO UNION POSITIONS
New York – The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), the Social Justice Caucus of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), best known for opposing UFT’s President Michael Mulgrew and his Unity caucus in the 2013 UFT elections will now offer a positive alternative for leadership in the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) officer elections. This is unprecedented- never before has the Unity caucus or a sitting UFT president been challenged in NYSUT elections.
MORE is running in this election against the Unity Caucus because, according to candidate special education elementary teacher Julie Cavanagh,
“…Rather than collaborating with those who seek to destroy us, we must harness our collective power and stand with parents and youth to end destructive education policies and fight for the economic, racial, and social justice our teachers, students, and society need and deserve.”
In a break from his union’s leadership, MORE candidate and high school teacher Mike Schirtzer calls for an immediate repeal of the Common Core State Standards,
“Teachers did not develop it, nor does it have the best interests of our students at heart.”
The standards have been supported by the current union leadership despite they way they force classroom teachers to do ever-increasing amounts of test preparation at the expense of real instruction. Students are bored with the the constant “drilling”, which deprives them of an authentic, engaging education.
MORE is challenging for statewide union office in order to initiate a change in direction, towards standards developed by pedagogical experts and field tested before implementation. MORE candidate and elementary school teacher Lauren Cohen adds,
“The Common Core is fundamentally undemocratic – not only in its implementation but in its conception. Handing teachers rigid, scripted curricula benefits corporate interests while neglecting students’ need for a developmentally-appropriate and well-rounded education.”
Public school parent, teacher, and MORE candidate Jia Lee explains that she is running for this position because,
“Our union leadership has allowed for the high-stakes use of invalid standardized tests, putting an entire generation of youth, educators, and schools at risk, and has promoted a culture of fear. It is time for democratic policies that respect the diverse needs of New York’s public schools.”
Our union leadership has done precious little to stop the over-reliance on testing, even though a plethora of research proves that measuring students only on test scores does not provide a complete picture of what a child has learned. Mike Schirtzer reiterated,
“The Unity caucus strategy has been political lobbying; they have not mobilized the UFT membership, even as schools are closed, high stakes tests proliferate, and student data is sold to the highest bidder. “
MORE believes our union must stand up in defense of our students. Reducing class size, funding the arts, offering a wide array of after-school programs, and providing full social-emotional and medical services for families would be the type of reform that would truly move our schools forward. Addressing poverty, racism, sexism, and other issues that our children face every day is what real union leadership is about.
Unfortunately, Unity caucus is stubbornly clinging to obsolete tactics that have resulted in the nearly unopposed corporate takeover of our schools. NYSUT and UFT must fight to allow working educators, students, and their parents, to determine educational policy. Policy should no longer be determined by those who seek to profit financially from our public education.MORE is challenging Unity in order to offer a slate of candidates that truly represents classroom teachers. Any policies the MORE candidates negotiate will affect them directly, because they are in the classroom each school day. That is not the case for the small clique of high-ranking Unity grandees currently dictating UFT policy.
Each new bureaucratic diktat, from Common Core to the cookie-cutter Danielson rubric to High Stakes testing, has resulted in less time for grading, lesson planning, and collaboration with administrators, parents, and colleagues. These failed policies have buried teachers under mounds of useless paperwork that do not positively impact our students. A new NYSUT leadership that includes the MORE slate will mobilize rank and file educators in the five boroughs and locals from around the state to take back our schools. Education policy should never be dictated in corporate boardrooms or political back rooms. It should be created with the input of the real experts- working teachers and parents.
The elections will take place April 5th, 2014 at the NYSUT representative assembly held at the New York Midtown Hilton. Local union presidents and delegates from around New York state will converge at this convention to cast their ballots and determine the statewide union’s direction. MORE is running an independent slate of six candidates for Board of Directors At-Large representing UFT members; Julie Cavanagh, James Eterno, Jia Lee, Mike Schirtzer, Lauren Cohen, and Francesco Portelos. They have also endorsed the candidacy of Arthur Goldstein for NYSUT Executive Vice President and Beth Dimino, President of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, for a Director At-Large for Suffolk. Only elected delegates from last year’s UFT election may vote in the NYSUT election, not rank and file members. MORE represents thousands of UFT members (including over 40% of the high school teachers who voted in the 2013 elections). UFT’s undemocratic rules do not allow for proportional representation, therefore all the NYC delegates at NYSUT convention are from the Unity caucus. These are at-large positions, meaning that any NYSUT delegate may vote for us, including those not from the UFT.