Opine I will

I am an elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

Tin Foil Hat Time

The other day my in-box was overrun with comments from a Facebook page I like. ( I will not reveal the page out of respect to its administrator who has been doing a great job fighting for children.)

A debate raged on throughout the day regarding NY Governor Astorino’s anti- Common Core stance and pro charter stance which was championed by some on the extreme Right. They felt since Astorino was against Common Core, that was reason enough to throw support his way against Cuomo. When some pointed out that the issues are much more complicated than just the Core all hell broke loose.

Teachers were accused of looking out for themselves and not children. Astorino supporters accused those, who wonder what his full agenda is for public education really is,  as being simply for unions and not children. This nonsense went on all day , over 1000 comments were made and  many were very personal attacks. I didn’t post anything until late in the day when posted this.

 

ok folks… calm down. Let’s stop the bickering.. Focus on the problems… CC, charters, consolidation gimmicks, tax caps, vouchers, privatization, Pearson, Texas controlling our textbooks, attacks on tenure, attacks on unions, unfunded mandates, RTI used to deny services, data mining, class size, virtual schools, attacks on pensions, TRS contributions, making new hires pay more for pensions and insurance, attacks on steps, attacks on Triborough.. and more.

The response I got from one of the most vocal posters was, Ralph forgot to mention the children.

Well I simply lost it at that point..

I posted.. been reading your rants all day… If you knew the issues you would know they are mostly all about children. 
Lets start with RTI… you even know what that is? 
Normally, I would take the time and explain each and every one. but not tonight. I don’t have my tin foil hat with me.. You see I need it to deal will people like you. 

No body wants to read your sophomoric rants anymore… make your point, sit back an act like an adult, instead of some crazed person looking on the web to pick a fight. That is not productive, it’s childish and very ugly. 

Have a wonderful night.

I thought pointed, but pretty tame .  The entire Right wing was then on attack mode.  This was clearly evident when I was accused of not thinking about children. They must have donned their Tin Foil battle hats because I was clearly the Left Wing Socialist that dared to speak about the larger picture.

This is why I will not allywith the Right wing  I have written about it more than once.

 

Let me be real blunt…

The extreme Right wing is against public schools, public school teachers, funding of public schools, social services of any kind, diversity, and just about everything I believe in.

Why in the hell would I ally on 1 issue… when given a chance, they would take us back to an era when if you needed help it was your problem. They look at the past as if was a rerun of Leave it to Beaver, ignoring the tremendous social issues of our past.

 

Will I vote for Cuomo? NO!  I will not vote for Astorino either.. I do not want to live in NY under another Republican Governor. We suffered enough under Pataki. If Cuomo wins let him win by default, then I will focus on the legislature, because they will be the real ones in trouble.

The Governor’s election is only a battle in this major war to protect our public schools. I want to win that war.

 

 

Today we Rally

Today teachers in New York State will be rallying outside the NYS Democratic Convention at the Hilton in Melville, NY.

Once upon a time, Democrats valued public school teachers
Then the Race to the Top began…
• Cuomo became our Governor
• teachers were scapegoated,
• children were used as pawns in high stakes tests
• tax caps began to break our schools
• a Common Core was shoved down our throats
The “King” refused to listen to the people…

So now teachers are here to ask, “why should we value Democrats???”

My 6 minutes of fame?

Last Friday I was angry and ashamed, so I sat down at my laptop, after school, and banged out my heartfelt thoughts as a self induced form of therapy and self reflection.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have predicted the reaction that last post received. The number of hits on my blog skyrocketed, and Valerie Straus of the Washingtom Post   re-posted my story . Then things really got interesting, several talk radio stations tracked me down requesting interviews and then Glen Beck’s newest venture  ‘The Blaze’ ran the story. I was then asked to be on Beck’s ‘Real News’ show to discuss my blog and the Common Core.  What a week it has been so far!

The comments I received on my blog were mostly complimentary. Teachers weighing in and agreeing with me for the most part. I expected that, considering most people who would follow a link to my humble site most likely are teachers or parents who tend to agree with my views.

On the other hand, the comments from the Washington Post (well over 700) were mostly mixed.  I expected that considering it has a tremendous following for many different viewpoints.

What I didn’t expect was this from Glen Beck. He did this piece as a tease for my upcoming segment on Real News.  I appreciate that he recognizes my peaceful resistance against the reform policies that are coming  from both the left and the right. However I do have some issues in how he perceives the problem. First,  I don’t view  John Dewey as an ‘evil dude’.

I also disagree with his statement when he says,

Ask yourself that question.  Have our schools gotten better or worse since the federal government got involved?  Why should we listen to the people who gave us the Department of Education in the 1970s?  Since its inception, spending per child has tripled while student performance has flatlined or declined.  What evidence is there to suggest that they have any earthly idea on what they are doing?”

I have addressed this issue on this blog before when I wrote ” Let’s Drive This Data”.

The good news is, Glen Beck does understand that public education is under attack from both the Left and the Right when he says,

” This is one of those fights that exposes the frauds on both sides of the aisle.  This is one that can bring all Americans together.  The establishment Republicans, the Lindsey Grahams, the John McCains, the Jeb Bushes of the world, and the Democrats, they’re beholden to the almighty corporation and the progressive agenda, both of them, and they’re dutifully escorting Common Core into every classroom against your will.”

I wonder if his staff has read an earlier piece that I have written, where I state that in order to win this battle we need to ” Keep it Simple”.  In  this post I have said,

“I am against the Common Core and high stakes testing due to pedagogical reasons, while groups on the Right are against it for political reasons. Political arguments are self serving, they reflect a much larger agenda. Calling it Obamacore may feel good to some but it does not help our cause.

In this case these Right Wing groups are pushing a much darker agenda. They look at Common Core as a grand conspiracy by the left, meant to indoctrinate our children while creating a mega database of ammunition that will be used against the masses. I can’t be an ally to that rhetoric.”

Unfortunately, I don’t believe Mr. Beck is a true friend of public education, teachers and public schools.

I was invited onto his network’s Real News show to be interviewed. It lasted a mere 6 minutes. The interview was supposed to be about my blog and Common Core testing. Watch  and see where it went. I think I held my own  considering this was a first for me.

Let me know what you think. 

 

 

 

Ashamed to be a teacher today

Today was the first day I was ever ashamed to be a teacher.

Today I finished administering the sixth day of New York State Common Core assessments. I was a facilitator in a process that made my 10 year old students struggle,to the point of frustration, to complete yet another 90 minute test. I sat by as I watched my students attempt to answer questions today that were beyond their abilities. I knew the test booklets I put in front of them contained questions that were written in a way that 95% of them had no chance of solving. I even tried to give my students a pep talk, in hopes of alleviating their angst, when I knew damn well they didn’t stand a chance. Today I was part of the problem.

As I watched my students, I was angry that my efforts to stop this madness were not successful. I was angry at my students’ parents for not opting out their children. I was angry at my administrators for not stepping up to the plate and attempting to end this madness. I was angry at Governor Cuomo, NY Education Commissioner King, the Board of Regents, my state senator, my state assemblyman, President Obama, and even my state union. I was angry that my students were victims in the abusive game to drive a political agenda.

I lost it today. I lost a little bit of my self esteem. I lost my faith in my Party. I lost my faith in my ability to protect my students. I lost my faith in our future.

I watched my students valiantly attempt math questions that most adults could not answer. These questions were wordy, and purposely confusing in a warped way to prove some vulgar point about our public education system. Historically, my students excel on standardized tests, often finishing near the top of our district and state. Today I witnessed , no I was part of!! students enduring an abusive situation.

Today I am ashamed. I am ashamed I didn’t do enough to stop this madness.

But, I am not done. I am pledging to double my efforts to stop this form of institution abuse. My state senator and assemblyman be warned that if you do not work to end this madness, I will work to have you replaced with someone who will. Governor Cuomo, be warned that I will work harder to ensure your sick agenda is exposes you for what you really are. Commissioner King, be warned that I will do whatever I can to make sure you are replaced.

Today is a dark day…but not for long.

Cut the head off the serpent called Pearson

Something is seriously wrong, when representatives of the AFT must travel to London to attempt to engage Pearson executives, and board members in order to convince them  to remove “gag orders” preventing educators from expressing concerns about Pearson-developed tests and to meet with educators, parents and other stakeholders to address their concerns regarding these tests.

Let me rephrase that;

 The largest teachers union in the United States, traveled overseas to  ask a foreign corporation to allow a free and open discussion on a product that is forcing a paradigm shift in education in the United States!

We now find ourselves at a crossroads of sort. Will our elected representative continue to allow this foreign corporation to feed our children content that educators and most importantly parents are forbidden to review or even discuss? Just this past week, I was reminded that I can not even discuss the New York State tests with my grade level partners to figure out how we can drive instruction next year. We can not even discuss strategies that worked for us  or did not work in relation to these tests.

Enough is enough! It’s time to cut the head off that serpent that promises better times with a forbidden fruit. 

It seems as though Pearson is in serious financial trouble according to Alan Singer.  

Pearson admits:

Our North American education business faced a tough trading environment throughout 2013, driven by state budget pressures and the transition to the Common Core (affecting our School business) and lower enrollments (affecting Higher Education). The career college sector, in which we have a strong market position, was particularly weak. In addition to these market pressures, our North American margins were further affected by planned investments in learning technologies and related infrastructure, Common Core programs, the launch costs related to major multi-year service-based contracts in higher education, and increased returns provisions.

Pearson also generates  60% of it’s sales from the United States, from it’s Education business and Penguin Random House.

It’s time to boycott.

Throughout our nation’s history, the People have used the boycott to affect needed change. It’s time for us to continue that grand tradition that lies within the bedrock of our democracy.

Boycott anything related to Pearson.

Some may say that others decide what products we must use in our schools and we really have no choice. I say that’s nonsense. Get yourself on decision making committees, get elected to a school board and do whatever you can to say no to Pearson. Vote no to any Pearson product! That also includes products related to Pearson. 

Let elected officials know that if they vote to support this foreign corporation in any way, you will not vote for them.

Not another US penny should be spent on any product from Pearson.

Let’s begin by creating a detailed list of Pearson products, I invite your contributions on the comments section of this page.

 

 

 

 

 

Keep it simple…

We are not going to win this battle against the corporate reformers backing Common Core unless we become unified under a valid banner.

It’s simple.. Common Core Standards and high stakes testing have no pedagogical validity because there are no empirical studies that verifies they actual are capable of results the so called reformers claim. In addition, high stakes testing is a form of institutional abuse that must be halted immediately.

Unfortunately, that important message is being destroyed by some who claim they are against the Common Core.

Read David Brooks opinion piece this past week . He calls it a circus. He describes the Right Wing attacks and misrepresents the Left.

There are groups of all political persuasions that are against the Common Core, high stakes testing and education reform. That said, just because another group may be against something that I am also fighting, they are not considered my ally. You really need to explore the agenda of all groups.

I am against the Common Core and high stakes testing due to pedagogical reasons, while groups on the Right are against it for political reasons. Political arguments are self serving, they reflect a much larger agenda. Calling it Obamacore may feel good to some but it does not help our cause.

In this case these Right Wing groups are pushing a much darker agenda. They look at Common Core as a grand conspiracy by the left, meant to indoctrinate our children while creating a mega database of ammunition that will be used against the masses. I can’t be an ally to that rhetoric.

I have  called out that agenda by posting links on Twitter that demonstrated that their agenda is so far to the Right that all of us should be wary. These groups are against teachers unions, they are against tenure, they support vouchers, they claim liberal teachers are brainwashing their children, and they claim Common Core is a tool to undermine Christian values just to start.

I have been vocal about these groups before, I have shown links to the Heritage Foundation, Freedomworks, the Koch brothers, and other similar groups.  I posted proof that their keynote speakers ally themselves with Glenn Beck and the Cato institute.

I will not ally with any group that is looking for my demise as a public school teacher or as a union member. I won’t risk the war, to save our nation’s important asset, our public schools and teachers, to win any battle.

Don’t kid yourself, these Right wing groups that are fighting education reform, with their not so hidden agendas, will ultimately destroy any chance we have to beat back the reformers. They will undermine the foundation of our cause, And once they erode the very ground that public education stands on, all will be lost.

Case in point…Those of us in New York are doing battle with Democrat Governor Cuomo. The more the Right pushes their agenda, Cuomo digs in deeper ignoring the Democrats in the group appealing to pedagogical senses.

Is this any way to affect change?

It’s time to call these groups out. Expose their true agendas.  Then and only then will we really have a chance to save public education.

Keep it simple.. Common Core Standards and high stakes testing have no pedagogical validity because there are no empirical studies that verifies they actual are capable of results the so called reformers claim. In addition, high stakes testing is a form of institutional abuse that must be halted immediately.

 

Common Core Test Abuse

Today my 5th grade class was subjected to day 1 of a  3 day Common Core exam that according to New York Governor Cuomo will result in “unfair test results.” He even said students must be protected from these results. The legislature took the extraordinary (not really) step of including a bill in their budget proposal that says districts should not use the results of these tests, unless of course they want to.

Confused yet? During last’s night debate ( not really) on the New York State Assembly floor, Assemblyman Graf asked if it was true that they were voting to reduce a 90 minute test to 90 minutes! ( Yes!, Really, 90 minutes!)

Today, Cuomo announced that he needed to look at the impact of Common Core testing on teacher evaluations. ( Yes, he really said that!) Cuomo said Common Core testing has been rolled out too quickly and it is not a fair indicator of student success.

Has the campaign begun??

As Cuomo fiddles, the students in my class are being put through the fire. They sat today trying to decipher ridiculous questions that asked, among other things, relationships between paragraphs, which paragraphs contribute to the structure of a story, and what should have been included in the summary of a story they read.

The read 6 essays, and answered 42 very difficult and abstract questions. The stories had characters with names that would be unfamiliar to 98%  of New Yorkers. They were uninteresting and the students told me later just how  hard they struggled to stay motivated. Observing,  I witnessed students struggle through the first couple then they seem to just skim and randomly select bubbles to fill in. One student said, “This was the worst 90 minutes of the entire year.”

Students wondered if they failed, students were drained and wondered what they would face tomorrow.

My question to the governor,

Why did we abuse New York’s children today?

 

 

 

My Constitutional Right

A quick update.

If you have been reading my blog, you would know that I have documented my unfortunate encounter with my NYS Assemblywomen Michaelle Solages. I have gathered enough evidence that Solages has used her office to attempt to destroy my career. I know a NYS Assembly Computer was used to impersonate a NYSUT member ( New York State United Teachers) . I know she tracked down where I worked and called my principal. I know that she call the regional office at NYSUT asking them to do something about me. I know my district received an mysterious e-mail that included the same details the message sent from the Assembly computer.

Too many patriots have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the ideals of our nation. Our elected representative, are suppose to represent us not the party line. Our elected representatives are not allowed to abuse the power of their office. When a constituent asks a simple question like I did, an answer is expected. A vendetta is not.

Something I haven’t posted. I called Ms. Solages office the other day and demanded an apology. I also warned them if an apology was not received I would take this further. Yet another opportunity lost by her to do the right thing.

Therefore, my complaint to The New York State Office of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau has been mailed. I do not do this lightly. I am fully aware that any false statements made by me are punishable by law.

 

Attorney General Time?

This saga with my Assemblywomen appears to be reaching a level that I never expected. I was informed tonight that an e-mail was sent to my district that accuses me of some sort of wrong doing. So now an internal investigation into the incident is underway. I am 100% confident that I did nothing wrong and that nothing will come out of this that will have a negative affect on me.

That said, yesterday I received the following comment on my blog. I deleted it, not because I am afraid of negative comments, but because something was just not right. Let’s see if you can spot the problem. Click on it to enlarge it.

comment

Did you notice the I.P. address?

A simple I.P. address search reveals the origin of the comment.

Check this out.. Click on it so you can read it.

IP address

Surprised? Not me..

Now once I get my hands on the e-mail sent to my district and check out that I.P address it may be time to contact Albany.

Agree?

Representative Government 101

 

For those of you who do not know me, I am a fifth grade teacher on Long Island. I am also someone who believes in teaching my students much more than what is required on some asinine Common Core assessment. I teach them how to be truly prepared for the wonderful futures that each one of them deserve and hopefully achieve. Today was one of those days when they learned much more that my planned aims of today’s lesson.

I have been teaching about the American Revolutionary  War and our nation’s struggle  to establish a form of government that is … “of the people, by the people and for the people.” We have been having discussions as the the importance of representation on government and what that really means. So today, I planned on demonstrating to my students that anyone, even them, can contact a legislator that represents them and either find out where they stand on an issue or to give their own opinion on any issue.  I have also been teaching them that opinions back with facts and background are far more powerful than just plain opines.

Today, I called my NYS Assemblywomen Michaelle Solages, while my class watched. First I showed them how they could find their assembly person and how they could contact them. We went to the Assembly website and searched. I explained that yesterday there was a controversial vote regarding the Board of Regents and that I wanted to find out how Assemblywomen Solages voted. I also gave them some background as to why I was interested. I explained that there were many people who were looking for a change in the Board and that Assemblwomen Solages had led many of her constituents to believe that she would not vote to reappoint  four Regents.

I showed the class that I would be taking notes during the conversation and asked them to be patient. I called her office and a staff member answered the phone. I introduced myself as a constituent, the staffer asked my address and why I was calling. I stated that I wanted to know how the Assemblywomen voted on the Regent issue. The staff member then told me she did not know, and that she would have someone call. I asked if I could hold on while she found out and she said, that this is an issue that is of high priority. I then asked if that was so, why can’t she just tell me how she voted. She again said, someone would call me.

Three minutes later, the Assemblywomen called. The first thing she wanted to know was my address. I told her, then asked her how she voted on the Regents issue. (Please keep in mind, at no time was she on speaker phone. My class was merely listening to my words only not hers.) As I was talking to her, my principal walked into my room, I handed her a note, that said ‘ lesson in representative government, Assemblywomen Solages on the phone”.

The Assemblywomen, began by telling me that people move into my village because of the schools and how they affect our property values. I interrupted her and said, I merely wanted to know how she voted. She then went on to ask me if I had children and what age they were and how long I lived in my Village.

I again asked her how she voted. I explained to her that I was a teacher and that I grew up in the village. I know how important our schools were and that I didn’t understand why she just could not answer my question.

She threatened to end the call if I would not let her speak. I explained once again, all I was looking for was a simple answer, “how did you vote?”

She then told me that she could not in good conscious vote for some of the candidates due to their stance on guns. I then asked her if she voted to reinstate the incumbent Regents. No answer.

I then asked her if she voted for Finn.

She responded, “Justice Finn?”

I said yes, “Did you vote for her?”

She said, “yes.” I then asked her how justice Finn was able to bypass all the other candidates and get pushed to the front of the line? No answer. I then said something like, well now we have a “spiritual adviser’  as a Regent.

I then asked her again if she voted for the others. This went back and forth without any definitive answers.

It was futile, I then told her that I was in front of my class ( Where else would I be at 10 A.M.) and that I will have to tell my students that my representative in government refuses to tell me how she voted.

At this point she said that I was wrong for doing this, how would my students parents feel about my call, and I shouldn’t use children this way. I told her, I was teaching my students how they can find out how their representative voted. She then abruptly hung up on me.

I then turned to my class, they asked me how she voted, I told them she did not answer me and that she hung up.

I thought the lesson was over, not quite…

I needed to explain that what she did was wrong, that she should have answered my questions and that she most likely avoided  answering because she knew I would not have agreed with her. I then explained that my only recourse was the ballot box .

Several minutes later, my principal walks in at informed me that the Assemblywomen, called her and complained that I was doing something wrong and requested my principal talk to me about it. ( How did she know where I worked? I never told her. Did she misuse her official office for an attempt at revenge?)

I then called her office back, and informed her staff member that her attempt to get me in trouble failed and that now it is “game on.”  I explained that I would actively campaign in my village to ensure she never gets reelected.

I thought my day was done the, but not quite.

On my way home, I received a call from NYSUT. She called my regional office to once again complain about me. I calmly informed NYSUT what transpired, assured them I never had her on speaker phone and that she never answered my question.

I then call Assemblywomen Solages office once again, and told them that I was informed about her call to NYSUT. I told her staffer that unless the Assemblywomen called to apologize I would approach the press.

So far no call at 7:35PM.. Therefore the blog posting.

The sad thing is, if she would of allowed her staffer to answer my question, it would have been over, my students would have learned a little something about representative government and all would have been fine.

But no, the Assemblywomen  demonstrated behavior that should never be tolerated in representative government and my students learned much more than I even dared to dream they could learn in one day. Thank you Assemblywomen Solages!

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