Opine I will

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

We enter the darkest days of education.

Today we have entered into one of the darkest days in education. In New York State the abusive Common Core tests get underway.  Our students, some as young as 8 years old will begin the grueling process of reading passage after passage and answering an unforgiving array of multiple choice and essay questions. These children will sit for at least 9 hours to fulfill a political ideology that has nothing to do with educating the child.

With these ‘new” untimed tests, some children could potentially sit for 6 hours on each of the 6 testing dates. Their only break will be a sequestered supervised lunch break where they will be monitored to ensure they do not discuss the test with their fellow students.

Our children will struggle with questions that have more than 1 plausible answer. They will have to select the best plausible answer. Questions will ask them , for example, to analyze paragraphs 3, 14 , 24 & 26  and then choose the answer that best describes their relationship. They will be forbidden to give their opinion in an essay as they regurgitate details to fulfill the task at hand.

When we look at past tests, we can almost guarantee some passages will be purposely confusing due to the use of names and customs they are not familiar with. This makes it extremely difficult for them to  utilize their own schema to decode the information provided. Some passages are above grade level and there are also  field questions that are not counted are part of these tests.

Teachers must sit by as our students struggle for hours. We will observed children get physically and emotionally ill taking these tests. We are forbidden to assist or even discuss the tests.

Students who refuse the test must sit in the same room with those taking the test. They are expected to sit quietly and read for at least 90 minutes. Have you ever tried that? How do they expect 8-12 year old kids to do that?

Folk, this is institutional child abuse! I have written about this and about how this is the time of year that I am ashamed to be a teacher.  We all should be ashamed, when we make these children take these tests to fulfill a political agenda and provide absolutely no valid  data that helps children excel.

Get over it? No freaking way!

We have  been told over and over again  “get over it!”   I won’t get over it, I won’t sit back quietly, I won’t stand idle while our country is in trouble.

How can we stand by when our illegitimate Commander in Chief puts our nation’s standing in the world at risk every day? On Thursday, his  Ambassador to the United Nations told the world representatives at the UN that she will be taking names.  Our national security is at risk due to his traitorous  appointment to protect our nation. His continued attack of the press corp threatens the very fabric of our national identity. His appointments to his cabinet are direct attacks on our environment, workers’ rights, regulatory protections, our judicial system, and many of our God given human rights. Even his latest selection to be our National Security Adviser turned down the important job. It’s reported that he refused because, as he put it, this administration is a real “shit sandwich.”

Trumps response to these concerns consists of lies, repeated lies of his election, attacking the questioner, and holding rallies. Folks, when asked about the uptick of antisemitism and the growing violence to Jews, he responded by telling the reported to sit down.  When questioned by a black reporter if he is willing to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss violence in the inner cities, he acted as if he didn’t know what the CBC was then asked the reporter to set up the meeting with her friends.Trump is mentally ill!

His appointment of Betsey DeVos should raise alarms across the nation. Do Trumpkins really want children with special needs to go without needed services? Do they really believe evolution is made up science fiction? Do they really believe schools should be privately owned ventures that are funded with taxpayer monies and that these schools should not be held accountable for these funds or the success of their programs?

Do Trumpkins really believe that 100’s of thousands of National Guard troops should go door to door, school to school, office to office, hospital to hospital as a deportation force? Are we ready to hid our neighbors in our attics, hidden rooms, barns, and basements? Is that what we are about to become?

Are Trumpkins prepared to live in a nation, where there will be no protections on the job site, where basic employee rights will be stripped, or where they will not be able to negotiate a collective bargained agreement that would protect the company as well as the employee. Are they prepared to return to the workplaces of the late 1800’s where they have no choice but to owe the company store?

Are Trumpkins prepared to watch people die due to the lack of healthcare? Will they be willing to return to the era of only those with money get treated and watch others suffer or  die? Is this making America great?

Folks I will not get over it!  Trump and Pence needs to be impeached. I am not willing to sit back and watch this egomaniac systematically destroy our country. I won’t sit in the corner, I won’t sit quietly, I refuse to accept this blatant attack on our national conscience.

Join me at rallies, join me at organization meetings, join me making calls, join me on social media. Don’t get over it.. get organized. Resist!

 

 

 

 

We are becoming the America I know, not the America I want!

We are becoming the America I know, not the America I want.

The America I know is a nation with a checkered past. Yes, we are the greatest nation on the face of the earth! Yes, I love our nation and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our guiding principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As true Americans and true patriots we must always strive to make our great nation a place where those guiding principles apply to all.  Unfortunately, the America I know has not been that place.

We should be drawing on our checkered past to protect and practice those guiding principles not bastardize them. Our Founders knew we had flaws and they knew our nation would be facing challenges that would threaten our guiding principles. They created our guiding document, The Constitution, that would ensure our nation would always be governed with those guiding principles. They knew times would change and the Constitution should be a “living document’ that would be amended and changed as needed to ensure the maintenance of our nation’s guiding principles

Unfortunately, we now have a nation that is deeply divided and is at a very dangerous ‘fork in the road”. Will we go down the road towards the America we all know, or towards the America we want?

Will we return down the road of racism, ignorance and fear? I fear President Trump and his supporters are driving us down the road towards the America we know, not the America we should be.

Within a week of taking office we have seen a return towards  taking Native American sacred lands. We have seen an “America First” policy that has closed our welcoming door that repeats our pre WWII actions. We have seen an executive order that has institutionalized discrimination based on religion, much like the Puritans did. We are seeing a return to the Gilded Age where corruption and greed overshadowed the needs of the masses. We are seeing Trump’s Cabinet shaping into a group that will try to shut down the press, create an enemies list, seek retribution for those who dare disagree, funnel public revenues to their own, and destroy the concept of public education for all.  Their early actions and statements have  signaled that they will be changing our guiding principles, much like Andrew Jackson did, when he ignored a Supreme Court ruling and murdered thousands of Native Americans.

We cannot escape our past. We need to confront it and learn from it, not repeat it. The America I know is far from perfect. Let’s go down the road that draws upon our past successes. The Road that embraces the “wretched refuse to our teeming shore.” Let’s go down the road that leads to our guiding principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. No matter who you are, what you are, or what you worship or not.  That’s the road we should be on, not the road towards our dark past with the toll gate controlled by the gilded class.

The way to get on the right road is to resist. Resist every attempt to go down that toll road towards our dark past. Hold your elected representatives accountable. Protest, call, write, run for office. Do whatever you need to do. Do not let them drag us down that dark road. Resist, resist, resist.

A Nation in Distress

distress-flag

I love our nation, I say the Pledge every day with my class and yes, we do say “One nation under God!”  I respect the lives lost defending our national symbol that represents the dreams and aspirations of our forefathers. I would never wear a flag, burn a flag or otherwise desecrate it. I am the son of a veteran and I am fully aware of the controversy surrounding those who would use the flag as a symbol protest.

So why then am I displaying an upside-down flag? Flying our flag upside down is not disrespectful if it is being used as signal of distress. Our nation is in a state of distress and it is about to be destroyed from within if we do not wake up as a nation. My upside-down flag signals that we are facing pain. I fear pain that we have never seen before. I am frightened. Frightened foremost for my children and grandchildren, as well as everyone else.

The election of Donald J. Trump happened because our country is in distress. Ultra- alt-right Tea Party types have brainwashed the masses (even though more people rejected Trump at the polls) into believing our country is no longer great. Our news outlets gave free reign to give un-American rallies air time and our radio airways have been taken over by propogandists spewing hatred.  Social media has been a breeding ground for false news, hatred, racism and worse. Congress has hijacked our Constitution and effectively stole the right of President Obama to appoint a member to the Supreme Court.

A huge segment of our population has been brainwashed into believing that America needs to be great again and that our national identity has been hijacked by ‘undesirables’. The result is Donald J. Trump! You may disagree with my analysis of our situation, and that is your right. However, you need to understand what is about to happen.

Trump is putting together a cabinet of individuals that pose a huge threat to our way of life. His potential Supreme Court nominee or nominees will lead our nation down a dangerous path.

Looking at Trump’s cabinet we see a crew should frighten us all.  Trump’s ties to Russia are emerging as he is considering appointing a Secretary of State that will ease sanctions so he can close his ExxonMobile deal with Putin. He has chosen a Secretary of Education who has actively worked to destroy public education. His choice for Homeland Security is a General. What’s next, martial law?

Trump’s cabinet will include an EPA Secretary who disputes climate change and wants to roll back regulations that protect our climate, and the very air we breathe. His choice for the SBA comes from his pals at the WWE! What’s next, death cage matches on the Mall?

It gets worse, he wants a General with the Nickname “ Mad Dog” to lead our Department of defense and a certifiable lunatic who got booted from the NSA as his top security adviser.  His top pick for HUD is psychotic according to Trump himself.  Even if we  survive this cabinet of fools, the middle class will not survive his Supreme Court.

Labor will be in distress. Workers across our country are about to be economically slaughtered. Trump’s first salvo was his attack on the United Steel Workers this week. Trump paved the way for Carrier to move hundreds of jobs under the guise that they are saving jobs. When called out on his lies, we saw Trump’s true agenda. He told them they needed to work harder and implied that they should accept a salary cut that would take them below the minimum wage.

Be prepared for a bloodletting on the labor front. First on his agenda will be a National Right to Work Law that will target every private sector union in the nation. Anti-Labor National Labor Relation Board appointments will make it impossible to correct unfair practices in the workplace. A SCOTUS decision that will allow ‘free riders’ to benefit from union bargaining and protection. Even those ‘free riders’ will lose the benefits of collective bargaining when it is banned (see Wisconsin). SCOTUS will rule that public school budgets can be raided to fund private and religious schools. Hedge fund controlled Charter Schools will eventually finish off our public-school system, Trump’s push for privatization will take a death grip across every public service sector across the nation. Teacher’s across the nation will watch their tenure and seniority rights get stripped away and students will be at the mercy of the power-brokers.

Our social safety net will be ripped apart as public service worker’s pensions will be stripped bare. Medicare and Medicaid may be destroyed. Healthcare for all may be a thing of the past. Our most vulnerable will be labeled as burdens and interlopers.

Our Country is in distress. Head the distress signal. Resist!

The End is Near

 

the-end-sign

Public education is our nation’s most important asset that is responsible for protecting and nurturing our nation’s most precious asset, our children. Public Education is about to be dismantled and sold off to the highest bidder in every state of our nation. Trump’s legacy will someday describe this real estate scoundrel as the demolition expert that has destroyed an American institution that began in 1690.  Unfortunately, a large portion of our populace do not realize that the end is near.

No matter which party you support or who you voted for, you will soon feel the real pain of a Trump administration. Some have said, we may survive four years of Trump, but will we survive many years of an ultra-Right Wing Supreme Court? Will we survive a Tea party controlled Congress? Will our schools survive?

The “end” for public education is one step closer with Trump’s pick for Education Secretary billionaire Betsy DeVos. DeVos is a conservative activist that has pushed for school vouchers across the nation. She supports raiding taxpayer revenues and funneling them to private and parochial schools. She has no experience in education and will be the chief architect in Trump’s demolition plan.

Trump’s demolition plan includes the destruction of unions. The very same unions that advocate for highly effective schools, strong standards that are appropriate, school safety, and protect the needs of our most challenged students.   Trump has signaled that he would establish Right to Work laws nationwide. Trump’s plan would impede all unions’ abilities to provide the much-needed advocacy that has protected our schools and in turn our middle class.

The end will arrive for many of our union sisters and brothers when a Trump Supreme Court dismantles public unions’ bargaining rights and his wrecking ball destroys tenure protections. Public schools will be immediately impacted when teachers that advocate for their students are fired without due process. Public schools will be systematically taken over by private for profit corporations that will not be subjected to collective bargaining. Profits and the bottom line will be the only measure that is important.

The end is near for public pensions. Trump’s demolition crew is about to blow up a system that has allowed hard working public sector employees to contribute to a system that would protect them in their end years. Trump’s crew will raid our pensions and turn them over to his private sector buddies. Public sector employees will now face the same questionable future as the private sector workers who have lost their future.

The end is near for our curricula. Our Science programs will be distorted with creationists warped views, Social Studies will be used as a tool to indoctrinate and not liberate the mind. The Arts will be lost forever. The focus will be on a false accountability system, based on a failed business model invented in some boardroom.

The end is near for our freedoms. Our freedom to worship as we choose, love who we choose, opine as we choose and severely limit our individual life choices. Trump’s demolition crew is about to dismantle our Inalienable Rights.  Disguised as the Righteous, his crew is about to destroy the very fabric of our nation.

We all know what we witnessed the day after election day. Many of us saw our own union sisters and brothers celebrate Trump’s win. Many of us lashed out on social media and even got into heated arguments. We could not believe that our sisters and brothers and even our loved ones failed to see that Trumps win will destroy us all.

If we put aside Trumps racism, bigoted, misogynist statements. We are still left with the unpleasant truth that the end is near. Unfortunately, it will be pain that will eventually open the eyes of many of our union sisters and brothers. The pain will be swift and devastating. It will be too late for I told you so’s. It will be our demise. Unless we stop him!

Resist! Resist! Resist! Put your niceties aside. Inform, argue, debate and be relentless. Boycott when told to, protest when you can. Throw up roadblocks, stand your ground. Don’t accept “maybe things will get better” or give him a chance. All the signs are there. Point everyone out. Point every threat to our way of life. Point out every conflict, every attack, every enemy.

Do what we do best. Teach! Teach others how the end is near and how it will be a reality if we do not wake up. Our national nightmare is here.

Not This Year

Nine and ten-year-old children are a curious bunch. They are on the cusp of adolescence and are just beginning to get a grasp on the outside world. Their minds are like sponges, soaking up everything that is around them. This is a very special time in their lives where they have opinions based on their own schema.

As a fifth grade teacher I have always looked forward to election season to introduce the concept of opinions, fact and fiction. I particularly always enjoyed introducing my young students to presidential campaigns, the Electoral College, and the importance of debate in our democratic process.

Not this year.

In the past, my students looked at candidates, discussed their campaigns, looked at the issues, and debated themselves. We always had mock elections and looking at the results were often an interesting exercise. My students usually began by parroting what was heard at home or they would disagree with what they heard at home. I encouraged them to read the news and watch news channels. We often discussed the different viewpoints presented. We read opinion pieces and discussed that opinions were worthless unless backed up with real facts. I also encouraged them to watch the debates and be prepared to discuss them the next day in class.  Yes, we did that in fifth grade!

Not this year!

How can I? This year I cannot discuss the issues with children. In addition, I am faced with families that are so polarized on the candidates that any discussion is viewed as an attempt to indoctrinate children. So how am I supposed to explain Trump saying he and other rich men have  the privilege to grope women when some think it is ok?

I see pictures of high school students in very diverse schools wearing Trump hats saying “Make America Great Again” and I want to weep because I know their parents love it.

I would love to discuss the issues of the campaign, with my students, but not this year. I just can’t!

I can’t discuss Trump rating women, calling them pigs, calling immigrants rapists, saying POW’s are not heroes, or saying Muslims are our enemy. Trump has brought our nation into a dark hole.

How can I? How can I with fifth grade students?

I will teach them history.

I will teach them about the peoples’ history!  I will teach them why our nation is the greatest in the world and about the mistakes we have made in the past. I will instill in them the importance of learning from the past. I will prepare them to create their own opinions based on facts not rhetoric. I will teach them about respect and the rights and responsibilities we all have as citizens.

As teachers we touch the future every day as we teach our students. We need to ensure our future is bright and we need to prepare our students so our nation never ever has to return into this very dark hole politics has brought us into.

So not this year! This year we look to the future. We ignore Trump and we defeat this ugly narrative by educating our students to learn from the past. And hopefully our great experiment will survive. We will survive not through fear and intimidation. We will survive through knowledge. Because, knowledge is power. And once we have the power, America will continue to be great.

Why I’m With Her

i-have-no-choice

That’s right, I am with Hillary this election cycle because I have no other choice. Look, I supported Bernie Sanders in the rigged primaries and I am 100% certain that he would have beaten Trump by a landslide.

U.S. politics is dirty and always has been. Big money interests drive legislation and every now and then the little guy may win a skirmish or two. Guys like Bernie come around and attempt to shake our national conscience every now and then, but in reality unless legislation is passed, we are stuck with political muck.

That said, Trump is a very dangerous candidate. His rhetoric is fueling a fire that could engulf our nation and set us into a downward spiral unlike any nation has every seen since pre WWII. His appeal to the a core of racist, anti-government, anti-progress, ‘know nothings’ is a leap back to the 1840’s and the American Party that fueled the American Civil War.

Trump’s plan is to destroy public education. He flat out tells us that he wants to dismantle teachers’ unions and sell off country’s most precious assets, our schools. He wants to hand our children off to entrepreneurs with only profits on their minds. If you think education reforms are devastating now, just wait if he gets elected.  Yet, I have colleagues and friends who support Trump? I ask, what the heck are you thinking?

Trump’s latest comments praising Russia’s Putin are beyond the pale. Yet his Tea Party Patriots continue to support his treasonous statements. Why?  Pure ignorance that’s why!

The same people that are destroying our schools, reshaping our curriculum, demanding we teach their views on history are now standing at our gates with Trump. Wake up folks!

I am with Hillary, not because she is my #1 choice, but because  I have no other choice.

New York Regents Spin, Spin, Spin.

Today , New York State Education Department Released their  Spring 2016 Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Assessment Results. As we all know, when a public entity releases anything on a Friday afternoon, it deserves a little extra scrutiny. There is a reason they released it late today, they hoped to get away with a scam PR stunt.

Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said in this press release,

“… it’s not possible to make direct comparisons of this year’s results to past years…”.

Yet, that’s exactly what they do in this release even though the press release states,

“While the content of the 2016 tests and last year’s tests are comparable and similarly rigorous, it is not possible to make direct comparisons of the 2016 results to prior years’ results because of changes to the tests this year. The 2016 results are valid and reliable indicators of student proficiency in the tested grades and subjects.”

Chart after chart goes on to compare test scores with percentage increases in each category. So what should we believe, their words or their charts?

NYSED goes on to make baseless assumptions about the students who refused the tests. Someone please explain this assumption:

Historically, SED only tracked the number of students not tested for an invalid, unknown reason. These students are categorized as “not tested” students.

What is an invalid unknown reason? It may be unknown to NYSED but does that make it invalid?

Their most egregious assumption is to state that they know what those who refused the test would have scored.

In addition, the 2016 test refusal students were much more likely to be from low-need or average-need districts; more likely to have scored at Level 1 and Level 2 in 2015 if they took the tests; less likely to be economically disadvantaged; less likely to be a student with a disability; and much less likely to be English Language Learners.

NYSED would be wise to listen to Joe Friday, ” Just the facts ma’am, just the facts please. just the facts

Here are some real facts..

  • Teachers are being forced to teach to the test
  • The arts are taking a back seat to test prep
  • More students are opting out
  • The data in invalid
  •  State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia’s listening tour, was all about parents listening to her.
  • More resources are being diverted towards test prep
  • 9 1/2 hours of testing is abusive to all students
  • Children are becoming increasingly stressed about test score
  • The tests measure NOTHING!

So my message to the Board of Regents:

Cut the spin, deal with the real issues, pass a permanent end to these tests, and develop real standards with teachers that honor the diversity of our state.

 

 

Independence?

flag

On this 4th of July it is appropriate to quote our Declaration of Independence in response to those that want to undermine our public schools.

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes;”

To paraphrase from the Declaration,

On this Independence Day it’s time to declare that our public education system will no longer be subjected to a long train of abuses and usurpations, under a design to reduce it under absolute Despotism, it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off such forces, and to provide new Guards for future security of our schools!

Dane Ravitch shared a leaked draft of the 2016 Democratic Party Platform. While there are many Planks that I strongly agree with, I must say that I am quite disappointed with the Planks on education. One would think that since the AFT and the NEA jumped on Hillary Clinton’s bandwagon with a way to early endorsement, education would be at the forefront of this Platform.

Unfortunately, this platform’s Plank on Early Childhood, Pre-K, and K-12 is  nothing more than rhetoric used to fill up a page in a meaningless statement. Much like Clinton’s promise to close every school that is below average, it actually puts our public schools at risk.

Let me first state that the Republican Party is in shambles and I will not support Trump or his Party. That said, I post the following in hopes that enough of us will speak out and demand real change.

When the Democratic Party declares that they will ensure there are great schools in every zip code and that the Federal Government will continue to play a critical role, it should send shivers up our collective spines. Just what does this mean?

Will the Party hand over control  of our schools over to John King to allow him to systematically wrest control away from local communities, much like he did in New York?

When bureaucrats tout high standards as a paradigm to success, we should be questioning whose standards? Just what are those standards and should the standards be the same for every child and every community in our diverse nation? Common Core is a failure and it appears the Democrats are doubling down on this miserable social experiment.

The Party Platform also states, “We will hold schools, districts, communities, and states  accountable for raising achievement levels for all students—particularly low-income students,  students of color, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.” Does this mean the Party will continue the disaster of high stakes testing? Just what does accountability mean? Is this what Hillary meant when she said we should close every below average school? Simple math tells us below average means the bottom 50%. Is this the Party’s plan?

The Party’s  Plank also throw support behind charter schools. It claims increased transparency. Just what does that mean? Increased transparency does not mean total transparency. It does not mean that they will be held to the same standards as public schools. It does not mean that they will prevent charters from hand picking students, weeding out those with special needs, and hijacking space and resources from public schools.

They refuse to state that if they actually supported public schools and public school teachers there would not be any market for charter schools. Until we have true campaign finance reform, hedge funds  will continue to drive the Party’s Planks on education.

The bottom line, the AFT’s and NEA’s way to early endorsement resulted in a lackadaisical rhetoric   filled  platform that double down on the reformers agenda which will make us more dependent on false promises.

On this Independence Day it’s time to declare that our public education system will no longer be subjected to a long train of abuses and usurpations, under a design to reduce it under absolute Despotism, it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off such forces, and to provide new Guards for future security of our schools.

Let your voiced be heard, demand changes and take back our Party. Declare our independence from those working to destroy our nation’s future.

 

 

 

Before you vote…THINK

To my Republican teacher friends,
Last night we heard every Republican candidate say that they would promote charters, vouchers, private schools, and home schooling. We heard them call teachers and schools failures.

If any one of them wins, know this, (as Ted Cruz would say) your public school will be at risk, children will lose necessary resources, and your careers will be at risk. You may not have a job, and their will be no social services available to help your family survive.

The Supreme Court will become a weapon that would destroy our way of life, your children will fight endless wars, you won’t afford health insurance, your pension will be a memory and you will have to work until you are dead or 70 years old.

And if you vote for any of them, please please never try teaching Social Studies.

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