Opine I will

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

Archive for the category “Ratto”

This is our Sputnik moment.

School’s all across the nation are either starting or about to start a new academic year. It’s suppose to be an exciting time for students and teacher. However, this year may be much, much different.  This has been the summer of Trump. Our students  have been subjected to Trumpism all summer.

Before this weekend’s horrific events in Charlottesville, I was wondering where did we go astray. How could our nation elect someone like Trump? After this weekend, I think I have the answer.

As a teacher, it’s hard for me to admit this. I view this past year as a failure of our education system. As educators we have not fought hard enough to protect our curriculum, our methods, our standards and our public schools.

All too often we  observe teachers dutifully, following directives that they don’t agree with. We observe teachers, following standards that are not research based and often inappropriate for the children they teach.

I have watched  Social Studies lessons being put aside for high stakes testing skills and subjects. I have observed Social Studies standards morph into ‘big ideas’ that often lack correlation with history. For example, teaching about the Articles of Confederation without taking the necessary time to teach the events that led up to them.

Social Studies is being put aside. Now we hear STEM is the new ‘ big idea’. Science Technology Engineering and Math is turning into this year’s new focus. We’ve already witnessed literature, take a back seat to non-fiction in Common Core.  Look at the results, look at society, and ask yourself, “ can we really afford to abandoned the humanities”?

We need to refocus our teaching towards Social Studies. Link your lessons towards teaching history. Not a whitewashed version, but real history. The history of the peoples of the world.

We now have a President that has no understanding of our nation’s past. We have thousands marching in the streets protesting things they do not understand.

This is our Sputnik moment. We need to emulate the counter protesters of this weekend by resisting any attempt to water down our curriculum. We need to stand against those that want us to teach a revisionists version of history.

Forget the damn high stakes tests. It’s time to roll up our collective sleeves and do what we need to do to save our nation. Resist and teach like our future depends on it, because it does.

Anger doesn’t describe it

New York State assessments conclude today. Half of my fifth grade students will have sat through over 9 hours of abusive assessments while the other half opted out and today is the worse day of all. Today’s math test includes overly complicated questions that most of our members of Congress would flub. They are multi-step atrocities that are designed to confuse and befuddle.  I am prohibited to post any of the questions until a select few are released to the public. I am pretty positive the hardest questions will never see sunshine.

Here is a general  idea of what one of these questions looks like.

A factory produces 4,861 items in 30 day. They then package them in crates hold 8 each. These crates are delivered to 26 distributers daily. How many are delivered each week to each distributer?

Ten year old children must be able to answer this question correctly, otherwise their teacher may be labeled ineffective.

Now here is the rub…

The New York State Department of Education issued the following  statement in a press release this week.

 Commissioner Elia said. “With substantive changes and increased guidance for educators, teachers will be able to develop curricula and lesson plans to meet the needs of students in their classrooms. “

The key words here are substantial changes.  That is admission that the standards that today’s tests are designed around are faulty.  Why subject children to 9 hours of abusive testing based on standards that require substantial changes? A warped political agenda is being driven right smack dab at the children on New York.

Anger doesn’t describe my feelings. Our society is being driven over a cliff by an extreme ideology that will destroy our nation. When we look the other way when children are being forced to fulfill an agenda, when we allow school children to go hungry, when we refuse to provide health care, when we demonize a segment of our population, we are heading for a fall.

Resist.

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!

 

 

 

 

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.

Independence?

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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.

Open Letter to Commissioner Elia

Dear Commissioner Elia,

This past Thursday your visit with Long Island teacher union presidents has validated the concerns I have with you as our Commissioner of Education and with your agenda. I listened carefully as you attempted to spin an agenda that was set by your predecessor, John King, and Governor Cuomo. You often hid behind federal policy or existing legislation as you addressed the concerns and questions posed to you that evening. Your attempt to blame our union for “agreeing” to the use of high stakes testing was sophomoric.  In addition, abruptly ending the meeting when you knew several of us wanted our turn to “ dialogue” with you was an insult to us and the thousands of teachers,( and teacher as parents ) on Long Island we represent.

I take exception to many things you stated when you met with us. You claimed that parents and teachers wrongly put everything that is negative in education today under the Common Core. You then attempted to spin that your Aim High NY survey somehow supported Common Core because they are high standards and that we just have to “rework” some of them.

Your Aim High NY survey was akin to a “push poll’ in politics. It was nearly impossible to condemn the Common Core Standards, it was cumbersome to answer and the survey taker was forced to work within the Common Core to offer changes. Yes, you were right when you stated we want high standards, who would be against that? You use that premise as you continue to spin faulty, abusive standards. New York had high standards, and before your predecessor push for the Common Core, NYSED was working towards improving them. I would like to know, how much was spent on that effort and where did those recommendations go?

When questioned  about the state assessments and with comments that we felt these tests were abusive and hurt children, your response was cold hearted and left me feeling that your really don’t care what children are facing as long as we meet a federal mandate. Your claim that the tests will be shorter and that tests will be untimed was addressed by those in attendance. We asked about ESL students, students with special needs and the concern that this new plan will not work. You fell back on your reform agenda to provide answers that only led to a validation that things are not changing and that you have been charged to drive Governor Cuomo’s and John King’s reform agenda.

Your simplistic view that parents and teachers are ‘stressed’ and that you are attempting to relieve that stress by listening to us and working towards some sort of change is nothing more than spin. You said that you believe in a standardized evaluation system that uses assessments as a component of that system. That is not relieving stress, that is signaling that the state will continue to abuse children with high stakes assessments that are meant to drive a political agenda.

When you were questioned on APPR, you stated that some state that there is a 4 year moratorium on using those scores but you prefer calling it a transformational period. You stated that scores will not be used for 4 years. Yet, when someone questioned that they may be used in the future you claimed they would not. You did not address the fact that the new scores will still be generated and distributed to teachers, districts, parents and the press. You did not address the fact that those scores will be used as advisory scores for districts. You did not address the fact that the assessments are based on standards that you admit are seen as inappropriate for many children and that are currently being rewritten. You claim these assessments are mandated by federal policy. My question for you is this; does federal policy require 8-9 10 year olds to take 9+ hours of exams?

Your response to the Opt Out movement was disturbing. You said that New York had the highest Opt Out rate in the nation and in the same breath you said, that Opt Out was not a factor that has driven you to do anything you have done in the last 8 month. Then you went on to say that you hoped that parents would let their children take the tests this year. You were then told to expect Opt Out rates to soar this year. We informed you that these tests have no instructional value. Your flip response was that additional questions have and will be released. You failed miserably to address our concerns and as a result many of us have begun to double down on our support for the Opt Out movement.

You touted that in Hillsborough, Florida, you worked with the local union to develop an evaluation process. With all due respect, New York is not Florida and Long Island certainly is not Hillsborough. The results on Long Island are clear; if we were a state we would lead the nation and the world. We do not need your “fixing”.

You claim that you have been throughout the entire state “listening”. Your social media campaign, including your Twitter account is chock full of your attempts to spin the comments on your so called “listening tour”. But one thing became perfectly clear to me on Thursday evening. Your “listening tour” is not about you listening to the parents and educators in the state, it’s more about we should “listen” to you. And that Commissioner is a shame.  This local president listened and I have no confidence in you or your agenda.

Respectfully submitted

Ralph Ratto

President

New Hyde Park- Garden City Park Teachers’ Association

A question for the new year

This is usually the month that a so called pedagogical  necessity  is used all across our nation.  I think we all need to think about the following.

Were the engineers, scientists, or contractors who designed the lunar module and put men on the moon ever forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity?comamndandlunar

How about the engineers and laborers who tamed a mighty river and designed  and built the Hoover Dam to supply electricity for millions, do you think they ever were forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity?

hoover14

The Empire State Building was construct in only one year. Do you think the architects, contractors, laborers, financial backers of this monumental icon were forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity?

The ” Greatest Generation ” saved the world and guaranteed a future for all of us. Do you think they were forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity?

warship

Do you think scientists and doctors who achieved medical breakthroughs, such as Dr. Jonas Salk   were ever subjected  and were forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity?

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Look at this shot of the construction of New York’s Verrazano bridge. Fifty years ago, the people who imagined, planned, and built this might structure were never subjected  or forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity!verrazano

My question today is, where is the evidence that subjecting our elementary school children to hours of ‘ benchmark testing’ to assess their readiness for high stakes standardized testing, helps our nation?

All across the nation, elementary school children are being ‘measured’ by this  so called pedagogical tool. Ask yourselves why?

 

 

Is this just another sleight of hand ruse?

Is the pendulum really swinging or are we just part of a sleight of hand ruse?

3 card Monte

As a deadline creeps closer and school districts all across New York State huddle in negotiations with local teacher associations to agree on a new evaluation plan, under the threat of a loss in state aid, a prominent Regent and Governor Cuomo have either come to their senses or are imitating Penn and Teller.

Regent Tillis of Long Island said to a forum of teachers,  “I oppose the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers and principals,” and  “not admitting a mistake is making a bigger mistake.” He also called for an end to the use of the state’s so-called “growth scores,” and he recommended changes in state law that would allow more emphasis on local measures of achievement. These would include “Student Learning Objectives” — assessments adopted by school districts — as well as teacher-written tests and “portfolios” of students’ classwork. He also made a point to say he was speaking as an individual and not for the Board of Regents.

At the next meeting of the Board of Regents on Sept. 16-17 they will be voting to make the new teacher-principal evaluation rules permanent. The question remains, will Tilli’s vote reflect his bold statement to teachers or will he say once again he has no choice but to continue the status quo? Are his words just a distraction from the criticism he has been receiving, much like a Penn and Teller trick? I hope not.

New York Governor Cuomo issued a press release today stating ,

 “The fact is that the current Common Core program in New York is not working, and must be fixed. To that end, the time has come for a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Common Core Standards, curriculum, guidance and tests in order to address local concerns. I am taking this action not because I don’t believe in standards, but because I do.”

He promised to ask  a representative group from his former Education Commission, including education experts, teachers, parents, the Commissioner of Education and legislative representatives to perform a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Common Core Standards, curriculum, guidance and tests in order to address local concerns.

Cuomo’s sleight of hand has been exposed before. I don’t trust him anymore than I would trust the guy on the corner playing 3 Card Monte.

Cuomo states, in his press release, that he believes in the standards and he blames the NYS Education Department for its faulty implementation, even though he held state aide hostage until his vision for implementation was adhered to.  Cuomo goes on to say he sympathizes with the frustration of parents yet he refuses to visit with them at the schools where their children go.

Cuomo refuses to meet with teachers, refuses to visit our classes, and he knows full well that he continues to hold state aide hostage today, until teachers agree to his faulty rollout of Common Core.  Notice he is not calling an immediate halt of his new evaluation plan!

What do you think? Is that pendulum swinging or are we the target of a sick magic trick?

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