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

Archive for the tag “charter schools”

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.

 

 

 

End of Year

It’s that time of year when we start seeing end of year lists in review. We become inundated with lists of everything from soup to nuts. Especially nuts this year!

Here is my list of questions,  still unanswered, as 2014 comes to a close. Feel free to provide an answer if you can or pass them along.

  1. Why are graduation rates at historic levels ( high school, college and post secondary) if our public schools are failing?
  2. The stock market is at an all-time high, so why are public schools underfunded?
  3. In New York State and many other states, property values are driven by the quality of the school district, so why is Governor Cuomo tying the hands of local communities to fully fund their local schools?
  4. New York State is no longer in financial trouble, so why does Governor Cuomo continue to use a “robbing Peter to pay Paul” scheme ( Gap Elimination Adjustment) that robs public schools of budgeted school aid?
  5. Why is New York State funding schools below 2009 levels while giving tax breaks to casinos?
  6. Where is the evidence that Common Core State Standards are age appropriate?
  7. Just what does the term “college and career ready” really mean. Especially when it is used to assess kindergarten through 6th grade children?
  8. Why does the New York State Education Chancellor and Governor Cuomo continue to state that our teachers are failing students when 93.8% of all high school graduates ( excluding NYC) are earning a ‘Regent’s Diploma”?
  9. Where is the evidence to support the underlying requirement of the Common Core that all students should be at the same level of understanding at the same time?
  10. Where is the research that supports the current practice of having elementary age children take hour upon hour of tests to measure teacher, administration, and district effectiveness as well as their own level of understanding?
  11. Why is it acceptable to dismantle and hand over our communities’ most important assets ( our schools) to private entrepreneurs?
  12. Why do our legislators do so little for the social needs of our communities while at the same time blaming our schools?
  13. How do states justify reducing the number of teachers while at the same time proclaim all students deserve a good education?
  14. Why have our public school teachers become the nation’s scapegoat for poor public policy?
  15. Why are special needs children being denied special education services?
  16. Just where is the evidence that supports the ideal that Charlotte Danielson and her contrived rubric should be the standard for teacher evaluation?
  17. Why are teachers’ unions unfairly labeled when the evidence shows that where they exist student achievement is higher?
  18. Why has President Obama been silent on high stakes testing since his State of the Union 2 years ago when he said testing should be limited?
  19. When will states be up front and honest and inform their residents that Lotteries do not increase funding for schools?
  20. When will all public sector unions join together and demand in a collective voice, “workers’ rights, pay, benefits and pensions for all”?

Frustration to Motivation

I love teaching. I know I make a difference in my student’s lives and that my students leave my class ready to face sixth grade and high school beyond that. Every day, I look forward to the challenges my students throw my way. That is what keeps me motivated, focused and teaching. That is why I became a teacher. Unfortunately, new challenges have developed that have turned this year into one of the most frustrating years I have ever experienced as a teacher.

The new challenges I face every day affect my students, my colleagues, my community, my craft, and me. These new challenges are caused by the political agendas of a few wealthy ideologues who are hell bent to “save our nation by saving our schools”.  When in reality their aim is a power grab that will destroy our nation’s greatest asset and hand it over to the private sector to fuel their movement and fill their pocketbooks.

I became President of our local Teachers’ Association about a year and a half ago,  and now my days are filled with contract negotiations, grievances, budget cuts, unrealistic expectations, nonsensical teacher evaluations, tax caps, invalid data, and accusations that suddenly we have no idea how to teach.  We are now being told we all must now abandoned good teaching and follow a new paradigm .

We are in the midst of our third year without a new contract in our district. Thanks to New York’s Triborough Amendment, our old contract remains in effect until a new one is collectively bargained. But that is not guaranteed to continue, because there is new legislation being drafted that would end that protective amendment.  Approximately one third of our teachers have not received a raise in 3 years, our health insurance benefit is under attack as well as our future pensions. Our financial and professional futures have been put at risk.

New York Governor Cuomo, the self-proclaimed student advocate, is on a crusade that will rip apart the fabric of our neighborhoods. He is on his own “Sherman’s March”. His goal is to beat public sector unions into submission by destroying everything in his path, because he claims it is for the public good.

His Tax Cap, his continued use of a Gap Elimination Adjustment, his failure to fund schools beyond 2008 levels, his warped teacher’s evaluation plan, his appointed Education Commissioner, his charter school advocacy, his support for school vouchers and his hedge fund allies have waged total war against our public schools.

This has made it impossible to negotiate a new teachers’ contract and that has created situations where we must now grieve conditions of our current contract that are being challenged. We are being told that we must now teach a new way, and that our old ways may have been effective.We must never the less change due to new high stakes tests. Our special education teachers must now look for ways that help our most vulnerable students despite new restrictions that prevent them from offering needed services. Our days are filled with administrators with clipboards wandering our halls and entering our rooms to make sure our assembly lines (classrooms) are working efficiently.

Here’s the kicker.  Our district located in a strong middle class neighborhood, whose homes sell for $600K to over $1million.Their property values stayed strong despite the economic calamity of a few years ago because of our schools.  Our students excel and over 95% of them go to college. Our teacher salaries are near the bottom of all school district salaries in the region.  We have outperformed the state, the region and the county on state test scores ( It kills me to even use this). With outcomes like these would a private employer treat their employees the same way?

Cuomo’s total war on us will have profound effects on the region.  Our teachers are contributors to our region’s economy. They spend their paychecks in local businesses, pay their fair share of taxes, volunteer in their own communities, and contribute to local charities.  Our retirees pensions flow directly back into the local economy as well.

2015 is not going to be a good year for education in New York State. Cuomo’s reelection has set the stage for a bloodletting of sorts. He now has the votes needed in the legislature to accelerate his campaign of destruction. Now is not the time to sit back and hope. Hear the call to action! Get involved, attend rallies, write letters make calls, and visit your legislator. Join your civic association, wear your teacher label with pride, and let your local businesses know you are a teacher and that you support them.

It’s time to turn our frustration into motivation. If not you better start practicing saying, “welcome to Walmart”.

Maybe the Maya were on to something..

Consider these questions…

Post armed guards in each school?

Allow teachers to carry concealed weapons in class?

Allow 30-100 round magazines?

Allow ownership of semi automatic weapons that can fire 10+rounds/ second?

Our schools are failing?

Unions are destroying the nation?

Eliminate public employee pensions?

Have students take 9 hours of tests to determine if their teacher is effective?

Sell off and privatize our nation’s education system?

Take money out of the budgets of public schools and hand it over to private enterprise?

Eliminate classrooms and have kids learn strictly via cyberspace?

State that all children should be at the same academic level at the same time?

Ignore poverty exists and that it affects children’s ability to learn?

Class size doesn’t matter?

All children will be college ready, due to a common core of educational standards, at the same time?

Maybe the Maya were on to something. The world as we knew it really has ended.

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