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

Archive for the tag “NYSUT”

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.

Swimming upstream

salmonAs a local union leader I often feel as though I am swimming upstream,often struggling against the current to accomplish a task that is needed for the survival of my local. Unlike salmon who swim upstream to propagate their species then die each year, union leaders struggle many years then ultimately hand over the reigns to another to continue on the never ending trek against the current.

Last year the current was particularly strong for me, as I negotiated a new labor agreement for my members. I had to deal with man made obstacles such as New York State Governor Cuomo’s tax cap, the rise in health care costs, APPR, and the public’s yen to make teachers our national scapegoats. I successfully navigated my way through those obstacle and ensured that my local will continue to thrive.

As I look upstream I see rapids ahead that are unlike any I have ever seen before. The Supreme Court may add an insurmountable  obstacle in our way. Friedrichs v California Teachers Association could be the death knell for our union. But unlike the salmon, we have legs. Our legs are our members that can get us out of the strong opposition current and lead us along a portage around the deadly obstacle.

The really bad news though is, the salmon are dying before they even have the chance to battle the current. They can not handle the hot waters due to climate change. And just like the salmon we could die as well unless our union sisters and brothers resist the urge to sit back and hope someone else will take the lead.dead salmon

Apathy will sap our strength and destroy us as the public climate heats up all around us. We may never have the chance to use our legs and sidestep the obstacles around us.

Get involved.

About to get bowled over!

I just don’t get it. Just when we seemed to slow down that pendulum of education deform, just when it looked as though it may actually stop  swinging menacingly at us, it seems as though a collective “heave ho!” could be heard all across New York. That menacing pendulum was given a huge unanimous push by the newly revised Board of Regents with help from NYSUT and the AFT. The question remains, which direction was it pushed?

When the Regents appointed former Hillsborough, Florida, schools chief MaryEllen Elia to become New York’s education chief,is the pendulum being push towards deform or away from it? Will public schools be bowled over or will the reformers be knocked out of our path?

Which way?

Will we get the Elia that is for VAM, Common Core, high stakes testing, firing 5% of teachers every year, merit pay, and Gates’ poisoned carrot on a stick mentality? Will we get the Elia that was fired from her former gig that three of the seven elected Hillsborough County School Board members lost confidence in her for reasons that included her response to two student deaths in 2012. Will we get the Elia that embraced the magnet school movement aggressively, became known for her extensive use of student performance data.Perhaps we will get the Elia that aggressively supports charter schools.

Will we get the Elia that NYSUT touts as having a background as a high school teacher and reading specialist, and her deep roots in Western New York, make her a welcome voice in the discussion about how to improve New York’s already strong public education system?

NYSUT somehow sees a silver lining in this storm cloud.

Well,I don’t!

I see a tornado that is about to push that pendulum and knock us all down like we are pins in a “Skittle Bowl” game!skittle bowl

Governor Andy Cuomo is not #whatkidsneed!

Andy Cuomo, our sophomoric New York State Governor, claims to be the only student advocate, yet he is willing to hold the children of our state hostage as he pushes his vendetta campaign against public school teachers across the Empire State.

New York State United Teachers ( NYSUT) has begun a #whatkidsneed campaign to highlight what is at risk with Cuomo’s education destruction agenda. Keeping in that spirit I thought I would list things that kids don’t need from Andy Cuomo.

  1. Doubling the weight of high stake tests that will “break our students backs” is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  2. Making 9 year old children sit through 540 minutes of tests is NOT#whatkidsneed!
  3. Using the release of vital school budget information as a weapon is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  4. Keeping state aid below 2008 levels is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  5. The New York State Regents recommended a budget increase of $2.2Billion, Andy’s 50% reduction down to $1.1Billion is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  6. Andy Cuomo’s tax cap which has pushed many districts into fiscal distress is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  7. Andy Cuomo’s inflammatory language about public schools is certainly is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  8. Andy Cuomo promoting the agenda of his hedge fund billionaire campaign supporters is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  9. Allowing Charter schools to siphon need funds away from public schools is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  10. Programs that are being eliminated due to Andy’s tax cap is a trend that is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  11. Andy Cuomo’s continued use of the Gap Elimination Adjustment that is driving class sizes up and destroying programs for kids is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  12. Demonizing dedicated professionals that are vital for our children’s future is NOT #whatkidsneed!!
  13. Supporting standards that are based on political rhetoric and not real research is NOT #whatstudents need!
  14. Eliminating due process which will hamper a teachers effort to speak up for their students is NOT #whatkidsneed!

As we begin the second term of Andy Cuomo, it is clearer than ever that this is a governor that is NOT #whatkidsneed!

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”.

In the 3rd year without a contract

Our Teachers’ Association is the third year without a new contract. As president of our association I made the following comments at last evening’s School Board meeting.

I  would like to start off this evening by congratulating you on your successful resolution at the New York State School Board’s Associations convention to enhance school safety by bringing to the forefront our district’s concerns with having elections in our schools while school is in session.  I would also like to congratulate the NYSSBA for rejecting their own Board of Director’s resolution to support the continued use of student performance data in APPRs. Even though it was rejected by a slim margin, I am hoping that our Board also voted to reject that resolution.

We all agree that some sort of evaluation process needs to be in place that fairly measures teacher and district effectiveness. Unfortunately so called educational reformers have hijacked the conversation and have created a system that relies on high stakes tests that creates invalid data that we all are unfairly judged on.

Our students are subjected to hours upon hours of tests that are used for multiple purposes Effective Assessments are not supposed to be designed that way. Effective Assessments should be designed to help a child, not label them or label their teacher, school, or district.

At last month’s Board meeting we were presented with bar graph after bar graph that were designed to show how we did on last year’s state assessments. They showed that we excelled at all grade levels and that our teachers do extraordinary work.

Despite the fact that we lead most of the state with our scores we still heard we need to work to increase the ‘stamina’ of some of our students and  that more work needs to be done to raise these scores even higher. That may make logical sense because we all want to do better and better however,

 I must say that, I believe that our students and your children are much more than a test score.

The current APPR evaluation system measuring student growth using

standardized testing is a not a  valid assessment of an educator’s job performance.

These tests do not take into account that our students are more than a test score. They don’t measure a student who may have come to school hungry, or is simply suffering that day from hay fever, They don’t take into account if a child may be dealing with problems at home, or a problem with their best friend. It doesn’t take into account that the child may be just having a bad day, after all we all have them. There are thousands of issues that impact on student learning on any given day and to make believe some standardized test can measure that, ignores the fact that your children are much more than a test score.

My colleagues know that, that’s why when you visit our classrooms you witness first hand the caring and nurturing that our wonderful teachers do. You see our teachers teaching the whole child  going above and beyond any contract language or some made up rubric to ensure our students, your children, are prepared for the yet unknown future they face.

When we speak of stamina, it should not be in the context of student taking tests, it should be in the unbelievable stamina our teachers have. They often work well into the night and on weekends developing lessons and experiences for their students. They attend workshops and classes to improve their craft so that their students and this community benefit.  When you believe that students are much more than a test score you do those things regradless of what any contract says or whether or not your contract has been settled or not.

 Teachers are an extraordinary bunch, they need to be. You see we all depend on teachers. What we do here day in and day out effects the lives of the children and the families we teach, it effects the property values of all that live here whether you have children or not. It even affects the local businesses in the area. Without a strong schools and strong property values, local businesses would flounder and disappear.

Hopefully, one day, we won’t have to sit and look at bar graphs that attempt to label our students and our efforts and our schools. Hopefully our elected leaders will come to believe that our children are much more than a test score.

And hopefully one day soon, our teachers will be recognized for their extraordinary efforts with a fair contract that recognizes that today’s teachers and our future teachers are vital members of this community.

The culture of testing continues in NYS.

The culture of testing is about to be given a lifeline in a 4 way deal tonight in Albany. Governor Cuomo, the Assembly, the Senate, and NYSUT will be agreeing on a 2 year deal, that will continue to allow the students of New York to be tested for hours upon hours every school year. \

Last month I wrote that I was ashamed to be a teacher. Tonight, this proposed deal does absolutely nothing to address the concerns I wrote about. This proposed deal, ignores the institutional abuse we put our children and students through to prove that a series of tests, and rubrics can determine who is a good teacher  and who is not.

Here is a link to the bill

We were told that they were working towards a moratorium. That turned out to be untrue. The bill even states that this is NOT a moratorium. Now we are being told it is like hitting the reset button. This too is not true. A reset button starts something over, this bill does not do that. We are being promised that it gives us time to work things out. Really? What the hell have we been doing for the past several years? How does this bill give us time?

So here we are tonight, Albany working in it’s archaic way. Backroom deals abound. Promises made with fingers crossed. Sales pitches to the masses, that seem to ignore that  we can read what you just voted on.

NYSUT has been treading softly on Cuomo’s turf since our RA. My question now is why? For this?

So come next April it looks like I will be writing this again.

“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.

Governor Cuomo, and State Senator Martins, I pledge to you that you will not get my vote in November. I Pledge that I will actively work to have you voted out.

NYSUT, I pledge to you, that I will not be silent. I will continue to do whatever needs to be done to be sure our union works from a position of strength not from a position of fear of the Governor.

 

 

Multiple Measured Madness

Multiple measured madness is underway across the country. No where is this madness  more evident than in New York State.

All Hail the Governor!

Last week our own Governor Cuomo “announced a groundbreaking agreement on a new statewide evaluation system that will make New York State a national leader in holding teachers accountable for student achievement.” Standing side by side by side with union leaders they hailed the “state’s commitment to put in place a real and effective teacher evaluation system.”

Governor Cuomo said,”Today’s agreement puts in place a groundbreaking new statewide teacher evaluation system that will put students first and make New York a national leader in holding teachers accountable for student achievement.”  Impressive right? Just like a true ‘lobbyist for students’ would be proud to stand up and proclaim.   Holding teachers accountable, yeah! bravo Gov!

You would never know  that Richard Iannuzzi,  president of New York State United Teachers, Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers were standing alongside our Governor as he spouted those words. It’s pitiful that these union leaders would stand by as anyone would say that teachers should be held accountable.

It’s even more disturbing that they succumbed to the Governor’s threats and approved what will become a death knell for public education in New York State. Yes, it will kill public education in New York!

Multiple Measures Madness

There has been an outcry of disgust and dismay across the state regarding the provisions of the deal.  Twitter feeds have been lit up, blogs are being written, teachers are considering their next move, administrators are wondering how to implement, school boards are wondering how to pay for this, consultants are jumping for joy as they await a windfall, students are wondering why another test, parents are confused, local papers are opining as fast as they could, researchers are combing for any supporting research, politicians are plotting their next strategic step, and the madness escalates

Carol Burris’ posting clearly lays out a doomsday scenario that will most like befall many teachers. Diane Ravitch calls the new system ‘madness’. Over 1300 principals have signed a letter asking for the state to hold off on this mandate. They demand more evidence, more research, and a sensible approach towards teacher evaluations. They offered research to back their concerns and were ignored.

What makes this so maddening is the outrageous behavior and comments by our own union.  They seem to be doubling down on their decision to bed with the Governor and have blatantly disregarded the concerns of their membership.  Nothing is more evident than this tweet sent out by Randi Weingarten last night.

  • UFT debunks myths abt new NY teacher eval agreement-bottom line-80% has to be negotiated. 20%,not 100% state tests.. http://bit.ly/A8Vrhe

Debunking myths? Calling concerns myths? From union leaders about union members? Talk about madness.

Debunking the DeBunkers

So let’s really set the record straight Mr. Casey. I’ve read your nasty piece and now it’s my turn.

You claim that multiple measures, evaluations will be more comprehensive, more accurate and fairer. Really, based on what? Your instinct? The state can’t even determine what an effective teacher really is? What’s effective? Is it determined by some value added algorithm? Is it determined by student income potential? Is it determined by whether parents just love their child’s teacher?  It seems as though some arbitrarily thought out multiple measures will be used to determine what effective really means.

You call concerns “alarmist alchemy” yet your own explanation of the magical 100 evaluation absurd. You claim that 60 of these magical points may include observations based on the  Danielson  frameworks. That’s great for Danielson and her company but may not be so great for kids and teachers.  There are major concerns with this approach.

There is a major concern that  many evaluations will not be accurate. Inconsistent applications of the Danielson framework has been a problem in the past.  Let’s say,  teachers follows this arbitrary framework, does that make them effective? Where’s the measure, what’s effective? Will the person doing the evaluation recognize innovation? Will innovation in the classroom be allowed? If it’s not on the check off list is it valid? What’s valid? There is a plethora of education research that contradicts Danielson’s methods and frameworks, some have been successful models some not. But then again, how do we measure success.

Mr. Casey you claim,

 “Burris incorrectly assumes that the entire 40 points in the measures of student learning will be derived from standardized state exams. But the use of value-added growth measures from state standardized exams need not take up more than 20% of the total teacher evaluation – and then only for a minority of teachers, those teaching English Language Arts and Mathematics, grades 4 through 8.”

You have quite selectively stated that standardized exams need not take up more than 20% of total teacher evaluations. “Need not” also means that  they could. Will districts already facing difficult economic times be able to afford to develop local assessments or even pay for their development? You claim it’s negotiable, yet we all know that means trade off based on funding.

You also claim that only a minority of teachers will be effected. Does that mean our union leaders effectively created separate classes of employees. Will we be able to collectively bargain now based on these classes? How does one not affected get to negotiate on the issue?

You also tout that,

A compelling approach to the issue of using value-added scores in teacher evaluations is found in the Hechinger Report blog post of Columbia University sociologist Aaron Pallas. Pallas sensibly suggests that where value-added models of standardized test scores are included in a teacher evaluation, the scoring needs to take into account the margin of error in a teacher’s score.

Quite to the contrary, “researchers have documented a number of problems with VAM as accurate measures of teachers’ effectiveness.”  Yet a very important percentage of teacher ‘effectiveness’ will be determined based on this questionable method. How in the world did our union leaders agree to this?

How does this teacher evaluation take into account outside influences, parental issues, societal issues, medical issues? How does it compensate for the child dealing with a family member that is ill? Or the child that comes to school exhausted? Or the child that is dealing with turmoil at home. what about the child that has a stomach ache the day of a test, or just has test anxiety? How do we account for the child who suffers from allergies every spring? Or the one who came to school upset because their pet died? So many variables out there, yet those who agreed to this terrible deal can’t  address them all.

Casey you closed with, “change is necessary.”

I’ll close with, change for the sake of change is dangerous.

We need to stop the multiple measured madness.

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