Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Moral Imperative: Julie Cavanagh Opts in on Opt Out Issue



From a Chicago CORE teacher

A teacher who, in conversations with students or parents, takes a position on testing contrary to the school district's educational program may potentially be charged with misconduct or insubordination and could be subject to disciplinary action. --- Richard Iannuzzi, President, NYSUT

Ultimately opting-out and boycotts are a parent choice. However, teachers do have a role. There is a moral question, I feel, in our cooperating with these tests (it is one of the reasons I left the testing grade).  -- Julie Cavanagh
Is Iannuzzi doing his job by protecting teachers?

The UFT leadership supported a version of the MORE resolution supporting Jesse Hagopian and the Seattle teachers. [I'm running out now to tape it.]

Cavanagh says:

True. However, and we will hear this from Jesse Hagopian at a forum @ the Earth School today, teachers in Seattle were supported by our union local and national union in terms of their boycott and they suffered no consequences bc the superintendent found it was the districts responsibility to admin the test, not the teachers.

I can't help but feel this letter is another form of external pressure, a scare tactic-- even trying to control what we say outside of the job if it is in reference to a "scheduled test". So for example, if I say at today's forum "I think parents should boycott the ela and math exams next week and the week after" I could "get in trouble"?!?!?!

Ultimately opting-out and boycotts are a parent choice. However, teachers do have a role. There is a moral question, I feel, in our cooperating with these tests (it is one of the reasons I left the testing grade). This is also interesting from a Chicago teacher activist on this issue of morality and testing:
 http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/04/michelle_gunderson_offers_pled.html

And what then of the SLT from BK that issued a statement on testing? A parent on our SLT asked for opt-out and the larger issue of testing to be on our SLT agenda next time. Should I now, given this letter, only sit silent and not play an active role in that meeting? ... 
Real losers are the kids... Their teachers are being handcuffed to harmful policies and threatened/warned about speaking out. Teachers will keep their jobs, but our children are robbed of adults working (or at least trying to) in their best interest. Parents and their children's teachers must work and advocate together. I don't care what NYSUT or anyone else says; I not only have the freedom to publicly state what I believe, I have a moral responsibility to the children and families I serve to do so. --- Julie Cavanagh

MORE Ex Bd Middle School candidate Francesco Portelos says:
Is he [Iannuzzi] kidding?  No surprise since he backed this.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJE_dy1Ca8M&feature=youtube_gdata_player
MORE Ex Bd Elementary School candidate Jia Lee (who is hosting today's event with Jesse and Julie and Brian at the Earth School) says:
I am a mandated reporter of child abuse, and I WILL call ACS on the State Department of Education if they don't stop this nonsense! ....This is citizen speech that is not being done during work time AND we are using our personal emails and addresses.

Principals have signed similar petitions. In addition, other petitions exist on this matter. 


If anyone still does not want to risk whatever disciplinary action comes, we must all respect that; however, we must remember that non-action based on fear will not help to change what we know is unjust. 


I can re-forward clips of principal, Jean McTavish, speaking out, as well as, Willa Powell, school board member, speaking out- all done as citizens (done off duty). 


There is power in our numbers! 
Elections, shmections, this is why I am a proud MORE, working with these amazing people who stand up for themselves, the students they teach and their parents. True social justice unionists. True social justice unionism.

MORE has received support from many teachers who are fed up with the tepid UFT response on the testing issue.

If you read my last post (Choose to Refuse: Rocking the World of Ed Deform as Parents Revolt Against Testing Child Abuse), you can see that with testing week coming, the opt-out movement is gaining steam. What can/should teachers play in these confusing scenarios if parents ask for advice? Do teachers play the role of DOE/school spokesperson, thinking of the interests of the school, ie. parent of potential low scorer vs high scorer? Or the interests of the child/parent?

Some MORE people like presidential candidate Julie Cavanagh tries to live as much of her professional and personal life within the social justice umbrella as possible.

Below the fold: Iannuzzi's letter.

Subject:        NYSUT Alert from President Iannuzzi on "Opting Out"
 


Dear Local Leader:

NYSUT is aware that "opt-out" conversations are sweeping the state in anticipation of next week's ELA testing and the coming administration of other state tests. We know that you and your members are being asked questions by concerned parents. Teachers are trying to reconcile their own roles as public school educators, private citizens and as parents too. We all share frustration with the state's over-emphasis on standardized testing, which is narrowing the curriculum and placing great stress on many students.

As an organization, however, NYSUT should neither encourage nor discourage decisions by parents to opt out of state testing. It truly is parents' choice, based on what they believe is best for their child.

With that said, as local leaders you should know and share with your members as needed the following:

*       Locals and individual union members who advise parents or students to "opt out" of state tests may face risks.

*       A teacher who, in conversations with students or parents, takes a position on testing contrary to the school district's educational program may potentially be charged with misconduct or insubordination and could be subject to disciplinary action.

*       A local speaking as a union or an individual member speaking as a parent or citizen about educational concerns over standardized testing for instance, in a letter to the editor or in a statement to the Board of Education is protected as long as they are not encouraging parents or students to opt out from a scheduled test.

This is a complex and emotional issue for all of us teachers and parents. NYSUT is committed to protecting its members and <
gif>> doing what's best for their students. We will continue to provide advice and answers to questions you may have. Please do not hesitate to reach out to your regional office or to me directly if you have further questions.

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