Thursday, February 19, 2015

Marjorie Stamberg Analyzes UFT Special Strategy Delegate Assembly

*Common Core and the UFT Unity Waffling*
To understand the subtext here, you have to understand that the UFT is in favor of Common Core national testing obsession. They were the enablers (in the sense that word is used in addiction psychology) of pushing through the Common Core in New York City. Over heavy opposition, the UFT pushed through the contract the agreement linking teacher evaluations to student test scores.

Now all this looks like it’s going down, and they are slipping around this, while upholding the Common Core and the punitive teacher evals. In typical UFT fashion (for which they are notorious), they buy into bad stuff, then try to ameliorate the disaster. 
... Marjorie Stamberg
I don't always agree with the message Marjorie puts out but her analysis of what goes on in the UFT is often right on -- of course she must get in her political messages - which I have put in bold so you can find them easily. I realized after reading her report that the 2 key Unity speakers against the MORE reso were retired UFT staffer Mark Korashan and current UFT staffer Sterling Roberson -- do they not trust even the Unity people working in the schools who actually have to work under the crap they helped create to make a cogent case against the MORE/NYSAPE reso on testing?

By the way -- as I write this I am watching a powerful anti-testing commercial on TV by the NEW JERSEY Teacher union -- NOT NYSUT OR THE UFT.

See other reports from the Feb. 11 DA:
Marjorie comments on the MORE reso which she voted for:
...if there had been discussion, I would have noted that the MORE resolution did not call on the UFT to refuse to support standardized testing, or to support and defend teachers who won’t give the test.
She is correct but out of context - MORE and Change the Stakes had a lot of internal discussion on this and decided to join the rest of the state in putting forth the exact NYSAPE resolution as written for the purpose of being in tune with everyone else as there will be plenty of opportunities to follow up this spring as the opt-out movement heats up. Thus the rejection by the Unity/UFT leadership was not a rejection of the MORE reso but of the influential - and at times allied with the UFT/NYSUT - NYSAPE which has Leonie Haimson and Carol Burris on their steering committee - along with Nancy Cauthen from Change the Stakes.

Marjorie also point correctly to the weakness of the opt-out movement as being mostly white and middle class -- CTS has been making an effort to reach into non-middle class communities and schools to point out how ALL kids are harmed by high stakes tests. And let's not forget the middle class black community which may be more amenable to the message.
Report-back from UFT Delegate Assembly, February 11, 2015 *
by Marjorie Stamberg.


Two weeks ago the DA had a “special strategy session” to outline a lobbying campaign against Gov. Cuomo’s vicious anti-teacher agenda. This D.A. was really a follow-up.
*President’s Report*
Mulgrew’s strategy is to paint Cuomo as an “outlier”, whose teacher bashing and test obsessing is out of step with both the federal government and local pols.

The UFT, he said, should continue to pressure and isolate Cuomo by lobbying Albany, holding educational forums, and a March 9th week of action. The goal is to get the state budget passed. If the budget doesn’t pass by April 1st, then Cuomo gets to enact a budget by “executive order”. This is how Cuomo wants to ram through his agenda including teacher evals based 50% on student test scores, new teacher probation extended from 3 to 5 years, merit pay, raising the charter cap, and putting low performing schools in receiver ship.
If Cuomo uses its executive order, than the UFT is back in “full scale combat” and the “nasty ugliness” of the Bloomberg years.
High stakes testing, the “opt out” campaign, and Common Core were the subtext of all the remarks, and sometimes the elephant in the room. What wasn’t said is that the UFT continues to support Common Core, over all opposition.

So Mulgrew developed the argument that testing is good, if it is used for diagnostic purposes, but bad if it is used for high-stakes decisions on teachers *(like huh? UFT voted to keep this in the contract*).
 
And the Unity Caucus delegates (the majority of the D.A.) *voted down* a proposal to put a discussion of the “opt out” resistance movement on the agenda for the next Delegates Assembly. 
Thus, all the key issues were avoided.
*March 9th Week of Action*

There will be “grassroots actions” that will range from leafleting outside schools, surrounding the schools with people who holding hands around the building, and “surrounding the state building (I’m not sure if he meant in Manhattan or Albany). This will be not just educators and parents, but telling Cuomo that “our government is not for sale to the billionaires.”

As a UFT chapter, I think it’s important for us to meet and figure out what it can do. But I think it will take a lot more than holding hands – we need to talk about workers’ power.
 
*“Opt Out—I Refuse “Movement”*
*“Unity Caucus” Response – Straw Horses and Red Herrings*

Mike Shirtzer from the MORE Caucus put this resolution up. There was a lot of support, but the majority Unity Caucus delegates refused to let it on the floor. Mike said the union should not support high stakes testing, and that the union should support parents’ right to opt out of standardized tests. He said we should be teaching critical thinking, not how to fill in bubbles.

Retired former D79 district rep Mark Korashan spoke against it, saying the MORE resolution called on NYSUT to take a position and we can’t tell NYSUT what to do. This argument was a red herring in that the MORE resolution did not order NYSUT to do anything, only to bring the UFT position to NYSUT’s attention..

Sterling Robeson was the main speaker against it. He repeated the Unity Caucus straw-horse line that the union doesn’t oppose all tests (nobody said we do) and that many parents and activists in civil rights groups want testing, so that their children are given the opportunities to succeed.

My view: I voted to the MORE resolution. Still, if there had been discussion, I would have noted that the MORE resolution did not call on the UFT to refuse to support standardized testing, or to support and defend teachers who won’t give the test. This is how the standardized tests were stopped in Oaxaca and Guerrero, Mexico –through the strength of the teachers’ movement.

The weakness of the Opt Out movement is that it is essentially middle class. That is parents who have “options” can have their kids opt out (Many Ivy League schools are abandoning the SAT tests anyway—family income is enough of a predictor of student success (!). Others cannot take the risk to “opt out”, unless there is a powerful campaign of education and support to defend the teachers and the students who do.

*Common Core and the UFT Unity Waffling*

To understand the subtext here, you have to understand that the UFT is in favor of Common Core national testing obsession. They were the enablers (in the sense that word is used in addiction psychology) of pushing through the Common Core in New York City. Over heavy opposition, the UFT pushed through the contract the agreement linking teacher evaluations to student test scores.

Now all this looks like it’s going down, and they are slipping around this, while upholding the Common Core and the punitive teacher evals. In typical UFT fashion (for which they are notorious), they buy into bad stuff, then try to ameliorate the disaster. Why? Long story—it’s about capitalism and the “labor lieutenants of capital” as Daniel De Leon called the labor bureaucracy.

So back to Common Core national syllabus and teacher evals. There is a concurrence of right-wing and leftwing opposition to this coming out of Washington. The Republicans don’t want the federal government involved in curriculum or testing, claiming states’ rights. They don’t want to teach evolution, climate change or the fact the North won the Civil War.

Actually, we don’t want the feds involved either, because the capitalist state should stay out of education (Marx said that). Also we want to teach the history of the Black Panther Party, Che Guevara, the Cuban Revolution, immigrant rights, anti-racism, and all the other issues of the day.
That’s it for now.



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