Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Information You Can Use in Your Chapter

My post the other day, UFT Politics: Activists and Organizers Are Not the Same Thing, addressed the issue of activists and organizers and how the tripod on the masthead of ednotes - EDUCATE, ORGANIZE, MOBILIZE - are key markers.

 Then last night, along comes this from Julie Neusner who I don't really know well but I am impressed with her work. The newsletter below is mostly education but also a bit of organizing outside school with colleagues, turning a happy hour into something MORE. I like how she links comments from Mulgrew at the DA with articles of interest on the same topic, plus some editorial comments.

Dear UFT members, 
Happy holidays! 

Thanks again to everyone who came out last month for the UFT happy hour. It was great to be together and to connect with union members from other schools. Hopefully we will do it again soon.
Some of you had the opportunity to meet friends from the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) caucus. Let me know if you’re interested in learning more about the caucus or getting involved. 

Below are some UFT news highlights from the month. 
Have a happy and relaxing break! 

- Julie

Things Mulgrew spoke about at the December Delegate Assembly:

This is huge. Last week, Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act banning the use of the federal government to mandate the use of common core standards as well as the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers. The use of tests will hopefully shift away from “test and punish” and will instead be used as a tool to assess and help students. Also, he says the government will begin offering incentives to schools that offer art and music.

However, local measures will still factor in to teachers’ evaluation scores (for us, the DRP for reading. I’m not sure about math.) The process of administration’s ratings will remain the same. 

Hopefully Common Core will be phased out too. 
Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force, charged earlier this year with investigating the effectiveness of the rollout of Common Core standards, released its report this month advising a 4-year moratorium on the use of state test growth scores to evaluate teachers and students and an overhaul of the common core standards. Mulgrew says that the state will work with educators to develop its own developmentally-appropriate standards with a particular focus on fair standards for students with disabilities and for english language learners.  
Politicians on both sides have been opposing Common Core for quite some time. Here’s an article from the Atlantic this week about it.

—> Thank you, Opt-Out Movement 
This reexamination of the role of standardized testing in our schools is a huge step in the right direction and was likely influenced heavily by the Opt-Out movement—the collective refusal of students and parents to sit for state tests which was driven by union member and parent activism, which gained substantial traction last year. (Mulgrew didn’t mention this). See last spring's New York Times coverage of this massive action:
In this post, 2016 UFT presidential candidate Jia Lee explains how the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 doesn’t do enough to reduce standardized testing and continues to prioritize private interests.

Success Academy will shorten its school days due to staff and student exhaustion
Apparently teachers don’t like working from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm and the network has had substantial employee turnover every year. 

Many schools’ ICT classes are out of compliance 
The UFT conducted a survey of chapter leaders indicating that misuse of the ICT setting is widespread and a majority of schools reported that at least some aspects of their ICT programs are out of compliance. The UFT will spend the next season investigating and addressing compliance issues. 

Lots of breakfasts are wasted.
Apparently 70% of school breakfasts are thrown away, and students are often being served poor-quality or spoiled food. The UFT is pressuring the DOE to address the problem and find a way to make sure students are provided with high-quality breakfasts. 

In other union news:

"Over time, 'right to work’ laws destroy unions. That's their real purpose."
We’re all still freaking out about Friedrich’s— the SCOTUS case I’ve mentioned before with the potential to turn all states into “right to work” states.  If you’re still wondering why this prospect is so scary for all of us,  read this. It explains the issues created by free-riders and the way right to work legislation drives down wages and reduces rights and working conditions for all workers.

Chicago teachers might strike again
Teachers in Chicago are threatening to strike amidst new austerity measures that could result in either a 5th of the unionized teaching staff being laid off or else massive pay cuts. They are advocating for less standardized testing. This article discusses the role of the union as an extension of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the need-- with a potentially devastating Friedrich’s decision looming-- for unions nationwide to follow Chicago’s model and organize to take direct action. 

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