Thursday, October 10, 2013

More MORE: Making an impact at the DA

RIn all my years of activism one of the happiest moments I had was seeing James Eterno's face as he emerged from the Delegate Assembly yesterday. I was in the midst of trying to get people to take the MORE newsletter, MORE Stuff in Your Mail Bx" and get them to sign up to distribute in their school. I didn't have to work too hard as there were a batch of MOREistas over half my age - one may have been young enough to be my grandchild doing the same thing. I left it to them and went over to James: "It's happening. It's finally happening," he said. Read his report over at ICE.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew and his ruling Unity-New Action majority tried to have it both ways at last night's UFT Delegate Assembly.  Mulgrew and Staff Director Leroy Barr pushed a resolution to call for a moratorium on attaching high stakes to Common Core tests until we have curriculum and other supports in all schools. However, Barr and Mulgrew repeatedly emphasized the UFT's support for the Common Core State Standards and the high stakes tests for teachers and students that are attached to the standards.

This basically vacuous resolution to delay using tests to make high stakes decisions was motivated by President Mulgrew in his report and then by Staff Director Barr.  Their main argument is that we support Common Core and high stakes testing for students and teachers but there needs to be a moratorium in making the tests count for important decisions, such as rating teachers and students, until we have the proper materials in every school because it is unfair to students when some schools have new curriculum while others do not. 

These points in favor of a delay, while having some merit, were easily refuted by two opposition speakers because the resolution does not address the main disease, only one symptom.  First, Marjorie Stamberg tried to offer a substitute resolution but was denied by President Mulgrew, who repeatedly and rudely cut her off while she was speaking.  Marjorie persevered and the independent Delegate told the Delegates how poverty is the problem and the Common Core, as well as the tests attached to it, are the tools of corporations that are attempting to privatize education and break the unions.

Marjorie was followed by a Unity speaker who said something about how this resolution was part of solutions driven unionism and then Vincent W. from the Movement of Rank and File Educators rose from the room on the 19th floor (Delegate meetings are held on the 2nd floor of UFT HQ while overflow Delegates and visitors can watch on video from a room on the 19th floor) to shoot down the resolution.

Vincent's main argument is that the whole evaluation system is flawed.  He pointed out to "Brother Barr" that he taught for thirteen years without the Common Core and did just fine.  He then asked the UFT why their resolution did not go far enough to oppose the entire teacher evaluation system based on high stakes testing and Common Core.  He closed by stating that the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) had a petition for a moratorium on the whole evaluation system.  He received enthusiastic applause from more than a few Delegates.

His speech was followed by a Unity Delegate moving to close debate. The resolution carried in my opinion only because members of the ruling Unity Caucus sign a paper saying they will support the decisions of the caucus in union and public forums (the so called Unity loyalty oath).  However, there was little enthusiasm for the resolution and some real dissent in the hall.

The positions of the two parties within the UFT were crystal clear at the DA:  Unity-New Action support Common Core State Standards and the new teacher evaluation system so long as we have proper materials.  MORE and the vast majority of the UFT members oppose Common Core, high stakes testing, Danielson observations and the entire new evaluation system and want teachers to be evaluated  based on a solid research backed system that is voted on by teachers.

It is also worth noting that President Mulgrew didn't call on anyone in the section to his left during the discussion on evaluations, even though several Delegates wearing red MORE t-shirts were raising their cards to speak.  Since it was breast cancer awareness day and the UFT was encouraging people to wear pink, Mulgrew would only call on Delegates wearing pink.  Some MORE Delegates wore pink hats to get around his silly limit to democracy since MORE people were decked out in red to show solidarity and protest the entire high stakes testing based evaluation system before the DA. 

Unity-New Action may have won the vote but Unity needed their party discipline to have their way. On the other hand, MORE was organizing multiple Delegates who now want to distribute MORE literature to their schools.  MORE gained a great deal yesterday. 

Vincent W, Mike Shirtzer and many MORE members and supporters protest against unfair teacher evaluation system at DA

The MORE sign

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1 comment:

  1. The promotion of Emil Petrimonaco from Staten Island boro Rep to a high position at 52 Broadway is quite interesting. Has the leadership soured on bad bad Leroy Barr??


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