Saturday, January 31, 2015

Amended: Eva Moskowitz to Offer Space on Her Buses as UFT Limits Participation on Mar 4 Lobby Day - (satire alert)

UFT is so excited about lobby day this year that they only have places for 15 Queens high school teachers. Odd way to handle crisis. 

Twice last year I went to Albany on my own time & $ to attend @nysut rallies but now no space on the bus? I signed up but DR said I may not be included because they want people who haven't gone before. Hmmm
Tweets from chapter leaders in response to Ed Notes post:

Time for De Blasio to Close the Entire Public School System on March 4 for UFT Lobby Day

Eva Moskowitz, with more money than the UFT, will offer any teacher wanting to go to Albany to lobby on March 4 but who was turned down by the UFT seats on HER buses. Asked why, given they are going to lobby against her, she responded, "Makes no difference. Cuomo - with us. Skelos - with us. That's 2 of the 3 men in the room and the other one is in cuffs. And after all, the UFT has its own co-located charter school in a public school building and we are lobbying for them too - so why not have teachers along to support their union on the issue of the UFT charter, which one day may face demands it be closed? I'd be sorry. Having them around is one of the best weapons we have to make our point."

Let me get out of satire mode and get real --- hundreds of school trips to Albany for a civics lesson. Let the press scream and holler while supporting Eva. Get teachers to take a personal day if their school doesn't go -- I mean thousands of teachers taking a personal day -- a legit reason too.

But de Blasio, from Boston, has deflated balls. Mulgrew doesn't even have to be from Boston to have deflated balls.

Time for De Blasio to Close the Entire Public School System on March 4 for UFT Lobby Day

--- use school buses to get as many of the million kids in the school system up to Albany - and also their parents. After all, Eva is doing it on March 4 and we are told all the time we should replicate her successful strategies. Using kids for political reasons should not be ruled off the table for replication. Call it a civics lesson.

Friday, January 30, 2015

U.F.T.’s Cuomo defense strategy — Stewart-Cousins defends teachers + More Ed News From Capital Education

A packed ed report from Capital Education. Lots of meat to chew over here -- but we'll let this masticate for a few hours- other than to point out that the report that charters retain special ed kids in greater numbers than public schools has a level of bullshit behind it since charters classify kids with pimples as being special ed.

by Jessica Bakeman, Eliza Shapiro and Conor Skelding

THE U.F.T.’s CUOMO STRATEGY, IN ACTION—Capital’s Eliza Shapiro: “The United Federation of Teachers is taking aim at Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposal to extend the charter cap as it hones its strategy to combat the governor's ambitious package of education reforms. The U.F.T. held three ‘emergency’ meetings with its members and parents on Thursday, ran a full-page anti-Cuomo advertisement in the Daily News, and released an extensive report claiming, among other things, that charter schools don't enroll enough high-needs students compared to their district school counterparts.” 

—The U.F.T. issued a series of counter-proposals to the charter reforms during a press conference Thursday. They include freezing the charter cap until the schools enroll more high-need students; pushing the State Legislature to allow district superintendents to require that charters fill empty seats, a process known as "backfilling" that some charters do not implement; and enacting a new admissions criteria for charters to ensure that more high-needs students enroll.

—Mulgrew convened three meetings throughout the day on Thursday to develop strategies for fighting the governor's proposals this legislative session. In morning and evening "emergency" meetings with clergy members and parent leaders, advocates brainstormed citywide rallies, social media campaigns, letter-writing campaigns to elected officials and other protests in the upcoming months to shift public perception about Cuomo's proposals. The union's delegate assembly also held an ‘emergency’ meeting in the afternoon.."

TRACKING EDUCATION: “New York’s per-pupil spending was 82 percent above the national average in 2012 and the highest among the 50 states, a federal report today found.” Gannett’s Joe Spector:; the report:

—Ninety school districts are “fiscally stressed,” according to a report released Thursday by the state comptroller’s office. East Ramapo and Hempstead school districts, communities in Rockland and Nassau counties, respectively, that have grappled with religious and racial discord as well as financial problems, were among the 10 districts in “significant fiscal stress,” according to the scoring system first devised last year by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. Capital’s Jessica Bakeman [PRO]
—Michael Mulgrew, U.F.T. president, is a member of the Democratic National Convention host committee, the Mayor’s Office announced yesterday.

STEWART-COUSINS DEFENDS TEACHERS—Capital’s Jessica Bakeman: “Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a former teacher, said in a statement Thursday that increasing education aid—not ‘demonizing’ or ‘scapegoating’ teachers—would improve schools. Stewart-Cousins, of Yonkers, didn’t refer directly to Governor Andrew Cuomo, but her comments appear to be in reaction to his recent proposals to develop a teacher evaluation system that would result in more teachers getting low ratings and change the state’s laws regarding tenure and disciplinary proceedings to make it easier to fire teachers.” [PRO]
—“Education reform group StudentsFirstNY slammed Stewart-Cousins and teachers’ unions [later on Thursday]. "There's a reason why the teachers' union has spent $60 million in Albany over the past five years: to get politicians like Andrea Stewart-Cousins to put their interests over the hundreds of thousands of kids victimized by a failing system,’ Tenicka Boyd, director of organizing for the group, said in a statement.” Capital’s Jessica Bakeman [PRO]:
MORE DATA CONFIRMS I.B.O. ATTRITION REPORT—Capital’s Eliza Shapiro: “Students at charter schools, including students with disabilities, are somewhat more likely to stay at their schools than their counterparts in district schools, according to a report released Thursday by the Independent Budget Office. Thursday's report is an updated version of a similar study released last January, which found that charter school students are more likely to stay at their schools than their district school peers, but that charter students with disabilities leave at a significantly higher rate than their district counterparts. With an additional year of data and a broader definition of special-needs students, the new report found that 53 percent of charter school students with disabilities remained in their school four years later, compared to 49 percent of district school students with disabilities.”

—Charter leaders reacted gleefully to the report. "The I.B.O. confirms what I've always known: our student retention rates are better than the city's,” Success Academy C.E.O. Eva Moskowitz said in a statement. “The Chancellor was wrong. This study clearly shows that charter schools educate and retain students of all needs better than district schools, putting to bed myths and falsehoods about charter attrition and creaming,” Families for Excellent Schools executive director Jeremiah Kittredge said in a statement.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I've always said that Shelly Silver has always been someone who always stood up for the children of New York City. And I'm sorry, but that's an important thing. I will always say good things about Sheldon Silver." — Michael Mulgrew

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Jia Lee Goes To Washington - The Video by Filmaker Michael Elliott

Jia Lee, a special education teacher at the Earth School in Manhattan and also a member of Change the Stakes, testified at a Senate hearing last week. She is one of the few teachers given the chance to be heard about the damaging effects of annual testing. Watch this moving video about her message to Congress.

What’s New From CTS


Congress Needs to Hear from YOU Now!


UPDATE - PEP Delays Vote -- Leticia James Slams Tonight CO-Loco Vote at PEP - Calls for Postponement

Some people think things have changed in the DOE since Bloomberg. Maybe not all that much.

UPDATE - Well, maybe they have changed --- somewhat. We'll see for sure next month. We know one thing about Eva -- it is about expanding and forcing other schools out until there is no more co-location and she owns the building entirely. If the DOE were to co-locate into a building she solely occupied she would go ballistic.

Chalkbeat reports:

Votes on four charter space proposals delayed as Fariña cites need for more input

Statement from Public Advocate Letitia James on Upcoming Co-location Vote

(New York, NY)— Today, January 29, 2015, Panel for Education Policy “PEP” members will vote on six co-location proposals put forth by the Department of Education without the proper tools necessary to assess whether or not the buildings have adequate space to accommodate a new school. New York City Public Advocate Letitia James stated the following:

“I am deeply concerned about this upcoming vote because we are still not in possession of an accurate ‘Blue Book’. Without the appropriate metrics and understand of space considerations, how can we expect PEP members to vote on such important proposals? Past changes made to the Blue Book have not been sufficient or substantive— they do not reflect the conditions in our schools.”

“The current instructional footprint and Blue Book capacity figures fail to provide sufficient space allocations for students, especially for high-needs students who require additional support and services— students with disabilities, English language learners, students in temporary housing, students living in poverty, as well as students with various challenging social, emotional and learning-related conditions.”

“To that end, it is virtually impossible to respond today’s school planning needs with outdated numbers. I am calling on tonight’s vote to be postponed until we have more clarity from the Department of Education and an updated Blue Book.”


News Unit
NYC Public Advocate  Hon. Letitia "Tish" James
1 Centre Street- 15th Floor
New York, NY

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

UFT Rank and Filer Lays Out Problem With Deform Union Leadership

It appears that the teachers of Detroit want the rock thrower. Good for them! If only NY teachers would take a stand next election cycle and oust Mulgrew and Unity. Take your ball and go home, Johnson ---it’s clear you’re just a sore loser..... Roseanne McCosh
The always reliable Roseanne McCosh lays things on the line in a comment on Steve Conn's winning the presidency in Detroit as we chronicled last night: Randi's Nightmare Continues: Steve Conn Sworn in as Detroit Teacher Union President

Conn's victory was a blow to retiring DFT President and Randi accolyte Keith Johnson, whose hand-picked successor lost to Conn. Johnson went after Conn: "His mantra has never been to work with the other side, the adversary. His mantra has always been to stand out at the periphery and throw rocks at it and talk about how horrible it is."

Yes, Keith, let's all shut up and sit there while the buildings fall on our heads. You hear this same crap from Unity people who say to MORE "don't be critical, be supportive."

First establish a democratic union - for instance - a union where a group like MORE which outpolls New Action significantly, gets no seats on the Ex Bd while New Action gets 10 seats. Then we can talk.

We see Unity driving the car off the cliff and we should fasten out seat belts. [ are there any cartoonists out there who can draw such a cartoon - though I think I had someone draw one for me for ed notes 15 years ago.]

Roseanne lays it out very succinctly.
  • When the self-interests of those in union leadership overshadow the interests of the working teachers….
  • When the membership is locked out of the decision making…..
  • When the membership is not allowed a dissenting voice within their own union….. 
  • When union leaders are no longer accountable to their members….
What choice is there except to give up or pick up those rocks? 
All it took was a rock and steady aim for David to take down Goliath. 
Teachers have been under attack and it speaks volumes that Detroit's former leader takes issue with a union leader who wants to fight back. It appears that the teachers of Detroit want the rock thrower. 
Good for them! If only NY teachers would take a stand next election cycle and oust Mulgrew and Unity. Take your ball and go home, Johnson ---it’s clear you’re just a sore loser. 

Roseanne McCosh

Randi's Nightmare Continues: Steve Conn Sworn in as Detroit Teacher Union President

Think of this as the AFT version of the Greek election.
Conn, who has run for DFT president about a dozen times before, credits his victory to members being fed up with the "fiasco disaster" that governor-appointed emergency managers have brought to the district over the last six years. "This is about a struggle for civil rights" in DPS, he said about his new role... Detroit Free Press
Ed Notes reported the story on Jan. 17 this way: Randi's Nightmare: DETROIT TEACHERS Elect Steve Conn
Conn said with some classes as big as 40 to 50 students or more, pushing for smaller classes will be among his top priorities.
Holy crap -- a teacher union leader making class size a priority.

Steve may be the most militant teacher union leader in the nation. He lost a recent election by only a few votes and this time won a narrow victory by 15 votes in a run-off. Race plays a role in elections and most Detroit teachers are not white, while Steve is white - but also Steve has had a strong history on issues related to the black community. Most of all, even half the union voting for his well-known left leaning level of activism is MAJOR. Think of this as the AFT version of the Greek election where the Greece is the only nation in Europe to elect a seriously left party. Some people I know on the left have issues with Steve's group BAMN though I'm never clear what they are - I think their style is also a factor.

One activist emailed asking about Randi's control of the AFT given that Chicago and Los Angelos are in the hands of reform union leaders, along with other cities. My response was that nationally the NYC Unity Caucus wags the NYSUT and AFT dog. So no matter what happens elsewhere, Randi is in control of the AFT.

But I did report this in May 2010:
Maybe just a drop in the bucket of the UFT dominated AFT, but this message from Detroit's Steve Conn is an early warning sign for Randi Weingarten and the AFT that their collaborationist policies are causing a counter reaction... Ed Notes Online
Steve Conn presents a different level of in your face activism -- he is not polite to Randi like other union leaders who might just roll their eyes. At a demo in Detroit at the AFT convention in 2012, Steve constantly heckled Randi while she tried to speak. Steve is part of  By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) which has run in the past few AFT elections against Randi and her Progressive Caucus, garnering about 5% of the vote.

And when we protested Bill Gates in Seattle at the AFT 2010 convention I believe Steve was right in the middle of it. How much fun will the 2016 AFT convention in Minneapolis turn out to be?

Ed Notes has covered events in Detroit over the years. A quick seach yielded these articles amongst many going back to 2008.
Nov 17, 2008
Steve Conn was an activist in Teamsters Local 688 and Teamsters for a Democratic Union in St.Louis in the in the 1980's. He is now a supporter of the civil rights group BAMM and current candidate for President of the Detroit ... 
Dec 06, 2010
Detroit teacher Steve Conn (above center) spoke to the Peace and Justice Caucus of the American Federation of Teachers on July 10, 2010 (above) during the AFT convention. Conn is now in a runoff against incumbent ...
Mar 21, 2010
Maybe just a drop in the bucket of the UFT dominated AFT, but this message from Detroit's Steve Conn is an early warning sign for Randi Weingarten and the AFT that their collaborationist policies are causing a counter ...
Randi's guy was Randi cheerleader Keith Johnson whose tune changed between 2010 when he led cheers for Bill Gates and 2012 when the union he led has been devastated by the contract Randi helped him accept. Johnson retired and tried to push his hand-chosen candidate but Detroit teachers had enough.

Here is a bulletin from Steve to the members posted on the DFT web site after 800 members met on Sunday, and some press articles on the election.

New DFT President and Executive Board Sworn In [1.21.15]

New DFT President Steve Conn, executive vice president Ivy Bailey, and the executive board members were sworn in yesterday by AFT Michigan President David Hecker.
"I want to salute the marvelous due militancy of Detroit teachers," Conn said. "It's time to take a stand for justice.
"I want to say to the governor, the politicians, and the corporate interests who they work for, we are fed up with the state-sponsored destruction of the Detroit schools."
Conn said he wants to re-incorporate the EAA schools into DPS, end the "obscene standardized testing regimen," and get a union rep in every building, among other goals.
He recalled the speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 as a situation similar to what Detroit teachers face today and "the fierce urgency of now."

Activist Steve Conn to lead Detroit teachers union

Teacher and activist Steve Conn said he plans to fight for smaller class sizes in his new role as head of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.
Conn, 57, narrowly won the presidency Saturday in a race against union vice president Edna Reaves. He replaces longtime rival Keith Johnson, who backed Reaves and is retiring after six years.
A swearing-in ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday in front of the union offices at 7700 Second Avenue. A rally will follow.
Conn, who has run for DFT president about a dozen times before, credits his victory to members being fed up with the "fiasco disaster" that governor-appointed emergency managers have brought to the district over the last six years.
"This is about a struggle for civil rights" in DPS, he said about his new role.

Conn's victory was a blow to Johnson.
"His mantra has never been to work with the other side, the adversary," Johnson said. "His mantra has always been to stand out at the periphery and throw rocks at it and talk about how horrible it is."
Conn received 614 votes in the election. Reaves got 599.
The other people who shared the United for Teachers' Rights slate with Reaves won their races: Ivy Bailey, Michael Schenk and Vida Bonacci were elected vice presidents; Nicole M. Davis was elected recording secretary; and Michelle Broughton was elected treasurer.
Conn has worked as a math teacher in Detroit Public Schools since 1986. He spent most of that time at Cass Technical High School, a position he's leaving because of the new job.
He has also been actively involved for years in the social justice group By Any Means Necessary.

Conn said with some classes as big as 40 to 50 students or more, pushing for smaller classes will be among his top priorities.
DPS has a roughly $170-million deficit. Just last week, it got its fourth emergency manager, Darnell Earley.
The DFT has about 4,000 members.
In 2008, Conn and his wife Heather Miller, who was also a teacher, were fired but then won their jobs back after being accused of leading a protest in May 2007 that led to some middle and high school students being pepper-sprayed and detained by police. The pair sued the district and won a $300,000 judgment.
Contact Ann Zaniewski at 313-222-6594 or Follow her on Twitter: @AnnZaniewski.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

MORE Workshop(s) on Chapter Leader Upcoming Elections Strike(s) a Chord

The reason there are bully principals who can discontinue people with no worry of a union response or harass tenured teachers into oblivion is due to a weak, ineffective and disinterested UFT leadership. ... Yeah, I said that.
Until vast number of schools elect independent and capable chapter leaders who build an internal organization at the school level nothing will change in the UFT - which is why I am so skeptical about the UFT general election process every 3 years and why those basic numbers don't move much decade after decade. Unity controls most chapters and building chapters of resistance is not their priority. I measure things based on how many schools have effective chapters -- and I don't just mean MORE but independents and even those Unity chapter leaders who do this hard work. I think a survey will show a small minority - one of the biggest condemnations of the UFT/Unity leadership. Their middle managers - the district reps - mostly do nothing in this area - they are there as henchmen/woman of top-down UFT policy, not bottom up chapter building. And YES, electing district reps, which Randi eliminated in 2002, would be a start to making a more effective union.

Linking chapters together into loose networks of support will empower people, especially at the district level -- and now that Farina has empowered Supts, that becomes more relevant.

That has been a major focus of my own work within MORE - and it hasn't always been easy to get that point across. The UFT puts all its eggs in the one-person chapter leader instead of building networks. While monthly district chapter leader meetings should be used to work together to solve individual school issues, they are instead used to push central UFT policies through the district reps down to the schools. The UFT would never want independent acting chapters.

So if the UFT won't do it, MORE needs to focus on issues emerging at the school level and become a support network for those people and schools ready to act -- not as much an opposition per se. Some MORE members have already gone local - holding small non-advertized meetings after school with teachers in their school neighborhoods. Don't worry about the big union picture as much and put resources into support networks.

MORE has gotten down to work - sometimes after much nudging and nagging - by focusing on the issues people are facing in the schools and trying to come up with strategies to address them by offering useful workshops - instead of just holding meetings for the sake of holding meetings. (Fighting Back In Your School). 

It is not enough to complain about conditions but try to come up with possible solutions. Since the UFT does not seem capable of standing up for people at the school level against vicious principals, it is up to rank and file teachers to get together and figure out strategies.

So it was a bummer when I awoke to the pre-"blizzard" snowstorm this past Saturday, the day of a long planned workshop addressing the upcoming spring chapter leader elections. I was kicking myself for printing as many as 30 copies of an intake form I prepared for the MORE Workshop(s) on Chapter Leader Upcoming Elections. "We'll be lucky to get 10 people," I thought. So I was surprised when between 30 and 40 people trekked into Manhattan from the outer boroughs and Long Island on a snowy Saturday, with a bunch of people we had never met. I viewed it as a sign that things are not kosher in the state of Denmark. It is one thing for people to email and call bitching but quite another to go to the next step and try to do something about it. 

The biggest single complaint I get from teachers is that their principals are tyrants and their chapter leaders are either in the pocket of the principal, under assault for not being in the pocket or basically ineffective. And then there is the ineffective, if not collaborative District reps and the UFT leaders above them who often tell teachers and chapter leaders who fight their principals that it is their fault for not getting along with the principal.

But we do know chapter leaders in MORE who do an excellent job, even in schools with difficult principals. Since they are openly part of the opposition by being identified with MORE, the UFT is often more attentive and cautious and they feel they get better service from above.

So people like Kit Wainer and Kevin Prosen and other experienced chapter leaders - including me - shared out experiences at the workshops in dealing with school administrations and organizing our colleagues. We heard some stories of the "model" Tweed/Leadership Academy principal -- youngish, arrogant, manipulative, aiming at senior teachers, divide and conquer, etc. - from people we had never met. Hearing other stories on how people organized their chapters even when they weren't chapter leaders made them feel they had a chance.

Thanks to Mike Schirtzer for leading the organizing effort to make this event happen.

We are doing another one on March 14. I am on the committee and am pushing for a workshop on how to use Danielson and common core to respond to the blizzard of unfair observations, along the lines of my post a few days ago which has received a lot of favorable comments:  Are You a Target of Misuse of Danielson Observations? Advice From Former Chapter Leader.

That former CL has been in touch with a lot more material which I will be publishing. I believe we can develop some tools to put in the hands of teachers to begin to counter this war on them at the school level.

The reason there are bully principals who can discontinue people with no worry of a union response or harass tenured teachers into oblivion is due to a weak, ineffective and disinterested UFT leadership. It is time for people at the rank and file level to rise up and take control.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Norm in The Wave: The UFT Plan is No Plan – Except to Capitulate to Cuomo and Call it a Victory

School Scope: The UFT Plan is No Plan – Except to Capitulate to Cuomo and Call it a Victory
By Norm Scott

Given Andrew Cuomo’s assault on public education, teachers and their unions, the leaders of the UFT, after playing footsie with Cuomo for tears went into panic mode, calling for emergency meetings with parents and an emergency Delegate Assembly this past week. This after calling for a social media blizzard from its members. Cuomo used his powers as governor to call in a massive air strike in the form of the blizzard of 2015 to disrupt the plans of the UFT to organize resistance. But long-time readers of this column and of my EdNotesOnline blog are aware that I’ve never given much credence to any plans on the part of the UFT to engage in a real fight back. But more on that later.

Then there’s the fall of the house of Sheldon, one of the 3-men in the room who run NY State. Well, Sheldon Silver is still in office, but growing increasingly toothless. They ought to build a prison just to house members of the NY State legislature. In fact, they ought to turn the state capital into condos and hold their sessions in a penal colony. There were two interpretations of the Silver, a noted ally of the UFT, arrest. The early betting from teacher bloggers was that Cuomo orchestrated it so he could run his education deform plot through without interference from Silver. But as the days passed people began to think US Attorney Preet Bharara was also targeting Cuomo ever since the Governor killed his own Moreland commission to investigate corruption. But when the Commission began to nose into Cuomo’s own corrupt territory he pulled the plug, which put Bharara on the warpath. The NY Post’s Fred Dicker, who hates Cuomo, wrote that Cuomo was "On Edge" And "Obsessed With Fear As Criminal Probe Into Albany Corruption Continues.” I thought Cuomo was mostly obsessed with fear over having to taste his celebrity chef girlfriend Sandra Lee’s cooking.

Given this scenario, teachers all over the state are praying for the boom to be dropped on Cuomo before he totally eviscerates tenure and gets his wish to have 50% of teacher evaluations to be based on the performance of their students on standardized tests, known as Value Added Measures (VAM), especially since the calculations of these ratings are based on voodoo math. VAM is a sham – but it allows Cuomo to cater to his charter school contributors looking to privatize and profit from undermining the public school system and the teacher union.

Which brings me back to the old UFT and its state (NYSUT) and national (AFT) affiliates. They have all been straddling the fence over the past decade as ed deform has gained enormous ground, unwilling to take a strong enough stand, waffling and agreeing to allowing teachers to be partially rated based on test scores. They bragged that they got only 20% of a teacher rating to based on tests. Cuomo wants 50%. The UFT will take 40% and call it a victory.

Then there’s tenure, currently set at three years, but repeatedly over ridden by principals who can force an untenured teacher to sign, under threat of immediate dismissal (also known as discontinuance, with a permanent black ball against their name), a year or more extensions, thus effectively making gaining tenure a potential 4,5 or 6-year deal. Cuomo has proposed formalizing tenure into a strict 5 year arrangement and with extensions forced on teachers by principals added on that, could make gaining tenure a 6-8 year ordeal. I can see the UFT, which has said little about teacher tenure being extended or their being discontinued, now agreeing to 4 years and saying – “see – it was pretty much 5 years anyway, so why expend political capital fighting it?” As usual, the UFT defense is the equivalent of the Maginot line in France in WWII designed to fight the battles of WWI – fighting old wars in a new age.
Norm blogs at

This should be published this Friday, Jan. 30 at though I was about an hour past deadline. If not it will be in the Feb. 6 edition.

Capital NY Ed News Worth Sharing: Cuomo Contradictions on Ed Policy and Mulgrew Goes One Step Beyond Tweeting

Here’s a strange aside: Cuomo spent last year distancing himself from New York’s implementation of the Common Core standards. He supported legislation that now bans school districts from including scores from Common Core-based tests in students’ permanent records. Districts are also banned from emphasizing test scores when making student placement decisions. So test scores are not reliable enough to evaluate students—but the very same scores should be used to determine the fates of teachers?” 
Gary Stern, as reported in Capital NY Ed News
Lots of little nuggets in these reports. UFT also holding emergency DA -- the last DA was full of urgent tweeting. What is the next step? I would tell teachers to start an opt-out blitz and make a stand the UFT will defend teachers' right to free speech if they do so. Imagine getting thousands of parents to deny the data? Eterno has a piece on this at the ICE blog: WE MUST STARVE THE DATA BEAST NOW TO SAVE PUBLIC EDUCATION IN NY

It won't happen from the UFT until they are pulled kicking and screaming into it ---and I'll get into this more later - when I take shoveling breaks - to delve into UFT/AFT opt-out positions which became clearer when they faced the horror of having MORE/CTS teacher Jia Lee testify on a national stage -- I imagine Randi hoped to be the one to testify and oh my, a real teacher she supposedly represents who opposes her. Randi pulled every string she had to get a teacher on the panel more amenable to AFT policy. Knowing how they coopt the opposition, if MORE begins to get some traction on the opt-out story from rank and file teachers they will try to misdirect the movement.

U.F.T HOLDING ‘EMERGENCY’ MEETING ON CUOMO PROPOSALS—Capital’s Eliza Shapiro: “Michael Mulgrew will host an ‘emergency meeting’ Tuesday evening to respond to Governor Andrew Cuomo's new education proposals. According to an invitation the U.F.T. blasted to parent advocates and clergy on Friday, the meeting will include a discussion of ‘how to respond to Governor Cuomo's attack on public schools.’ 

“With Cuomo's plans for education reform now clear, and with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's arrest on corruption charges throwing the opposition's plans into disarray, the U.F.T. is officially gearing up for a tough battle this legislation session. ‘Here comes the governor with the same ideas [former New York City mayor] Michael Bloomberg wanted to do’’ Mulgrew said Friday in an interview with Capital. ‘It's like, here we go, how do we coordinate and organize.’ Mulgrew said the U.F.T. has been ‘flooded with calls’ since Cuomo's State of the State address from advocates and parents hoping to organize against the governor's proposals.” [PRO]
OPINION: CUOMO’S TESTING FOCUS—Journal News’ Gary Stern: “Cuomo’s plans to break what he calls the state’s public education ‘monopoly,’ as outlined in his State of the State address, would only raise the profile of standardized tests. Educators and parent advocates I’ve heard from since then can’t believe he is so out of touch. … Here’s a strange aside: Cuomo spent last year distancing himself from New York’s implementation of the Common Core standards. He supported legislation that now bans school districts from including scores from Common Core-based tests in students’ permanent records. Districts are also banned from emphasizing test scores when making student placement decisions. So test scores are not reliable enough to evaluate students—but the very same scores should be used to determine the fates of teachers?”

HOW BAD ARE NEW YORK SCHOOLS, REALLY?—New York Times’ Kate Taylor: “Cuomo, in his State of the State address [last] week, exhorted lawmakers to make significant changes to New York State’s education system. He painted a picture of a system in crisis: only a third of students reaching proficiency on state math and English tests, less than 40 percent of high school students prepared for college, hundreds of thousands of mostly minority students condemned to failing schools. ‘Our education system needs dramatic reform,’ Mr. Cuomo said. But how bad is New York, really? Relative to other states, experts say, not that bad. But not that good, either.”

ENDING BRIEF TRUCE, SUCCESS FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST CITY—Capital’s Eliza Shapiro: “Officials from two Success Academy charter schools filed a lawsuit against New York City [Friday], claiming the Department of Education has denied the schools pre-K classrooms. Success is arguing the pro-charter law passed last March ensures space for all new and expanding charter schools, including pre-K space. But the city claims it hasn't even begun awarding pre-K seats for September and therefore has not denied Success any space. The lawsuit ends what appeared to have been a brief truce between Success and the de Blasio's administration, after the city granted school space for eight Success schools in December.”

CRUCIAL MOMENT FOR TURNAROUND PLANS—Buffalo News’ Sandra Tan: “The fate of four public schools in Buffalo will likely be decided this week. Student performance at East, Lafayette and Bennett high schools, as well as at Martin Luther King Multicultural Institute, an elementary school, has been so poor that the state has demanded that district leaders come up with plans to transform these schools or phase them out of existence. Their decisions will affect nearly 2,000 students. The School Board is supposed to make final decisions regarding the four plans Wednesday.”

Saturday, January 24, 2015

40th Anniversary of Substance and Memories of George Schmidt, Test Resister

TESTOCRACY? Yesterday we read from Diane Ravitch that one of the many Harvard mavens worshipped by some people is using the term "testocracy." We invented that term, but good ideas should not be copyrighted. Let's remind people, though, who should be remembered for having built the Resistance 20 and 15 years ago. The recent joiners to our ranks are, of course, welcome. Except when they write a self-serving history that puts their arrival at the onset of The Resistance. More about that when we review some new books or three.... George Schmidt
George Schmidt lost his career as a teacher in Chicago when Substance published the CASE tests and exposed just how error-laden, useless and indeed, harmful they were. So a well deserved kudo to George as Substance celebrates its 40th anniversary. We were getting copies of Substance here in NYC in the late 70s and also George's exposure of the ties between Al Shanker, the UFT/AFT and the CIA (The American Federation of Teachers and the CIA).

Then we lost touch with George  - until I attended an ed-tech convention in Chicago around 2000 and wandered into a session on how to battle testing and saw Substance on the seats and George on the panel. One of the spurs to me retiring in July 2002 was to expand was a Delegate Assembly only Ed Notes into a tabloid like Substance.

George and his son came out to my house that summer and I invited a bunch of people to meet with him. That group eventually became the basis of ICE (Independent Community of Educators). And of course ICE morphed into GEM in 2009 - inspired by some of the work going on in Chicago that we knew about through George and Substance and of course ICE and GEM and others formed MORE in 2012, inspired by the work of CORE in Chicago which took over the union in 2010. And Change the Stakes was also an offshoot of GEM.

It was through George that I met Susan Ohanian and other test resisters and Ed Notes was the first -- and only publication to take a stand against high stakes testing 15 years ago. I was presenting resolutions against high stakes testing in the late 90s - and based on the work George and Susan were doing, pretty much predicting exactly what has come to pass.

So George has not only impacted Chicago, but his work has had a major influence on the work here in NYC.

George and Substance aren't often cited by some of the revisionists writing the history of CORE which discount the impact of the outreach of a 35 year old network that George had created and maintained.

I am about to head into the city for the MORE workshops on chapter leader elections and chapter building -- the essence of building a fighting union -- and I'll have more on this later from one of  my correspondents who helped lead a fightback in her school against unfavorable observations.

Here are excerpts of George's Bulletin he sent out today.
Brothers and Sisters:

The year 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of Substance. Our print editions began publishing in mid-1975, following the organizing that led to the formation of S.U.B.S. (Substitutes United for Better Schools) after some of us returned from the Vietnam War (me as an anti war organizer; Larry from the Marines) and elsewhere to discover that for seven years the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union (under Bob Healey and the UPC) had sold out substitute teachers in several contracts. Substitute pay had been frozen at $40 per day from 1968 through 1975. Our original organizing resulted in demonstrations, petitions to the union leadership -- and the beginning of the publication of a newsletter, Substance. By June 1976, Substance had evolved into a tabloid newspaper, and soon we were coming out monthly (and selling both papers and subscriptions). By early1976, S.U.B.S. had more than 300 dues paying members, most of whom were Chicago substitute teachers (although we let militant regular teachers join, too). It was the beginning of a very interesting ride that continues to this day. Some of us are still around. Some (Joe Corker, Dorothy Pearson, Dan Van Zile and others) have died. And a few left teaching because of the ongoing insults and indignities that we had to endure as substitute teachers in Chicago. As 2015 unfolds, we will from time to time be reprinting and sharing historical memories from the pages of Substance and from our archives. Please let us know your memories as well, because history cannot be told accurately by any one person or handful of people.

The first historical documents we are sharing this morning are attached. On January 28, 2015, the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune decided, both together and of course coincidentally, to publish editorials denouncing Substance and me for publishing some of the Pilot CASE tests that had been given earlier that month to all Chicago high school students. By that day, we had been sued for a million dollars and I had been taken out of my classroom at Bowen High School pending a kangaroo court trial before suspending me without pay. When Substance published the CASE tests, I originally believed that the press had the right to publish government documents of an important public nature. The court, with the support of the Sun-Times and Tribune, held that "copyright trumps First Amendment," a dubious ruling that is still being upheld. The complexities of the events that followed are matters of fact and history, which I will be sharing as the year goes on. Let's just say for now that the willingness of Chicago's media leaders, as you can read from the attached, to go along with power was as corrupt than in 1999 as it has been many times since. But when recently the American media did their "Je Suis Charlie" stuff after the murders in Paris, I had to go back and remember just how much hypocrisy has gone into creating the brainwashings that still today have many people trapped inside the ruling class's thinking. Let me know what you think of the two attached documents.

Solidarity forever,

George N. Schmidt, Editor

Friday, January 23, 2015

Letter to Lamar Alexander from Jeff Nichols

We are going to retake control over the education of our children. Ordinary parents and teachers are going to reinstate democratic governance of public schools in this nation, asserting the same rights already enjoyed by the elite (including our president) who opt out of unconstitutional federal mandates by sending their children to private schools -- schools where the meaning of accountability has not been perverted beyond recognition, schools where teachers and parents are accountable only to each other as they strive, according only to their own best understanding, to do what's best for the children they are jointly raising. Public school parents and teachers will claim the same right, with or without the help of the U.S. Congress. If necessary we will do so through civil disobedience.... Jeff Nichols, parent
I had the pleasure of seeing Jeff Nichols leading a workshop on opting out at the PS 3 event the other night. Here is the complete letter he wrote after the hearings on Weds where Jia Lee testified.
Dear Senator Alexander,

Your committee stands charged with drawing to a close an episode of national insanity that unfortunately has considerable precedent. As during the era when fear of the Soviet Union induced an assault on our fundamental rights of free speech and freedom of association during Joseph McCarthy's communist witch hunts, so in the past few years fear of the rising economic might of China and of global competition generally has led to another equally violent assault on a basic democratic principle: the right of the American people to determine for themselves the methods and policies that govern how they educate their own children.

In the name of saving those children from economic ruin at the hands of supposedly better-prepared rivals in newly developed nations, we are destroying the educational foundation of our greatness. Throughout the twentieth century, American public education was characterized by diversity and local control. 50 state systems loosely oversaw thousands of local districts that possessed great authority to determine curriculum, assessment, hiring practices and many other basic functions of running schools. That is to speak only of the public schools; added to that picture of diversity were innumerable private and parochial schools.

The result was the rise of a free, wealthy, powerful and culturally vibrant nation virtually without parallel in the history of the world.

This is not a coincidence. Our pluralistic, decentralized, diverse education system is a primary reason science, business and the arts have been able to produce an unending stream of great discoveries and innovations that have benefited all humanity.

Yet our federal education leaders want to change all that, and they have used the instrument of high-stakes testing to force the change they want on the nation. Arne Duncan regularly sings the praises of China's test-driven system and predicts dire consequences if we do not match their achievement. Through the Common Core and associated federal testing mandates, he is well on his way to achieving his goal.

Senator Alexander, have you read the writings of Yong Zhao, the great Chinese-American education scholar who has written definitive rebuttals of Mr. Duncan's claims? I cite only one fact I learned from Professor Zhao's latest book Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World.

Zhao quotes Zheng Yefu, a professor at Peking University and the author of a popular book in 2013 titled The Pathology of Chinese Education, who wrote:

No one, after 12 years of Chinese education, has any chance to receive a Nobel prize, even if he or she went to Harvard, Yale, Oxford or Cambridge for college…. Out of the one billion people who have been educated in Mainland China since 1949, there has been no Nobel prize winner…. This forcefully testifies to the power of education in destroying creativity on behalf of the Chinese society.

Zhao, who lived under the Chinese system in his early years, points out what anyone should realize after half a moment's reflection: China's education system is designed to systematically suppress original, independent thought. That's the primary task of education systems in ALL authoritarian societies.

Bill Gates, one of the chief forces behind the current drive to shape American education in the image of China's through relentless standardized testing, has decried the uncontrolled diversity of American education. He has called the myriad state standards and associated diversity of educational approaches that prevailed before the Common Core "cacophonous."

Well, I say this to Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg -- some of the members of the "billionaire's boys club" that Diane Ravtich has accused of mounting a coup in American education:

When everyone has a voice, it gets noisy. You call that cacophony. I call it democracy. Get used to it. You and the politicians you back may have exploited the recent Great Recession to scare states into trading their sovereign authority over education for money, but the people of those states are rising up. We are going to retake control over the education of our children. Ordinary parents and teachers are going to reinstate democratic governance of public schools in this nation, asserting the same rights already enjoyed by the elite (including our president) who opt out of unconstitutional federal mandates by sending their children to private schools -- schools where the meaning of accountability has not been perverted beyond recognition, schools where teachers and parents are accountable only to each other as they strive, according only to their own best understanding, to do what's best for the children they are jointly raising.

Public school parents and teachers will claim the same right, with or without the help of the U.S. Congress. If necessary we will do so through civil disobedience. My wife and I will submit our two children to no state-mandated standardized tests; we have joined tens of thousands of parents in our state of New York in defying both the federal government and the state authorities who caved to federal pressure, betraying our children to serve the interests of politicians and their corporate backers.

As in the McCarthy era, there is no middle ground here, Senator Alexander. You and your colleagues in Congress will either stop scapegoating teachers for the effects of poverty, and restore to parents, teachers and local communities their rightful control over public education, or you will go down in history as enablers of one of the most destructive series of laws and policies of our time: "No Child Left Behind" and its equally flawed sequel "Race to the Top."

You must work tirelessly to remove all federal efforts to control curriculum, assessment and teaching methods. Leave it to us citizens, who are uniting across the political spectrum to defy illegitimate federal education mandates, and who you can rest assured will not only see to it that our children are "college and career ready," but that they are fully prepared to know and assert their inalienable rights in a democratic society.


Jeff Nichols
Associate Professor
Queens College and The Graduate Center, CUNY


[Farina] used the word ‘accountable’ 14 times in her remarks, and the word ‘accountability’ seven times. language that echoed statements from the pro-charter groups that often antagonize her, ‘the status quo is simply unacceptable - ‘the status quo is simply unacceptable.’--- Union leaders [Logan and Mulgrew] praised the overhaul..... Capital NY
The UFT's "pal" and "partner" -- leaving them in the dust.
No matter what the real reform noise coming out of Tweed, principals are still playing what looks to me a quota game to prove Cuomo wrong -- if 60% of the kids are below level than 60% of the teachers in your school must be ineffective.

I'm for getting rid of networks on the whole -- but handing power to the Superintendents knowing some of the people Farina recently appointed doesn't give me much hope -- the horrendous and vicious former principal of my school for 5 years is one of them.
“Announcing the reversal of the existing network system of school support, a signature Bloomberg-era education initiative, chancellor Carmen Fariña on Thursday delivered an address that sounded starkly reminiscent of her predecessors. Speaking to a crowd of education and business leaders at an Association for A Better New York breakfast, Fariña said her new organizational system would hold schools more accountable, a favorite word of the Bloomberg administration.

“‘We need a system with clear lines of authority and accountability,’ she said. (She used the word ‘accountable’ 14 times in her remarks, and the word ‘accountability’ seven times.) Fariña also painted a far less rosy picture of the current state of the Department of Education than she typically does, saying, in language that echoed statements from the pro-charter groups that often antagonize her, ‘the status quo is simply unacceptable.’” 

—More details on the school support overhaul: “Fariña’s proposal to, in her words, ‘fix the system,’ is to re-organize the way schools are supported by replacing the 55 networks created under former chancellor Joel Klein with seven geographically based ‘borough field support centers.’ Employees of the networks will likely work in the support centers, an education official said. The centers will be located in all five boroughs, with two centers each in Brooklyn and Queens, and will serve as hubs of operational and instructional support. Superintendents will refer principals to the centers for specific needs. Superintendents will be at the core of the new structure.”

Now Needed MORE Than Ever: MORE Chapter Building Workshop Saturday January 24th 12:00-3:00pm

Did you check out the Cuomo assault? Have you watched how UFT/NYSUT has responded to the ed deform agenda by straddling the line and in fact pretty much losing every battle even if it wins some minor skirmishes? Someone sent this article with this comment:
Am I over-reacting, or are we going to have to strike? The numbers dont add up. They just don't add up. How does a senior teacher survive this?
My response was:
Experience hands think it's over -- our main problem is the UFT, not Cuomo because no matter what we do the UFT will put up a faux and distracting fight, looking to salvage what they can to keep their oligarchy in control. Even if the UFT shrinks by 25% they will still be there. Problem is that it is easy for them to misdirect people so it looks like they are doing something. And they can use the "We must be united, don't be critical" argument to shut down opposition. Without an organized union leading striking is not a possibility. What will happen is that more people like you will begin to get it and that is why we must stay alive and build organizational infrastructure so people have a place to go.
Our chapter building and chapter leader support networks are the only defense because unless principals face organized resistance there is little hope -- a lot still happens at the school level.

Which is why figuring out how to establish organized resistance at the school level is crucial:

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UFT Chapter elections are coming up this Spring!

If you're interested in running for Chapter Leader or Delegate in your school, or, if you just want to help your union chapter do a better job protecting members’ rights, join us at a Chapter Building Workshop next Saturday, Jan 24th!

We'll help you make plans to build a stronger, more organized, and more involved UFT chapter in your school.
RSVP on facebook here, or just come on out, and be sure to spread the word!
MORE Chapter Building Workshop
Saturday January 24th 12:00-3:00pm
CUNY Graduate Center
365 5th Ave at 34th st NYC room 5409

Food and beverages will be served, and free childcare is available, but e-mail to reserve it.

If you are unable to make it, e-mail us (! We have a team ready to help any one who wants to revitalize our union chapters at the school level.

Movement of Rank and File Educators
Here are some more comments:
The union response is a distraction and misdirection from the real work that has to be done. They have allowed things to deteriorate so much at the school level with all-empowered principals from their old-pal organization, the CSA, that they can barely energize an increasingly skeptical teaching force.
The Uft has no interest in having members active, fighting, speaking out. They care about their power and money- that's it. Unfortunately it's that simple. Uft is happy when members are complacent or too fearful to do something. They will deal with the tenure changes because it keeps tenure, they like evals cause we sell accountability, they like charters- they can organize them for less than we will take.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Memo From the RTC: Season Opens Next Week With Seussical Jr.

This was supposed to be in this week's Wave but apparently didn't get in. So here it is.

Memo From the RTC:  Season Opens Next Week With Seussical Jr.
by Norm Scott

While baseball fans are getting excited over pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training in a few weeks, the real excitement in Rockaway and neighboring communities is the beginning of the RTC season with the opening of Seussical Jr., starring dozens of immensely talented children under the age of 14 – the future generation of RTC stars. The older kids – 14-19 will be doing their version of Legally Blonde Jr. at the end of February.

I stopped by the Rockaway Theatre Company’s headquarters in Fort Tilden last weekend to watch both groups of kids rehearsing on the beautiful Frank Caiati- designed stage, built by the construction team led by Tony Homsey, of which I am a member. The stage was flooded with children of all ages involved in both shows, which are outcomes of the popular high-level Saturday RTC children’s workshops run by Peggy Press that begin every September. Parents register their children from Brooklyn and even Long Island. I imagine many seats will be filled with family members but some seats will be available, especially for the matinees.

Fri, Sat. Eve: January 30th, 31st - February 6th & 7th at 7PM
Sat/Sun Matinees: January 31st - February 1st, 7th and 8th at 2:00PM
Bring the whole Family! all Seats- $10.00- no phone in or online reservations will be taken -- at the box office day of performance only.

The RTC adult season opens in April with Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” followed by “Guys and Dolls” in late June, “Little Shop of Horrors” in August, Simon’s “Plaza Suite” in October and closing in November with a reprise of RTC’s version of “One Flew Over the Kuckoo’s Nest” which was first performed 10 years ago and will include as much of the original cast as director Michael Wotypka can dig up. Rumors are that I have a shot at a role as the Kuckoo and even a possibility of rolling the dice in “Guys and Dolls.” I’ve started shopping for my zoot suit.

You're still a rebellious revolutionary -- Former Student

Hello Mr. Scott. This is Richard P. I graduated from your 6th grade class in the year of 1974. I hope all is well with you. You're still a rebellious revolutionary. When I think about my years of growing up in Williamsburg Bklyn you're on the top of the list. I wish you all of the best in 2015. God bless you!!!!
I guess I talked about my politics to the kids in 1974 and survived.

Richie sent a photo - I'm thinking he must be about 50 or more and looking OK. As teachers we worried a lot about the kids, especially the boys - and he says life is good -- living in suburbs and working in the city. He called today and we will talk. The last time I think I saw him was at his mom's wake about 30 or more years ago. And she was one fine lady and we talked a lot. Too bad she didn't get to see him grow into full manhood.

Are You a Target of Misuse of Danielson Observations? Advice From Former Chapter Leader

From MORE blog
After attending the Peter Zucker hearings and seeing up close how observations were being used to go after him (even though it was technically the last pre-Danielson year) I am learning a lot.

I was in touch with a teacher recently who feels she is becoming a target of a vicious, incompetent administration. The chapter leader is in the principal's pocket - a partner in crime - and the district rep doesn't look like much help -- if they are in the Unity club together you may have to go above the district rep -- and last resort is using blogs. This situation is all too common -- a good reason for those wanting to figure out ways to challenge a corrupt chapter leader to attend the MORE workshop this Saturday - Fighting Back In Your School. 

I told her to be ready for an influx of formal and informal observations designed to undermine her and create a paper trail.

These are not easy battles to fight and with the Cuomo assault, Silver arrest (New York Assembly Speaker, Faces Arrest on Corruption Charges) and ineffective UFT/NYSUT it is Katy bar the door time for teachers, especially given the number of vicious and even psycho principals out there. (Note that the Farina attempt to curb principal power as reported in today's NY Times - (Chancellor Set to Centralize Management of New York City Schools) has nothing to do with the teacher end -- don't expect support for teachers from the Superintendents Farina has installed.)

I reached out to an experienced former chapter leader Ed Notes reader for advice on how to fight back and here is the former CL report with an example of how one teacher in her school fought back aggressively-- in this case the chapter leader who replaced her when she stepped down is a good person and willing to stand up for the staff. ( I did something similar back in 1971 when my principal gave me a U on an observation -- I wrote an 8 page response and posted it over the time clock - and that was my pre-tenure year -- yes I was crazy -- but it worked - never bothered me again).

Here is her report:
If a teacher's lessons are being targeted and Danielson is being used as a weapon----it becomes a part time job fighting admin. She needs to know Danielson better than her admin, be specific in how she addresses it and ask questions---a lot of smart questions based on her report----

The AP never answered any of her questions----and the teacher made that such a big issue.....she was able to turn the tables on the AP. If your friend the teacher has any allies they need to write her uft district rep on her behalf and get them into the school for a meeting. Her chapter leader needs to know members will go over his head.

Here's a sample from a teacher at my school....she responded to her AP.
....This email is in response to the feedback I received from you on December 17 at 7:30am that resulted from your informal observation on October 30.

Here is some background information you could not have known unless you asked me. This reading lesson was a continuation from the previous day, Tuesday October 29. The story that I chose was fictional and was chosen as a read aloud for the month of October. While reading this story and asking questions, the students could not identify that the story was fiction or list events from the story that may not happen in real life. 72% of the class could not answer these questions and give me evidence as to why this book was fiction. Therefore, the purpose of this lesson was to address my students’ needs yet you labeled it as an “activity that required minimal thinking.” Common Core requires students to explain the difference between fiction and nonfiction books. Standard RL 1.5 states, “Explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information…” When students enter my 2nd grade classroom unable to do this, it is something I must spend time on. Therefore, your comment regarding “minimal thinking” confuses me. It raises the following questions:

· If discerning the difference between fiction and nonfiction requires only minimal thinking and yet is a first grade standard that 72% of my students have not met, are you saying that I should not teach it because it only requires minimal thinking?

· We have been repeatedly told that we should design our lessons based on the needs of 70% of our students. Has this policy changed?

· Do I ignore the fact that the majority of my students cannot adequately perform an activity that meets the previous grades’ standards since you labeled the lesson as “an activity that required minimal thinking?” Whether it requires minimal thinking or not is really irrelevant since it is something that my students clearly struggled with and is part of the Common Core that I must teach.

· I look at the standards as a scaffold. Each subsequent year is supposed to build upon the previous year’s standards. They are stepping stones. This is what I learned from various workshops and materials given to us regarding the CCLLS. So I design my lessons around them after assessing where my students fit in with K-2 standards. Is this not the correct approach to take? Am I to skip laying the foundation that should have been in place by the end of first grade?

Prior to your observation on October 30th, the students participated in an interactive written response to the questions regarding discerning a fiction book from a nonfiction book after we discussed these questions as a whole class on Tuesday, October 29th. In response to your comment, “The instructional pacing was slow,” the lesson that you saw was a recap of the day before in order for the students to be able to try these same questions in their own independent reading book. My pacing was slow due to the difficulty the students were experiencing with this concept which students were expected to master last year in first grade but did not. 

Am I not supposed to pace the lesson in way that affords my students the opportunity to grasp the standard? Or am I expected to increase the pace despite the fact that my students are struggling to understand what I am teaching them?

For these reasons, I can not agree with your score of “developing” for component 3b. I find it unacceptable that the majority of my 2nd graders could not tell the difference between fiction and nonfiction as well as describe the genres’ characteristics and that you rated me negatively for attempting to ensure that they meet the Learning Standards established by NYS.

The score of “developing” for component 3c is quite baffling. Does the score you give depend on the responses from only 2 children? You asked one of the students, “What do you do when you’re done?” She stated that she recopies her answers so they are neater. This is something I never tell my students to do and personally I think you know that. The students are told to reread their work and make sure they answered all the parts of the questions. If they think it is correct then they switch with their partner and “TAG” each other’s journal. Student CB didn’t do her assignment correctly and she actually had to go back and fix it once I conferenced with her. Student SS’s response was that she puts her head down. Did you ask her if she’s feeling ok? Did you ask the question in more than one way? Did she understand what you were asking? Student SS has an IEP and receives OT, Speech, SETTS, and is an unfocused student that needs constant redirection and repetition. Student SS is often tired in class so I allow her to put her head down at times. Her tiredness is a side effect of the medication she takes to control her seizures. Why am I being negatively affected for modifying my expectations based on a student’s medical condition? In fact, this should rate me as “highly effective” under Danielson 1b. Are you directing me to end this accommodation and try to keep SS alert and focused at all times despite the effects of her medication?

I also received a score of “developing” for component 3d. You state that, “students appear unaware of assessment criteria.” The word appear does not represent fact. Were all of my students unaware of the assessment criteria or just some? Are you only speaking of the one student you spoke with? Your comment is too vague, yet it is negatively affecting me. Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to provide a “self-assessment checklist,” which appears to be what you are speaking about, for every lesson I teach. Is that your expectation? Am I to create a self assessment for every lesson I teach? I sent the students back to their tables after having several students tell me and the class what they were supposed to do when they went back to their seats. The students also had a modeled reading response to follow. You asked one student (the same student from component 3c), “How do you know you’re right?” 

Her response was that she reads it out loud. I think her response is appropriate. When students read aloud the responses to themselves, they can hear if what they wrote sounds right and makes sense. This is often the case when they read their work to me. Again, it’s a negative reflection on me that one student doesn’t give you an answer to your liking. Seven year olds can not be expected to know if they are right all the time. Self assessment has its place but the idea that 2nd graders can always know when they are right without teacher input is not a developmentally appropriate expectation. Whether or not a child’s work is correct can only be recognized by speaking with them, looking over their work with them, which in reality takes more than 2 hours if I spend only 4 minutes with each child. Also, I have to look through or read their independent book in order to assess them accurately, which was taking place when I was meeting one on one with students. Your comment, “feedback to students was general,” again is vague. You give one response I gave, “good answering.” Did you notice that there were more students I gave feedback to? The fact is I gave actionable feedback to 15 of my students. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Jan. 21, 2015: Forum on standardized testing featuring Diane Ravitch - PS 3M

We are writing to invite you to join parents and educators from across NYC on Wednesday, January 21 at 6:00pm in the PS3 auditorium for an important forum on standardized testing featuring renowned education expert Diane Ravitch.

Around the country parents and educators are becoming more and more vocal in expressing their dissatisfaction with an educational system that has become increasingly focused on testing at the expense of thoughtful and imaginative teaching. At this Working Strategy Session entitled “Join the Movement Against A Test-Obsessed System: How Can We Put the Focus Back on Learning in Our Schools?,” we call on public school parents and educators from around New York City to come together to formulate concrete strategies. We aim to pressure city, state, and federal governments to move away from the current testing model, with its focus on hours and hours of test prep and test taking, to a system of assessment that is more beneficial in terms of preparing our children to go out into the world and succeed.

Following a presentation by Dr. Ravitch, and question & answer session, we will break out into working strategy groups to explore specific action steps that can be taken to help turn the current tide of "education reform" with its overuse (and misuse) of tests and put the focus back on learning in our schools. In the months following the forum, each group will work to implement the action steps it has developed.

Attached is a flyer for this event. We encourage you to send it out to your [school] community. Space in

 auditorium is limited and we expect a large crowd. We urge you to register on Eventbrite soon.

We will be offering limited childcare (with pizza!) on a first-registered first-served basis (instructions on Eventbrite).

 Get all the details here.

We look forward to seeing you on January 21 and working with you in the months ahead to effect positive change in our schools so that teachers have the time they need to teach, children the time they need to learn, and tests are used as truly valuable indicators of a child's and a school’s progress.

All best,

Janine Sopp and Change the Stakes

Event Details:
What: Testing Forum with Diane Ravitch
When: Wednesday, January 21, 6 - 9pm
Where: PS3 Auditorium, 490 Hudson Street, NYC