Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lower Manhattan schools networked to rally together

I consider this significant -- the UFT historically liked to keep schools as independent islands to give them greater control. MORE people tried networking in areas where they could -- and the UFT was in - suprisingly - or maybe not due to the threat Cuomo posed. Let's see what happens after the deal is done.
In the meantime if you want to get out of the snow Friday afternoon:
Hi everyone! We're having MORE's downtown meet-up tomorrow 5:30pm at Karavas Place, 164 W4th Street. Let's regroup, strategize and get ready to fight back against Cuomo's education agenda!... Alexandra Alves

MORE's John Antush reports:

The Villager article on the Day of Action, featuring extensive coverage of the march and rally at Washington Square park and MORE members at PS 2 and City As School.  We did our own press release and outreach, got permits, and did the whole nine yards with a march and rally. We focused on the Standardized Testing issue and the importance of having alternatives to standardized testing. This was done from the ground up, within our school communities. I'm hoping we can build on this sense of camaraderie to form a real D1 & D2 council of UFT members that can support each other school-to-school, have regular meetings, and carry out educational events and actions.

Schools take to the streets to protest Cuomo’s reforms

March 19, 2015 

Students, staff and parents at P.S. 41, the Greenwich Village School, rallied on Thurs., March 12, against Governor Cuomo’s school reform plans.   Photo by David Allee
Students, staff and parents at P.S. 41, the Greenwich Village School, rallied on Thurs., March 12, against Governor Cuomo’s school reform plans. Photo by David Allee
BY ZACH WILLIAMS  |  Teachers, students, parents and administrators across the city rallied on March 12 against Governor Cuomo’s education agenda.
Particularly vexing for opponents are proposed reforms announced in January that would make standardized-testing scores 50 percent of teachers’ evaluations, as well as grant them tenure only after five consecutive years of “effective” ratings under the plan.
In response, union representatives, as well as teachers, students, and staff from dozens of city schools, participated in demonstrations throughout the day, mostly on a school-by-school basis. In Lower Manhattan, actions were scheduled at a half-dozen schools south of 14th St.
These included the Neighborhood School and the Earth School in the East Village, Downtown’s Spruce St. School, P.S. 2 Meyer London School in the Lower East Side, and P.S. 3 and City As School High School in the Village.
For teachers and students at City As School, the governor’s proposed changes are at odds with the alternative high school’s effort to boost student achievement through internships and student projects rather than more traditional pedagogical approaches. About 100 people associated with the high school congregated near its entrance on Clarkson St. in the afternoon, then marched to a “teach-out” in Washington Square Park.
“Standardized testing can’t judge what we do,” said Marcus McArthur, an English and social sciences teacher at the school. “We are here and we are raising and creating innovators not test takers. We got the next great generation of poets and authors and artists and scientists — and the tests, they have nothing to do with that work.”
Momentum continued for their cause over the weekend when Public Advocate Letitia James held a rally at City Hall on Sunday criticizing Cuomo’s pairing of increased funding with the proposals.
Cuomo announced education reforms in January that would make $1.1 billion in new funding contingent on the state Legislature approving his plans. In addition to the changes in teacher evaluations and tenure, the new approach would also require that, if a school fails to show adequate progress through student test scores for three consecutive years, then another school district, nonprofit organization or a “turnaround technocrat” — as the critics put it — would take over management of the “failing” school.
Under the current teacher-evaluation system, 40 percent of teacher scores are determined by student growth based on assessments or tests — with half of that from state evaluations, and as much as 20 percent over all from “locally determined” measures that Cuomo is seeking to eliminate. The remaining 60 percent of the scores comes from observations of teachers, which vary by school district.
City As School students and staff held a press conference in front of the Clarkson St. school, then marched up to Washington Square for a rally.  Photo by Zach Williams
City As School students and staff held a press conference in front of the Clarkson St. school, then marched up to Washington Square for a rally. Photo by Zach Williams
According to a February 2015 report from the Governor’s Office, there is a stark disparity between teachers rated as effective — more than 90 percent statewide in the 2013-14 school year — and the amount of students judged proficient in English and math in state testing, roughly 35 percent and 31 percent, respectively.
Four local Manhattan schools below 14th St. were labeled as “failing” in the governor’s report: Henry St. School for International Studies, Marta Valle Secondary School, P.S. 15 and University Neighborhood Middle School.
“How can so many of our teachers be succeeding when so many of our students are struggling?” the report asks.
Cuomo’s education plan also seeks to raise the cap on charter schools in the state by 100 from 460, as well as make the cap apply statewide rather than by region. Under the current limit, New York City could only add 24 more charter schools.
Mayoral control of New York City schools, which is due to expire this year, would also be extended for three more years under Cuomo’s proposal.
Many people at the City As School demonstration, as well as others across the city, voiced suspicion that Cuomo’s plan would benefit corporations more than students. They urged the governor to visit more local schools and to address student poverty instead of overhauling the teacher-evaluation process.
During the City As School rally last Thursday, current and former students spoke about how traditional education had failed them until they arrived at the Clarkson St. building’s nurturing environment. One current student said she had a troubled experience at another school due to her ADHD. But she said that, thanks to the encouragement she received from teachers at City As School, she now plans on attending a local college after she graduates.
The Washington Square Park rally also was an opportunity to highlight the need for curriculum flexibility, especially at schools like City As School that serve students who have experienced difficulties elsewhere, noted Principal Alan Cheng.
“People had a chance to talk to our students, talk to our staff, to be able to understand what it is we do,” Cheng said, “our interdisciplinary courses, our project-based learning, our internships and the kind of impact we’ve been able to have on youngsters in our city.”

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