Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mindy Rosier, MORE Candidate for UFT Education VP, Leads Protest Against Eva At Harvard Club

You'll note that Mindy represented the only caucus in the UFT that was present. Eva Moskowitz who aims to control 100 schools is the single biggest threat to teacher jobs -- how many has she taken already? You may be an ATR because of Eva and your school may have been under-resourced and closed because of her. And entire school buildings are falling into her hands.

Mindy's school came under attack by Eva and Mindy helped lead the fight and that fight was so strong it was one of the few spots that de Blasio stood up to Eva - and suffered severe political attacks.

The important point is that Mindy, like many other MOREs, take up the battles in their schools. Mindy is also very active in the Bernie campaign and is running for a delegate at the convention.

Farina's Heavy Hand Comes Down on High Opt Out Schools; Senator Bill Perkins Parent Know Your Opt Out Options Forum

Some high Opt out schools from last year have been "spoken too" and principals told to get those numbers down. In some cases, the campaigns have turned ugly, targeting teachers viewed as pro-opt out. We have even witnessed the race card being pulled by some principals - the charge that opt out is a white led movement designed to keep black kids from their right to take tests - tests that label them and sort them. I actually heard a parent say this at an opt out forum and even have it on tape. It seemed pretty clear to many of us she was a plant by the anti-opt out principal.

We cannot get into specifics in order to protect the teachers but at some point some of these stories will break as some ed reporters have shown interest. MORE has been on the case behind the scenes offering advice and support along with Change the Stakes parents.

The heavy hand of Farina -
Bill Perkins from Harlem is offering parents an opportunity to get more information about opt out - and who would have thought a year ago that the very discussion of opt out would come to Harlem?
It's time for all NYC parents to know their rights.  Join this important discussion, just in time!

Please Join NYS Senator Bill Perkins, 30th District and Education Committee, CB10
For a discussion with concerned parents and community leaders regarding the ins and outs with students "opting out" of the upcoming NYS Common Core Tests
Saturday, April 2 at 10 am
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building
Conference Room B
RSVP to Cordell Cleare at 212.222.7315

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

History Lesson: ICE Caucus easily got more than 40 people to run in 2004 UFT elections 2 months after forming

If I decided to form the Caucus of Norm could I find 40 people to run with me? I bet I could.

Over the past week a number of people have commented that they could get 40 in their own school to run. Even though I've been retired for 14 years I believe that if I formed my own caucus I could manage to get at least 40 people to run with me. And without much sturm and drang.

I believe getting people to put their names on a UFT election slate often boils down to trust. Back in 2003/4 when ICE formed as a new caucus - October 30 2003 - we had basically 2 months to recruit a slate and had no trouble doing so and forming pretty much a fairly full executive board slate. And we had competition from both New Action and TJC - we only ran the 6 high school candidates - which we won - together and separate slates otherwise.

So in the 2004 UFT election TJC, ICE and New Action all had at least 40 and never once questioned that that number was somehow unfair.

And look at the times - Bloomberg had just begun his assault and the 2005 contract had not been signed. So I would say the level of disaffection with the UFT was not nearly as large as it is today. So if in these times of massive sellout by the union leadership, not being able to get even 40 candidates tells a story of a serious failure on some level. But we will address that at a future point.

I never had any doubts that ICE would be able to fill the 40 candidate limit (memory is soft and I'm too lazy to look it up but I think we got around 80 in 2 months).

Ever since Unity reduced a higher number to 40 decades ago some opposition viewed this reduction as a Unity faux democracy plot to make it easy for other caucuses to form and split the opposition. While 40 can seem like an arbitrary number it at least forces people to organize. I never had a problem with many caucuses running in the past because no one could win anyway. If each caucus developed its own constituency at some point there would be a coming together as happened with TAC/New Directions = New Action in 1995 and ICE/TJC = MORE in 2012 and the longer term prospect that MORE/New Action might come together.

I went back to my old school in early 2004, which I had left in 1997, to see if anyone wanted to run. Eight people signed up in a half hour and I stopped asking because I didn't want to overload the slate with one school.

People still had enough trust in me to join the ICE slate and some still did so in the 2007 election, 10 years after I was out of the school.

MORE and New Action are running 300 candidates, of which about 180 come from MORE. I know New Action could have signed up 100 more and so could have MORE but we decided to save some trees. If you do the math that is 10 times the number of any other non-Unity caucus (which has 800 people running).

If a group of people can't recruit even 40 people to sign up to run after 8 months of trying what exactly does that say after you wade through all the noise?

Teachers at Elementary School Support ATR With Letters of Support

There's an ATR in my school that is going through hell
with his field supervisor.  My CL had the UFT Dist Rep come to our school to meet with the ATR when his field supv scheduled a meeting with the ATR and was planing to bring another field supv with her.  I suspect she was bringing back up bc the last time she was at our school the ATR asked me to be present (CL was unavailable at the time).  She refused to have a discussion with him in my presence (as his union representation). My heart goes out to this guy bc it seems clear to me he is being set up for a U rating.  He comes to our school and is given whatever coverage is available and he truly does his best to assist our kids as best he can under these circumstances.  We can look out for him as long as he is at PS -- but we can't do anything about his field supv ratings and once he's gone I'm assuming he won't find the same support elsewhere.  Is there anyone he can contact to help him navigate the bullshit?... This is the first ATR we've had that has told me their story.  I'm always welcoming to them and let them know we have an honest CL they can reach out to but since they don't know me they rarely open up like this guy did.  He overheard a conversation I was having about the state of our union and gambled I could be trusted.  This guy said PS --- is the first school he's been in where he feels some union strength-.... Thanks for everything you guys do----teachers would have no avenues to follow if it weren't for people like you. .... email to MORE activists from former chapter leader
This was sent to Mike Schirtzer and myself from a trusted supporter and source. (I'm not using her name or school to protect the ATR who could be traced - she would be fine with using her name.)

She noticed a very competent ATR being harassed in her school and jumped in to support him along with her colleagues. That school has 40 people signed up to be MORE members. (They could have even run their own slate in the UFT elections out of their school alone.)

Having his story reinforced by a trusted teacher and former chapter leader is immense. Our advice to her was to gather support within the school for the ATR by writing letters about his work in the school for him to use in a defense and she did exactly that.

She put me in touch with the ATR and we spoke for hours and I got the full story of the actions of his field supervisor and her cohorts. His story is very credible. And there might even be religious persecution issues on the table.

During our conversation he mentioned others in some schools, including principals, who praised his efforts. I suggested he start gathering names and numbers and possible statements. If they bring him upon 3020a charges, there will be a list of witnesses for him.

We hear so many complaints from ATRs about the treatment they get from colleagues in schools they are sent to. One ATR I spoke too calls the field supervisors "failed supervisors." The apparently awful James Quail, a former principal and district superintendent from my district whom I've known since 1970, is the grim reaper of field supervisors, pops up in the picture.

We hear a lot about the gotcha mentality of ATR field supervisors - the DOE wasteful jobs program for retired principals.
We also hear lies and slanders from people with their own political agenda that MORE is not supportive of ATRs when in fact the members of MORE who have influence in their schools bend over backwards to be supportive, as this story confirms.

The ATR told me that this school had the most serious sense of union of any school he has been in since he became an ATR. And there is no little irony that the school leans toward MORE instead of Unity for support.

The MORE contact, upon seeing an ATR who had impressed people in the school come under attack by a new field supervisor (the old one found no fault), took action by writing letters of support for the ATR and sending them out to come point people at the union and possibly the DOE with more people to come if the harassment continues. They also gave the ATR copies. And she went in when he met with the Field Supervisor at one point and at another with a district rep.

When will the UFT say something about the enormous waste in paying field supervisors to observe people functioning as substitute teachers? Do they observe regular subs? Did anyone in the history of this school system spend time and money to observe subs?

This is the letter that has been sent to Amy Arundell at the UFT who has contacted me -- and repeatedly - that she will get involved. I give Amy the benefit of the doubt and will track the outcome.

Dear Amy Arundell,
Mr. X is an ATR who was sent to our school for one of his temporary assignments. He arrived at school each morning and performed his duties as a substitute teacher in various classes depending upon which of our teachers was absent that day. He made the best of a very difficult situation. Although he did not know our students and did not know what grade or type of class (self-contained, ICT, bilingual, general ed) he would be assigned to cover, he engaged the students and we were happy to have him as part of our school community. He was punctual, respectful and eager to assist our school community on each day he arrived in our school.

As you are aware, ATRs are given sub assignments no different from day-to-day subs, yet they are observed and are expected to teach as if they have the same familiarity with the class as a permanent staff member would be expected to have. This unfair process allows for abuse on the part of field supervisors who too often act as if they are observing a teacher who has spent months with the children they are teaching rather than someone who has met a class for the first time and may have zero experience with that particular grade or may be teaching a class out of their license area.

We are writing to you, the UFT rep who is assigned to assist ATRs, to express our concern that Mr. X is being set up for failure by his field supervisor who, in our opinion, has been less than professional and fair with him. This concern was brought to the attention of UFT District --- Rep,  who promptly came to our school and met with Mr. X and his field supervisor Ms. Y as well as an additional field supervisor, who was invited by Ms. Y. The fact that Ms. Y felt it necessary to invite a co-worker to attend reeks of intimidation. It is the reason we asked [the dist rep] to come to the school when this meeting was scheduled. It was clear to us that Mr. X was about to be unfairly tag-teamed by two field supervisors as an act of intimidation. There is no other reason for two field supervisors, paid by the tax payers, to do the job of one field supervisor.
Mr. X has finished his rotation at PS X. But we have told him to think of PS X as his home school and to keep in touch with us regarding his treatment elsewhere. We are asking that you initiate and maintain contact with Mr. X and ensure that he is not scapegoated out of a job in order for a field supervisor to make her bones with the DOE. Based on how Mr. X conducted himself at PS X, it is clear to us that the man deserves to keep his paycheck and benefits. We believe in having a strong union that looks out for our most vulnerable members and it is our hope that you will demonstrate that such strength still exists. We thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

CL, PS X Chapter Leader
------, Former PS ----- Chapter Leader
Dear -------

We the undersigned support our union brothers and sisters who are ATRs. Our current and former chapter leader keep us informed on union matters and we realize that ATRs have lost their permanent positions through no fault of their own We realize that our school could be phased out in the near future and we too could find ourselves in an ATR pool where we will be vulnerable to lose our jobs, pensions and health benefits. We feel strongly that ATRs be protected and we ask that Mr. ....... be treated in a manner we would expect to be treated under such circumstances. It is our hope that Mr. ........ is not left hanging out on a limb without support now that he has left our school. We hope that our union stands by him and protects him from any injustices that he may face in his future as he travels from school to school as an ATR. It is what we would want our union to do for us if we had to walk in his shoes.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
PS ..... Staff Members (signed below)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

While Unity Caucus Waffles MORE Calls on the NYC Department of Education to Remove the Gag Order on Educators

No gagging these MOREs.
MORE Elem VP Candidate Lauren Cohen

For Immediate Release: March 28, 2016
For More Information Contact:
Jia Lee
Lauren Cohen

We Call on the NYC Department of Education to Remove the Gag Order on Educators

“Can educators share their legitimate concerns about the tests with parents?” an audience member asked District 15 Superintendent, Anita Skopp, on December 9, 2015, at a CEC 15 meeting. She responded, “Teachers do not have a right to speak about how they feel about the tests. They don’t have a right.” New York City public school educators are under a gag order. Last year’s opt out movement had the highest concentrations in suburban districts in Long Island and upstate New York where there was a collaboration of experienced educators with parents and students. It has served to be a catalyst for resistance and change; yet, in New York City, there is a deafening silence.

One of Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s four pillars for supporting NYC public education is, “to engage parents in every aspect of school life.” Yet, for the most consequential issue of high stakes testing, there is to be no engagement between schools and families. The legitimate concerns of educators may never be known. However, some are speaking out in different ways. This is one of hundreds of anonymous posts that can be found on social media.

Many will continue to speak out citing that the consequences to our students and public schools will be greater if we remain silent. Special education teacher and parent, Jia Lee states, “We have a professional and ethical obligation to speak up against the ranking and sorting of our students, teachers and schools.” Lauren Cohen, 5th grade teacher at P.S. 321, has said, “I’m not allowed to discuss, with my students or to their parents, a particular problem or question (from the state tests). In fact, we are told that we are not allowed to look at the test booklets. This is counter to effective teaching and learning, and it renders the test useless.”

“Teachers’ legitimate concerns, based on years of experience and knowledge of developmentally appropriate pedagogy, are absent from the official story that’s being told to NYC parents. This is an attack on our democracy and goes against the so-called critical thinking that the NYCDOE purports to be promoting through Common Core,” states Katie Lapham, English as a New Language teacher and author of the education blog, Critical Classrooms. Parent and special education teacher Vanessa Keller states, “If the tests were at all appropriate, no one would have to opt out. This is truly sad. Our children and teachers deserve better.”

In a private meeting on Thursday, March 24, 2016, Carmen Fariña responded to parent concerns and stated that some students, such as recent immigrants and students with special needs, should probably not take the state tests and should opt out. Teachers are confused. High school social studies teacher, Mike Schirtzer, states, “To say that some students should take the tests and others shouldn’t begs the question of who decides and why. All parents and students have a right to understand that these tests are only being used to label schools as failing. We should be working together to listen to the needs of teachers and parents, rather than stigmatize and set school communities on a path to closure.”

We call on the NYC Department of Education and the leadership of the UFT to guarantee the first amendment rights of NYC public educators. The New York State Union of Teachers, issued an updated FAQ stating, “NYSUT encourages members to exercise their rights as citizens and professionals to speak out against the harmful effects of high-stakes tests in general and to consider refusing the tests for their own children. NYSUT will defend teachers against disciplinary action if a district pursues 3020-a charges.” Yet, in New York City, teachers have been told they do not have a right. In some cases, teachers have been issued internal memos with a clear message that any discussion regarding the tests with parents is subject to insubordination charges.

The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) is the social justice caucus of the UFT running with New Action in the May 2016 UFT Officer elections. Find out more at

Monday, March 28, 2016

UFT Backs Farina attempt to clamp down on opt out While MORE Stands Up, Village Voice on Opt Out

"Opt-out here was so big that it really shook the system," says the DOE insider. "If we were to increase that number this year, it has the potential to bring their whole crazy system down."...Village Voice
And yes Virginia, our own union leaders in Unity Caucus are
working like little beavers to help keep their whole crazy system up and going. Kate Taylor in the NY Times wrote a few days ago:

Teachers Are Warned About Criticizing New York State Tests .... Kate Taylor, NY Times

Since the revolt by parents against New York State’s reading and math tests last year, education officials at the state level have been bending over backward to try to show that they are listening to parents’ and educators’ concerns.
The tests, which are given to third through eighth graders and will begin this year on April 5, were shortened, time limits were removed, and the results will not be a factor in teacher evaluations, among other changes.
On Monday, Betty A. Rosa, the newly elected chancellor of the Board of Regents and the state’s highest education official, even said that if she had children of testing age, she would have them sit out the exams.
The message, clearly, is: We hear you.
But in New York City, the Education Department seems to be sending a different message to some teachers and principals: Watch what you say.
At a forum in December, Anita Skop, the superintendent of District 15 in Brooklyn, which had the highest rate of test refusals in the city last year, said that for an educator to encourage opting out was a political act and that public employees were barred from using their positions to make political statements.
The response of MORE activists has basically been "FU, Come and get me." 

The response from the UFT has not been outrage at these gag orders but telling teachers they would not defend them.

MORE VP candidate for elem school Lauren Cohen is the chapter leader at PS 321
At Public School 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, part of District 15, more than a third of the eligible students did not sit for the tests last year, and the principal, Elizabeth Phillips, has in the past been outspoken in opposing them.
At a PTA meeting there last week, Ms. Phillips was studiedly neutral, but several teachers criticized the tests, with one comparing the stand against them to abolitionism and the fight for same-sex marriage.
I wonder how the opt-out issue will play out in the UFT elections. Will teachers who feel repressed and gagged and unsupported by their union over a fundamental free speech issue be aware enough to link the MORE campaign to that issue especially with so visible an opt out candidate as Jia Lee? The election timing in May with the tests a hot topic may well be a factor. Will kids vomiting on their high stakes tests have an impact?

One of our newer MORE members came down from the DA last week shocked that the Unity Caucus leadership supports testing, evaluations based on testing and undermines the opt out movement.
I told her that fundamentally our union leaders are ed deformers light and philosophically have always supported testing and VAM and holding teachers accountable -- sometimes you just have to wade through the distracting rhetoric to see their path clearly.

MORE unequivocally supports opt out and many of the teachers stand up openly in defiance: Katie Lapham, Jia Lee, Lauren Cohen, Michelle Baptiste are just a few examples.

MORE UFT election candidate for AFT/NYSUT delegate John Antush has a piece in Monthly Review:  

Should New York City Teachers Support Opt Out? Two Views in the UFT

President Michael Mulgrew and his entrenched Unity caucus supported the CCSS and standardized testing, including the use of student test scores as part of teacher evaluations, and refused to support Opt Out. At the 2014 convention of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Mulgrew harangued educators that “The [Common Core State] standards are ours. Tests are ours.” He intoned: “If someone takes something from me, I’m going to grab it right back outta their cold twisted sick hand and say ‘that’s mine!’ You do not take what is mine! And I’m gonna punch you in the face and push you in the dirt.… These are our tools! And you sick people need to be away from us and the children that we teach.”2Meanwhile, rank-and-file UFTers in the MORE-UFT (Movement of Rank and File Educators) caucus and other groups joined the city’s Opt Out movement as part of the struggle against “ed deform.”3 Jia Lee, as a “Teacher of Conscience,” publicly refused to administer high-stakes tests starting in 2014. She continues to educate school communities about opt-out rights and speaks out for the city’s movement. 
Let's be clear which forces oppose opt-out.
  • Ed deformers of all types because opt out denies them the data they want to manipulate to undermine public education. You won't find E4E supporting opt-out though they will use some deflection to act neutral.
  • UFT/AFT/NYSUT - historical context
  • UFT pals Farina and state ed comm Elia
Chalkbeat, which I will always suspect of pivoting toward anti-opt out slants, has some pieces:

Chalkbeat: Fariña says opting out is OK, in a few cases

opt-out answers

Chancellor Carmen Fariña told opt-out leaders that she would keep her child from taking state tests in two instances — as a new immigrant and if her child was receiving special education services. DNAinfo, New York Post

After Regents Chancellor-elect Betty Rosa said she would opt her own child out of state tests, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has been working to assure superintendents that the two are on the same page about tests. Chalkbeat

As opt-out debates continue, state’s top education officials work to stay united

Commissioner MaryEllen Elia told regional leaders last week that she and Betty Rosa have a "shared view" on state assessments. But Elia has said it is unethical for educators to encourage the testing boycott — and Rosa seemed to do so just after being chosen as Regents chancellor. Read more
Parents are fighting back:
Calling all NYC parents:

Have you been sent a letter from your school leaders that has inaccurate info about testing or opt out? Has a teacher or administrator denied your request to opt out?

If you or someone you know has had difficulty opting opt for any reason, please contact us at

We'd love to see any letters or documentation you have, if available. And we will keep sources anonymous if preferred.
Thank you!
carrie (for NYCOO)
And the Village Voice has a great piece on opt out and touches on a basic issue of the race/income differences in the city and how few parents of color are plugged in. But based on the chatter I feel we will see an uptick of opt out in certain neighborhoods that have not been touched before. However the open campaign to kill opt out in the city will certainly be a damper. Young children getting sick over the tests will be the counter point. The Village Voice touches on this issue in a very strong piece.

Low-Income Parents Are Caught Between the Growing Opt-Out Movement and the City’s Attempts to Clamp Down on Dissent
If you needed a sign that the reported détente in the ongoing war over New York's annual public school tests wasn't all it was cracked up to be, it might have come earlier this month. That's when news broke of Southside Williamsburg principal Sereida Rodriguez-Guerra berating a fifth-grader who'd passed out materials about refusing to take the standardized state exams. "You've got to get this opt-out stuff out of your head!" Rodriguez-Guerra snapped at the assembled student body. For his part, the eleven-year-old was sent to her office, where he burst into tears.
Since more than 200,000 school kids statewide refused last spring to take the tests — six-day affairs that are, depending on your perspective, either the perfect tool for holding failing schools accountable, or the death of public education itself — government officials have been in damage-control mode, trying to stave off an even wider revolt: MaryEllen Elia, who'd replaced former state education commissioner (and now Obama education secretary) John King after he enraged anti-testing parents by dismissing them as "co-opted by special interests," lifted the time limit on tests in January, saying she hoped it would reduce "stresses" on test-taking kids. The state board of regents, meanwhile, placed a four-year moratorium on using results to grade teachers, then selected a new chancellor, Bronx educator Betty Rosa (who immediately declared that if she were a parent, she'd opt her kids out).

But down in the trenches it's been a different story. As city third- through eighth-graders ready their No. 2 pencils for next week's kickoff of test season, numerous parents and educators say that battles are only heating up between critics of high-stakes testing and state and city officials who want to stuff the opt-out genie back in the bottle. Pressures are particularly high in the low-income schools in black and Latino neighborhoods that both sides in the opt-out debates see as the next battleground.

"The city department of education is threatening principals both directly and indirectly" over speaking out on the tests, says Jamaal Bowman, a Bronx principal who has nonetheless taken it upon himself to speak to parents at several low-income outer-borough schools about their opt-out rights. Ever since Elia, in one of her less conciliatory moments, declared last summer that opting out was "not reasonable" and "unethical" for teachers and other educators to support, he says, school officials have been making it increasingly difficult for parents in many neighborhoods to even find out their options.

In this light, the meltdown by P.S.84's Rodriguez-Guerra, previously lauded as a bridge-builder who spoke out against "teaching to the test," seems less like an aberration than the tip of an iceberg. When added to the pressures that low-performing schools already face in the age of school accountability, the stepped-up anti-opt-out campaign amounts to "psychological warfare," says one staffer who works on testing and teacher evaluations for the central city Department of Education office, and who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.

"Opt-out here was so big that it really shook the system," says the DOE insider. "If we were to increase that number this year, it has the potential to bring their whole crazy system down."

The modern regime of public school testing got its start, like so many other dubious realities of 21st-century life, from the pen of George W. Bush. In 2001, the newly elected president signed the No Child Left Behind Act, which optimistically dictated that every student in every school in the nation be made "proficient" in math and reading for their grade level — and ordered states to impose new tests to gauge their progress.
To write its tests, New York State turned to British testing giant Pearson, which immediately earned parents' ire for baffling questions: The infamous comprehension question on the 2012 eighth-grade reading exam about a talking pineapple that challenged a hare to a race and was eventually eaten became an instant classic; Louis CK's instantly viral tweet, "My kids used to love math! Now it makes them cry," pretty well summed up public reaction. Teachers, barred from revealing any details of the tests, took to online discussion boards to gripe about the process: "Two students raised their hands to tell me that a sentence didn't make sense," went one typical comment. "I had to agree with them."
Yet the problem with New York's tests, insist opt-out proponents, isn't how well or poorly they're worded, but how they warp the entire educational system. Bowman is quick to say he doesn't have a problem with tests per se and that his school, the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action Middle School in the Eastchester section of the Bronx, uses plenty of in-house assessments to gauge students' individual strengths and weaknesses. Rather, his concern is about so-called "high stakes" tests, where results are used for everything from determining whether students advance to the next grade to teacher firings and school closings.

Such tests, critics argue, turn the educational experience into a massive exercise in gaming the system. (In testing circles, this is known as Campbell's Law, named for a social psychologist who theorized in 1976 that the more a test affects important decisions, the more likely it is to lead to corruption.) At its most mundane, this can lead schools to spend the bulk of the year teaching to the test and students to learn how to parrot the formulaic five-paragraph essays that score well on test-graders' rubrics. At its worst, it can encourage behavior like that of Harlem elementary school principal Jeanene Worrell-Breeden, who took it upon herself to falsify student test answers last spring — and who, when caught, threw herself in front of a subway train.

For all this, says Columbia Teachers College professor Aaron Pallas, who has written extensively on high-stakes testing, the tests may not even accomplish what they set out to do.  "They aren't much help in determining whether a school is a good school or a teacher is a good teacher," he says, or even necessarily a good predictor of students' future performance. (While the state calibrates the tests to ensure that proper percentages of students earn passing grades, it hasn't released any studies of whether the scores are a valid measure of students' actual learning.) "I do think that Commissioner Elia is saying more of the things that parents and educators want to hear." But none of the new measures, he says, changes high-stakes tests' biggest problem, which is that they're trying to solve multiple problems with a single blunt instrument.
"Why are we engaged in this process?" asks Pallas. "Is it to try to identify precisely for individual students whether they're above the bar or not? Is it to try to provide feedback to teachers about what students know in a timely way to help them revise their instruction? Is it, as it has been in the past, to try to hold schools and teachers accountable for students' performance? What the ideal testing system might look like will vary depending on the purpose."
Most of the initial testing uproar was centered in the sections of New York that might be called the Louis CK districts. An opt-out map published last summer by education news site Chalkbeat revealed red dots — marking schools where over 20 percent of students opted out — marching down through Manhattan and halting in brownstone Brooklyn, with the outer boroughs largely untouched. That demographic pattern was largely replicated at the state level: Over 20 percent of parents statewide opted out, mostly on Long Island and in majority-white counties upstate, but only 1.4 percent in the city. Those numbers have helped feed the belief that, as then–U.S. education secretary Arne Duncan proclaimed in 2013, the opt-out movement consists of "white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — [worry that] their child isn't as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were."
Duncan's suggestion that opt-out is a white helicopter-parent phenomenon drives Jamaal Bowman up the wall. Sure, opt-out numbers may be low in African-American neighborhoods, he says, but that may well be because "many parents are not aware they have the right to refuse the state exam." After all, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution last year calling on the DOE to include opt-out information in its Parents' Bill of Rights, only to see that request ignored by Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. Bowman's responsibility, as he sees it, is to raise awareness: "We've focused so much on annual standardized tests that we're not focused on what research says works to close the achievement gap" for black and Latino school kids.
Continuing to conduct business this way, he says, is "educational malpractice." For Bowman, that's putting it mildly: Last year, noting the continued educational gaps by race despite increasing numbers of assessments, he called standardized tests "a form of modern-day slavery."
If you squint, you can make out how much New York state has trimmed the number of questions on this year’s tests.
If you squint, you can make out how much New York state has trimmed the number of questions on this year’s tests.
On one of Bowman's first testing-talk visits, to P.S.219 in the Remsen Village section of Brownsville earlier this month, families slowly trickled in. "Waiting for the magic number — that fifth person," he declared as the 6:30 start time ticked by. "You can start a revolution with five."
Bowman's spiel that night delved deep into the history of high-stakes tests, tracing them from their origin in No Child Left Behind through Mayor Bloomberg's "accountability" push ("if I didn't teach to the test, I may be liable to lose my job"). Parents sat up straighter when he put up a slide showing the dramatic racial disparities in test results: over 50 percent proficiency for white and Asian elementary and middle schoolers; under 20 percent for blacks and Latinos.
"While our kids are taking these tests, private school kids are creating the next smartphone, and then our kids are going to work for them," he proclaimed, to a chorus of mmm-hmms.
The crowd had filled in by then, and parents had plenty of questions and complaints: What were the risks to their kids or their school if they opted out? Why weren't test scores available until September, by which point kids might have already been held back for summer school?
Rhonda Joseph, a parent at nearby P.S.268 who serves on the District 18 Community Education Council, reported that the district superintendent had told her that parents who wanted to opt out needed to have asked their children's teachers to start building a portfolio of student work back in September to use as an alternate evaluation — sparking a lively debate about how to ensure that students will advance to the next grade. (All teachers should have portfolio information on hand, say schools experts.)
P.S.219 parent Tamika Howell explained she'd rushed over to the meeting from work because she was worried that her son, now in fourth grade, should be doing better in school and the tests didn't seem to be helping. "I couldn't get the score until he started back in September," she recalled, and even then "all we got was just the grade — it didn't say where his weak points were, it didn't tell you where his strong points are, if he needs more help." Bowman's presentation, she said, had been very useful: "Most of us were scared to opt out, because we don't know what our rights are. We think if we opt out, maybe the school's going to be penalized, my child may be penalized."
A few blocks east on Brownsville's Riverdale Avenue, P.S.446 is one of the outliers on the opt-out map — though far outside the anti-testing heartland, it posted a refusal rate of greater than 70 percent for the past two years, one of the highest in the state. Kerryann Bowman, a former PTA president and parent of a fourth-grader, says the opt-out push there was launched by school parents after they made contact with parent organizers from Brooklyn New School in Carroll Gardens. "As a parent, I don't believe the test is fair," says Bowman (no relation to Jamaal Bowman). "If it was a part of your regular curriculum, then I could see — test them on what they know. But if it's a completely different thing, and you only prep them for two months, I don't think it's fair."
P.S.219 parent coordinator Anthony Gordon, who'd invited Jamaal Bowman to conduct his testing forum after finding him on Twitter, says that parents there "have always been concerned with this high-stakes testing." But, he adds, some may have been scared off when the NAACP and other civil rights groups issued a statement warning that it could "sabotage important data and rob us of the right to know how our students are faring" if too many families opted out. "I don't know if Bill Gates or someone got to them," he quips.
Gordon is quick to add that he's officially agnostic on whether parents should opt their kids out of the tests. "It's not like I'm for or against," he says. "But as a parent coordinator, if a parent asks me, 'What do you know about this?' that's part of the job. You have to let them know what's going on."
In many ways, the testing battle has turned into a war over information. But information is not always quick to trickle down, especially in poorer schools with fewer ties to the opt-out push.
At P.S.446, for example, where 70 percent of kids did not take the tests and parents continue organizing to opt out, the school administration has clammed up. Principal Meghan Dunn would not accept a Voice request for an interview, while parent coordinator Christina Yancey replied to multiple phone calls and emails with a single text: "We do not have an opt out campaign at our school. So we probably shouldn't be in the article."
Multiple sources in the city education system say responses like these are likely the result of a high-pressure state and city campaign to clamp down on educators who might publicly criticize the tests. The pushback began last summer, when, shortly after Elia's comment that teachers' trash-talking the testing was "unethical," the New York State Education Department launched a "toolkit" for superintendents to make their own statements on the subject: Sample talking points included that the state tests "help ensure that students graduate ready to handle college coursework and 21st-century careers" and "ensure that traditionally underserved students...are not overlooked." It even provided sample tweets for educators to use in support of the tests.
(Asked how educators should use the blatantly pro-test materials if they weren't supposed to take sides on the test, a department spokesperson replied only, "The toolkit is intended to help superintendents communicate with parents and educators in their districts about the value and importance of the annual Grades 3–8 English Language Arts and Math Tests.")
Asked if the city DOE had stepped up pressure on educators to toe the line, spokesperson Devora Kaye points to Chancellor Fariña's open letter to principals on March 15, in which she spelled out changes being made to this year's tests to help "create supportive environments which allow all students to reach their greatest potential." Kaye adds, "We've encouraged schools to work with their parent coordinator to facilitate conversations with students' families to address any questions they may have."
But multiple principals and other educators — mostly speaking to the Voice on condition of anonymity — say that the actual directives from Fariña's office this year have been closer to a gag order. "I can tell you, every day I talk to principals who are fed up, frustrated, furious, and completely confused by the system, but no one can say anything," says the DOE insider. "I know examples where really wonderful principals who spoke out bravely the year before were specifically called upon and told, 'If you talk, you won't get tenure.' "
In one much-discussed video, District 15 superintendent Anita Skop was asked at a public forum last December if educators could share their concerns about the tests with parents. "They shouldn't," she replied, "because they have no right to say, 'This is how I feel.' They have no right. It's not their job." Skop continued, "No person who is a public figure can use their office as a bully pulpit to espouse any political perspective, whether it's telling who to select for mayor or whether or not you should opt your children out of the tests." That sent a clear message to principals like P.S.321's Liz Phillips, who had penned a New York Times op-ed in 2014 calling the tests "confusing, developmentally inappropriate, and not well aligned with the Common Core standards."
Brooklyn New School's Anna Allanbrook, another District 15 principal who has been outspoken in support of parents' right to opt out, confirms that DOE officials told her in the fall that teachers should not speak to parents about the testing controversy. She also says she's heard from at least one other principal who caught flak from the DOE after her school community put out a statement in support of opting out, something she says is "definitely a different attitude" from past years.
What's causing this surge in principal-hushing isn't clear. One previously vocal elementary school principal, now speaking on condition of anonymity, suggests that recent changes at the state level — the moratorium on using test scores to grade teachers and the switch from the widely disliked King to the less antagonistic Elia — may have helped get the city on board, after Mayor de Blasio had previously vowed to "do everything in our power to move away from high-stakes testing," while saying of opting-out parents, "I understand their frustrations." The principal theorizes, "The city feels like they have a good relationship with the state right now, and that they are able to have some dialogue with the new commissioner."
For principals at low-income schools, meanwhile, the pressures don't end with a talking-to from their superintendent. Both in public and in private, they express concern about a federal rule that allows some Title I funding to be cut off if schools fail to reach 95 percent test compliance — a threat that's never been carried out but still sows fear.
And for those running low-performing schools, which tend to be concentrated in poor neighborhoods, equally worrisome have been the test-based Adequate Yearly Progress rankings that have been used to determine which schools will be placed into "receivership," effectively shutting them down and turning them over to new management. (Though the federal education bill passed in December eliminates AYP, many principals still fear their schools could be closed if too many families opt out.) For a school already on the bubble, the fear of fewer kids taking the tests — or worse, high-scoring kids disproportionately opting out, driving down average scores — can be enough, says the DOE insider, to scare a principal into toeing the testing line: "He's begging them to take that test because if they don't, there's a chance that the school will be put into receivership, and that for them is very real. It's a rough, class-based issue."
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the DOE's effort to clamp down on the flow of testing information is unlikely to affect schools in the opt-out belt: Principal Allanbrook says that though she and her staff have toned down their testing talk, most Brooklyn New School parents are already well-informed about the tests.
But in a city increasingly fractured along race and class lines, getting information on the tests can be extraordinarily frustrating. "My main source is the opt-out group," says Diane Tinsley, a fourth-grade parent and school leadership team member at Teachers College Community School, the Harlem elementary school whose principal committed suicide by subway last April. "It's so difficult to get information." Still, Tinsley says, she expects more opt-outs at her school this year in the wake of the scandal. At a recent panel discussion with the District 5 superintendent, she recalls, "I said, 'Maybe we can get the entire district to opt out!' She [the superintendent] almost fainted — she started saying, 'Oh, we can't do that!' "
"Nobody is really having forums in the community," complains Brownsville's Kerryann Bowman. Most public forums, she says, were "in places where you have to get on the train. And most of the district meetings are at night, when for most parents it's difficult to go to these meetings because you have children." She says she hopes that the testing debates can eventually be expanded to include disparities in both educational achievement and school funding levels.
That's the discussion that Jamaal Bowman hopes eventually to spark as well — not just opting out, but what parents and educators can opt in to. "We can do so many amazing, innovative things with our kids, and opt-out is step one to getting that process going," he says. When more than 200,000 parents opt out in one state, he continues, "that's saying some

thing. This is big, and it needs to get bigger."

Chalkbeat Treats Campbell Brown Led Ed Deform Site as Legit News Source

The new venture, cofounded by the former CNN and NBC News anchor, is not ashamed about having an agenda. One key part of its toolkit: using video to create a “Waiting for Superman”-like impact on the discussion around education....
Chalkbeat continues misleading people by not revealing the people who back  The 74, the anti-public education and anti-union site backed by ed deformer in chief, Campbell Brown. Chalkbeat has 2 stories today which shockingly point to security issues in NYC schools, echoing the other ed deform group FES. The goal is to taint De Blasio to such an extent that another Bloomberg type will be the next mayor and will pretty much finish off what Bloomberg started. But then again when your funding sources are the same why go there? Here are today's 2 stories:
New York City employs more school security staffers than counselors, as do Chicago, Miami, and Houston. The 74

Parents in Queens' District 28, where two students recently brought guns into schools, praised school officials but complained that bullying is going unchecked. The 74
When I was first contacted by a reporter I checked some background.

Can Campbell Brown's education news site walk the advocacy–journalism tightrope?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Republican and Democratic Party Establishments Hate Trump and Bernie Views on Saudi Arabia

Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, said that if elected, he might halt purchases of oil from Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies unless they commit ground troops to the fight against the Islamic State or “substantially reimburse” the United States for combating the militant group, which threatens their stability. “If Saudi Arabia was without the cloak of American protection,” Mr. Trump said during a 100-minute interview on foreign policy, spread over two phone calls on Friday, “I don’t think it would be around.” ... NY Times
The Republican Party rejection of Donald Trump may go beyond his talking about the size of his penis.
Mr. Trump’s views, as he explained them, fit nowhere into the recent history of the Republican Party: He is not in the internationalist camp of President George Bush, nor does he favor President George W. Bush’s call to make it the United States’ mission to spread democracy around the world. He agreed with a suggestion that his ideas might be summed up as “America First.”
Trump is echoing the Charles Lindberg line for keeping us out of the war against Hitler. That experience laid the basis of American foreign interventionist policy through the cold war. The amount of American money going abroad to often prop up tyrannical governments is astounding.

Bernie is (sort of) heading in the same direction
"Saudi Arabia, turns out, has the third-largest defense budget in the world," Sanders said on Nov. 19. "Yet instead of fighting ISIS they have focused more on a campaign to oust Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen."
"Saudi Arabia really should be doing more to militarily combat the twin scourges of ISIS and al-Qaida," Weinberg said. "Bernie Sanders is right that we should expect more from our Saudi allies in the fight against terror in Syria as well as beyond."...

Bernie also called on Saudi Arabia to invade Syria for us.
Bernie’s ISIS Strategy Is A Disaster -  Daily Beast
Funny how people keep saying that Bernie has pulled Hillary left but are there hints that she has pulled Bernie right on foreign policy?

Now we know that for decades both political parties have played cozy with the authoritarian Saudi government, which - and here's something that's shocking - makes Cuba look like a paragon of democracy. That Republicans can attack Obama for going to Cuba while acting like the Saudis are somehow OK with a straight face should earn the Academy Awards.

I find it interesting that both Bernie and Trump attack Saudi Arabia not for the lack of democracy but because they are not willing to make war on ISIS.

Both Trump and Bernie are touching on reversals of that policy which makes them both a threat to 75 years of both parties being committed to similar foreign policies.

Trump and Bernie also challenge the free trade agreements as undermining American jobs. Both parties have pushed free trade which certainly benefits their corporate backers.

Hillary and most of the Democratic Party establishment are fairly in line with the Republican establishment - including the neocons.  It is all a matter of degree.

Both Bernie and Trump threaten to overturn that apple cart.

So much interesting stuff to munch on in this election cycle.

Roseanne on What the UFT Needs to Do for ATRs

If a principal stabbed a teacher 97 times the DOE would swear the teacher fell on the knife and the UFT would respond by saying there's nothing in the contract that talks about stabbings.  .. Roseanne McCosh
I  always listen to the wisdom of Roseanne. The DOE says it won't place ATRs to preserve principal autonomy. Roseanne calls "Bullshit on principal autonomy."
Place them and DOE pays the schools the monetary difference in salary between ATR and newbie and let chips fall. Or stop evaluating them as if they are anything more than day to day sub.   The UFT cannot allow for these fly by bullshit evaluations in a sub situation just because some ATRs aren't seeking permanent placement.  Principal autonomy? That's part of the problem----autonomy to clock in and not work.  Autonomy to harass staff.  Autonomy to refuse to hire senior staff because of salary.  Autonomy to hire family members. Principal autonomy is overrated. The hell with autonomy when it means no checks and balances and no sense of fair play.  If a principal stabbed a teacher 97 times the DOE would swear the teacher fell on the knife and the UFT would respond by saying there's nothing in the contract that talks about stabbings. Until the UFT forces the DOE to clean house none of us are safe from abuse. 

Unity Caucus Attacks MORE - Exactly Which Caucus Has Enabled Unfettered Principal Power?

Unity Caucus is like the guy who killed his parents and then pleads for mercy over being an orphan.

How many times can you smack yourself in the head over just how ridiculous the people who have run our union for the past 55 years can be without giving yourself a concussion?

Back in 1996 I offered a resolution at the DA calling for abolishing  tenure for principals on the basis it is because of them that we need tenure in the first place and why help make our enemies stronger. I made a pretty funny speech, not funny enough to get Unity to buy it. Their argument was that if principals lose tenure we would too. Hmmmm. 4-7 years and counting for tenure now.  President Sandy Feldman loved my speech though and wanted me to write it up for the NY Teacher - which I didn't quite understand until she explained that she agreed with me but because of the other union - the CSA - we couldn't do this. That was my insight into the partnership between the UFT and CSA which explains some things.

Now Unity is attacking MORE for opposing the eval system and trying to pin on us a charge it is we who are making principals stronger.

Arthur Goldstein at NYC Educator is astounded at the utter lack of logic Unity people put forth as he argues with them on twitter. I don't even bother. I'd just end up calling them all slugs and be done with them. But in arguing with them Arthur does uncover some gems. Here is one:
UFT Unity ‎@UFTUnity

.@morecaucusNYC You want principals to have total control over eval? We disagree. @Unity_Today

Now it is MORE who wants to give principals total control?

This caused me to smack myself in the head so many times I may need to go to the emergency room.

Now you just have to follow the Unity argument. There are so many awful principals we can't trust them to give fair evaluations so we need a measure that is fair to teachers - like Danielson and tests that mismeasure teacher performance.

We have so many bad principals because of what? How about a union leadership that gave us an open market system which is basically principal choice as to whether someone gets a job - meaning that if you are teaching enough years to have a high salary, you are dead meat.

What has happened over the past 15 years since I retired is moving almost total principal power I saw when I left to absolute principal power and all this under the tenure of WeinGrew.

You'll note that in all these years - and I go back to my resolution at the DA c. 1999 which called for a rigorous response on the part of the UFT to principal transgressions and Unity opposed it but I think were so embarrassed by what was going on in some schools, especially those with vast turnover, they actually did a few Principal from Hell pieces over the years. But basically when people want to take action against these principals the word is often MUM. Or backstage maneuvering instead of a public assault.

Why is that you might wonder? Well for me the answer it the cozy relationship to the principal union, the CSA, which I believe has put a gag order on the UFT, which to some might seem like the tail wagging the dog but maybe they have dirty pictures of the UFT leadership.

Now under Farinia/de Blasio, there is also a cozy relationship with them and I read another astounding comment from a Unity person that Farina is putting in better principals.

Say what?

From Arthur's facebook posts:
Norm Scott
Norm Scott A must read from Arthur. I was just about to blog on the same topic- that the uft/unity were enablers of principal unfettered power due to its cozy relationship with the Csa and now the doe. I've heard the argument from farina camp that they are moving...See More
Like · Reply · 1 · 3 hrs
Brian O'Sullivan
Arthur Goldstein
Arthur Goldstein It rhymes!
Like · Reply · 1 · 3 hrs
Michael Lillis
Michael Lillis There is always error in systems of measurement. In the past, if a Principal wished to assert a teacher"s incompetence, they would need to create a plan for remediation and the teacher would have real opportunities to improve. Currently, teachers are l...See More
Arthur Goldstein
Arthur Goldstein I agree. Most insidious, though, is the burden of proof being placed on the teacher at 3020a. Admin ALWAYS had to prove a teacher was incompetent. In NYC, teachers are observed by a UFT-enabled rat squad, which forces 70% of teachers on charges to prove they are NOT incompetent, a very high, if not impossible, burden. If I read correctly, the Cuomo/ Heavy Hearts plan, the one for which Mulgrew thanked the legislature, the one UFT Unity will not oppose, places the burden of proof entirely on teachers all the time. Correct me if I'm wrong, please.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Mulgrew Supported Common Core in 2013 Testomony on Regents Reform Agenda

Some of our newer MOREs who are not as familiar with the ed
deform loving Quislings in the UFT seemed surprised when the Delegate Assembly turned down the MORE resolutions on opt out and receivership schools. It can take a decade of seeing them wiffle and waffle before the light comes on.


-- UFT/AFT Always Deformers at Heart. They favor using standards even when they bludgeon teachers and students to death.

Here Puncy Mike lays it out.

MORE should put this quote in its election lit.
October 13, 2013:

Testimony of UFT President Michael Mulgrew before the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Education

Thank you very much, Chairman Flanagan and members of the committee. On behalf of the 200,000 members of the United Federation of Teachers, I appreciate this opportunity to address the issues surrounding the rollout of the Common Core Learning Standards.

The UFT together with educators from around the country embrace adopting more rigorous standards to better emphasize the critical thinking and depth of knowledge that many American students need to improve. Before these new Common Core standards were created, each state had its own set of educational standards, all of which differed in academic content.

The New York State Common Core Learning Standards were carefully crafted by experts to raise the bar and improve educational outcomes for students to ensure that they are college- and career-ready in our increasingly competitive world.