Archive for December, 2013

Who are tests bad for?

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the December 2013 Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: December 2013 Leaflet

WHO ARE TESTS BAD FOR?

New Action opposes the Teacher Evaluation System, largely due to rating teachers based on student test scores. But we should object to tests for reasons beyond the bad APPR.

Every extra day of testing squeezes out another day of teaching. Every high stakes test, especially in this era of punitive accountability, leads many schools to increase the number of days of test prep. Each prep day squeezes out another day of real teaching. The test burden on principals has led many to eliminate foreign language and art. Recess is getting short-changed. In many schools, Science and Social Studies get repurposed to ELA and Mathematics prep in non-testing years. This is horrible for kids and schools.

Teachers are more and more forced to teach not “to the test” but “to the tests” in a dizzying flurry of diagnostics, pre-tests, and State tests. Trained professionals are being asked, nay, forced to teach what accountability requires, not what the children need.

And let’s not forget, tests make kids sick. In October of this year, the Delegate Assembly approved the following language as part of a resolution on standardized testing:

“the current intensity of the standardized test taking and test prep affects children emotionally and physically leading to anxiety, frustration, low self-esteem, headaches and other physical ailments.”

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Report from UFT 12/16/13 Executive Board – Calling the Question too fast

No President’s report. Mulgrew was absent.

Staff Director’s Report (?)

I was late and missed the staff director’s report. LeRoy Barr appeared not to be there. Perhaps Ellie Engler (who was present) gave the report

Questions

I missed the questions

Reports from Districts

There were many reports from districts

Legislative Report –

Paul Egan was absent, and called in to Emil Pietromonaco that there was no legislative report.

Special Orders of Business

1. There were resolutions recommended to the NYSUT Representative Assembly. These were non-controversial (). Mike Shulman added the Mandela resolution from the previous week.

2. New Action brought forth a resolution, calling for a change in the rules of order for the DA. If a question is called before there has been a speaker against, the proposed rule would require the chair to ask for a speaker against before allowing the question to be called. Jonathan Halabi (me) motivated. John Soldini, former HS VP, spoke against, saying that calling a point of order would accomplish the same thing, Kate Martin-Bridge countered, saying that in the last two years at the DA, calling a point of order has not gotten the chair to ask for a speaker opposed, Sterling Roberson rose to warn the body not to be “fooled” by the resolution, Mike Shulman rose to underline that the resolution was clear and that there was no attempt to “fool” anyone, and Richie Mantell finally rose to table the motion, due to unclarity about Roberts Rules, etc. The motion to table passed, unanimously.

New Action Caucus has ten seats on the UFT Executive Board – the only ten seats that do not belong to Unity Caucus.

Ten is not enough to win anything – but it allows our voice to be heard, it allows us to put forward resolutions, and when there is agreement, to put forward resolutions the leadership signs onto. It allows us to offer amendments. It allows us to bring issues to the leadership.

At Exec after Exec, Unity members sit and listen. Some never speak. Most rarely speak. But New Action usually has questions, comments, resolutions, or amendments.

This year we will publish reports – sometimes on the entire Exec Board, sometimes just on New Action’s contribution.

Resolution on encouraging broad discussion

Resolution on encouraging broad discussion

(presented at the 12/16/13UFT Exec Board. Tabled. This resolution would change the rules of the Delegate Assembly so that if the question was called before there had been a speaker against, the chair would ask for a speaker against before preceding to a vote.)

Whereas, the United Federation of Teachers is a democratically run organization, and

Whereas, the UFT’s governing body is the Delegate Assembly, where policy is introduced, discussed, debated, and decided, and

Whereas, the Delegate Assembly is generally governed by Roberts Rules, with several specific changes, as the UFT has chosen, and

Whereas, on occasion, after a resolution has been motivated, the question has been called and voted upon without the nay side of the issue having been heard, and

Whereas, allowing one speaker opposed would not impose an undue burden on the body, and might enrich the discussion before the vote,

Therefore, be it RESOLVED that the rules of order of the United Federation of Teachers Delegate Assembly are amended by the addition of: “6. CALLING A QUESTION – Before entertaining a motion to ‘call the question’ on any matter, if there has not been a speaker opposed to the question, the chair will ask for a speaker opposed.”

 Introduced to the December 16 UFT Exec Board. Signed by Jonathan Halabi, Michael Shulman, Kate Martin-Bridge, Francisco Peña, Keith Fessell, Doug Haynes. Motivated by Jonathan Halabi. Tabled.

Good Riddance Bloomberg – Good Riddance to Working without a Contract

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the December 2013 Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: December 2013 Leaflet

Good Riddance Bloomberg – Good Riddance to Working without a Contract

Members are rightfully disgusted with the NY Times editorial (12-2-13). The Times echoed Bloomberg’s call for a wage freeze for three years followed by two years of 1.25% each. The rest of the editorial covering seniority, ATRs, firing teachers, and “flexible schedules” was outrageous and right out of the corporate reformers’ playbook.

Money: UFT members are owed a 4%, 4% raise from 2009 to 2011, as the other unions already received (increases after 2011 still need to be negotiated with Mayor de Blasio.)

Retroactive Pay: Retro negotiations must cover all who worked during the years covered.

Givebacks:  Since no other union was asked for givebacks, that is the pattern. Period.

Report from UFT December 9 Executive Board

Open mike – no speaker.

President’s report. Mulgrew was present.

Everyone is asking him first who the Chancellor will be. He said BDB has his own process, which we will let him go through. He rattled off five names in contention (Alonso, Cashin, Darling-Hammond, Farina, Starr). He said each of them had their supporters and detractors. And that none of them was a corporate reformer. Mentioned that Henderson is one, but that BDB interviewed her for political reasons. 

There will be a debate at the Delegate Assembly on Wednesday – what should the system look like (structurally). (Followed by a resolution for voting in January)  120 principals signed a letter asking to keep the networks. Out of 1800 principals. And some of the signers were not aware that they had signed. But these are networks, such as the one for Consortium schools, that are actually supporting their schools. They have good networks.

There needs to be an Office of Teaching. The Office of Accountability should be staffed with 3 people, not 360. We already have state and federal accountability. (In response to a comment from the floor) – Legal is all Ivy League lawyers. Do you know how much they are costing us?

There was a meeting in the Bronx this (Monday Dec 9) morning with chapter leaders, principals, superintendants, DRs… discussing evaluations.

These is Bloomberg’s time to trumpet his educational triumphs, but it is falling flat. Even the Post ran an editorial challenging his graduation rates.

People think everything will be better on January 2. Won’t be so.

Staff Director’s Report (LeRoy Barr)

LeRoy spoke about last Thursday’s rally, and Monday’s Reclaim the Promises event.

Questions

I  asked the only question:  First I asked if Mulgrew would be back (he was not) then I asked how would the debate Wednesday be organized, and could we see the recommendations in advance. Emil Pietromonaco answered that there would be a bulleted list. And about getting that list before the DA, I don’t think he answered.

Reports from Districts

Janella Hinds reported in more detail about the event in the Bronx held earlier Monday (see above).

George Altomare reported on an upcoming Per Diem Cttee event on Affordable Health Care, and on a social studies pd event.

Legislative Report – Paul Egan was present, but there was no report.

Special Orders of Business

There was a “Transition Report” on the agenda. Turns out it was already covered, that was what Mulgrew was doing under the President’s report.

There was a resolution to honor Nelson Mandela. Sterling Roberson spoke, followed by Anthony Harmon, George Altomare, Mel Aaronson, and LeRoy Barr. It passed unanimously.

Mike Shulman was not present – but I wish he was there, so he could have talked about divestment, about how Teachers Action Caucus (one of New Action’s predecessors) began a grass roots postcard campaign to get the UFT to divest our pension funds from South Africa, and how this minority cause came to become UFT policy.

New Action Caucus has ten seats on the UFT Executive Board – the only ten seats that do not belong to Unity Caucus.

Ten is not enough to win anything – but it allows our voice to be heard, it allows us to put forward resolutions, and when there is agreement, to put forward resolutions the leadership signs onto. It allows us to offer amendments. It allows us to bring issues to the leadership.

At Exec after Exec, Unity members sit and listen. Some never speak. Most rarely speak. But New Action usually has questions, comments, resolutions, or amendments.

This year we will publish reports – sometimes on the entire Exec Board, sometimes just on New Action’s contribution.

SHOULD TEACHERS’ RATINGS BE BASED ON STUDENTS’ TEST SCORES?

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the November 2013 Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: November 2013 Leaflet

The Teacher Evaluation Train Wreck is Unfolding Before Us

SHOULD TEACHERS’ RATINGS BE BASED ON STUDENTS’ TEST SCORES?

From Requirements of Education Law Section 3012-c:

“Teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective assessments must be rated ineffective overall. Teachers who are developing or ineffective will get assistance and support to improve performance. Teachers who remain ineffective can be removed from classrooms.”

This means that a teacher rated “ineffective” on both State tests and Local Measures must be rated “ineffective,” even if the principal finds them exceptional in the classroom.

New Action has opposed the Teacher Evaluation System since its inception.

Rating teachers based on using some form of the Danielson model is one thing. To tie our evaluation to student test scores is unacceptable. To have in State Law that a teacher’s rating can be based entirely on test scores is outrageous.

On Oct. 21, 2013, the 10 New Action members of the UFT Executive Board proposed:

Resolved the UFT will make it a legislative priority to remove from NY State Law any provision that makes it possible to rate a teacher ineffective entirely on test scores.

Resolved that the UFT will discuss this priority with the Mayor-Elect, in order that we might jointly lobby the New York State Legislature to effect this change.

The UFT Should Address State Education Law, 3012-c

This reasonable position was tabled by the rest of the union leadership. Their substitute resolution calls for expanding MOSL to include student work, including projects and portfolios, calls for a review process for teachers who get “Ineffectives” on local and state measures to see if the local measures were “appropriate,” “fair” and “reliable,” and calls for a moratorium on “high-stakes consequences” for state tests.

This does not go far enough. While these proposals, if negotiated with the DOE, would bring some relief from this evaluation system, they do not address the real problem: ANY EVALUATION BASED ON STUDENT TEST SCORES will not improve teaching. It will not improve our schools. It will not improve the education of our students.

The biggest difference between the New Action resolution (tabled) and the substitute resolution?  The substitute does not address necessary changes to the State Law that established this evaluation system. The legislation itself must be changed.