Action Statement on Orlando and LGBTQ Community Support

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Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims, as well as all members of the LGBTQ community and their allies. The echo of these shots have been heard across the country and around the world. It is a sound that will not soon be forgotten.

The recent tragedy in Orlando, Florida has highlighted the deprivation of tolerance that still exists in our society. The intersectionality of education with our societal issues is one that can not be ignored as we call upon fellow educators to recognize and embrace our role in shaping future generations towards creating an inclusive space that will be safe and free of oppression.

To provide an inclusive, safe environment in which all students can learn, it is imperative that the rights of members of the LGBTQ community be recognized and protected at all levels, student, educator, or school staff professional. As bullying initiatives have highlighted in recent years, safety is the number one right of all within a school. However, in spite of these efforts, members of the LGBTQ community are still being intimidated and harassed.

To strive for an environment that is inclusive for all students, we urge all educators to:

  • Include activities and lessons that teach and promote tolerance.
  • Work to make school bullying policies include language that specifically protects gender nonconforming students.
  • Create/build/support a GSA club at school.
  • Offer students the support they need to make their preferred gender identity known. Use their preferred pronoun and name while also respecting their privacy rights and possible need for confidentiality.
  • Advocate for diversity training for all members of the staff and administration.
  • Work to make sure all after school activities and events are inclusive.
  • Advocate for the designation of gender neutral restrooms.

To strive for an environment that is inclusive for all staff, we urge all educators to:

  • Advocate for diversity training for all members of staff.
  • Advocate for a review of the district’s workplace harassment guidelines to include language that protects members of the LGBTQ community.
  • Know the procedures for reporting workplace harassment and intimidation within your district, and make others aware of these procedures.
  • Use a person’s preferred name and pronoun.
  • Act to designate gender neutral faculty restrooms.
  • Speak with legislators and work to eliminate any laws that allow for the dismissal of employees that identify as a member of the LGBTQ community as well as any laws that are discriminatory of members of the LGBTQ community

It is through education that our future society can become one that is tolerant and inclusive of all people. It is our responsibility to become purposeful and intentional in our profession to build towards that goal.  Once again, we offer our sincere thoughts of peace to all those in the LGBTQ community who are suffering at this time.

BATs Request a White House Conference on Education and Equity

The Badass Teachers Association, representing a network of over 70,000 teachers and education activists throughout the United States, formally request a White House Conference on Education and Equity.

13390910_775477449254803_2084676380_nOur organization stands firmly against the serious harm being perpetrated to public education by both corporate privatization and right wing fiscal starvation policies. The current political rhetoric strengthens our resolve to reclaim the rights of all children to a free public education.

We focus on the many reasons poverty is claiming the lives and health of our children, and we focus on keeping our K-12 schools from privatization and the target of under-funding.

Our organization proposes that a White House Conference be initiated immediately. Like much of the American landscape, Public K-12 Education requires infrastructure overhaul that have been installed to insert barriers that inhibit authentic learning. We do not accept the mendacity that racial and ethnic minorities must fail.

We witness what happens when social justice safeguards are removed by forces that hide inside school choice and free market de-regulation. Public school teachers are this country’s first responders against the effects of poverty.

School privatization profits from systemic racism and use their profits to build higher barriers and deeper inequities. Testing monopolies and “business” style management practices now glean millions exploiting our children and disregard our students with special needs and English Language Learners. These efforts must not go unchecked.
To see the entire proposal for this conference go here
http://badassteachers.blogspot.com/2016/06/press-release-badass-teachers.html

New Jersey BATs Decry the Use of Standardized Tests.

he Badass Teachers Association was created to give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.
NJ Logo new 5-14The Badass Teachers Association of New Jersey firmly states that there is no validity in the recent release of the New Jersey Partnership for Assessment for Readiness of College and Career scores and reaffirms their mission to work to eradicate such measures that are being used to punish our children, our teachers, and our schools.
A single score on a single test cannot possibly measure the daily events that occur in our public school systems. These tests were not designed by classroom teachers and the results have been released with many inherent flaws.
– These tests were aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the implementation of which was so botched that the state of New Jersey is now working on revisions.
– The CCSS implementation was done as a top down initiative across all grade levels, creating a ‘bubble’ of students who do not have the educational background of having these standards throughout their educational careers, yet were subjected to these closely tied tests as an assessment.
– The administration of the test across the state was met with many issues including but not limited to – loss of internet access, computers with no sound-cards to enable text-to-speech features, classified students who did not receive accommodations that were outlined in their IEP, disorganized scheduling that caused extreme loss of instructional time and tore away at the consistency that children need to create a positive learning environments.
The validity of the cut scores remains extremely questionable in light of the knowledge that there is a direct agenda of several parties to label our schools as failing in order to close down and reorganize districts in ways that best benefits and feed the bank accounts of private interests. It is a known fact that results on standardized tests relate heavily to socio-economic backgrounds; a fact that logically precludes the conclusion that these tests are not a true measure of learning. These tests have been established as a tool to label public schools, specifically in urban communities, as failing.
The fact that the New Jersey Department of Education is not forthcoming with all of the information about the PARCC scores in one public release that includes educational stakeholders is a testament to the knowledge they hold that the educational decisions made under Governor Chris Christie are not what is best for our children.
The purpose, the client, and the reason for education is to benefit the children. As an organization, we vehemently decry the use of these tests to measure the value of our school systems, our teachers, and our students.

The Art of Deception: Friedrich vs. CTA


History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.   ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

History will remember.
Let Dr. King’s words lift our spirits in a time when unions are under attack.

Friedrichs vs. CTA will be heard in the Supreme Court this coming year. As research into this case is done, a disturbing sense of unease grows.

Here are the Plaintiffs

REBECCA FRIEDRICHS

SCOTT WILFORD

JELENA FIGUEROA

GEORGE W. WHITE, JR.

KEVIN ROUGHTON

PEGGY SEARCY

JOSE MANSO

HARLAN ELRICH

KAREN CUEN

IRENE ZAVALA

All of these folks are represented by The Center for Individual Rights. (More on them later)

Also listed in the lawsuit is the CHRISTIAN EDUCATORS ASSOCIATION INTERNATIONAL, more on them later as well.

Here is the screen shot of the cover sheet of the petition

Slide1 (1)
The issue at hand from the SCOTUS blog is whether Abood v. Detroit Board should be over turned and public-sector “agency shop” arrangements (a.k.a. mandatory union dues) should be invalidated under the First Amendment; and (2) whether it violates the First Amendment to require that public employees affirmatively object to subsidizing nonchargeable speech by public-sector unions, rather than requiring that employees affirmatively consent to subsidizing such speech.”

In plain English, the case will challenge whether Abood, which, according to Cornell Law, was established by a “Michigan statute authorizing union representation of local governmental employees permits an “agency shop” arrangement, whereby every employee represented by a union, even though not a union member, must pay to the union, as a condition of employment, a service charge equal in amount to union dues.”
Keep in mind that the plaintiffs in this case can, and Friedrichs did, opt out of paying full dues (non chargeable) if they do not want their money used for political purposes (this is in California).

Keeping this all in mind when analyzing the Friedrichs case, return to Dr. King’s statement:

“Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it.”

If Friedrichs successfully overturns Abood and removes “agency shop” fees many surmise it will destroy labor unions in the country. Exposure of the real intent of the Friedrichs case is necessary because the political nature of this case is alarming; not just because of its ability to destroy labor unions but because of the nature of the deception.

The Center for Individual Rights is the firm that is representing Friedrichs, the 9 other teachers and The Christian Educators Association International.

The largest donor to CIR are the Koch Brothers ($40,000)

The Koch Brothers have a long and prestigious resume of attacking public sector unions and two summers ago were instrumental in orchestrating the removal of a teacher’s right to due process in Kansas.

CIR also has a long history of fighting against Affirmative Action and supported the Boy Scouts in an attempt to keep out LBGT people.

Is the picture becoming clear?

Digest!

When looking at the main plaintiff of the case, Rebecca Friedrichs, a question is raised, “How is she associated with an organization that has a long history of opposing “affirmative action and other programs that attempt to restore racial/gender/sexual equality.”?

Part 2 of this expose will explore the connections.

Take a look at some statements explaining why she has supported this lawsuit.

In this Orange County register article she stated, “In 1993, I refused to support a union attack on a common sense voucher initiative that would have given parent’s choice in education and saved millions in tax dollars. Instead of respecting my rights and opinion, my union representative called me a “radical right winger,” and bullied me in front of colleagues. What was radical about protecting taxpayers and desiring the best for my students and their families?” http://www.ocregister.com/articles/union-631122-employees-unions.html

In this video clip she states that teachers get “cadillac pensions” and uses corporate reform rhetoric that due process protects “bad teachers.” (see beginning 4:32)

Also included in this lawsuit are the Christian Educators Association International. Who are The Christian Educators Association International? They are a teachers association with fees and dues. Here is their mission:

To Encourage, Equip, and Empower Educators according to Biblical Principles

Proclaim God’s Word as the source of wisdom and knowledge

Portray teaching as a God given calling and ministry

Promote educational excellence as an expression of Christian commitment

Preserve our Judeo-Christian heritage and values through education

Promote the legal rights of Christians in public schools

Provide a forum on educational issues with a Christian world view

Partner with churches, parachurch organizations, educational institutions and parents

Provide resources and benefits for educators including professional liability insurance

If you feel so inclined, meet and read about their director, Finn Larson. He claims their mission guides their focus in serving Christian Educators and in pursuit they:

Proclaim God’s word as the source of wisdom and knowledge

Portray teaching as a God given calling and ministry

Promote educational excellence as an expression of Christian commitment

Preserve our Judeo-Christian heritage and values through education

Provide a forum on educational issues with a Christian world view

Partner with churches, parachurch organizations, educational institutions and parents

And….by the way one other plaintiff in this case, Harlan Erhlich is a member of CEAI

Digest!

CEAI also seems to be partnering with Union Facts on an event called “National Employee Freedom Week” a coalition of 68 organizations in 40 states that promote union members opting out of their union.

Who is Union Facts? Sourcewatch describes Union Facts as “a secretive front group for individuals and industries opposed to union activities.”

Is the Friedrichs case really about First and Fourteenth Amendment rights?

Is it about mandatory union dues?

This is NOT about “agency fees” at all. This is not about First Amendment rights or Fourteenth Amendment rights.

This is about, contrary to what Friedrichs says, the destruction of unionism.

So, where do we go from here? We fight and expose the deception of this lawsuit. Call. It. Out! Spread. The. Word.

This is a concerted effort by the Koch Brothers, conservative factions, and religious entities to destroy the backbone of this country – labor unions who fight for social justice and who have a right to labor peace.

#solidarity

Governor Christie, We Will Not Turn the Other Cheek!

me
Abusive Christie

As a national organization dedicated to purposeful action to support educational professionals and America’s children, we would be remiss in our mission if we were to take lightly presidential candidate Chris Christie’s recent statement on CNN that the national teachers union deserves a “punch in the face” for being the most “destructive force” in America. Our duty must extend beyond a call to action to expose a presidential candidate’s bullying attack on teachers unions. Now is the time to show how these statements are symptomatic representations of what is a national agenda.

The 21st century in the United States is a time of profound social inequality, with great economic prosperity for the few and a steady erosion of the safety net for the rest of us.  It is incumbent on educators to expose the systemic tearing away of the fibers of unionism itself through this and countless other attacks. These attacks have come not only from presidential candidate Christie, but from politicians and public figures that stand to directly and personally benefit from seeing an end to unions in this country. Christie’s statement is a call to arms for all unions to unite against  the common enemies who have union busting agendas as we face future battles, including the impending Supreme Court decision in the Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association. Unions were once an essential tool in the establishment of the middle class in the US, fighting for equity within our society. As we face a further threat to economic equity, we need to call upon the ideals of unionism and strengthen protections for society as a whole, including additional support for our marginalized populations.

Exposing the national anti-union agenda must not be our only goal in the wake of presidential candidate Chris Christie’s repugnant statements. Such a blatantly violent, misogynistic term must not be tolerated from a sitting governor, let alone a presidential candidate.  It is necessary to call into question the term “punch” Christie uses when referring to the teachers’ union. This language is a specific attack on women who comprise 70-73 percent of education professionals and are a minority sector of our population. As a governor, Chris Christie and other elected officials are charged with the representation of their constituents. Those entrusted with governance are representatives of all people – men, women, and children – and all are called upon to condemn these statements.

“The Heart of the Swarm” Bats Congress Speech 2015

Excerpts from Dr. Yohuru Williams BATs Teacher Congress Speech, “The Heart of the Swarm,” delivered Saturday July 24, 2015. This is a shortened version of Dr. Williams’s remarks during the BAT’S Congress on Saturday.
10169447_10153444324956118_8138437963594981830_nWelcome Back to DC Bats! A little less than a year ago today, we marched on the Department of Education to deliver a simple message. Restore our schools. We pledged then that we would not stop fighting until we had achieved our goal of the restoration of public education and re-centering of its focus back on children. We explained to the world then . . .and remind all today . . . that BATs privilege three things: people over profits, parity of charity and choice over chance.

We return today for phase two moving forward with a plan to reclaim our educational system from the forces of politics and enterprise who continue to endanger them.

This danger takes many forms. An education secretary, for example, with neither the credentials nor the political will to understand the necessity of public education. A mighty cabal of corporate interests pushing a program of high stakes testing and privatization that seeks to drain every penny from the public coffers. A host of unethical politicians and so-called community leaders who have swallowed the corporate education Kool Aide echo them in their claims that that our schools are failing and beyond hope. Add to this, fake grass roots organizations like Students First funded by the moneyed interests that promote their anti-union, anti-local control program under the guise of public service. Claiming their work to be the great civil rights issue of our time, they forge ahead administering one death-dealing blow after another to public education assisted by panoply of petty bureaucrats and civil servants without the knowledge or power to challenge them.

Last year we came to plead our case. This year we come to draft and mobilize behind a national platform, which we will decide . . . that that will allow us to fight as a unified force for restorative justice in reclaiming public education.

We recognize that there are rough waters ahead and we fight against a national narrative of failure informed by racism and poverty— however we will not back down.

We come today prepared to roll up our sleeves, hammer out our differences and begin mobilizing on a scale the likes of which have not been seen in the United States for decades. Welcome to the BATS Congress!

I feel a little like I am preaching to the choir this morning, but sometimes even the choir needs to be reminded why we sing. Our voices matter because we speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

A snapshot of the past six months, in this regard is instructive. Indulge me if you will for just a few moments to show you how. Despite a national opt-out movement, and on the ground actions by groups such as the Movement of Radical Educators, the Caucus of Working Educators, the Newark Student Union, United Opt Out and of course the BATS, the pied pipers of corporate education reform continue to push their poison penned legislation. They would have the effect of turning the nation into the charter barter tragedy that is the state of public education in the city of New Orleans today, unregulated, hyper-segregated, economically deflated, and politically negated.
They continue, nevertheless, to undermine democratic practice, flaunting their poor grasp of history and their lack of vision; attacking the very agents who are an essential line of defense for our youth, teachers, and schools.
. . .
We are going to be clear, our schools are not for sale, and we are not interested in your Cartoon Education Reform. Stop turning public education into a mockery with your corporatizing crockery.

I recognize that they have cut instructional time for literature in our schools so it may feel for some like “Apocalypse Now” but I would remind you as my literature teachers would that “The Sun Also Rises.” Today over Morningside Washington, we rise with the sun with a powerful message for those who are in danger of finding themselves on the wrong side of history.

So I would like to, in conclusion. read to you from the Gospel of Bats A farewell to Arms: The BATs version.

Attention enemies of public education, time for you to go on a permanent vacation. Today you may smile and laugh with scorn. But do not be surprised in the next few months if you find yourself in the heart of the swarm.
. . .
The Bats are going to play TSA for TFA.

Because when we recognize, in your lack of training, a detriment to youth, we cannot hold back, we must tell you the truth.
We appreciate the deception but numbers don’t lie.
It was clear. so clear, you weren’t ready to fly.
So we show you the door, but don’t you despair, for I’m sure now that you’re jobless Ms. Rhee will be there.
And when she runs in the other direction clutching her purse, scream to her “But Michelle you said students first!” ask her to explain where is your piece of the pie and while you’re at it for BATs please tell her “Bye Bye.”

For nearly eight years Mr. Duncan, the balls been in your court.
But it is obvious to all, leadership wasn’t your sport.
Your reign is now ending in thunderous despair.
You hear a crack from the heavens and you wonder “Whose there?”                                                                                                                                                                                             You reach for your binder and swing; ‘swat swat’.
It’s a shame you didn’t play baseball, or you would know all about BATs.
BATs fly by radar; we see with mind, how you have left our children and schools in a bind.
When down in a block we descend from the sky, to show you the door and tell you “Bye Bye!”

Bill and Melinda Gates your intentions so clear, trading the humanities for technology is all you hold dear.
We can teach without your I Pad and you may wonder why because the center of everything you do begins with I, I, I.
But we are the people and we will decide what is best for our children and as an aside when we show you the door and free money, you cry . . .                                                            We will do our best Backstreet boys impression and tell you Bye, Bye, Bye.

Corporate Education Reform lackeys too numerous to name, from small town America to Greece, Russia and Spain.
Your diabolical plans to drive our schools in a hearse was diagnosed and exposed by a public school nurse.
She took your temperature and grimly informed our nation has the Germ . . . Global Education Reform.
I suppose this is why you cut our school nursing jobs first, then libraries, athletics, music and verse.
But if you stay real quiet you can hear the beat of our drum for
we must
we can
we shall overcome…
We will restore our schools, so be forewarned, that truth and justice are at the heart of this swarm.
Our democracy is too important.
We can’t allow it to crash and that . . .you see . . . is why they call us badass!

For we will stand for the littles and fight for the truth, perish for principle in defense of our youth, do all in power to put the wrongs to end.

So BATs roll up your wings let the Congress begin!

The 5 Teachers You Meet in Heaven: What It Really Takes to Save Our Schools

10169447_10153444324956118_8138437963594981830_nA few weeks ago, I had the privilege of delivering commencement addresses to the graduates of the Read Middle School and the Metropolitan Business Academy Magnet High School in Bridgeport and New Haven, Connecticut respectively. The student speakers at both schools thanked their principals and teachers for helping prepare them for the next chapters in their lives — chapters, of course, yet to be written. Their remarks, nonetheless, were far from perfunctory as evidenced by the heartwarming displays of affection students from both schools showed for their teachers. It is a safe bet that all they imagine regarding the significance of the connections they made will prove not only true but also richly rewarding in the future. They only have to look around to see why.

There are abundant examples of the many ways in which teachers change lives. During his acceptance speech for the Tony Awards top honor, Best Musical of 2015, producer Joey Parnes, for example, made it a point to thank “two of my many teachers” as well as “two of my newest teachers” emphasizing the importance of lifelong learning. During the same ceremony, actor Neil Patrick Harris likewise acknowledged his former “teachers in small town New Mexico.” He explained, “When sports were the only option, you showed creativity has a place in the world.” These are wonderful and much needed nods to the importance of and need for continued support of music and arts education. They also illustrate the deep, if not always-obvious ways, teachers can inspire greatness through a challenging assignment, a stimulating discussion, a few well-timed words of encouragement, the unbridled enthusiasm of a librarian, some constructive feedback on a piece of music or art, a successful entry at the science fair or the special attention of a club leader or coach. It is an aspect of the art of teaching that long-term educators cherish.

Given the continued attacks on the teaching profession from so-called corporate education reformers, these displays of gratitude and emotion are especially welcome as they powerfully reaffirm the quintessence of teaching as a humanistic enterprise.

Beyond the artificial scales of progress measured by high stakes testing, teaching at its core is about building relationships. It is one of the reasons that I believe if Mitch Albom’s bestselling book The Five People You Meet in Heaven was not simply a work of fiction, one or more of the five persons you meet in Heaven would most certainly be teachers.

Albom’s popular book, of course, begins with an extraordinary act of kindness and self-sacrifice with the main character giving up his life to save another. Albom, however, paints a portrait of Heaven, not as a place but a process. Consistent with this premise the main character’s voyage into the afterlife begins with a quest to understand his life’s true meaning. Over the course of this journey, he comes to appreciate how all life is intricately and beautifully interwoven — how one tiny ripple or encounter can have enormous consequences.

This is true of teachers and the immense responsibility they shoulder in guiding the hopes and dreams of the nation’s youth. Perhaps more than others, they understand the interconnectedness that Albom aims to highlight — especially in the present climate when so many of the foundations of our educational system are in real peril from corporate education reform and high stakes testing.

Those bent on destroying these foundations, would do well to heed the wisdom of Albom’s narrative voice. There are no random acts. Tinkering with those bodies and traditions that connect us is a risky enterprise. One of the institutions that still powerfully unites Americans are our schools. It would be magnificent if the “common core” they sought to promote focused less on artificial standards and test scores and more on establishing a deep appreciation for our shared humanity.

Teachers, of course, can lead the way, not toward some false utopia embodied in the privatizing, anti-union, agenda of the testing moguls but in education’s humanistic roots — providing young people with multiple pathways to success through a wide variety of educational, artistic and athletic experiences.

“People think of Heaven as a paradise garden, a place where they can float on clouds and laze in rivers and mountains,” Albom writes. “But scenery without solace is meaningless.” People who believe that hastily prepared teachers and high stakes testing can yield the promised land of educational achievement should recall that form without substance is equally meaningless. We cannot afford to settle for the façade of excellence without fully investing in tackling all of the problems that beset our nation’s youth.

There can be no discussion of great schools in the abstract without improving strategies to address poverty and inequality, as well as building cultural competencies that emphasize our pluralistic strengths not undermine them. This, by definition, must include support for music and the arts, athletics and afterschool programs that help to build communities and promote democratic practice. This can never be accomplished without the cultivation of a diverse pool of well trained, properly supported teachers — true professionals forged in our nation’s graduate education schools and imbued with a sense of instruction that emphasizes care for the whole person not merely the cultivation of test scores.

No matter how loudly self-interested billionaires and sly politicians try to deny it, great schools begin with great teachers, collaborating with enlightened administrators and communities to serve the needs of the next generation.

In this sense, the five teachers that you meet in Heaven will likely be the same dedicated professionals currently working in an environment in which they are understaffed, underfunded and often grossly underappreciated, but still relentlessly sacrificing in the hopes that the tiny ripples they create can shape a life and perhaps, a better future.

NJ BATs Statement to NJ Assembly Eduation Committee

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The more than 1300 members of the New Jersey Badass Teachers Association stand in solidarity with Chairmen of the Assembly Education Committee, Assemblyman Diegnan, in his requests that a representative of Pearson appear Thursday before his committee to explain the company’s surveillance of New Jersey student’s social media activity and the companies decision to report students to the Department of Education.. The story that Bob Braun released Friday March 13th demonstrates the extensive overreach that this company has been allowed with regards to the privacy of minors and its possible collusion with the Department of Education. The fact that Pearson feels entitled not just to monitor social media but to report behavior that they find to the NJDOE and that they expect the NJDOE to act on such reports is a blatant display of a very troubling relationship between a private for profit company and the NJDOE, a public body that is empowered to serve the needs of our children. This needs to be investigated – the full extent of the demands and control that Pearson has on our NJDOE and thereby on our schools, educators, and students. It is quite clear that Pearson is serving its own interest and will use any measure to achieve their goals.

The concerns expressed by parents, teachers and community members regarding the disruptive effect PARCC is having on the educational programs in our schools including budgetary cuts from needed programs,such as creative arts and after school activities, was cause enough for concern . But when we allow a profit driven corporation to dictate demands upon our schools, all stakeholders should be questioning the motives of these entities and analyzing if they are really operating in the best interest of all our children. At this point, it has become quite clear that Pearson is serving its own interest and will use any measure to achieve their goals.

Pearson’s overwhelming influence has resulted in disruption to our schools, a dictation of the testing modifications of our special needs students, a strain on our budgets to meet technology and testing requirements as well as holding our children hostage to a strained testing culture that has driven any love of learning and enjoyment of school from their daily lives. Parents have started to speak loudly against their influence in the form of thousands of children across the state refusing to take the PARCC exams. Our union has launched an extensive campaign against testing. As a company that is being paid millions of dollars for a contract with the state, Pearson should be in the position to be meeting the demands of the state, of our schools, and of our children. Instead, the state has been exhausting all resources possible to meet the demands of the Pearson corporation to integrate its requirements. Requirements that have resulted in several testing errors that include videos not being seen or heard by all students, students and test administrators becoming frustrated when unable to correctly start tests, unnecessary burdens to school administrators and staff to adjust scheduling needs, a loss of classroom instructional time, a total interruption in the educational learning process, not once but twice this school year, and an entire generation of students that have been left feeling that they are not smart enough and that they do not deserve a well-rounded learning experience.

As constituents of the state of New Jersey , we have confidence that our legislators will hold Pearson and the New Jersey Department of Education responsible for these transgressions against our children. We trust that the Assembly Education Committee will see the need for more than one simple conversation to address the issues that Pearson is forcing our schools to face. We know that several more conversations will be held as our representatives take on the responsibility of investigating the invasion of Pearson into the lives of our children.

ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL TESTING

ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL TESTING ISN’T WHAT OUR KIDS NEED TO SUCCEED

 

Standardized assessments don’t match up with real-life challenges and the wide variety of individual abilities

Melissa Tomlinson
Melissa Tomlinson

While New Jersey’s state commissioner of education, David Hespe, may be attending the Task Force Commission’s public hearing sessions, the question is whether or not he is actually listening.

After the testimony, Hespe expressed his wishes for people to address the alternatives to PARCC and standardized assessments instead of just complaining about what has currently been put into place.

Several conversations have taken place about alternative forms of assessment, including a discussion about portfolio assessments that was submitted during January’s open public forum session at the State Board of Education meeting.

Hespe’s direct quote, as reported by John Mooney of NJ Spotlight, reads: “What is missing from this conversation and what I have asked from testifiers to address is what would they do to this societal problem where half of the students are graduating without the skills and knowledge they need.”

There is a glaring issue with his statement. The claim that half of the students are graduating without the skills and knowledge they need should lead us into a few questions.

First, where is this data coming from? Is this data from the Achieve-led study that was conducted with questionable methods of statistical analysis? One has to wonder: How can New Jersey have one of the top-rated public school systems in the country, yet only half of the students have graduated with the necessary skill set? , Maybe we need to take a moment to discuss some definitions.

What are the skill sets that we as a society see as necessary for the future success of our children? What kind of future do we want to be shaping? Do we want well-rounded children who grow up with exposure to the arts, culture, and music? Or do we want over-tested, over-stressed children who see only the importance of achieving academic growth? Are we looking to provide our children with the skills that are necessary to instill a sense of morals, coping skills, and human compassion? Or do we continue to narrow down the focus of academics to what can be measured on a standardized test, and use that as a predictor for future success?

Those questions lead us into another set of questions. What exactly is the definition of success for our children? Who is designing this skill set that is absolutely necessary to succeed? Have we succeeded if we reach the end of our Race to the Top and have left no child behind? Have we even been told exactly where it is that we are racing to, what goal is at the end, or what purpose has been accomplished when we get there?

If we take a look at the lessons history has taught us, it should not be to compete with our fellow human beings on this planet in the never-ending competition to have more, to earn more, and to control more.

What right does anyone have to define what success should look like for any other human being, child or adult?

As a society, we should really be having some in-depth conversations about defining success and how we can shape that definition for the betterment of life for future generations. For one student, success is measured at the end of each night when he has gotten his younger brother to complete his homework, eat dinner, and into bed at a decent time, while their mother is working her second shift. For another student, success can be measured when the four-times table has been correctly written. Yet another student has ended his day successfully when he has managed to resist the impulsiveness of his behavior that leads him to making sarcastic remarks to adults, resulting in disciplinary action.

So what exactly should success look like in schools? How should it be measured? According to Hespe, we are not yet doing that. Perhaps that is because we are forever narrowing down our focus to only academics, crowding out the arts and music, neglecting the fact that we, as adults, are responsible for a child as a whole.

If we were to redefine what successful schools look like, would we perhaps find better ways to serve our children and better prepare them with the skill sets necessary to achieve future success?

This is where the conversation of community schools needs to be developed. What do the children in a specific community need?

We should be targeting those areas and coordinating services so that they are brought to the schools, so that we can instill the importance of these institutions within a children’s makeup at a young age. Partnerships with health-care, dental, emotional and behavioral health services should be created. Adult education needs to be incorporated, so that children see the value of continuous learning through adulthood while the benefits of assisting families in a community are addressed. Employment services, housing services, and financial counseling should all be available in a centralized location within a school campus area to ease access for families, while coordinating the needs between different areas through communication to produce more effective results.

Yet the question then remains, how will all of this be assessed? How will we know if the school is “up to standard” as an educational institution?

Instead of creating a test that will suddenly seem to improve every one’s education through a set of standards, the discussion of what exactly what set of standards we need to measure should occur.

Equity of access of resources, healthy natural development of child, safe school environments and coordination of services are all necessary for a child to achieve true success.

The main determinate of this could easily be identifiable through analysis of prison statistics. Are we actively reducing the amount of youth being incarcerated? Are we actively decreasing the percent of young black males who are finding themselves in the system at an increasingly alarming rate? Can we actively find ways to prevent our youth from entering the prison system in the first place?

To see how a society is faring as a whole, one only needs to look at the largest group of the population that is not living within the normal identified definition of a productive citizen. Until such an issue is addressed — how to stop a future of recurring statistics — then we as a society have failed. We are only as strong as our weakest link.

The need and desire for assessment of student learning will still exist, if only for the benefit of opening discussions about our children and how they are doing in school. But these conversations need to look at more than merely a not-proficient or proficient rating on a single test.

They need to revolve around the child as a person. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How can we utilize those strengths and help the child work with and overcome their strengths?

These are the key discussions that education teams within a school should be having. A system needs to be developed that assigns a team to be responsible for a group of students, allows them to set goals, creating plans, meeting to discuss progress and making adjustments when necessary.

This would create a different vision of professional development than we have seen in the past – but it will actually bring us back to what professional development should look like, researching and implementing professionally valued practices that will benefit both students and teachers.

Such a vision could come true, with time and money – money that is being spent instead on the PARCC exam and its related expenses and time that could easily be found by creating by child- centered professional communities with a purpose other than completion of more paperwork and forms for the state.

Some big questions need to be asked now that we are at a crossroads in education. What has been wrong with society in the past? What changes do we need to make to correct those wrongs? What role do schools play in supporting those visions?

What is it that our children really need?

 

Story can also be found: njspotlight.com

Proposed Regulations for Teacher Preparation Programs

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The Badass Teachers Association calls for changes to be made to the Department of Education’s recent legislative proposal to attach student test scores to the effectiveness of new teachers and their credentialing programs. This proposal, under the guise of providing access to more meaningful indicators of teacher preparation program performance, proposes to create a continuous feedback loop of communication between school districts and institutions of higher learning to facilitate program improvement and provide information that can be used by potential employers to guide their hiring decisions as well as prospective teachers to guide their application decisions.

We disagree with the premise that teacher preparation programs are not adequately preparing teachers. The trend of a higher attrition rate for new teachers has little to do with how well they are educationally prepared and armed with theoretical knowledge of classroom management and teaching skills. This is yet another false narrative created in an attempt to disguise the fact that the over-management of the classroom by people who have little educational background or training is one of the biggest causes of stress for any educator and therefore, one of the leading reasons teachers leave the classroom. This legislation fails to acknowledge the very people that it proposes to assist – new teachers and underserved student populations. This new proposed rule sets in motion the construction of yet another data analysis system that fails to address the real issues that are faced by the new teacher in socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The Department of Education is seeking to define “high-quality teacher program” through statutory regulation in an attempt to provide limits and definitions for the purpose of establishing TEACH Grant eligibility. Authorized under title IV of the HEA, the TEACH Grant program provides aid to students and institutes of higher learning who are preparing to become teachers. In return, a student must teach in a low-income school and in a high-need field for four years. Effectively, the groundwork is being laid for a decimation of the TEACH grant program. If a teacher that is teaching in a low-income or high-need school, the fact that is still being ignored is that student educational achievement is directly related to a student’s socio-economic status. Research shows that student growth scores will not be measurably increased in these areas until the issues of poverty are dealt with; the perceived effectiveness of schools that educate teachers to teach in these urban and rural areas will not be rated highly and grant eligibility will likely be revoked. The DOE does not need to put more obstacles in the way of the student teacher who decides to serve in our underserved community and that will be the effect if this new proposal is enacted.

The future of teacher preparation programs will become as segregated as our children’s schools are becoming. The effective programs will be identifiable as the higher tuition university level schools that are financially unattainable to most of our young future teachers that our students are desperately in need of – our future teachers of color. Financial obligations that were once legislatively responsible by the Federal government under the TEACH grant will lessen as fewer teachers seek to teach in these areas as their evaluation scores are becoming more reliant upon student factors that are beyond their control. The Department of Education currently predicts that 75% of TEACH recipients fail to fulfill the requirements of the TEACH grant. But with this proposed legislation, institutions of higher learning will shirk their responsibility to provide quality teachers to these areas in fear of receiving a less than “exceptional” or “effective” rating. Once again, our students are the ones that are destined to suffer with the consequences of these legislative decisions.

The Badass Teachers Association calls for changes to be made to these legislative proposals. We agree that there is a need to become proactive to address the falling retention rate of teachers. But, it is in the best interest of education to address the real issues of creating more supportive mentoring programs that will assist a new teacher in the first one to four years in a classroom setting rather than to adjust the limited time frame that most states currently have in place as their mentoring and student teaching programs. We see long-term value in the development of stronger mentoring programs that continue to support new teachers that will help the high rate of attrition of teachers within their first five years. In turn, this will benefit students by creating an educational team within a district that has invested in the future of the school and the futures of these students.

We strongly urge that all funding for programs that circumvent appropriate teacher preparation needs, such as Teach for America, be discontinued. The premise that these organizations are based upon, that one only needs a minor amount of training to be placed into the classroom are detrimental to the fabric of the educational profession. Additionally, teacher preparation and certification materials which use online testing formats should be reviewed for academic validity. Profit-making from our students is a growing concern and any profiteering from teacher preparation, certification, re-certification and endorsement processes should be eliminated.

The means through which corporations have been allowed to profit from our schools needs to be examined. Common Core standardization, data collection, and testing regimes have all given access to money making educational companies and guidance from any organization that promotes this needs to be examined and abandoned, including the Higher Educational Trust Organizations such as NASULGC and ASCU, AAUP, NCTQ, and Education Trust. Educational leadership proponents who provide policy input to Chief Superintendents and advocate top-down management need to be disaggregated from the discussion of teacher preparation, insofar as efficacy rather than efficiency has more direct bearing on pedagogical evaluation and teacher preparation.

We know, as professionals, that data can be a valuable tool in the decision making process. But that data loses credibility when there are too many factors that can influence the end numbers that are used for analysis. This is the case in the reporting procedures that Arne Duncan has proposed by tying student test scores, through a new teacher, back to an institute of higher learning. Uncontrollable variables, such as administrative influence, student population variables, the composition of the district board of education, budgetary restrictions, and access to resources are all factors that have an influence on the educational performance of students within a district and within a specific classroom. There is no statistical value in holding an institution of higher learning accountable for the data outcomes when they are only responsible for affecting one factor of the input, the education of future teachers. The Value Added Model has been refuted and must be abandoned in the methodology of teacher preparation, evaluation, certification, re-certification, and endorsement programs.

There is value to the concerns that have been raised to analyze and improve teacher preparation programs. We agree that there are factors that can be improved upon that will directly impact these programs and help them become more effective to address the needs of our students in our changing classrooms. However, basing these improvements upon student data that is a small representation of the future potential of children as well as fails to acknowledge the real indicators of a child’s educational success should not be considered for policy based upon best educational practices.