Spread the Good News

For many years now, politicians like Andrew Cuomo have been working hard to demonize the teaching profession on behalf of their big money donors like charter school operators, testing companies, hedge fund managers, and everyone else who stands to make a few bucks off the ruin of public schools and the destruction of public unions. 

Some new data gives us a breath of hope that their efforts are failing.  A recent Siena poll shows that only 10% of New Yorkers blame teachers for students not being college and career ready. Much higher on the list are things like lack of parental involvement, under-funding, and poverty.

The downside of this is that it perpetuates the exaggerated claims that the majority of our students aren’t ready for college or the workforce. The plus side, is that we must be doing something right in our schools because our publicly-educated citizens are informed enough to see through the B.S.

The most important aspect of this, though, is that it’s more ammunition for us to give legislators to convince them to oppose the Governor’s reforms.

Please read more about the poll on the always excellent Perdido Street Blog (and click the link there to see the actual results).

Then, CONTACT YOUR ASSEMBLY MEMBER AND STATE SENATOR and remind them that this poll is evidence that of where the people stand – with their teaches and against Governor Cuomo.

Who are you? You are a Who!

As SWR literacy coach Erin Wills recently discovered, if you’re looking for the perfect metaphor for the importance of union involvement in today’s fight for public education, it was written sixty years ago by Dr. Suess.

At the end of the picture book Horton Hears a Who, the people of Whoville, already battered and beaten from their dust-speck planet being dropped from the sky, are about to be finished off in a vat of boiling Beezle-Nut oil. Horton’s oppressors simply don’t believe the Whos exist, so Horton implores them make themselves heard. The Whos try to make a racket, but it just isn’t enough. Until…

The Mayor of Whoville finds one last Who playing with a Yo-yo, blissfully unaware of the imminent danger. At the Mayor’s urging, this final shirker lets out a yopp, which is just enough to put the sound over the top. Their voices are heard and their destruction is averted. 

And so here we are.

Locals are engaged, from the East to the West
Everyone seems to be doing their best
Everyone seems to be yapping or yipping
Everyone seems to be beeping or bopping
but it’s still not enough all this ruckus and roar
We have to get everyone involved to make more

(If you need an editable version so you can adapt if for your own local, please email us at swrta2@gmail.com)

News and Links: February 24, 2015

One of the most important things we can do is get our message out to the general public. That means getting people who care to write letters and make calls, and it also means spreading positive information to counter all the misleading anti-teacher propaganda being spread. Here are two articles that help do just that. Please share these links on Facebook and Twitter. And if you’re not on Facebook, email them to your friends and relatives who are.

We’re loathe to send traffic to Newsday’s website, but if you haven’t already, you should read these articles for yourself.
  • On Sunday, Newsday featured a breathless cover story claiming that most Long Island school district’s evaluation plans were skewed toward teachers. It was a shocking expose in the sense that it was shocking that a supposed news outlet can publish an expose with no evidence to support its primary claim.
  • The next day, Newsday announced that, based on it’s own brilliant reporting (hello Pulitzer Committee, are you paying attention?), the Governor is requesting a review of the obviously flawed Long Island teacher evaluations. No word on when he’ll be requesting a review of how teachers also managed to take over the Governor’s body a year ago when he praised the evaluation system, or how these same all powerful teachers managed to infiltrate the State Ed department when they certified the rubric in question as one of the only ones that districts were allowed to use. Not to mention when the State Ed department APPROVED EACH AND EVERY ONE of these supposedly skewed evaluation plans.
  • NYSUT president Karen Magee responded quickly to what she referred to as the Governor’s “cluelessness.” With all due respect, though, this isn’t about cluelessness on the Governor’s part. He knows exactly what he’s doing.
And speaking of the Governor, for those who wanted a little more information about New York State’s insane budget process (and why the Governor has so much power over the final budget), this website provides a pretty good summary.

Finally, if you haven’t sent your message to your representative regarding H.R. 5, please do it now.

Political Action Updates

A few updates on how political action is going…

In a meeting with local teacher union presidents Thursday night, Assemblyman Fred Thiele expressed his commitment to opposing the Governor’s proposals and stressed that TEACHERS AND PARENTS  MUST CONTINUE TO WRITE LETTERS AND MAKE PHONE CALLS. If the legislature is going to be successful in pushing back against Cuomo, they must be able to show that they are representing the will of the people. 

Last week, State Senator John Flanagan predicted that the legislature will get the Governor’s proposed $1.1 billion increase (or more) without having to commit to Cuomo’s proposals. This is good news, but is not the end of the story.
  • His prediction is not a guarantee. We must keep pressure on the legislature and give them ammunition to win.
  • Even if the budget passes without the legislation being pushed through now, that does not preclude it from being pushed through in the future.
  • Even if all of the current proposals are rejected, that just keeps us where we are now – it doesn’t actually make anything better.

For those who still need more evidence that political action works, the Board of Regents has, at least for now, abandoned its plan to make field testing mandatory. The fact that they’ve changed course on something that looked like a certainty just a few months ago is clearly a response to the overwhelming response they got from the public (or maybe it was just a reaction to this brilliant satire). 

Nationally, Senators and Representatives have been inundated with anti-testing messages. While this doesn’t directly impact what happens in Albany, state legislators can’t help but take notice of the national sentiment, Not to mention the fact that without a federal mandate, the NYS Dept. of Ed loses one of their fall-back defenses when accuse of over-testing.

News and Links: February 14th, 2015

Here’s another assortment of news stories and blog posts on education.

  • Please sign and forward this White House petition, written by a High School Student, to reduce standardized testing. (please do it – once the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it is guaranteed a response from the White House).

  • Is the opt-out movement on the road to victory? According to this writer, it just might be.
  • “Always Earning” “No Profit Left Behind.” Politico has takes a close look at Pearson, one of the corporations that has benefited the most from the current reform movement. Shockingly, Pearson still makes money, even when they don’t deliver what they promise. Crazy how accountability only applies to teachers.
  • “You have made us the enemy – This is Personal.” In this piece, seven teachers of the year blast Cuomo’s proposals. Thanks to Karla Roberts for sharing the link .

News and Links: February 1, 2015

Here’s the latest collection of news and links:

We’ve shared a bunch of letters and opinion pieces explaining the opposition to Cuomo’s education plans, but this one, written by a Long Island music teacher, is one of the best.

I do not “fire” my students who have weaknesses, rather I use information collected formally and informally to make decisions about how I can help them grow.  Teacher evaluations should work in the same manner.   And yes, children have the right to their education regardless of their academic success while teachers don’t have a right to keep their jobs if they are ineffective.  However, being that we are in the education field, it seems logical and doable to use the same philosophical ideas to improve teachers as we use to improve students. 

The Daily News published an op-ed from Diane Ravitch blasting Cuomo’s plans.

Governor Cuomo has said he thinks the problem is that the average New Yorker is too stupid to understand just how bad things are in schools. But as Daniel Katz, points out, the last thing in the world that Cuomo wants is for people to know the truth about what is going on.

A piece at Forbes.com points out another negative effect of the botched implementation of Common Core: the loss of recess.

The PARCC tests are coming, and this superintendent is sounding out a warning.

An article from Fortune.com explains why everybody hates Pearson.

To be successful in measuring outcomes requires not only good intentions, but also competence. And here, Pearson has some explaining to do. Robert Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, an advocacy organization that says it “works to end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing,” has kept a log of the company’s quality-control problems. The low lights include everything from printing errors to frozen screens at test time in 26 Florida counties.
FairTest says Pearson has made 13 significant errors from 2013 to today, including scoring mistakes that prevented 5,300 students from qualifying for gifted and talented programs in New York City. The company mis-scored questions on Virginia’s Alternative Assessment Program for students with learning disabilities—leading to 4,000 students being told they had passed the test when they had actually failed it. (In each instance Pearson rectified the problem once it came to light.)

Here’s a message from NYSUT president Karen Magee titled “Beating the Billionaires