Friday, May 22, 2015

GOOD NEWS ON TS GOLD AMENDMENT!

Yesterday afternoon, the Senate adopted our amendment to make TS Gold voluntary!  This is just the first step, of course, as we will have to get this through the Conference Committee and then make sure that the Governor doesn’t veto it, but we are at least now in the game.   We’ll let you know the next steps as we go along. But for now, THANKS FOR ALL YOUR GREAT WORK ON THIS!! Thanks to Nancy for the idea of “decoupling” the assessment from the grant, and to Beth for helping draft the amendment language, and to all of you for all that you did to make this happen. 

MAKING TS GOLD VOLUNTARY:  Full Day Kindergarten Voluntary Student Assessment – Amendment #602 – filed by Senator Jim Welch (D-W. Springfield) was adopted.  This amendment requires the state to apply for a waiver allowing communities that utilize Kindergarten Expansion Grants to voluntarily participate in the MA Kindergarten Entry Assessment (MKEA).  As you know, currently, schools that receive kindergarten expansion grants must assess their students using TS Gold, a tool many teachers are adamant is not necessary or appropriate for their students, and that interferes with teaching and learning for our youngest students. 

Senator Welch and his staff worked hard on this, and he should be thanked, along with the other co-sponsors (see below).  Senator Jehlen also helped behind the scenes (as the Asst vice-chair of SW&M, she does not sponsor amendments).

Here is the language of the amendment (it is possible that there could be technical changes to this language, as it moves through the process, but the substance was agreed upon):

Full Day Kindergarten Voluntary Student Assessment
Mr. Welch, Ms. O'Connor Ives, Mr. Moore, Mrs. L'Italien and Mr. Kennedy moved that the bill be amended, in Section 2, in item 7030-1002, in line 15, by inserting after the word "data;" the following: "provided further, that the department is hereby authorized and directed to file a waiver with the US Department of Education (USDOE) to remove any requirement related to mandatory participation in the Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment (MKEA); provided further, that grantees may voluntarily participate in the MKEA, but no grantees shall be required to participate in the MKEA, unless  the department has, in good faith, filed a waiver of this requirement with the USDOE which is not approved prior to the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year; provided further, however, that in no case shall grantees be required to participate in the MKEA after December 31, 2015;"

City council aims to curb disruptive behavior at New Bedford schools

Teachers, Councilors Agree Schools Need Better Discipline ... WBSM

City Council sorts through issues of violence in New Bedford's public schools

City Council sorts through issues of violence in New Bedford's public schools

Monday, May 11, 2015

MCAS v. PARCC .... by Chris Cotter

In 2010, the State of MA adopted the Common Core when it was promised a part of $250million in Federal Race to the Top money. Well this money is all gone and we the City if New Bedford are stuck paying for the bill to follow this Common Core curriculum. It was not just the money that the State of MA signed onto but also the Common Core standards.

    These standards are not sufficient to bring our students to the top but is set up to bring ALL students to a level playing field. This is not something where we push ALL of our students to go above and beyond. The best analogy to this is that the slowest person will not catch up to the fastest person but the fastest person can slow down and allow the slower person to catch up. We cannot mandate achievement, as education is not a one size fits all approach.

    PARCC advocates argue, which I have heard from this administration, these tests would better prepare students for college and careers. But Common Core ends with Algebra II which is insufficient for students aiming for STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) majors.

    Did anyone on this committee speak with several of our higher education schools and ask if these “New Standards” would benefit our children? They are going into college unprepared. Algebra 1 is the key to advanced math study and recommends that students study it in 8th grade which is/was the case under MA standards. Common Core would delay ALGEBRA 1 until early in 10th grade, which in turn prevents our students from reaching high levels of math in High School.

    One area that upsets me about this is that the education of our children is under local control and that municipalities DO NOT have to adopt the PARCC test. It was stated back in early 2014 that it would be a good idea to administer this test because the state had adopted this test to be effective in 2015/2016. That is NOT the case and the general public needs not know this.
    Parents needed to know, and be informed by this committee, that they could opt out of this test. There was never a clear answer to this question when some parents inquired about it. Some were told that they had to take the exam, some told that they, the parent, could not opt out of the exam for their child and that it was the child that needed to refuse to take the test. How many of our children would defy a teacher placing an exam in front of them and say “I’m not taking this!”

    More parents need to find out what is happening to our education system state wide and know their rights as well.

    I found that it is this elected committee who has the statutory authority to enacted punishments for the refusal unless State Law supersedes it. Are there any? Another interesting area is that Superintendants must follow what is set by School Committee and not the other way around.
Here are some reasons that I take issue with the MCAS vs. PARCC standards:
1) MCAS has a proven record and PARCC has no demonstrable track record.
2) MCAS was developed by MA educators and PARCC was developed outside of MA
3) MCAS was vetted through the public process with transparency in every step; PARCC was developed behind closed doors, copyrighted by a private entity and reviewed by a validation committee whose members were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of the review.
4) Well recognized experts with teaching experience were part of the assessment development for MCAS; the teaching expertise of writers for the multi-state consortium PARCC assessments is not a matter of public record.
5) MCAS secures control of curriculum with the local school districts; PARCC forces the adoption of a national curriculum in order to pass the assessment.
    Our U.S. Bill of Rights, under the 9th and 10th amendments, state that education jurisdiction falls within each state and not the federal government. The Race to the Top was the Federal government dangling the carrot in front of states to sign on to a National curriculum. But as stated, that money is gone and the states are being left high and dry. When our prior governor, and Head of the DOE, signed on for this, did either of them do a cost projection analysis? This is in part WHAT WE ARE SEEING NOW and why the NBPS is looking for such a high increase in the budget for the past two years. Due to the lack of foresight on all those involved, state government, State DOE, City of NB School Committee, it is the City of New Bedford taxpayer who is being stuck with the bill. The approx. cost projection is costing an approx. 16 BILLION to align schools with texts and teachers for this common core curriculum. Those in charge may not have done the projection but Pearson Publishing did.

    So I want the citizens of NB to understand that the PARCC exam is a test where there are no assessments in place. The drivers of this program have no experience and are individuals hired by the foundation that has pushed their way into enacting education on a federal level.

    As was stated by Tom Birmingham, of The Patriot Ledger, “Let’s work on building MCAS and not replace it with National standards and testing that show little promise of replicating its success”.

    We need to push back against the DOE and let them know that you, our Elected officials, are going to challenge these Mandated state standards of PARCC that are being forced on our children. The MCAS are a school performance evaluation and not connected to the teacher evaluations. With PARCC it is based on a teacher evaluation and this is one reason I see the big push. We are pushing are veteran teachers out and replacing them with the less experienced teachers. We, YOU, need to stand behind our teachers and provide them the necessary tools to teach our children and not threaten them with a PARCC evaluation system.

    Look at the exit of several teachers, principals, administrators, and staff support, and ask yourselves, WHY ARE THEY ALL LEAVING? The truth being told to me by several is that they cannot work under a threatening environment. This also goes for the non-extensions of principal contracts. We are losing too many veteran educators in this system instead of retaining them.     
   
As was listed on the PARCC exams this year, this was titled as a “2015 Field Test Exam”. Basically this exam was an experiment with our children as the test subjects. The issue I have with this is that Pearson, a British owned Company, is making money off the use of our children for this exam. In test experiments, test subjects get paid for their participation and proctors get paid for monitoring. So both our students and teachers should have been compensated “Outside of their normal pay” for proctoring these exams. Instead they were all “Forced” to take the exam and our teachers were “Mandated volunteers” as proctors. Pearson has brought and paid for all the rights to this exam and subject materials.


As far as who is grading these exams, they have advertised both on Craig’s list and through the Kelly Services Temporary Work agency for graders with no education experience at all. I could go on but my time is too short.

Southeastern MA/RI Coalition to Save Our Schools


For Immediate Release

“Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week” in Massachusetts?
Parent and public input, democracy and education policy, and the push for receivership in Holyoke, MA

Press contacts: Dr. Ricardo Rosa,
José A. Soler,
Co-chairs of the Southeastern MA/RI Coalition to Save Our Schools,
Co-chair, National Board of Save Our Schools March
National Steering Committee member of Save Our Schools March

cell: 508 863 5089, email: jsoler@umassd.edu

As “Teacher Appreciation Day” has passed and “Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week” comes to a close, from May 4-8, we are thankful for all the students and parents who have shared their appreciation. The gifts of coffee mugs, chocolates, and cards were thoughtful. We should also pause and reflect about how teachers are treated in Massachusetts and beyond. Teacher Appreciation Week is a week of events and awareness of the value of teachers, but our caring for teachers shouldn’t be contained to one day or week but rather should be practiced throughout the year and reflected in our political discourse and public policies.

In Massachusetts we should particularly assess the push toward receivership of the public school District of Holyoke. According to a May 1st Associated Press article: “State takes control of Holyoke schools; Holyoke Public Schools will be taken over by the state, after the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 8 to 3 this week to authorize the education commissioner to appoint a receiver.” The board designated the district Level 5 and declared the Holyoke schools chronically under-performing, but the article doesn’t tell the full story about how hundreds of families, students, teachers and community members advocated against the state takeover.

We should ask what are the economic challenges that contribute to the two school districts with large communities of color targeted by the current Education Commissioner, despite public outcry against receivership. Both the Holyoke and Lawrence School districts do have economic challenges and need solidarity and justice for their immigrant communities. These districts could use state officials, who rather than condemning their poor scores, challenge the poverty and lack of support for services for English Language learners.  I hope that at the end of Teacher Appreciation week that we can consider the ways we can work toward policies that allow teachers to be professionals rather than people who simply push scripted curricula, teach to the tests, and monitor high-stakes tests. We need small class sizes, fully funded schools, investment in a broad curriculum, and wrap around services in all schools. Furthermore, and most importantly, we need to the root causes of educational disparities: economic and racial injustice.


When instances like the Holyoke takeover happen that ignore the clear input and pleas from local communities and teachers, it clearly contributes to the mistrust and tarnishes the good faith of the public. Anti-democratic trends in our education are increased when actions are taken that go against the current of community concerns, adding to political and social exclusion.


I invite students, parents, educators, and concerned community members to our upcoming Southeastern MA/RI Coalition to Save Our Schools Summit- Transforming and Democratizing Public Education- on Saturday, May 16th at the Southside Cultural Center, 393 Broad Street in Providence, RI from 10 am to 2 pm, to organize, to shift our policies to improve our schools and to reclaim our right to determine how our children will be educated.  For our future’s sake, we are organizing to revitalize an education system that, for too many children, focuses more on test preparation than actual education.  Save Our Schools mission is dedicated to public education as the cornerstone of a democratic society. We are committed to education policy and actions that allow students, teachers, families, and communities to work together to meet the needs of all children.


Please list as an upcoming event:
The Southeastern MA/RI Coalition to Save Our Schools will be hosting an education activist summit: Transforming and Democratizing Public Education on Saturday, May 16 at the Southside Cultural Center, 393 Broad Street in Providence, RI from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (lunch included!) There will be no expert presentations, though the activists in attendance will come with tremendous expertise and drive. This event will begin with a sharing of struggles and successes among parent, teacher, and community activists discussing the following topics: Testing refusal – empowering curriculum, Parent Organizing/Communities of Color, Charter schools, Teachers unions, Student organizing, Higher education. For more information contact: José A. Soler email: jsoler@umassd.edu, Ricardo Rosa: ricardorosa1973@yahoo.com,  or Ellie O’Shea: eosheawyatt@gmail.com

Despite videos, former mayor Lang has no campaign announcement

Our View: Durkin's budget needs unanimous support

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Todd Gazda, Superintendent, Ludlow Public Schools: A good teacher is like a candle...

Todd Gazda, Superintendent, Ludlow Public Schools: A good teacher is like a candle...: A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others.                                                          ...

Monday, May 4, 2015

In Major Anti-Labor Case, Union-busters No Longer Even Pretend Unions Don’t Benefit Workers

"April Bain, a Los Angeles teacher and the plaintiff in Bain v. CTA, says her union has benefitted her greatly, and she wants to keep receiving those benefits. She just doesn't want to pay for them." 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Statement Concerning Receivership .... Gus Morales, HTA President

The Holyoke Teachers Association is outraged that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to approve a state takeover of the Holyoke Public Schools. But the HTA remains undeterred in its efforts to work with the broader community to create the schools that Holyoke children deserve.

Holyoke educators find a degree of satisfaction in the fact that the two members of the BESE who actually visited our schools voted against Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester’s recommendation to place Holyoke Public Schools into receivership. Those board members, Mary Ann Stewart and Donald Willyard, questioned the findings of the report that was prepared by Chester’s evaluation team and used as the basis for the takeover.

Holyoke educators also applaud the stand taken by BESE member Ed Doherty, who recognized that collective bargaining rights are a pathway to great schools - not an obstruction to them. He also voted against receivership.

For more than four hours on Monday evening at a public hearing before the vote, the BESE heard from a broad cross-section of parents, students,educators, elected officials and residents who overwhelmingly opposed the state takeover. The people testifying acknowledged the need to ensure that every student is receiving an excellent education and that work needs to be done to achieve that goal. But most expressed faith in the locally governed school system and its educators to meet those challenges.

Chester and the majority of the BESE ignored what they heard and moved on a plan that tramples on democratic principles and rights.

In working with members of the community for the past several months, the HTA has clearly seen that parents and students are hungry for a well-rounded education that includes art, physical education, social studies and a curriculum that reflects the culture of our city. Educators will continue to work toward that vision and to be vocal about our goals.   

Gus Morales
HTA President

TEACHER LEADERSHIP INITIATIVE


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Teacher Leadership Initiative (TLI)

The Massachusetts Teachers Association, in collaboration with the National Education Association, the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and the Center for Teaching Quality, is seeking 35 MTA members to participate in the 2015-2016 school year pilot of the Teacher Leadership Initiative. The TLI will begin September, 2015 and run through August, 2016.

Who Can Apply
MTA members are invited to apply for the NEA Teacher Leadership Initiative Pilot Year Three. TLI is for educators aspiring to mobilize their leadership to help advance student learning, strengthen the teaching profession, and provide vision and direction to their association. 

Goal
The goal is for participating teachers to become leaders in the profession, with the knowledge, skills and core values to meet the demands of the teaching profession in the 21st century. The partners will develop systems to support ongoing professional growth in instructional, policy, and association leadership.  

Teacher Leadership Initiative (TLI) Training Program
The Year Three participants, 300 will be selected nationwide, will participate in a comprehensive leadership training program. It will include a field-based leadership Capstone Project blending instructional leadership, policy leadership and union leadership. Participants will focus on one of these four key policy areas: 
Common Core, School Redesign, Social Justice and Equity and Educator Evaluation. Much of the training will be online, with three face-to-face statewide meetings. 

Nearly 300 participants from fourteen sites, including 24 from Massachusetts, are currently participating in the hugely success Year 2 Pilot. 

Stipend and PDPs
Teachers selected will receive a stipend of $1,000 and 67.5 PDPs for completing their capstone project.


Teacher Leadership Initiative (TLI) Flier
Use this Flier which includes the application to inform your colleagues of the NEA Teacher Leadership Initiative (TLI). Information is also available at Teacher Leadership Initiative on the MTA website.

Application Deadline
Application deadline is May 15, 2015

"Leading" Video
Video produced by Six One Seven Studios.

Statement on BESE vote to place Holyoke Public Schools into receivership


MTA President Barbara Madeloni issued the following statement on April 28 concerning the BESE vote to place the Holyoke Public Schools into state receivership.

I am appalled that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has voted to support Commissioner Mitchell Chester’s recommendation to place the Holyoke Public Schools into receivership.

During the four-hour public hearing the board held in Holyoke on the evening before taking this drastic and undemocratic step, the overwhelming majority of people who testified spoke eloquently against the state takeover of their schools. A broad cross-section of Holyoke parents, educators, students and other residents offered their vision for the schools their city deserves —and they were firm about their desire for community-based partnerships and local control so they could make this vision a reality.

Chester and his chief supporters, BESE Chairman Paul Sagan and Education Secretary James Peyser, ignored what they heard. Instead, they put forth an inaccurate narrative centered on failing schools. Holyoke residents and educators are well aware of the challenges faced by their public schools, but they are also capable of addressing those issues if they are given the appropriate resources.

School committees, superintendents, educators, parents and students across the state should be highly concerned about what is happening in Holyoke. By voting in favor of receivership, the majority of BESE members have made it clear that public input matters little in their decisions. They have also made it evident that they are determined to undermine collective bargaining, thereby taking a step that does nothing to improve our schools.

It is worth noting that board members Ed Doherty, Donald Willyard and Mary Ann Stewart —who represent educators, students and parents, respectively — voted against the takeover. Willyard and Stewart based their firm opposition to the receivership motion not only on what they heard at the public hearing, but also on what they saw when they made personal visits to schools in Holyoke.

The MTA will work closely with Holyoke educators, parents and the community to make sure all students receive a quality education as receivership is put in place. We will do all we can to ensure that democratic rights are honored and we will continue to fight for the public schools that Holyoke students deserve.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Common Core Lobby Day at the Massachusetts Statehouse ... WBSM



This video is creating serious buzz in social media.

Read More: Common Core Lobby Day at the Massachusetts Statehouse | http://wbsm.com/common-core-lobby-day-at-the-massachusetts-statehouse/?trackback=tsmclip

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

¡Si Se Puede Take the Test! ... Edushyter

Test takers who are still learning English get a special treat this time of year...
good luckPssst: did you know that there is a connection between how well one speaks English and how well one performs on a test conducted in English? If your answer was *no,* *I don’t understand the question,* or *charter schools,* an exciting leadership opportunity awaits. It’s time for another round of Let’s Take Over a District. This season’s lucky winner: scenic Holyoke, Massachusetts. We’re headed west, young reader, and there’s not a moment to spare.

NBEA Scholarships

NBEA Scholarship Applications are available online.

NBEA Retirement Party