Thursday, October 30, 2014

Say no to DESE licensure plan.

Please send an e-mail TODAY to let state education officials know you oppose the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's dangerous "performance-based licensure" proposal to link your state license to your school-based evaluation and/or student test scores. 

The MTA is strongly opposed to this plan and has sent a letter to Commissioner Mitchell Chester and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education calling for them to rescind it immediately. If enacted, this plan would drive excellent current and prospective teachers out of our public schools. 

The "performance-based licensure" issue is currently in the policy "options" phase."None of the above!" is our response to all of the options proposed. Let us gather our strength as a union and tell DESE to end the disrespect, stop wasting time and money, and reject this idea now. 

Act now to tell state education officials, "None of the above!" The sooner we kill this idea, the sooner we can focus on initiatives that will actually help our students succeed in school and in life.

Thank you,

Todd Gazda, Superintendent, Ludlow Public Schools: By the pricking of my thumbs another mandate this ...

Todd Gazda, Superintendent, Ludlow Public Schools: By the pricking of my thumbs another mandate this ...: Today’s “Education Reform” environment is beginning to exhibit a definite resemblance to a Shakespearean tragedy. Antagonists and protag...

Mayor: Baker’s New Bedford Story is ‘Far-Fetched’

Charlie Baker’s story of a New Bedford fisherman he met while on the campaign trail is raising eyebrows on the South Coast.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

To the Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of Education

October 27, 2014

To:       Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
            Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of Education
From:   Barbara Madeloni, President, Massachusetts Teachers Association
            Janet Anderson, Vice President, Massachusetts Teachers Association

Re:       Changes Proposed by DESE to initial licensure and relicensure

On Monday, October 20, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released proposed changes to requirements for both initial licensure and relicensure. A day later, the DESE held its first “town hall” hearing about these proposals. These hearings were facilitated by the Keystone Center, but DESE staff were present.

While there are many questions to ask about these proposals that would allow us to gain some clarity of meaning (e.g., what does “grit” mean as a requirement for initial licensure?), the primary question is: How can anyone in good conscience connect an employment evaluation to licensure when these are entirely different areas of authority and oversight? We know of no other profession in which licensure is contingent on employment evaluation. More insidiously, the employment evaluations include student learning outcomes, thus connecting relicensure to student test scores.

We are asking the commissioner to rescind these recommendations in whole for the following reasons:

1.      The DESE is advancing policy options that almost exclusively base license advancement and license renewal on the summative performance ratings in the educator evaluation framework and the student impact rating derived from MCAS growth scores and District-Determined Measures. This is a misuse of measures of student learning and is counter to the DESE’s own assertions about how student learning measures would be used.

2.      As a professional organization representing approximately 80,000 licensed preK-12 practitioner-members, the MTA does not support either the design principles or the policy options outlined in this document. To connect licensure to evaluation is a serious breach of lines of authority and responsibility. The state’s determination of having met requirements to teach should not and cannot extend into performance on the job, which falls under the authority of school administrators. Further, linking performance evaluations to licensure puts all educators on notice: Be careful what you say and do or you risk not only your job, but also your ability to teach or administer in Massachusetts schools.

3.      The MTA does not support short-track preparation programs that allow unqualified and underqualified individuals to enter classrooms as teachers of record without the requisite knowledge and skills to be “classroom ready” on day one. Too often, these underqualified individuals enter high-poverty, low-performing schools, thus contributing to existing achievement gaps and the inequitable distribution of highly effective practitioners.

4.      The MTA decries the use of $550,000 in public funds to pay private vendors for this project. The process employed by these vendors shows little or no interest in engaging in meaningful dialogue about what is and is not effective in the current licensure and relicensure processes. Educators report that they have attended tightly controlled “town halls” in which the outcome seems predetermined and voices of dissent are not welcome. We need meaningful opportunities for input into the development of licensure regulations.

We urge the commissioner and the board in the strongest possible terms to heed the overwhelming opposition to these proposals from the people most directly affected and to act immediately to withdraw the policy options currently being considered.

Thank you.

"Greater New Bedford Summit on Environmental Injustices".

Hands Across the River Coalition, Inc. will be presenting, along with 2 other groups, a public meeting on November 12, 2014, from 6:00 - 8:00 PM at the Waypoint Event Center entitled: "Greater New Bedford Summit on Environmental Injustices".

Public Comment at the MA BESE Worth Listening To

It's a shame that the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets on weekday mornings when most teachers, parents and students cannot be there to listen or speak. Nonetheless, so many people wanted to speak at the Oct. 21 meeting that the BESE had to limit the number, prompting Mary Ann Stewart, the board's new parent representative, to ask that they scale back other parts of the agenda to make room for more public comment. 

Fortunately, those who were able to speak at the meeting rose to the occasion, including Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Carlos Rojas Alvarez, representing the Boston Education Truth Coalition, Dearborn stakeholder Yvonne Powell and CPS Board Member and Worcester School Committee member Tracy Novick. 

Here are some public comment highlights: 

Barbara Madeloni

Barbara Madeloni: "As I have traveled the state listening to our members this fall, I am moved by the simplicity of what we ask: well-resourced schools in every community; a commitment to teaching the whole child; freedom to teach to the beautiful diversity of our student populations; autonomy to do our jobs; respect for our expertise; and the time to do our jobs well - free from fear, unhelpful mandates and threats of job loss and school takeovers." Barbara's full testimony is here
Carlos Rojas Alvarez

Carlos Rojas Alvarez, on the proposed intervention in the Dearborn School: "What evidence is there that any of the 'Proven Providers' will be able to successfully work with the Dearborn student population when they have no experience or track record of success with [students with interruption in formal education]? We know that BluePrint has had a negative track record in serving ELL students in Denver, Colorado. What evidence do we have that they will perform differently here with our own ELL population at the Dearborn? We know that UP has a track record here in Boston, alright, but its one of high attrition and suspension rates. For every 'proven provider' offered to us, we'd like to know what their track records are with students with social-emotional disabilities/[therapeutic learning center] students, and inclusion? What experience do they have with working with high school students, and implementing an innovative and successful STEM curriculum?" Carlos' full testimony is here

Yvonne Powell
Yvonne Powell, of the Roxbury Presbyterian Church/Greater Boston Interfaith Organization Dearborn Support Team and a Dearborn stakeholder: "In the future, do not put another Stakeholder Group in the position of not being able to complete their work in a purposeful fashion, one that generates a full and unbiased consensus around a rigorous turn-plan and a fully-supported 'Lead Partner.'"

Tracy Novick

Tracy Novick: "I hope you will listen to school committee members describe meeting increased need with decreasing resources; we are well beyond the point of 'doing more with less.' I hope you will hear us clearly when we tell you that what our schools DO and the growth our students show is more than a 'technicality' or a political game. Stay strong on student growth, or just fess up and start ranking us by parental income and education level. It would be more honest. I hope that you will each make a point of listening, not only to those who can afford to come before you at 8:30 on Tuesday morning in Malden, but to so many who cannot." Full testimony is here.

There were signs that such powerful testimony is beginning to be heard. For instance, new BESE Chair Margaret McKenna, said, after a length DESE presentation on plans for PARCC testing, "Our priorities should be reflected in the time we spend on things. You're spending an awful lot of time on testing."

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Want Less Testing, More Learning? Sign and Share the Citizens for Public Schools Petition Today

The immediate response to our new Less Testing, More Learning petition has confirmed our suspicion that there is a lot of passionate interest in resisting the testing onslaught in Massachusetts. In just two days, the petition garnered almost 1,000 signers from cities and towns across the Commonwealth. Many are adding comments like this one from Joanna DelMonico in Billerica: "I teach at community college. Students constantly ask 'will this be on the test?' No love of learning!!! Stop high stakes testing." Or how about this from Deborah Milligan in Somerville: "I'm a high school public school teacher. The testing is causing anxiety among the children to such an extent that they can't learn because they are too anxious to do it. Stop this train!!!"

Have you signed and shared with all your friends and contacts yet by email, Facebook, Twitter, word of mouth? No? What are you waiting for? Click here to sign. 

For inspiration, watch this strong video from New York, featuring parents talking about why they are opting their children out of state testing. (Just over three minutes long.)

And for signs that the national resistance is being taken seriously and covered beyond the usual sources and suspects, read this well-written article by Alice G. Walton in Forbes Magazine, of all places. It features some of our favorite experts, including Long Island principal Carol Burris, who described the destructive impact of Common Core standards and testing. "If you have goals that are developmentally inappropriate, so much time is spent getting students to achieve what they're supposed to, that there's very little time left for music, social studies, science. Young children should be doing science. They should be watching chicks hatch and planting seeds - hands-on activities - and learning the concept of experimentation. There's no longer time for this, because they're doing ELA and math all day."

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