Thursday, November 17, 2016
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Saturday, November 12, 2016
Compelling reasons to halt charter school expansion existed long before Massachusetts citizens delivered a resounding no vote at the ballot box November 8.
Pro-charter wonks received their comeuppance in two significant ways; first, learning that an informed electorate can see beyond the hype, no matter how hard it’s driven and second, that millions of “dark money” dollars from out of state donors can’t trump facts once the public recognizes them.
In its rejection of lifting the cap on charter schools in a landslide 62%-38% tally, the electorate, also, served to pull back the cellophane curtain to illuminate the genre’s obvious flaws.
Unfortunately, the campaign to enlighten voters on charter school shortcomings did not come from the big city daily newspapers who promoted a yes vote on the referendum- right up to election day.
Print media, especially, flooded newsstands with editorials, op-eds and implicit bias- all in a last-ditch effort to inflate charter school’ dubious claims to being “game changers” and “innovation engineers” in public education.
But, oddly, once votes were tabulated and an overwhelming verdict against charter school expansion was known, the Boston Globe still skewed the result as it featured a cut line, stating “A Win for Teachers Unions.”
A more apt cut line would have been “A Win for Public Schools” because 96% of all Massachusetts public school children will benefit from the stifling of charter school growth. Beyond the dollars charters would have drained from district school coffers, a more significant firewall, relative to the charter school genre is their exclusionary practice of “one size fits all.”
As educators, Pedagogy 101 trained us to teach the “whole child,” to recognize and champion individual differences , to implement learning strategies - one student at a time. Conversely, charter schools prefer the “funnel” approach, featuring draconian discipline codes which yield some of the commonwealth’s highest rates of out of school suspension; ostensibly, negating its grandiose claims of fostering inclusion.
The question remains, therefore, why has the print media staunchly refused to report on charter school suspensions or to reveal false, misleading numbers behind its graduation and attrition rates? Is it merely blithe ignorance of such damaging metrics, relating to charter schools? Or is it a conscious, rabid fixation with doing everything possible to derail teachers unions which it consistently scapegoats as public education’s prime bogeyman?
A viewpoint that highlighted the downside of the charter school expansion came from former Governor of the Commonwealth, Michael Dukakis, 83, patriarch of Massachusetts politics and 1988 Democratic nominee for President of the United States.
Dukakis, in a Globe report written by Jeremy C. Fox just before the election, said pro charter forces are “part of a… movement to break up, to privatize… badly harm what is a very important relationship between people and their schools.”
Meanwhile, in his post mortem comments, current Massachusetts Governor, Charlie Baker, who either did not envision the impending landslide against the charter school expansion or merely, decided to back entities like his former employer, the Pioneer Institute , Great Schools of Massachusetts and members of the Billionaire Boys Club (Michael Bloomberg, Sam Walton, et al) who contributed megabucks to the Vote Yes to Charter Schools initiative.
In his remarks to the Globe, Baker played the self-righteous card, and claimed pride,” in a worthwhile campaign to provide more education choices for students stuck in struggling districts…”
Obviously, in retrospect, Baker expended immense political capital in a doomed effort to expand the growth of charter schools, that was roundly rejected by the electorate. Baker, too, received his comeuppance, so he should be well advised that when he seeks another term as Governor in 2018, the electorate is not likely to forget how strongly Baker opposed the best interests of public education with his support for raising the cap on charter schools.
Thursday, November 10, 2016
The 15th Annual MTA Just for New Teachers Conference is scheduled for Saturday, November 19, 2016, at Worcester Technical High School and is open to educators who are in their first four years of practice. Whether it’s handling classroom management, or addressing the wide range of individual student needs in their classrooms, or simply finding what to do next about their educator license, this conference has something for every novice educator. The one-day conference, brought to you by MTA’s New Member Committee, will also offer workshops in the following strands:
· Student Engagement and Classroom Management
· Supporting Students with Diverse Learning Needs
· Technology in the Classroom
· Family and Community Engagement
The registration fee is $65 per person (free of charge for college students) and includes all sessions, materials, morning refreshments and lunch. REGISTER ONLINE.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Friday, November 4, 2016
Thursday, November 3, 2016
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Registration for the 5th Annual TRED Conference, "Rethinking Public Schools: Education, Immigration, and Economic Development," is now open. This year's conference will take place Friday, November 18th and Saturday, November 19th at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. TRED is excited to announce that Jonathan Kozol and Theresa Perry will be keynote speakers. Educators that attend the entire conference and complete a reflection can earn ten PDPs. Registration closes Thursday, November 10th. Please see our flyer or check out our Facebook page for more information! Feel free to share this conference with colleagues, students, family, and friends. We look forward to seeing you there!
Saturday, October 29, 2016
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education took two steps forward and then two steps back in considering changes to the Student Impact Rating system that is supposed to be implemented in about 40 districts this fall and in others next year.
The MTA is working with other stakeholders to end the impact rating and to prevent the use of student assessment results to make high-stakes decisions about educators.
“After the election, we will be calling on members to let state education officials know that ratings based on student test scores and other assessment results do not belong in the evaluation system,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni. “In the meantime, we are continuing to work to end the current impact rating mandate and to prevent test scores from being misused in other ways.”
In a memo to superintendents and others dated Sept. 21, Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester acknowledged that developing Student Impact Ratings based on standardized test scores and District-Determined Measures has been “among the most challenging aspects of implementation” of the new educator evaluation system. Chester said he will propose changes to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“In light of the concerns stakeholders have shared, it is my intention to bring to the board ... proposed amendments to the Educator Evaluation Framework that eliminate the separate Student Impact Rating,” he wrote.
Madeloni said, “That language sounded promising at first, but it has proven to be much less than meets the eye. We subsequently learned that the commissioner’s plan was to eliminate the impact rating but require use of student assessment results in determining an educator’s summative rating. That could actually be worse than the current system. We are pushing hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The MTA and AFT Massachusetts have been fighting the mandate since early spring. In April, the organizations released a position paper detailing problems with the system. Both unions testified about the concerns at a special BESE session in June and have been continuing to meet with DESE staff and leaders to advocate for changes. The MTA also supported a fiscal 2017 budget amendment to eliminate the Student Impact Rating requirement; that amendment was not included in the final state spending plan.
Negotiations that would lead to an impact rating system have ground to a halt in most districts, with neither administrators nor unions having an interest in continuing down this path.
The Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents has also weighed in against the current system, though discussions are ongoing about whether MASS and the unions are seeking the same remedy. Common ground with the DESE had not yet been found as this edition of MTA Today went to press.
Under current regulations, Massachusetts has a two-part evaluation system. The first part, based on observations and a host of other criteria, generates a summative rating of Exemplary, Proficient, Needs Improvement or Unsatisfactory. The second part requires districts to use two measures of student learning to create an impact rating of low, moderate or high.
If Student Growth Percentile scores are available, they must be one of the measures. If not, two District-Determined Measures must be used. The impact rating is supposed to determine the length of the Educator Plan.
Teachers and administrators alike have objected that the system is unworkable. Negotiations that would lead to an impact rating system have ground to a halt in most districts, with neither administrators nor unions having an interest in continuing down this path.
“Creating new DDMs is time-consuming and has led to more testing just when we are pushing for less,” said Madeloni. “Trying to use student results to calculate an individual teacher’s impact on student learning is invalid and unreliable. It’s a waste of time and has potentially dangerous outcomes for educators.”
The alternative proposed by the DESE in late September was, in some ways, less rigid than the impact rating system, but the results could be more consequential if used to lower an educator’s summative rating. A summative rating of Needs Improvement or Unsatisfactory could eventually lead to dismissal.
“We hope the commissioner rethinks the direction this appears to be heading in,” said Madeloni. “If not, we will once again activate members to push back against bureaucratic regulations that do not improve teaching and learning in our schools.”
Chester plans to bring regulatory revisions to the BESE in November, after which they will probably be sent out for public comment. If the proposed revisions do too little to protect educators from an invalid system, the MTA will urge board members to revise or reject the proposed changes.
NBEA will be having a Vote No On Question 2 visibility event next to City Hall from 5-6 p.m. on Thursday, November 3rd. It's important that we have a strong visual presence the week before the election. We hope you can join us.