Saturday, October 18, 2014

Your View: Assault on tenure hurts students as well as teachers ... Bruce Ditata

Teacher bashing comes under many guises and one of the most virulent is the movement to abolish tenure.

Not surprisingly, this idea is the darling of the privatization gurus who will adopt any measure that de-values the experienced educator. For them, stripping basic rights only adds to their own cachet of voodoo reform in which all teachers are mere chattel.

Public school administration wants the demise of tenure, too. It makes the process much easier to remove a "loose cannon." Tenure and basic bargaining rights/protections make it more difficult to dismiss a veteran educator because of the prickly "just cause" mandate.

Policy makers and ivory castle theorists nix tenure, as well, because it gives them a sense of "moving the chains," giving the false appearance of being proactive in the so-called education reform movement, no matter how much of a detriment it is to the goal of retaining good teachers.

Witness the opinion of Lawrence Tribe, Harvard professor of Constitutional Law that appeared in USA Today, Sept. 24, regarding successful efforts to end tenure in California:

"My support for curtailing teacher tenure and last-in, first-out layoff rules when they put the needs of adults before children "¦ is a natural and common-sense outgrowth. "¦ The right to unionize must never become a right to relegate children to permanent second-class citizenship. "¦ The laws (California courts) struck down make no sense for the teachers they were intended to protect, or for the students."

Professor Tribe's diatribe against teacher tenure was in response to an aberrant and absurd notion in California that teachers ought to be tenured after little more than a year.

But what is not aberrant nor absurd is the case of Gus Morales, a teacher in Holyoke, Mass., who is being called "a poster child for teacher tenure" by the online news feed Salon. "Data walls," according to the recent article by Sarah Jaffe, caused the non-tenured Morales to advocate for students in "protest of a directive from higher-ups" that posted test scores and students' names on the classroom walls. Addressing the school committee of Holyoke, "teachers questioned whether posting data publicly violated the Family Educational Rights and Family Act."

As reported last winter by Jaffe, administration (as is their custom) "tried to turn the tables on teachers "¦ but the teachers released a PowerPoint from their training session that clearly showed photos of data walls, with first names and last initials."

Shortly afterwards, Morales' situation became tenuous. Bad things began to happen to him in school where — as Morales told Salon — "his evaluations just got so unbelievably negative where (previously, before his student advocacy) his evaluations were stellar." Later in the 2013-14 school year, Morales was elected head of the Holyoke Teachers Association. "A month later he was fired." While being non-tenured, Morales, essentially, had no rights to appeal his dismissal, but as a union representative "the Mass. Department of Labor Relations board found there was probable cause "¦ non-renewal was because of protected union activity."

There is no coincidence here between Morales' bad evaluations and subsequent dismissal when one considers his "whistleblowing" in support of his students/families' right to privacy. Administration does not like to be questioned nor held accountable for anything as long as there's a teacher to blame for their mistakes.

The case of Gus Morales and his misfortunes as they related to taking a stand happen more frequently in the teaching profession than the general public might guess. His case is perhaps more newsworthy because he appears to be about to beat the system that tried to fire him. That, traditionally, does not happen in school districts.

All because he felt empowered and morally responsible to stand up for children and their families. Retain tenure. Continue to empower good teachers with the courage to do what's right for students. When teachers have that confidence, ultimately, it's the students who benefit the most.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Karen Lewis has brain tumor, not running for mayor

Our hearts and best wishes go out to Karen Lewis. - Citizens for Public Schools

A fierce, generous and courageous leader. Heartbreaking news, Keep her in your thoughts. Be courageous in her honor. - Barbara Madeloni

MA Education Officials Question Amount of Testing: But Are They Really Listening? .... Citizens for Public Schools

Mitchell Chester

The realization of many teachers, parents and students that our classrooms are drowning in standardized tests has prompted a discussion that has moved beyond schools and school committees and has now prompted state education officials to address the issue.

Last week, in the first vote of its kind in Massachusetts, the Tewksbury Town Meeting voted 82-51 to reject PARCC testing (and the related Common Core standards). According to an article in the Lowell Sun, "Several residents spoke in support of [Ruth] Chou's article, saying they were opposed to the high-pressure PARCC exam, the 'controlling' nature of the standards and the trouble with having standards decided at a state or federal level." 
Also last week, Boston Teachers Union members voted unanimously to endorse a resolution calling for: 
  • A moratorium on punitive uses of state-mandated standardized test scores, including designating schools level 4 and 5.
  • Public hearings in schools around the state on the impact of these mandates and on better ways to improve education for all children, including the creation of a new accountability system that is diagnostic, not punitive. 
  • An end to new test mandates including the "district-determined measures." 
The overtesting issue came up at last month's state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) meeting. New Chair Margaret McKenna commented on the large number of school days (20 to 25, she said) lost to testing and test prep in some schools, according to a Patriot Ledgerarticle. "What I keep hearing is the districts keep saying it's the state; the state keeps saying it's the districts," said McKenna. Earlier, Commissioner Mitchell Chester said in a letter to school districts that he planned to look into whether there is too much testing in our schools. "I'm committed to understanding the concerns about the amount of testing that is occurring in Massachusetts schools."

Tracy Novick
Chester's comment prompted CPS Board Member and Worcester School Committee member Tracy Novick, in a powerful op-ed, to suggest Chester startreally listening to what students and teachers have to say on the issue. In her Worcester Telegramcolumn, Novick wrote, "He's going to need to listen to students like Board of Education student representative Donald Willyard, who reported at the meeting that students at his school had already spent the better part of a week taking a practice test. He'll need to listen to students as young as kindergartners who know that they dare not make noise at recess, or sing during music class, or applaud a classmate's presentation during MCAS time."

Monday, October 6, 2014

NBEA Scholarship Car Wash - October 4, 2014

The NBEA Board of Directors would like to thank everyone who helped make our Scholarship Fundraiser a great success.

We'd like to thank everyone who volunteered to wash cars: Isabel Andrade, Bruce Tench, Jackie Nelson-Eckhardt, Gilian Amaral, Michelle St John, Lou St John, Lori Silveira, Kayla St John, Kelly Pacheco, Karen Suprenant, Alexia Ferreira, Leo Choquette, Carolyn Houghton-Papas, City Councilor Henry Bousquet, Theresa Bousquet, Cathy Bruno, Carol Strupczewski, Bryan Hancock, Irene Vasques, Doria Bryant, Christine Adams, Marc Arena, Mark Ledoux, Kathy Mandly, Eddie Johnson, Tom Nickerson, Ian Abreu, Kristina Dahlene, Caroline Dewey, Janet Peitavino, David Rainone, Laura Garcia, Pam Francis and all the children who also volunteered to help.

Our thanks to Liz O' Brien, Audrey Costa, and Natalie Faris for helping us to organize our event.

We would also like to thank our Faculty Representatives for distributing the tickets to the event and to everyone who made a donation or purchased tickets.

Also, our thanks to Walgreens on Acushnet Avenue and Walgreens on Kempton Street for allowing us to use their locations and donating the water we used, Nelson Hockert-Lotz - Dominos Pizza and Tony Squizzero - Dominos Pizza for donating pizza for our volunteers, Jim Stevens and Gifts to Give for their support, Wbsm's Taylor Cormier and Tim Weisberg for making their listeners aware of our event and Michael Silvia and New Bedford Guide for publicizing our fundraiser before, during and after our event.

We would also like to thank City Councilor Henry Bousquet and City Councilor Linda Morad for appearing in a video produced by New Bedford Guide encouraging everyone to attend and contribute to the NBEA Scholarship Fund.

Last but not least, we'd like to thank Mayor Jon Mitchell, Dr. Durkin, and School Committee member Bruce Oliveira for their donations, attendance, and support of our cause.