Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Long Game of Betsy DeVos by Edushyster

To understand Betsy DeVos’ vision for education, you have to know where she comes from…

I first laid eyes upon Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, at Campbell Brown’s forum for GOP presidential contenders. It was the summer of 2015, back when Trump was little more than a punchline, and Jeb Bush, despite drooping in the August heat that day, still seemed like the real contender. Because the event wasn’t an official debate, Bush, Walker, Vindal, Fiorina et al couldn’t appear on stage together—which meant that Brown asked the same questions of each, and got similar pablum-esque non-answers, in an endless *conversational* format. And then suddenly there was Betsy DeVos, a Brown chum, holding forth about an education *moonshot.* It wasn’t what she said that interested me so much as what she represented. Could the education reform coalition’s major selling point, its bipartisan-ness, really stretch to incorporate the extreme right-wing views of DeVos? Mightn’t it be better for her to remain in the favored domain of the DeVos family, the shadows, or at least in Michigan?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Post Mortem on Charter School Rejection ....... By Bruce Ditata

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

Just for New Teachers Conference

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
·         Literacy
·         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

Defeat of Question 2 ‘a victory for the students of Massachusetts’

This is a great day for Massachusetts, the birthplace of free, universal public education.
Tonight’s defeat of Question 2 is a victory for the students of Massachusetts, our communities and our democracy.
The ballot question campaign pitted hedge fund billionaires, dark money and the governor against educators, students, parents and labor. And the people of the Commonwealth won. They asserted their commitment to public education through a monumental grassroots effort that included months of canvassing, phone banking and other kinds of conversations.
“The ballot question campaign pitted hedge fund billionaires, dark money and the governor against educators, students, parents and labor. And the people of the Commonwealth won.”
— MTA President Barbara Madeloni
The MTA is proud to have been a founding member of the Save Our Public Schools coalition. Our strength as educators multiplied as we worked alongside parents, students, civil rights leaders, labor and faith-based groups and other community organizations. Elected leaders throughout the state, including leaders of the Democratic Party, worked hard to defeat Question 2. Our pledge going forward is to sustain and build this coalition so that together we can effectively create and support the schools that students, educators and our communities deserve.
MTA members contributed significantly to this effort, both in time and money. Last May, delegates to our Annual Meeting voted overwhelmingly to help fund the campaign to support our public schools. In addition, educators spent countless hours spreading the No on 2 message in personal discussions, on social media and in many other ways.
The NEA also made a substantial contribution to the campaign, recognizing the importance to educators across the country of stopping the privatization train in its tracks here in Massachusetts, a state renowned for the quality of our public schools. Our victory in Massachusetts sends a signal across the nation that public education is not for sale and that we can beat back the assault on our schools, colleges and universities.
But it sends a larger message as well — a message I heard again and again as I knocked on doors and talked to voters on the phone: We care about and are proud of our public schools. In this spirit — and building on the energy of the coalition that won this victory — we will work to make sure that every student has access to a high-quality public education, from prekindergarten to graduate school.
Realizing the potential of tonight’s results will take more organizing. It will mean strengthening our locals and our communities and using our strength to put pressure on politicians from the State House to the White House to do what is right for our students, cities and towns. We’ve made incredible progress in 2016. We will continue to build our power in the months and years to come.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

"Rethinking Public Schools: Education, Immigration, and Economic Development"

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!

Question 2 is an easy 'no' ... By Josh Amaral

I remember being in elementary school right here in one of New Bedford’s dated but elegant old brick buildings, looking up at a sign a teacher strategically placed above the blackboard. It read “THERE ARE NO DUMB QUESTIONS.” I took that as gospel for nearly 20 years, until recently, when the news came down that Question 2, a clumsy attempt to trick, guilt and cajole voters into expanding charter schools against their own community’s interests, was allowed a spot on the ballot.
I presume you’ve seen heard the “Yes on 2” ads on television and radio. They insist urban kids need more charter schools. They say “it’ll be good,” that “We need this,” stopping just short of “It Will Make America Great Again and don’t worry and please don’t ask any questions.” Sometimes you’ll hear a Yes commercial and a No commercial back-to-back and the “facts” don’t agree. So what’s the truth and how will this affect New Bedford and its surrounding communities?
Last Monday, the New Bedford School Committee unanimously adopted a resolution to oppose Question 2 and to resist all efforts to lift the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts as long as current concerns exist. Despite what the ads say, charter schools have an immense impact on the city and public school budget. Quick math: In New Bedford, the charter assessment is over $10 million. For that money, local charters educate about 900 students. If you put those 900 students back into New Bedford Public Schools, which are open, heated, and staffed anyway, hired more staff and bought more supplies for the new students, it would only cost about $3 million to provide those students with an education that is every bit as good, and often even better. Imagine what we could do with the other $7 million. Why should we expand a costly and inefficient charter system?
Other communities feel the same way. To date, 207 School Committees in Massachusetts have voted to oppose Question 2. Zero have voted to support it. These are, in many cases, publicly elected volunteers whose commitment to doing what’s best for children is above reproach, and whose level of expertise when it comes to education policy and school finance is unmatched. School Committees in the 10 largest cities have voted no, as they have in 23 out of 26 Gateway cities. 30 mayors across the state, including our own, also announced they are voting no; 96 percent of kids in urban district schools have a No on 2 School Committee.
Some are voting no strictly because of the potentially crippling budgetary consequences. In New Bedford, charters would likely stretch the budget to the point where we would have to consider closing some of our public schools — schools that manage to take everybody without a lottery or waiting list.
Some are doing it on the grounds of local control. Charter schools are not overseen by elected School Committee members. Instead, they have appointed boards of directors. One charter school in New Bedford is overseen by an 11-member board that doesn’t have a single trustee from New Bedford or SouthCoast. Their sister school, not in New Bedford and overseen by the same board, rates among the worst in the state in retention and discipline rates. I’m happy to help when New Bedford parents call me with an issue they’re having. I wonder who they call when inevitable issues crop up at a charter.
Others are voting no because they fear a political system that reserves a large role for the mega-rich, who have no skin in the game, to influence our politics. The “Yes on 2” crowd is largely funded by out-of-state donors in the finance industry who are able to donate without disclosing their identity or interest. My aunt can’t donate $100 to my campaign committee so that we can purchase some lawn signs or support a high school boosters club without her name being reported on a publicly available campaign finance report, but “Yes on 2” is somehow able to garner over $20 million from secret donors. They have spent much of that money on the rancorous PR firm that previously tried to convince people that John Kerry, a multiple Purple Heart recipient, was not a war hero, with the long-disproven “Swift Boat” ads. In fact, “swiftboating” is now part of the political vernacular, referring to unfair or untrue political attacks. Keep that in mind next time you see one of those ads.
Interestingly, many of those voting no on Question 2 consider themselves to be charter school supporters. They are voting no because the ballot question would allow a staggering 12 new charter schools in Massachusetts a year. The ballot question recklessly calls for too much expansion too soon. Marty Walsh, mayor of Boston, himself a charter school founder and advocate, is one of the 30 mayors on record against the question. He knows the financial impacts would decimate Boston Public Schools, just as they would here. You can be both for charter schools and against this question. Global Learning Charter and Alma del Mar in New Bedford do good work with good people, seem to enroll students in earnest, and have reputable members of the community on their boards and in their schools. Voting no doesn’t dismantle that. Voting no makes sure that untrustworthy, disreputable, and unwanted charters don’t pop up in New Bedford, hamstringing our truly public schools.
Since my election three years ago, I’ve shared strong opinions on a number of important issues impacting our schools. I’ve taken great pride in balancing all the facts and proceeding with a nuanced view that promotes good government, best practices, sustainability, and most importantly, the best interests of all the New Bedford kids who rely upon a great public school education to get ahead. It’s the same education that I got — the one that put me where I am now. My focus is improving our public schools, and no doubt we have a lot of work still to do. This ballot question greatly risks our ability to do that. I’ll be voting no on Question 2 when I head to the polls, and I sincerely hope responsible voters will join me in doing so.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

MTA pushes DESE to eliminate misuse of scores By Laura Barrett

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.

Vote No On Question 2 Visibility Event: Thursday, November 3, 2016

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.