Friday, June 26, 2015

School Committee, superintendent not beholden to City Council .... By Jack Livramento

  • I attended the budget meeting of June 18 at the City Council chambers. The meeting was called to go over the school budget for 2015-16 and to address any questions that members of the council may have had on the budget. I also witnessed a verbal attack by a member of the City Council, Councilor at large Linda Morad, on schools Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin.
    To begin the meeting, Ms. Morad asked, or rather, demanded, that School Committee members attend City Council meetings on a regular basis and not just at budget approval time. She proceeded to lash out at Dr. Durkin for not showing up at a previous council meeting when she was asked to attend to answer questions Ms. Morad or other council members may have had.
    So I guess the request to attend a council meeting by a council member is not a “request,” it is a “demand.” After verbally abusing Dr. Durkin, Ms. Morad picked up her belongings and stormed out of the meeting without even asking a single question about the budget.
    Here are just a few points of clarification.
    1. Dr. Durkin is hired by the School Committee. She is evaluated by the School Committee and she attends City Council meetings if the School Committee instructs her to attend such meetings.
    2. The School Committee is an elected body responsible to the public, to the citizens of the city of New Bedford, to the students who attend the schools, and to the teachers, staff and administrators who run the schools. Running the schools is our job. We were not appointed by the City Council or any other body in the city.
    3. If City Council members have questions about procedures that are followed in the schools, those questions need to be referred to School Committee members and the questions need to be addressed by the responsible person. If I had a question concerning snow removal or the repair of potholes on my street, would I bring it before a School Committee meeting or would I bring it to a City Council member and ask them to address the situation?
    What I am asking for is respect: respect for a duly elected body in the city of New Bedford and respect for its fellow citizens. This type of behavior is not acceptable. We expect our students to behave in a more civil manner. Shouldn’t we expect more from our elected officials? Elected members of the City Council and elected members of the School Committee need to work together to make sure that every child receives the best education they can get.
    This is my own personal opinion. I was not asked by other members of the School Committee to write this letter. 
    Jack Livramento is a member of the New Bedford School Committee.

More families weigh in on survey about New Bedford Public Schools

More families weigh in on survey about New Bedford Public Schools

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Message from President Madeloni

mta logo

Greetings,

Summer break was a long time coming, but it's finally here - or almost - for most preK-12 members. I hope everyone finds time to relax, enjoy good weather and be with family and friends. I also hope some of you use the time to think about, talk about and share ideas about the big issues affecting our profession, our union and our students. Included below are some ideas about how to do that.

RETELL Deadline Moved to Aug. 3
Registration for the fall 2015 Sheltered English Immersion Endorsement courses required under the RETELL initiative begins on Monday, Aug. 3 - later than was previously announced. Click here for details. The DESE is not planning to provide no-cost SEI Endorsement courses after the 2015-16 school year, though the MTA is continuing to push for an extension of the no-cost option. If you are an eligible core academic teacher, you are advised to register for a fall course or add your name to a waiting list. Adding your name to a waiting list provides an authentic count of how many educators still need to take the course. More details about the coming year will be posted here in early July.

Summer Conference
It's not too late to sign up for MTA's Summer Conference, which will be held in Springfield from Aug. 3 to Aug. 6. This smaller, more focused conference includes an organizing institute, two academies for new presidents and a track for the New Member Program. There is no charge for participating. For the organizing institute, we are asking locals to bring teams that can work together and develop plans for the coming year. This conference is in place of the annual Summer Conference that used to be held at Williams College and was going to be held at UMass Amherst this year. Delegates to MTA's Annual Meeting voted to cancel the event at UMass because faculty and staff have not yet received the back pay they are owed.

Jump-Start Your Union with a Book Group
This past year - and especially in the last few weeks - we have shown that we are ready to organize to reclaim public education. We can learn from each other and from our union brothers and sisters across the country about how to do this work. To that end, the MTA is offering FREE copies of How to Jump-Start Your Union, a book about the strengthening of the Chicago Teachers Union, to members who want to participate in summer book clubs. Any group of three or more - from within or across locals - can request copies. E-mail Ari Mercado atamercado@massteacher.org to let her know how many books you need. At the end of the summer, we will make space on our website for you to share your insights.

Read MTA Members' Testimony on Testing
We have now posted testimony from most of the MTA members who spoke in favor of House 340, our bill calling for a three-year moratorium on the high-stakes use of testing. The packed State House hearing was held on June 11. Read, share and send your own comments to your representative and/or your local paper.

Adjuncts Are "Sweatshop Workers"
Legislators heard compelling testimony about the plight of adjunct faculty members during a hearing June 17 on an MTA-backed bill to improve their benefits and increase the number of full-time faculty positions. Click here to read about the issue and what we are hoping to achieve.

We Must Fully Fund Public Schools and Colleges
Members are reporting a continued financial squeeze that manifests itself in ways large and small. Layoff notices for teachers and ESPs. Rising fees for public higher education students. Lack of technology in schools - sometimes even a lack of paper! Shuttered libraries. Erosion in the number of full-time faculty members teaching and guiding our college students. Higher co-pays and deductibles for health insurance. It's well past time we got serious about fully funding public education, from prekindergarten through higher education. The MTA and our labor allies are working with community and social justice organizations to figure out how the state can raise more revenue for our schools and colleges without increasing taxes on middle- and low-income families. Stay tuned for more details as they emerge.

Thank you for everything you have done during the school year, and have a great summer!

In solidarity, and in anticipation of many great things ahead,

Saturday, June 20, 2015

New Bedford Educators' Association awards students scholarships

New Bedford Educators' Association awards students scholarships

MTA members come out in force for testing moratorium bill

Of the estimated 300 people who attended the State House hearing on testing on Thursday, June 11, more than 50 were MTA members who submitted testimony in favor of House 340, An Act Relative to a Moratorium on High-Stakes Testing and PARCC. Below are their names, with links to their testimony.

They came from all over the state and told their personal stories about how the focus on high-stakes testing is disrupting teaching and learning in their schools, increasing stress on students and teachers and narrowing the curriculum.
Many waited six hours or more before they had a chance to testify. Some had to leave before they were called to testify in person, so they left their written testimony with the Joint Committee on Education. They made the effort to get to Beacon Hill because they wanted their stories told.
It is not too late to submit written testimony to the Joint Committee on Education and to your own legislators. If you weren’t able to attend the hearing but would like to submit testimony, please contact MTA lobbyist Kate Donaghey at kdonaghey@massteacher.org.
If you are a member of the media and want to contact one of the educators who submitted testimony, contact Laura Barrett, MTA Communications, at lbarrett@massteacher.org.
House Bill 340 Testimony

I am in support of H340, An Act relative to a moratorium on high stakes testing and PARCC ... By Lori Silveira

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, Chair
Joint Committee on Education
State House Room, 111
Boston, MA 02133

Rep. Alice Hanlon Peisch, Chair
Joint Committee on Education
State House, Room 473G
Boston, MA 02133


Dear Madame Chairs:

I apologize for not having time to craft perhaps more compelling testimony, but I’ve been proctoring tests this week. At this very moment, my fourth-grade class may be finishing its final District Benchmark testing session. Here are some testing totals you may find alarming:

Districtwide Test Sessions _16__
PARCC Test Sessions __8___

Now, we’ve all heard the claims that these tests only disrupt part of the day, part of a building, or other minimizing comments. As a teacher in a public school building that is over one hundred years old, I can tell you our entire school is impacted. We all tiptoe around, avoid bathroom use, reschedule the little time our students have for art, music, physical education or outdoor time. Test-takers with accommodations move to spaces all over the building. Then we have the makeup sessions for those that were absent. Field Trips have become too difficult to schedule around all the testing.

Many teachers remember when elementary students would greet them with, “Do we have gym today?” or “Do we have art today?” Now the most frequently asked question is, “Do we have a test today?” And too frequently the answer has been YES. Any school expects to have a certain amount of tension during testing season, but now it’s always testing season.

After all these years we can still match scores to ZIP codes. This can’t be about teacher effectiveness. We need the task force to examine the Commonwealth’s high-stakes testing culture. Districts like mine must be released from the testing stranglehold.

Less Testing More Learning!

I am in support of H340, An Act relative to a moratorium on high stakes testing and PARCC, filed by Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge), and request the committee report it favorably from committee as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Lori Silveira
New Bedford Educators Association

cc: Joint Committee on Education Members & Staff
Sen. Patricia Jehlen, Vice Chair
Rep. Danielle Gregoire, Vice Chair

Over 100 Holyoke teachers to leave by choice or otherwise, including union president Gus Morales

Standardized tests? I've never met a standardized kid ... by Mayor Scott Lang



Scott Lang addresses the Education Committee members.
Scott Lang, former mayor of New Bedford, said, "Standardized tests? I've never met a standardized kid. PARCC is forcing us to forfeit teaching citizenship, phys ed, history, and other subjects. Commissioner Chester miscalculates the problem of the unfunded liability, when kids fall off the school system and become wards of society." Click here to see a video of his powerful testimony and here to read a transcript. (Thanks to Michael Gendre of the Common Core Forum for shooting and posting the video.) 

This issue is the most important issue I believe that the legislature is going to take up this year: the unintended consequences of education reform. 

I served as head of the School Committee as mayor of New Bedford from 2006 until beginning of 2012. Before then, I was heavily involved in the school department as a result of my kids, and also have taught at the University of Mass Dartmouth for 14 years, so let me just share with you a couple of observations:

First, this is a public policy decision that has to be made. This is not a decision that should be referred back to DESE. After 13 years of MCAS as a requirement to graduate, we need to really start to look through the weeds and see how this is affecting the state. I believe it fuels the drop-out rate, not only for the kids who believe they won’t pass the MCAS test – and they may actually be getting that impression by fourth grade – but also it fuels the drop-out rate for kids who feel that school now is just teaching-to-the-test.

All of us had testing. All of us had assessment. We all sat for the Iowa test, or whatever it might be. The problem here now is, by tying it into the graduation requirement, and also, indexing it into whether a teacher is doing a good job or a bad job, you wind up in a situation where we have gutted teaching the entire child, teaching kids good citizenship, teaching kids history, teaching kids health, teaching kids phys ed, art, and music – all of these were gutted. They were gutted one by one in New Bedford because we were striving to meet guidelines and goals. 

Standardized tests? I’ve never met a standardized kid.

And what we’re doing is missing the whole point of why we bring kids into school and have a public education. The other thing about this is that two or three bubbles, if you don’t fill them out correctly, may mean the difference between graduating and becoming what is known as a “nongraduating completer.”

For the first six years, they didn’t know what to call these young people. Now they call them “non-graduating completers.” A non-graduating completer in society is the same as a drop-out.

The commissioner said we could forfeit millions of dollars, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid. 

Our unfunded liability as a result of having non-graduating completers because of the MCAS system, totals, last year, $264 million for the support that we will have to contribute for these young people and their families for their lifetimes. $360,000 times 763. I don’t know that I passed the math MCAS but I believe that’s about $264 million. 

The cost of the unfunded liability – I think all of us in this room understand unfunded liabilities – since the MCAS for non-graduating completers and drop-outs is somewhere around $10 billion. 

So if we’re going to forfeit a few dollars in federal funds – by the way, we’re the number one state in the country. We’re in the top 10 in the world. Two thirds of our schools are “under-performing.” That makes no sense to me.

And now we’re going to forfeit federal money? For being the leader in education, because we’re either not going to dance the PARCC, or have a system that very few states actually require: the standardized test as a graduating requirement? 

Let me just tell you how this works, and then I’ll give you written testimony to look at with all the stats and figures. But here’s how this works:

I go to New Bedford High. By the way, my two boys did that: did a great job, graduated from college, both are professionals, fantastic, and they didn’t have the MCAS because we trusted the teachers back then to determine whether or not they earned their public school diploma. 

But what it comes down to is this: I go to New Bedford High now and Jane Doe goes to New Bedford High.

I take the MCAS. I pass the MCAS.

Jane Doe takes the MCAS and does not pass. She may be higher than me in rank in my class. She passed all her courses as I have. Perhaps she’s learning English as a second language, or perhaps she’s involved in special ed. She did everything I did, but I filled out a couple more bubbles.

I get a degree. She doesn’t. There’s no remediation in the state system now. The junior colleges don’t do remediation. If she wants to get MCAS remediation, she’s going to have to pay for it. 

We’re going to pay for Jane Doe for the rest of her life. That is not good for us. That is a disaster. We’re going to lose our democracy. And the reason we’re going to lose it because right now, if you go to a private school, you don’t take the MCAS. 

What Judy Doe did in New Bedford High gets you the diploma at Bishop Stang. What Judy Doe did at New Bedford High gets you the diploma at Tabor. They don’t know how to spell “MCAS.”

Those diplomas are given the same weight, at Bishop Stang, New Bedford High (an MCAS diploma) or Tabor. They’re given the same weight across the board. The colleges don’t get the MCAS scores. If you get a perfect MCAS score, you get a state scholarship to a state school, but other than that, those diplomas are of equal weight. (By the way, they now admit the MCAS scores don’t predict success in college, and two thirds of our kids are getting remediation in colleges after passing the MCAS.) 

You talk about the McDuffy case. How are we providing the best opportunity for our kids when the private school kids don’t have their teachers vetted, the public school kids do, and the parochial school kids don’t, and they all get the same diploma? 

The fact is, the kids who aren’t passing the bubble test are being left behind and we’re going to have to support them. It does not make any sense whatsoever. Now, who are those kids? The majority of them are part of that achievement gap. They’re below the poverty line. We’re setting up a caste system. This will flip us. We can not tell people, “We will not give you your diploma, even though you would have earned it if you had the ability to go to Bishop Tang or Tabor.” 

You don’t get a diploma. But we will send you a check each month. Because you’re not going to get into society. And if you do, we’re going to subsidize you. There aren’t enough people working day in and day out to subsidize the people we’re keeping out. This is a failed prescription. The status quo on this is absolutely dead.

If you go into a classroom, I’ve watched it in fourth grade: the teacher’s saying: “If the question says ‘may,’ the answer says, ‘may.’ If you have any doubt about it, key in on that one word. “If you don’t understand it, go on to the next one, or try to eliminate one or two and then guess.” 

Those are the citizens we want? 

I believe in assessment. I believe in accountability. I don’t believe, though, in setting up a prescription for failure. 

And I think the legislature is the place to do this now. The numbers are overwhelming. Between dropouts and non-graduating completers, the unfunded liability that we’re not carrying on the books is $10 billion.

I’ve seen an awful lot of kids much smarter than any of us in this room, who have been locked out of society because of the tests. 

Thank you very much. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Winslow Elementary School Gets NAEYC Accreditation

NEW BEDFORD EDUCATORS ASSOCIATION AWARDS EIGHT SCHOLARSHIPS TO NEW BEDFORD HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES

The New Bedford Educators Association has awarded 8 scholarships to New Bedford High School graduates from the Class of 2015, out of a total of 16 scholarships – 11 more scholarships than the NBEA was able to award last year.

With the proceeds of a car wash to benefit their scholarship fund and a partnership with Bristol County Savings Bank, the NBEA will award the following NBHS students scholarships as they continue their education at the college level:

-          Chandler Debrosse
-          Raekwon Grace
-          Joshua Reidy

With gratitude to Bristol County Savings Bank, which has funded five additional scholarships, the following NBHS students have also received scholarship awards from the NBEA:

-          Dayva Briand
-          Lisa Chan
-          Caleb Dahlene
-          Kathleen Le
-          Maya Sylvia

“On behalf of all New Bedford educators, we are proud to award scholarships to 16 outstanding high school graduates as they further their education,” said New Bedford Educators Association President Lou St. John. “The foundation of their education was built with their hard work and the guidance of our New Bedford Public Schools teachers, and we wish these New Bedford High alumni the best of luck as they continue their educational experience.”

Headmaster Bernadette Coelho said, “We could not be more proud that among the hundreds of scholarships that our graduates of the Class of 2015 have received, New Bedford educators have awarded these deserving NBHS students as they move on from the Whaler community. I know that each of these eight alumni will go on to make all of us at New Bedford High School extremely proud.”

With the proceeds of their car wash, the NBEA also awarded the following scholarships to the following students from other schools:

-          China Bigelow
-          Amelia Bruno
-          Alexandra Chiquito
-          Jaelyn Gomes
-          Anthony Maloney-Pacheco
-          Ashley Pacheco
-          Riley Pearson
-          Max Stone

Monday, June 15, 2015

New Bedford closing Kempton School

New Bedford closing Kempton School

8 new principals at New Bedford schools next year

8 new principals at New Bedford schools next year

A message from President Madeloni

Greetings,

What an inspiring and energizing week we had. Last week showed me that you, our members, want to be heard and are ready to act.

Thousands engage in Week of Action

The Week of Action for Less Testing/More Learning engaged thousands of members. From wearing stickers to getting up before sunrise to testify at the State House, we worked effectively with the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance to deliver the message to key legislators and state education officials that too much testing is hurting our students and schools. Click here for an article about the week and photos, here for more information about the testing issue, and here for information about the MEJA.

But - and you knew this was coming - this was just a start. We are going to have to work hard at the local, state and national levels to bring down the corporate-driven testing machine. Fortunately, we are joined by educators throughout the country and by parents, other unions and community organizations here in Massachusetts.

What's next? Join Thursday's Telephone Town Hall to share ideas

We are having another Telephone Town Hall from 7 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 18, to hear about what you and other members did in your local for the Week of Action. What worked well, and what could have worked better? We want to hear your ideas about effective next steps and how the MTA can support your efforts.

Please answer your phone if it rings close to 7 p.m. on Thursday, and stay on the line to participate. If you don't get a call, please call in to the town hall as follows:

Call-in number: 855.756.7520

Access code [when prompted]: 28993#

Jump-Start Your Union book groups

Students have summer reading to do, and so should we! We are encouraging members to form book groups and commit to reading and discussing an excellent book that provides practical advice to teacher union members along with a broader vision: How to Jump-Start Your Union: Lesson from the Chicago Teachers. Here's a summary: "[This book] tells how activists transformed their union and gave members hope. Readers will learn how to run for office, work with their communities, build a stewards' network, train new leaders, run a contract campaign and strike." You can read about the book here. We will make free copies available to members who form book groups this summer. These groups can be within a district or across several districts. Please contact Ari Mercado at amercado@massteacher.org for copies of the book. Let her know how many copies are needed. At the end of the summer, we will collect information from the discussion groups to find out what lessons you learned and whether this book was helpful.

Support our adjuncts and higher education faculty on June 17

Wednesday is a big day for higher education advocacy. Come to the Joint Committee on Higher Education hearing at 11 a.m. in Room A-2 of the State House to show your support for public higher education adjuncts and full-time faculty. Advocate for House Bill 1055, An Act to Invest in Higher Education Faculty. This MTA priority bill would, among other things, allow adjuncts to be eligible for the same health care and pension benefits as tenure-track faculty members based on a cumulative workload at public higher education institutions and require public colleges and universities to use more full-time, tenure-track faculty.

On that same day, union representatives from UMass will be at the UMass Board of Trustees' meeting pushing for the back pay that faculty and staff have been promised but have not yet received. They will be presenting this petition. If you are a preK-12 member, signing the petition is a great way to show your support for our UMass members.

In solidarity, and in anticipation of many great things to come,

Barbara

 


New Bedford Teachers Claim More Student Assaults, Administration Questions Why Alleged Assaults Are Going Unreported

Summer Conference Update

Following the May 9 vote of Annual Meeting delegates to cancel Summer Conference at UMass Amherst because of a contract dispute, we are planning a smaller, more focused conference in Springfield.

The Springfield mini-conference will run Monday, August 3 through Thursday, August 6, and will include the leadership track programs below. There is no charge to locals or members for any of the mini-conference tracks. Programs will be held in the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place. Participants will be housed in the Springfield Marriott and Sheraton hotels.

MTA Organizing Institute
This new program is designed to provide a space for teams of three or more from MTA locals and committees to consider and plan strategies to shift to an organizational model that:
·         Increases opportunities for member involvement by engaging in deep internal organizing that emphasizes greater member involvement.

·         Widens the scope of our power and influence by engaging in a program of student and family engagement, community organizing and coalition building.
·         Encourages an ongoing process of analyzing the environment in which we exist (political, economic and regulatory).

To Apply: Interested members should approach their local or chapter president or MTA field representative about sending a team to the institute.

New Members Program
Participants in this program will work with peers to understand the changing face of public education and the often confusing world of educational policy and legislation that affects them as classroom teachers and school-based educators. There will be an opportunity to learn about different approaches to collective bargaining and participate in a mock negotiating session.

To Apply:  For those in their first five years of practice. Please contact Erin Tracy, 

etracy@massteacher.org, for registration assistance.

The Annual Meeting vote to cancel the UMass conference was taken to protest the fact that UMass employees have not received the retroactive pay they are owed. The smaller, more focused program does not include Summer Conference’s usual array of workshops on professional and organizational development topics. We’d like to thank the dozens of members and non-members who proposed workshops this year and we hope to be able to bring many of these to MTA members in other venues over the next school year.