Monday, November 23, 2015

Todd Gazda, Superintendent, Ludlow Public Schools: One Trick Pony ...

Todd Gazda, Superintendent, Ludlow Public Schools: One Trick Pony ...: Here we go again. On November 18, 2015, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, attended another rally in support of Governor Baker’s legislation designed t...

Friday, November 20, 2015

MAStewartMA: Some reflections on the Board's vote for a new sta...

MAStewartMA: Some reflections on the Board's vote for a new sta...: I don’t know about you, but I’m a little burned out on arguments about statewide assessments. I accept that we need them, but we’re spen...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Your Vote, Your Retirement

MTA Endorses Jacqueline Gorrie and Dennis Naughton for MTRS
Vote for Massachusetts Teachers' Retirement Board (MTRS)

The Massachusetts Teachers' Retirement Board has mailed out ballots to all of its members - that means YOU. Please don't throw away this important ballot! Instead, cast votes for two very worthy MTA activists, retired Taunton teacher Jacqueline Gorrie and retired Millis teacher and incumbent MTRB member Dennis Naughton.

The members of the state teachers' retirement board make important decisions that affect you, your retirement benefits and your future. Please check your mail, vote for MTA-endorsed candidates Jacqueline Gorrie and Dennis Naughton, and mail your ballot back no later than December 5.

You may also cast your votes online. Look for instructions on your ballot. For more information on the candidates, visit

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

BESE approves PARCC-infused MCAS

Despite opposition from many educators, parents and school committee members, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 8 to 3 on Nov. 17 to adopt a new PARCC-infused MCAS test starting in 2017. 

An amendment was adopted to hold schools and districts harmless based on the results of the 2017 test. 

Jessica HaralsonMalden High School teacher Jessica Haralson was one of the many MTA member-educators holding signs outside before the BESE hearing began.

“Educator and parent advocacy led the commissioner to back off from his long-term explicit support for PARCC,” MTA President Barbara Madeloni said after the BESE meeting. “But no one is fooled by the shell game of hiding PARCC inside the so-called MCAS 2.0. This decision continues the destructive practice of distorting the purpose of teaching and learning through an obsessive focus on standardized test results.”

Thousands of member e-mails were sent to BESE members expressing the MTA’s support for a three-year moratorium on all high-stakes use of tests and opposition to the adoption of PARCC. In addition, educator advocacy caused school committees in more than a dozen communities and the Boston City Council to approve MTA-backed resolutions in favor of a moratorium.

Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester had proposed the hold-harmless provision just for districts that administer PARCC in the spring of 2016. The BESE voted 7 to 4 to also hold schools and districts harmless based on results from the new test. 

The three members voting against the overall plan were, notably, the members representing teachers, students and parents: labor representative Ed Doherty of AFT Massachusetts; student member Donald Willyard, chair of the State Student Advisory Council; and parent representative Mary Ann Stewart, who is on the board of the Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association. Representatives of business and other interests voted in favor of the plan.

Willyard, the only BESE member young enough to have experienced test-driven education firsthand, said, “I can and should be impeached if I go against how the students feel about this particular issue. I learned that we go to school to learn; unfortunately, that isn't the case anymore. I'm going to school to pass, and that's unacceptable to me.”

Board Chairman Paul Sagan, former president and CEO of Akamai Technologies, opposed the hold-harmless extension, contending that it would mean backing away from “our obligation” to hold adults in the system accountable.

Secretary of Education James Peyser, Governor Charlie Baker’s representative on the board, was also strongly against extending the hold-harmless provision for another year.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must now contract with a testing firm to develop the so-called “next generation” MCAS tests. Most of the test items will be taken from the bank of items created for the PARCC Consortium by the giant testing company Pearson.

Districts that administered PARCC in 2015 will have to administer it again in 2016, while the rest will have the option of administering MCAS or PARCC. The 2016 MCAS test will contain some PARCC items.

A paper version of both tests will be available for the next three years, but the commissioner said he expects all districts to be administering the tests online as of 2019.

Through the class of 2019, students will continue to be required to pass the grade 10 MCAS English language arts, mathematics and science tests.

Kalpana GuttmanNewton teacher Kalpana Guttman told BESE members: "PARCC is a terrible failure."

The DESE is also planning to develop a new standardized history and social studies test, adding a fourth subject to the increasingly unpopular mandated testing load.

At a public hearing on the commissioner’s plan held in Malden on Nov. 16, even supporters expressed concern about how soon districts will be expected to have the technological capacity to administer the tests online. The needed technology and staff will cost districts millions of dollars.

Opponents expressed that concern and many others.

“PARCC is a terrible failure,” said Newton teacher Kalpana Guttman.

Guttman noted that many test items were badly written or not developmentally appropriate, that it took “armies of IT staff” to get Newton’s schools ready for the test, that computers used for testing were not available for instruction, and that educators were provided with no useful information or item analysis from this year’s PARCC results, rendering the test useless for informing instruction.

Guttman concluded with a request to the BESE: “I urge members to take the test before you vote tomorrow,” she said.

Others, including Madeloni, received loud applause when speaking broadly against the excessive focus on testing.

“What troubles me is the narrowness of the question you are asking — MCAS versus PARCC? In the hours and hours we’ve spent talking about testing in intricate detail, what haven’t we been talking about?” she asked.

“We haven’t been talking about joyful learning,” Madeloni said. “We haven’t been talking about creativity and imagination. We haven’t been talking about the moral courage that we study in literature and in history. We haven’t been talking about what it means to be citizens of a democracy.

“Let’s have a three-year moratorium on high-stakes testing to have that deeper conversation,” she said.

New Bedford School Committee Supports Cap On Charter Schools | WBSM

New Bedford school officials tout student growth achievement

New Bedford school officials tout student growth achievement

Durkin sets lofty goals for students, teachers

Durkin sets lofty goals for students, teachers

Sunday, November 15, 2015


There is NEWS this month that you can use today! And later this week. I hope you do. We are seeing results from our efforts and we need to continue to let our legislators and the Board of Education know that we are watching what they do and we have opinions about it….and we vote. 


#1- Board of Education hearing on Monday, November 16 about PARCC. Our message about testing has been heard…a little. There is some movement away from PARCC…and that is good, BUT now the Board wants to experiment with a PARCC-like version of MCAS. Call it MCAS 2.0    Students and teachers need a moratorium from all this testing until we figure out exactly why we are giving all these tests and what we are doing with the results…Go HERE to send a message to members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education: NO to PARCC. NO to MCAS 2.0. YES to a moratorium on high-stakes testing. Please send your e-mails TODAY. Feel free to elaborate on the message we've developed to describe your own experiences with PARCC and high-stakes testing.

You can also feel free to attend the BESE public hearing on the future of testing in Massachusetts if you can. Monday, Nov. 16, 4 to 7 p.m.  Malden High School  77 Salem Street, Malden


#2 – Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System Election- By November 17 of this week, you should have received your ballot to elect two representatives to the MTRS to represent teachers. MTA is recommending Dennis Naughton and Jackie Gorrie. Both are long time advocates of teachers and ARE retired teachers themselves. Electronic voting is possible for the first time this year, information about electronic voting is included on the ballot. Members who submit ballots by mail should mail them by December 5 so that they reach the Texas vender by December 10.Electronic voting can be done until December 10.


#3- Teletown Hall on Monday, November 30 at 7PM with President Madeloni. The topic will be the 2016 elections. More information about how to get on the call will be forthcoming in the days ahead. MTA has asked each Senate District to get 10 people from the district to commit to listening in on the call. CAN YOU????


#4- THANK YOU! MTA members rallied to collect enough signatures to help put the Raise Up Massachusetts constitutional amendment on the ballot… (this is the petition about the tax on adjusted income over $1 million). More to come on that in 2016. 


#5- Charter Schools: The battle continues. Charter school advocates have obtained enough signatures to place expansion of charters on the ballot. This is NOT good news. Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance a pro-public education coalition of which MTA  is a member has sent a letter to state senators urging them to vote against yet another compromise. Go here for a copy of the letter and here to read an article in The Boston Globe about it. MTA’s bill: S-326 would place a 3 year moratorium on charter school expansion and would require all teachers hired by Commonwealth Charters to obtain a teaching license – continues to sit in committee.  All of us will need to do much more in the months ahead to let the public know how detrimental charters are to traditional public education and where tax funds for schools are being diverted.


#6- Recommended Reading - MTA is encouraging members to read the book: The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools? By Dale Russakoff. If you would like to read it and want a free copy, contact Ari Mercado at the MTA. Give her your name, address (to send the book) and your local association. Phone # 800-392-6175; extension #8216. Or send an email:


And finally, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and thanks for what you do each and every day to help our students and teachers and retirees….


Thank You,


James H Quaintance

Massachusettes Teachers Association

Senate District Coordinator

Second Bristol Plymouth- Senator Mark Montigny

ESEA agreement nears, conference committee meets Wednesday

ESEA agreement nears, conference committee meets Wednesday

Almost 14 years since the signing of No Child Left Behind, Congress is literally now within sight of ending that broken era. After weeks of negotiations, Senate and House education committee leaders announced Friday they have a framework on a final ESEA reauthorization bill. Conference committee members are expected to be appointed Monday, with a formal take actionmeeting by Wednesday, and votes in the House and Senate by the week of November 30th.  The incredible year-long advocacy by educators hasbrought Congress close to ending the broken No Child Left Behind era. NEA President Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a applauded the next steps toward reauthorization. Keep the pressure on until both chambers have passed a bill that provides all students with more opportunity and time to learn. Click on the “take action” button to urge Congress to finish ESEA and get it right. 

Urge Congress to increase funding for students most in need

Negotiations over an end-of-year bill to fund the government continue. Now that overall funding levels have been raised in the recent budget agreement, it is time to push for a larger share for the students most in take actionneed. Congress must put together an“omnibus” appropriations/funding bill by December 11th, when current funding expires. Students have been short changed for years and it’s got to stop! Click on the “take action” button to urge Congress to invest more heavily in programs for the students most in need— like Title I, IDEA, and early childhood education. 


Tell senators to oppose DC voucher program renewal

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is expected to soon mark up a bill to extend Washington DC’s private school voucher program. Click on the take action“take action” button to urge your senators to vote NO on the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act (S. 2171), which funds the DC voucher program, which ignores the needs of public school students and diverts resources that should strengthen public schools.

Charter schools engage in 'Circle Game' By Bruce Ditata

With apologies to songwriter Joni Mitchell, a version of her signature classic “The Circle Game” has, apparently, been adapted for the charter school movement.

“And the seasons they go round and round

And the painted ponies go up and down

We're captive on the carousel of 'hype.'”

Hype, charter school style, is the rote method of reciting a list of worn out slogans intended to polish the brand. The plan’s not working with the Legislature, so it’s now on a beeline to the voters.

In Your View (Public charter schools should be allowed to expand” Nov. 4), Marc Kenen states that “charters offer longer school days … longer years … establish a culture of excellence … set high standards for teachers and students … provide additional supports to promote success.”

Does “more time on task” mean higher graduation rates, better services for English language learners and special education students? More importantly, does longer mean a better education?

Unfortunately, in most media circles, these questions about the charter movement’s performance level are hardly investigated, seldom asked. One merely has to check the Massachusetts Department of Education website, though, to locate answers and facts.

The DOE lists Boston Preparatory Charter's class of 2013 as starting in sixth grade (2007) with 102 students and upon graduation a mere 32. Nearly two-thirds of the students, therefore, were lost to attrition.

Over the course of the journey, Mr. Kenen’s prized "culture of excellence … setting high standards … (and providing) supports to promote success," apparently, became unhinged. 

And Boston Preparatory Charter (BPC), winner of the prestigious Pozen Prize in 2013, is a bellwether of inner city, charter prototypes.

BPC’s website stated: “For the fourth spring in a row, 100 percent of BPC graduating seniors have been accepted to college.” However, what’s hidden is the ugly truth behind the numbers: 93 of the original 106 who entered as sixth-graders in 2005 did not graduate from BPC, a staggering attrition rate of 88 percent.

How do the charters reject so many, succeed with so few, and never get taken to task for it?

The trick is in the innovative way charter schools downsize enrollment for English language learners, special needs, and behavior-disordered students through a Draconian discipline policy. It’s the behind-the-scenes way of keeping the elite students, while sending the more challenging ones back to the district.

A report in 2015 by Advocates for Children of New York Inc. revealed that discipline policies implemented by charters suspend students summarily without a hearing or without differentiating among alleged offenses.

While consistent limit-setting is the hallmark of a therapeutic discipline code, it is corrosive and unjust to equate throwing food in the cafeteria with having one’s shirt untucked; swearing at the teacher with chewing gum; pushing a classmate in line with keeping your eyes facing forward in that same line.

The New York report concludes that such practices, “gave school staff unbridled discretion to impose suspensions of any length … for infractions as minor as chewing gum … and for infractions as vague as engaging in 'unacceptable behavior' and 'refusing accountability.'” Are these the dubious “high standards” that Mr. Kenen refers to?

In the hypothetical case of Johnny, a learning disabled student with a medical diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity, he has been tabbed for enrollment at a charter school. Johnny has above average ability, but has trouble processing information and lacks focus. At charter school X, we find him often guilty of an untucked shirt, which earns him numerous detentions, and after the fifth uniform malfunction, Johnny is suspended out of school. When he returns, his teacher counsels Johnny about turning around in class. No behavior intervention — a vital first step for any ADHD student — is planned to help Johnny decrease this diagnosed inattentiveness. He is, simply, reminded to follow the rules. Johnny keeps turning around, is suspended again. His parents realize the charter has no plans to individualize a behavior plan, no plans to "provide additional supports to promote success.” They realize that a return to the public school is the better alternative for their struggling child. At least there, Johnny will get help with his disabilities.

And the charter school’s carousel can continue to go round and round in its circle game.

Friday, November 13, 2015

MTA Statement on Mitchell Chester's “MCAS 2.0” Recommendation

Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester is abandoning his full support for PARCC, but today he has made it clear that he is seeking to continue the use of high-stakes testing in ways that are destructive to our schools and our communities.

Like PARCC itself, the proposed PARCC-infused “MCAS 2.0” is wrong for students, wrong for educators, and wrong for Massachusetts.

The fact that opposition to the national version of PARCC by MTA members and others appears to have stopped the system from being implemented in Massachusetts underscores the power of educators, parents and students when they raise their voices. But Chester’s proposal does not go nearly far enough.

Massachusetts parents and teachers have been quite clear: They believe we are overtesting our children and imposing high stakes on tests that were never designed to be high-stakes.

We demand a real conversation about what kind of assessments we truly need to help build the schools our children deserve – and we need a moratorium on all high-stakes testing while we have that conversation.

The MTA is supporting legislation that would achieve that goal and is determined to see the process through.

Educators, parents and community leaders know just how harmful standardized tests have been to Massachusetts students, and they understand that a modified version of PARCC is just more of the same.

They are also concerned about the massive amount of money that is devoted to standardized test development and administration – well over $30 million a year by the count of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

When the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education holds its hearing Monday on the commissioner’s proposal, we will do all we can to persuade the BESE that it is time to stop the testing madness and put the Commonwealth on a course that truly serves our students and our communities.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Are schools really improving? ... By Christopher Cotter

As The Standard-Times wrote about education reform under the current administration of Dr. Pia Durkin, there are some questions. It was written that the New Bedford Public Schools are heading in the right direction. If this were true, why did the Parker Elementary School drop from a Level 4 to Level 5 and New Bedford High School from a Level 3 to Level 4? Also, the Carlos Pacheco Elementary School dropped from Level 1 to Level 2. A principal, appointed by Dr. Durkin, had no experience in the “Urban Setting” that Dr. Durkin references very often. She lasted just one year.

The teachers from the Gomes Elementary School received a state grant for Expanded Learning Time to extend the school day and the school year. This, I believe, was stated at the School Committee meeting in May or June, to show the state that they were trying and avoid a Level 4 designation. Is this education reform or just politics as usual? Recently stated, and confirmed at a recent mayor’s youth forum, the Normandin Middle School is “being considered” for an innovation school to again deflect its designation of a Level 4 school.

If this district is truly making progress and heading in the right direction, as stated by Dr. Durkin and the New Bedford School Committee, why are there more Level 4 and 5 schools? Dr. Durkin was hired to turn this district around, not upside down.

Unfortunately, under her direction we have lost years of experience in the classrooms of every school in the district. I strongly believe that we need to retain our teachers and not have them looking elsewhere to avoid the added stress in our schools. This stress trickles down to students, and they are the ones suffering.

Christopher Cotter was elected to the New Bedford School Committee last week.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Friday, October 30, 2015

Is the New Bedford Public School district making progress and heading in the right direction? ... By Carol Strupczewski

From the data found on the Mass. DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) website, it appears to me that the district shows very little progress since Mayor Mitchelltook office in 2012.  

If the district is, according to the Mayor, making progress and heading in the right direction, ask yourself the following questions:

Why did Pacheco School drop from a Level 1 status to Level 2in 2014?

Why did the high school go from a Level 3 status to Level 4 (underperforming) in 2013 under the leadership of the superintendent and his administration?

Why did Parker School go from a Level 4 status to Level 5 in 2013 and is now in receivership?

Why did the superintendent, mayor, and School Committee close Kempton School which was a Level 1 school when it was closed to save a few dollars?

Why is the district having a difficult time with teacher retention?  

Since July 2013 to present approximately 250 teachers have resigned or retired.  Since the summer of 2015, 40 teachers have left the district.  Don’t forget a number of teachers were RIF (Reduction in Workforce) during that period.

Why are principals and assistant principals leaving the district?  Today about 20 have either retired or resigned?

Why are there unfilled positions throughout the district?  At the school committee meeting on Monday, October 19, it was mentioned by the Personnel Director that there are 6 elementary, 5 middle schools, and 7 high school unfilled positions.

Why haven’t the MCAS scores improved significantly?  The Report Card for the district from the DESE website indicates the following from 2012-14:  NB’s ELA range 46, 44, 45% compared to state average of 69% for years; Math for district range 35, 36, 38% compared to state average 59, 61, 60%; and Science 22, 25, 29% compared to state average of 53, 54, 55%. (Check out the data from Mass. DESE.)

Why is New Bedford High School lagging well below the state average?  The high school’s Report Card is as follows from 2012-14: ELA 66, 76, 67% compared to state average of 89, 92, 90%; Math 44, 49, 41% compared to state average of 79, 80, 79%; and Science 31, 38, 38% compared to the state average of 70, 72, 71%. (Data from DESE.)

Why has the high school had a significant drop in the enrollment of students from Acushnet?

Why didn’t Mayor Mitchell, School Committee, and Superintendent Durkin show outrage at the first act of violence in the district in 2013-14 school year?  Why wasn’t this curbed at the beginning of the academic year?  There were numerous acts of violence the entire year.

Why did Superintendent Durkin, Mayor Mitchell, and School Committee approve cancelling bus routes for children that had to walk on extremely busy streets without sidewalks to save a few dollars?

The question now is, after reading all of the above, do you think our district is heading in the right direction and making progress?  As for myself, my answer is a resounding NO!  The data cannot be disputed.

Our school district is taking the same voyage as the Wander the last whaling ship to leave New Bedford harbor in 1920s only to run aground.




Do you think we are better off today than in 2011? By Eddie L. Johnson

I noticed that Mayor Mitchell’s campaign ad on Monday, October 12, 2015, did not include New Bedford Public Schools of which he is the ex-officio of the School Committee.  Why?  

In 2011 when he was first campaigning for the office of mayor, candidate Mitchell kept stating that the school district was in imminent danger of state takeover, that our schools were failing,heading in the wrong direction, and that he was going to change it by being the “Education Mayor.”  That was in 2011, let’s fast forward to today and look at our district.  
Although this is Mayor Mitchell’s claim, there is no documented DESE credible evidence to support it.

In 2011 the New Bedford Public Schools had two Level 1 schools (top designation), Pacheco and Swift, and two Level 4 schools, Hay-Mac and Parker.  Today the district has only oneLevel 1 school, Swift.  Pacheco which had been a Level 1 schools for about 10 years is now unfortunately a Level 2 under the leadership of a new principal appointed by Superintendent Pia Durkin.  Hay-Mac has remained a Level 4 and, in that time, has not improved sufficiently to be moved to a Level 3.   New Bedford High which was a Level 3 slipped to and has remained a Level 4 school under the leadership of Dr. Durkin and Mayor Mitchell.  Parker which was a Level 4 school has dropped to a Level 5 status, all under the leadership of our present superintendent and mayor. Instead of improving, our district is going into the tank!  Some questions might be:  When will Gomes be declared a Level 4?  Will Hay-Mac go from a Level 4 to a Level 5?  What might happen to the status of the middle schools?  

Here are a few things that are not reported in the newspaper or on the radio about the high school.  Since Mayor Mitchell has taken office the enrollment at the high schools has decreased by approximately 300 students.  For the academic 2012-13 year the enrollment dropped by 38 students, an increase of 7 for the 2013-14 year, and a major drop in the 2014-15 school year of 272 students.  Today only a handful of students from Acushnet attend the high school which has resulted in a loss of revenuefrom the town of Acushnet.  Acushnet students have their choice of attending New Bedford High School, Fairhaven High School, Old Colony High School, and Bristol Aggie.  Fairhaven High, Old Colony High, and Bristol Aggie are all Level 1 schoolswhich is the best rating for a school district.  

The high school last year and this year have a number of unfilled teaching positions.  Some of the positions last year were never filled.  For every unfilled position, multiply the teaching position by 4 or 5 classes depending on the assignment and to that multiply the number of students per class.  Example:  2 unfilled positions, equal 8 to 10 classes, let’s say 20 students per class equals 160 to 200 students not receiving a quality educational experience in that subject area. It is my understanding that three teachers have recently resigned from the high school.  Students are being short changed and hurt academically.  Will they receive the necessary skills for a job?  Will they have the academic background for classes in college?  How will they fair on PARCC or MCAS?  Will some of these students get discouraged and give up or quit school?  

In the past two years according to the Personnel Reports, approximately 250 teachers have either retired or resigned from the district which is a huge number in a very short period of time.  How is this impacting the quality of education our students are receiving?  This number does not include the teachers who were RIF (reduction in workforce) or the ones who lost their job when they had to reapply for their position when their school went to a Level 4 or 5 status.

Recently we have heard that the AP (Advanced Placement) classes have doubled in enrollment.  What has not been emphasized is that more than 60 percent of the New Bedford High students who took the nationwide AP test failed the test.  Might these students have been misplaced?  Did the students give up with the rigors of the AP course?  Did these students seek extra help in the class?  

Check out the data from the district’s Report Card found on the Mass. DESE’s website.  You will notice that all the MCAS results have flat-lined and are well below the state’s average.  Also check out the high school’s Report Card for 2014 from the DESE’s website.  

All the information stated here can be found by researching and navigating the Mass. DESE’s website and the Personnel Reports found on the NBEA’s website.  The data from the DESE indicates that our district is making very little, if any, progress.  

Do you think we are better off today than in 2011?  My answer is “NO” just based on the MCAS scores, AP test scores, the massive number of teachers who have left the district by resigning and retiring, the number of unfilled teaching positions some of which were unfilled for the entire 2014-15 school year, and the number of principals and assistant principals who have left.