Friday, April 29, 2016

On Charters, Testing, and Opting Out

Did you catch me on Greater Boston and the Boston Neighborhood Network News making the case for keeping the cap? If not, click here to see the Greater Boston segment and here to see me on BNN. 

CPS Board Member (UMass Dartmouth Professor and New Bedford parent) Ricardo Rosa has also been in the news, both on the danger of the charter ballot question and on why parents should opt out of state testing. Click here to read his oped in South Coast Today. Clickhere to see him protesting high-stakes testing and hear his inspiring comments. 

If you're looking for information about why and how to opt out, we can help. In addition to CPS's fact sheet and tool kit on opting out, check out our fact check on Education Commissioner Chester, here. Also, see the MassachusettsTeachers Association's opt-out information page, here, and information compiled by our friends at Mass Opt Out, here

And take a look at this video, with step by step instructions on how to opt out. 

Want to Know More About the Charter Ballot Question?

CPS is proud to be part of a statewide coalition to educate voters about the ballot question (or "initiative petition") to lift the cap on charter schools. The Campaign to Save Our Public Schools is building a statewide grass roots movement, and we need your support and participation. 

The more people learn, the more they understand why it's important to VOTE NO

Click here to learn more about the ballot question itself and how it would harm the public schools that serve most Massachusetts students. Click here to sign up to help with the campaign. 

And for an up close and personal look at how a "high-performing" charter school treats its students and teachers, read "Sit Down and Shut Up," a guest blog in EduShyster by a charter school teacher. The teacher writes, "In focusing so intensely on discipline, constantly dishing out consequences because we *sweat the small stuff,* we're stifling our kids' creativity. We're breeding resentment toward school in general and diminishing our students' desire to learn." 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

We need your help on House budget amendments

We need your advocacy to ensure that the interests of MTA members - from preK to higher education, active and retired - are represented in the House budget, which will be voted on this week. Three amendments are particularly important:
    - Repealing the mandated use of test scores and District-Determined Measures to create "student impact ratings" for educators. 
    - Protecting municipal retirees from unreasonable health insurance cost increases.
    - Increasing funding to honor higher education contract agreements.
    Please go HERE to let your state representative know of your support for these amendments. More details about these amendments are below.

    District-Determined Measures (DDMs)
    #696 - Relative to District Determined Measures, filed by Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge). This amendment would repeal the state's mandate that districts judge educators based on DDMs and standardized test scores. Such measures have proven to be invalid, unreliable and a poor use of educators' time. With passage of the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, these measures are no longer required by the federal government. This amendment would enable administrators and educators who value common assessments to continue using them while relieving them of the obligation to create "student impact ratings" under the educator evaluation system. No appropriation is required. (For more information on this issue, click here.)

    Municipal Retiree Health Insurance Premiums
    #705 - Relative to Municipal Retiree Fairness, filed by Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge). For the past five years, retired teachers and municipal workers in communities that have joined the GIC or instituted plan design changes have been protected from health insurance premium split increases. State retirees have had this protection since 1994. The proposed moratorium would ensure that teachers and municipal retirees are treated fairly and are not subjected to paying higher out-of-pocket costs and a larger share of their health insurance premiums at the same time.

    Higher Education Funding

    #1306 - Collective Bargaining Agreement, filed by Rep. Paul Mark (D-Peru) and more than a dozen co-sponsors. This amendment would provide additional funding to support the collectively bargained salary increases at the state's colleges and universities.

    Sunday, April 17, 2016

    HayMac success is yet to be proved .... by Kris Cambra

    While it's laudable for The Standard-Times to take a "glass half full" approach to Hayden-McFadden's turnaround plans ("Our View: Agreements set HayMac on course for improvement," April 15), let's be realistic. First, of the 21 teachers who did not reapply, it's insulting to assume that they didn't apply because they were not committed to the school or the turnaround plan. Many could not work the longer school calendar due to other commitments, and others chose to bid for other positions rather than gamble on getting rehired. Second, it's also unfair to assume that the six not hired were not qualified; among them were 25-year veterans with advanced certification in special education. This suggests that highly qualified teachers at the higher end of the pay scale were pushed out in order to redirect budget dollars to the higher salaries the new teachers will be receiving.

    Lastly, let's not lose sight of the fact that 21 new teachers now have to be hired for a Level 4 school with a longer school day, a chronic absenteeism rate three times higher than the state average, and a disproportionate number of low-income students and English language learners. As we learned with Parker and New Bedford High, that is no easy feat. Whether or not the school district is able to hire high-quality, experienced teachers who can actually implement a turnaround plan will be the true test of whether HayMac is on course for improvement.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2016

    State quarterly report commends New Bedford schools for improvement

    State quarterly report commends New Bedford schools for improvement

    Superintendent: New Bedford 'needs to embrace' PARCC or be hurt in state ranking

    Superintendent: New Bedford 'needs to embrace' PARCC or be hurt in state ranking

    Charter fight likely headed to ballot

    MTA members spoke up, sent hundreds of e-mails to their state senators and influenced the outcome of the charter reform bill that passed the state Senate last week. While the MTA remains opposed to any cap lift, we are pleased that the Senate bill includes critical accountability measures and a local approval requirement for new charters. This bill shows that our work with the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance is changing the conversation about charter schools: The charter myths are being exposed. 

    It is more and more likely that the charter issue will be on the ballot this fall. We are organizing with parents, students and our labor allies to #keepthecap. See how you can be involved here. For more information, go here. Our success on this issue will have a huge impact on public education and our members for decades to come.

    Sunday, April 10, 2016

    Charter School Misinformation Campaign Continues ... by Bruce C. Ditata

    Weighing in on the recent efforts by the state Senate to craft a compromise bill on charter schools, Gov. Charlie Baker — again — voiced his bias in favor of lifting the charter school cap.

    Gov. Baker said: "It offers no relief to 34,000 currently on a waiting list to access high-performing public charter schools,” which just adds more grist to the Great Waitlist boondoggle, the latest head to pop out in the Whac-A-Mole arcade sponsored by Baker and various other charter school luminaries.

    On Feb. 18, Eileen O’Connor, spokeswoman for Great Schools Massachusetts, said the fact that “approximately 34,000 students remain trapped on waiting lists for public charter schools reaffirms the massive demand from families for these great public schools — and how vital it is that we lift the cap immediately…”

    In late 2015, Marc Kenen, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, said: "The effort to lift the cap … (includes) … a lawsuit filed by parents whose children are among the 37,000 stranded on charter waiting lists statewide.”

    Even the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education joined the propaganda brigade, releasing information that alleges 34,000-37,000 inhabit these waitlists.

    A prominent Massachusetts education reform group, Citizens for Public Schools, contends that waitlists are being inflated by including schools that are not subject to the cap, and through the practice of rolling over old, obsolete waitlists year after year, a practice that State Auditor Suzanne Bump has repeatedly warned against.

    Auditor Bump said, "The education of our children is too important to base … decisions on misleading information.”

    But misleading information continues to spew forth from the charter school proponents — allegations that they’re narrowing the achievement gap, are innovative schools, and offer the best hope for education reform. But their road to victory on the 2016 ballot question to lift the charter school cap has taken an unexpected detour.

    The Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, a coalition of groups supporting true education reform has embarked on its own campaign against the juggernaut led by the sitting governor.

    MEJA’s campaign to Keep the Cap on Commonwealth Charter Schools is based on facts such as commonwealth charters diverting $408 million from district public schools after reimbursements are taken into account; charters are not accountable to local school committees; charter schools create a two track system of public schools — what the national NAACP calls separate and unequal, including harsh discipline policies that push out students charters don’t want.

    At the Statehouse in early March, president of the New England Area Council of the NAACP. Juan Cofield, warned of the growing segregation between haves and have-nots. In a Boston Globe article (“Racial aspects tinge MA charter debate,” by Dan Scharfenburg, March 24,) he said, "As Brown v. the Board of Education taught us, a dual school system is inherently unequal.

    “Even if [charters] are doing better, it’s better for the few (and) society ought to be concerned about the many.”

    On the subject of waitlists, CPS cited “the number of Boston students on district waitlists is comparable to the number on commonwealth charter school waitlists.”

    “Whatever the true number of students (on waitlists) affected by the cap, this must be weighed against tens of thousands of (district school) students only to have their schools closed … to have art, music, science … curtailed while public money is diverted to charter schools,” said CPS executive director, Lisa Guisbond, who added, “We have unfortunately many waitlists in Massachusetts. Roughly 17,000 for preschool. Research shows quality preschool can shrink achievement gaps.”

    “Why don’t we have a ballot question bankrolled by $18 million from wealthy financiers (who are backing the charter cap lift) to cut that waitlist?”

    Instead, the charter school misinformation campaign continues-part of an old adage that truth should never interfere with a good story, especially, if it can convince the low-information voter at a gut level.

    Charter schools: Proponents say they pave way for innovation but critics say they're skimming the easier students

    Charter schools: Proponents say they pave way for innovation but critics say they're skimming the easier students

    Wednesday, April 6, 2016

    'Opt-Out/Refusal' of the PARCC and MCAS: Community Dialogue

    Hope to see you at our next 'Opt-Out/Refusal' of the PARCC and MCAS community dialogue. Please bring 5 people interested in learning more about opting out of the state tests. We also welcome high school youths. 

    Barnes & Noble North Dartmouth: Educator Appreciation

    Hello Educators!

    It's Educator Appreciation time at Barnes & Noble! Pre-K - 12 public, private, and homeschool teachers and administrators can enjoy special discounts, events, sweepstakes, and giveaways during this time.

    • 25% off list price on most books, music, DVDs, and toys & games for classroom and personal purchase during this week;
    • 10% off all NOOK by Samsung tablets;
    • 10% off select tech tools

    Please join us for an Educator Appreciation Reception this Saturday, April 9, at 12:00 pm. Special Events and Demonstrations include:

        1. littleBits STEAM Student Set, age-graded 8+, engages a student's natural love of play and curiosity through fun, invention-based learning using electronic building blocks. The set can be previewed and pre-ordered now, and will be available in Barnes & Noble stores exclusively starting mid-May.
        2. Educator's Wonder Workshop is the toy robotics start-up on a mission to create a world for kids to bring their imagination to life with code. Educators will experience a product demonstration of Dash, an award-winning, real programmable robot that teaches kids ages 6 and up how to to code.
        3. a giveaway of a limited number of special DK Coding Kits and a DK Raffle for $4000 worth of books
        4. My Favorite Teacher Ceremony at 2:00 pm

    Additionally, we will host local authors Tammy Rebello and L. F.  Blanchard for a presentation and signing of their new book, Abandoned Asylums of Massachusetts at 7:00 pm. Educators can use their Educator Discount Card and get a 25% discount on this hauntingly beautiful book.

    We hope to see you!

    Elyse Baggen
    Community Business Development Coordinator
    Barnes & Noble Booksellers
    392 State Road
    Dartmouth, MA 02747
    t508.997.0701 f: 508.997.1564

    Tuesday, April 5, 2016

    Make your voice heard on charter schools

           State senators will vote this week on a bill that addresses the issue of Commonwealth charter schools, and they need to hear from MTA members right away to ensure that public education and the interests of educators and students are protected. Please send a message to your state senator by clicking here

           Here is the background on the MTA's position. 

           Well-financed supporters of charter school expansion are backing a ballot question that would allow up to 12 new charter schools each year anywhere in the state. The MTA is part of the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, a coalition of community groups, parents and unions that came together to take on the many issues challenging our public schools: lack of funding, high-stakes testing, a rigid accountability regime, and Commonwealth charter school expansion. The coalition has organized a campaign called Save Our Public Schools to fight the ballot question.

           The MTA supports reform of Commonwealth charter schools, but opposes lifting the cap on charter schools because, among other issues, they drain resources from local districts, leading to the destabilization of public schools. Click here to see how much districts are losing. 

           Governor Charlie Baker is seeking a legislative compromise to avoid a ballot fight in the November election. A group of senators appointed by Senate President Stanley Rosenberg unveiled a bill last week that includes some Commonwealth charter school reforms, but also includes a cap lift tied to funding and expanded state intervention through the school accountability system.

           While many of the proposed reforms and potential funding increases are long overdue, the cap lift and school accountability measures included in their proposal are unacceptable. 

           Given the reaction of charter proponents to the bill, it is clear that some of these reforms would help level the playing field. As the bill moves through the legislative process, however, we need to make sure that any cap lift compromise is ultimately defeated.

           All this makes it crucial that state senators hear from MTA members today.

           Please click here to join your fellow MTA members in making our voices heard.

    Tuesday, March 29, 2016

    Supreme Court deadlock gives win to unions in fee case

    A Victory for Unions in Friedrichs Decision

    The U.S. Supreme Court today delivered its long-awaited decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, affirming that public employers have a compelling interest in having strong and effective collective bargaining.

    In this case, 10 California teachers backed by the virulently anti-union Center for Individual Rights sought to abolish the right of public employee unions — including the MTA and our local affiliates — to collect “agency” or “fair share” fees from employees who object to union membership. Those fees are used to offset the cost of bargaining on behalf of all employees, including the objectors.
    The court’s 4-4 decision leaves intact the court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which expressly rejects the argument that agency fee arrangements intrude upon a non-member’s protected rights of association or speech as well as the assertion that collective bargaining with a government employer is a political act that non-members cannot be compelled to subsidize.

    MTA President Barbara Madeloni released the following statement:

    Today’s decision is an important one. It affirms our belief that public-sector unions are essential for creating democratic workspaces, protecting workers’ rights and fighting for economic justice in our communities.

    This particular attack on workers’ rights has energized union members, and we will continue to organize and strengthen our union, knowing full well that others will attempt to weaken our power.

    Attacks from the right continue unabated, including cases similar to Friedrichs that are before state and federal courts. We can and will win when our members are active, lead and stand side by side with students, parents and our communities to demand the schools and communities we all deserve.

    Saturday, March 26, 2016

    Opt Out Event

    Due to unforeseen circumstances, the time has been changed to 6:30-8:30 on Wednesday, March 30th.

    Thursday, March 24, 2016

    Keith Middle School adds third assistant principal

    Keith Middle School adds third assistant principal

    Mayor Jon Mitchell Delivers State of the City Address, March 24, 2016 - His comments on Education

    "Two other prerequisites need particular attention. To retain folks here, our neighborhoods must be safe, and our schools must perform well."

    "Safety alone is not enough to make a city attractive. It must also offer pathways to opportunity, and more than anything else, that means that the city has to be a place where a child can get a great education.

    In this area, of course, we have been doing some heavy lifting. Four years ago, we were on the brink of state takeover, and since then, the school administration has laid an extensive foundation for reform and renewal. And objective measures of success are appearing. The dropout rate has fallen to the lowest point in fifteen years, and last year, student test scores grew faster than the state average a remarkable feat given the relative wealth of our community. The superintendant, her team, teachers, and the school committee deserve tremendous credit for setting the district on the right path.

    There is still much work to do. As the district moves forward, it can’t lose sight of the building blocks of reform. Successful school systems have a culture of respect and high standards of personal conduct, where student safety is not even an issue. A positive school climate is a fundamental prerequisite to educational attainment. All the other improvements that are underway: more rigorous instruction, expanded learning time, new technological tools, and so forth, won’t be effective if classrooms are orderly and focused on learning.

    The news of disruptive student behavior, or worse, at Keith Middle School, is very troubling. The problem is real, and it reflects poorly not just on Keith, but on the entire school district.

    But more importantly, discipline problems should be in the rearview mirror by now. When it comes to discipline, the school administration must not take its eye off the ball. This is a solvable problem, and I say to parents out there the school committee expects it to be fixed. Your children will get the education they deserve in the environment they deserve."


    Mayor: 'New Bedford has its act together'

    Mayor: 'New Bedford has its act together'

    Mayor Jon Mitchell Delivers Inaugural Address, January 4, 2016 - His comments on Education

    "We halted the long slide in our schools, where the dropout rate is now the lowest it’s been in fifteen years, and test scores are climbing faster than in recent memory."

    "Our schools still have a way to go."

    "All of this is only part of the effort to create opportunity in our city. To be successful, a city must create pathways for its residents to reach their full potential. More than anything else, that means we must offer our city’s children a public school education that enables them to thrive as adults. 

    Our schools have come a long way in the last four years. The days when hiring was based on whom you knew, and when the needs of adults were put before children, are in the rearview mirror. 

    We have a school system now that is clear in its academic goals, manages taxpayer dollars reliably, and has raised the standard by which we judge academic success. We have two new schools underway, new technology upgrades, new textbooks for the first time in years, and new ways of instructing second language and special education students. 

    And perhaps most importantly, the school system now holds itself accountable. Just like in the private sector, everyone in the system is expected to perform, and evaluations are very real. Everyone must do their job now, and do it well. 

    The profound changes in our schools have been difficult, but absolutely necessary, given where we were four years ago. We knew this wasn’t going to be an overnight exercise, but it’s clear now that the hard work of reform is taking hold. The acceleration of test scores and the falling dropout rate are themselves encouraging, but so is the reaction of the state Department of Education, which was threatening to take over our schools back then, and now is saying they are on the right track.

    But the biggest difference is the customer feedback. Surveys show that the overwhelming number of parents believe that the system is heading in the right direction. 

    There is still much work to do. What’s needed is a persistent commitment to the new practices and systems in place. We can’t tap brakes on reform. It is working. 

    That said, sustained improvement will take root only when those technical reforms are combined with a school culture that acknowledges and validates the hard work of teachers. People in every line of work should be expected to work hard. There is no substitute for hard work. But no one can be at their best if they feel constantly pushed. Pressure cooker work environments are prone to backfiring. 

    Hard work and job satisfaction can co-exist, and if our efforts are ultimately to succeed, they must."

    Click here to read the entire statement

    New Bedford school officials say state law strict on discipline

    New Bedford school officials say state law strict on discipline