Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tell lawmakers to keep the cap on charter schools

MTA members are urged to tell lawmakers why they should keep the cap on Commonwealth charter schools when the Legislature's Joint Committee on Education hears testimony next week on a bill that would significantly raise it.

The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 8, in Gardner Auditorium at the State House.

The MTA opposes any lift of the cap on charter schools. That includes the provisions of a proposed ballot question - which are contained in the bill, House 3928 - as well as any modified version of the plan.

Proponents of H. 3928 have gathered enough signatures to begin the process of putting it on the ballot. The Education Committee is required to hold a hearing and then either recommend it for approval or not act. If the bill does not pass the Legislature before May 4, proponents may gather additional signatures, which would allow the question to go on the November 2016 ballot.

If the Legislature passes other charter school legislation - such as Governor Charlie Baker's bill to raise the cap - proponents of H. 3928 could drop their ballot initiative. But any lifting of the cap, either through legislation or the ballot initiative, will destabilize public education in Massachusetts.

That is why it is important for educators to not only oppose H. 3928, but to fight all attempts at raising the cap.

MTA members are urged to tell the committee about the program cuts, increased class sizes and other impacts that charter schools are having on district public schools.
In the current fiscal year, Commonwealth charter schools are draining more than $408 million from district public schools.

If you are interested in testifying in person at the hearing or have questions, please contact Julie Johnson, MTA Government Relations specialist, by e-mailing or calling 617.878.8315.

If you are unable to attend, you may e-mail your testimony to the Education Committee staff at Address your testimony to the Joint Committee on Education and identify yourself by your name and your role (e.g., educator, parent, concerned citizen). Please send a copy of your testimony to your legislators and e-mail it to jjohnson@massteacher.orgWritten testimony should be submitted by Feb. 12.
Additional information on how charter schools undermine public education is available here and here.

Teachers' union president: HayMac reapplication process will be a 'disaster'

"If we make teachers reapply for their jobs, these teachers will leave the school. We'll lose a lot of talented people. I think it is a mistake," said St. John. "They should be worried about keeping the teachers who are there now."

"Hayden-McFadden teachers are doing a terrific job educating the kids," said St. John. "They are educating everyone regardless of their circumstance. Regardless of student needs, teachers step up to the plate."

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Our View: Trust at the root of school improvements in New Bedford

Our View: Trust at the root of school improvements in New Bedford

Rosenberg knocks Baker's push to hike charter school cap

BESE places Southbridge schools in receivership

Southbridge hearing
The night before the BESE vote, Southbridge Education Association President Joan Sullivan told the board that an improvement plan for the district must include educator input and provide more resources for students.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted on Tuesday, Jan. 26, to place the Southbridge Public Schools into receivership.
The vote was nine in favor, with board member Ed Doherty abstaining. Doherty, who represents labor on the board, said he could not support the receivership process as long as it removed workers’ collective bargaining rights.
Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester plans to name a receiver in February. In the interim, he will act as the receiver. The Southbridge School Committee will be relieved of its duties.
At a public hearing in Southbridge Monday night, no consensus emerged on whether receivership would be the best option for the district, though there was general agreement that leadership of the district had broken down.
Southbridge Education Association President Joan Sullivan spoke at the hearing and delivered a petition signed by members.
The petition read in part, “As noted in the DESE’s district review, leadership of the schools is in disarray. With the district’s persistent lack of a vision or coherent plan, educators have been working with minimal guidance from the central administration. Southbridge educators want to share their expertise to benefit the district, and that will only occur when there is stable leadership that views educators as equal partners.”
Sullivan told the BESE that the district needs more enrichment and wraparound services for all students and that standardized tests should not be the only measure of student progress.
Several SEA members spoke, making the point that educators are frustrated and want to be partners in moving the district forward.
“We feel like we are rowing very hard, but without direction we don’t get anywhere,” said SEA Vice President David Williams.
As noted in a district report by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Southbridge has had seven superintendents over the past seven years, with similar turnover in high school principals. The district is also lacking key positions such as an ELL director, even though the district has approximately 350 English language learners.
Susan Grant, one of the district’s few ELL instructors, echoed other SEA members in telling the BESE that despite the challenges, she chooses to teach in Southbridge.
The DESE will next begin to assemble a local stakeholder group that will discuss what should be included in a turnaround plan that will be developed. The Southbridge Education Association will have representation in the group.
Southbridge is the third Massachusetts district to be placed into receivership, following state takeovers of the Lawrence and Holyoke Public Schools.

Friday, January 22, 2016


At 10 a.m. on on Monday, January 25, at Keith Middle School, officials from the New Bedford Educators Association will present a donation of more than $5,300 in coats, winter clothing, educational supplies and hygiene products to the students of New Bedford Public Schools. Several school district nurses shopped at local retailers for these items. School nurses, with the assistance of other staff members, identified students that would most benefit from these donations. The school nurses will be distributing these items to the families in the near future.

The New Bedford Educators Association received a grant from the Massachusetts Teachers Association for this generous donation. In addition, the NBEA received contributions from Mayor Jon Mitchell; City Councilors Henry Bousquet, Steven Martins and Kerry Winterson; State Representative William Straus; Dias, Lapalme & Martin LLP; Friendly Sons of St. Patrick; Peter Muise, CEO, First Citizens’ Federal Credit Union; School Committee Member Bruce Oliveira; and Superintendent Pia Durkin.

Save Our Schools Coalition March For Public Education & Social Justice


Save Our Schools Coalition March
For Public Education & Social Justice
It is Time to March Again!!!
On July 30, 2011, many thousands of us gathered in Washington, DC for the historic Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action. We came from across the country to voice our grievances about the state of public education and to share our visions for the future. We stood in solidarity to denounce an unresponsive political process and its dehumanizing policies. We returned to our cities, communities, organizations and unions committed to the goal of building an equitable, democratic education system for our students, their communities, their schools and educators. We have not rested since in our collective struggle for humane public schools and policies across the nation.
               Today, we have a burgeoning coalition of grassroots groups, union organizations, and activists who will rally and march in support of education and social justice. We are marching for community-based, equitably-funded schools that are the heart of neighborhoods.

We stand and march for:

·        Full, equitable funding for all public schools
·        Safe, racially just schools and communities
·        Community leadership in public school policies
·        Professional, diverse educators for all students
·        Child-centered, culturally appropriate curriculum for all
·        No high-stakes standardized testing

The Save Our Schools Coalition for Action envisions a mass gathering of like-minded people – from all walks of life and with diverse causes – speaking and marching in solidarity once more. We envision bold actions and expressions of resistance for children and adults alike, which foster awareness and camaraderie in the movement. Join us in Washington D.C. on July 8-10th to celebrate democracy by living it. The general schedule for the event is:

·        July 8th: Rally & March (location will be announced soon)
·        July 9th: National & International Summit with family and kid-friendly events
·        July 10th: Coalition Congress – member organizations meet to plan next steps for the movement
An action this big requires much collaboration and support, and the Coalition has many involvement opportunities for individuals and organizations alike. Consider helping in the following ways:
1.      Endorse the principles and the 2016 event
2.     Provide active publicity about the 2016 event to your organizations and listserves
3.     Organize in your area and assist people in attending the event
4.     Provide financial support for the 2016 event and/or scholarships to deserving attendees
5.     Collaborate and actively engage in the planning of the 2016 event by joining the Coalition for Action Steering Committee or one of its planning sub-committees. For more information on how to help and participate in the Coalition event, contact Bob George at (708) 692-5818.

This is an election year, and surely there can be no better time to show our government and our fellow citizens, “This is what democracy looks like!” We look forward to marching with you this summer in D.C.!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

MTA urges opting out of DESE survey

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is in the process of recruiting as many as 60 districts to participate in a teacher survey about the implementation of the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, educator evaluation, professional development and personalized and digital learning tools.
The MTA has reviewed the final draft of the survey and is recommending that locals not participate. Participation is voluntary. As of Jan. 21, seven districts had declined to take the survey. Click here to see which districts have been selected and which have opted not to take the survey.
If your superintendent contacts you about this survey, we suggest that your president inform your field representative immediately to discuss how best to respond.
The MTA has concluded that, given the techniques, questions and background of the project, the survey is not a legitimate tool for gauging what is happening in K-12 classrooms and in no way will benefit students or educators.
  • The survey is a product of two outside interests that the DESE has engaged to assist in data collection. One of the DESE’s partners oversees a federal Department of Education grant-funded research project on college readiness, and the other is a company administering surveys in six other states.
  • The development of the survey has been anything but collaborative. Last October, the DESE shared some of the survey questions with the MTA and asked for input. The MTA provided numerous suggestions on ways to change questions to allow for more honest and holistic responses. Most of the MTA’s suggestions were ignored in the final draft of the survey.
  • The survey is loaded with leading questions that will likely generate unrealistic responses or potentially self-critical answers. It is easy to see how this survey could inaccurately portray educators as doing a poor job or erroneously support current education policies concerning assessments and evaluations. The survey asks detailed questions about educators’ practice, but does not allow for providing any context to explain responses.
  • The survey directs educators who do not teach English language arts to answer questions about the ELA Frameworks and related classroom practices. While math and science teachers will respond to questions about their subjects, educators who teach subjects such as art, physical education or vocational or career education will be asked to respond to questions about the ELA Framework implementation. The same applies to educators who provide instructional support, such as guidance counselors.
  • The administration procedures raise considerable concerns about confidentiality and anonymity. Districts will provide educators’ names, e-mail addresses and Massachusetts educator ID numbers — their MEPIDs. Each teacher will receive a personalized link to a survey that contains questions based in part on the data submitted annually to the DESE on roles and assignments. While the DESE has stated that all identifying information will be removed before any data is provided by the survey vendor to the department, the data will not be submitted anonymously.
A DESE website about the survey has been created that includes a link to the survey instruments. — A DESE document sent to superintendents clearly states that participation in the survey is voluntary.
  • The DESE expects to administer the survey online between Feb. 22 and March 11.
  • Teachers, principals and superintendents will be asked to complete the survey. Respondents will be eligible to receive a gift certificate.
  • The DESE will offer schools and districts a monetary incentive for participation.
  • If response rates are sufficient, school and district reports will be available. The DESE has not provided sample reports.
The MTA fully supports — and strongly advocates for — the inclusion of educators’ perspectives in analyzing and establishing policies and practices. In our view, however, this survey does not accurately or authentically capture educators’ views and should not be used to affect or inform education policy in Massachusetts.
If you have questions about the survey project, please e-mail Beverly Miyares at

Peyser opposes millionaires tax amendment - CommonWealth Magazine

Peyser opposes millionaires tax amendment - CommonWealth Magazine: STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT raising taxes on millionaires to generate $1.9 billion for education and transportation would hurt the economy and damage the state’s ability to support school services, Education Secretary James Peyser said Thursday. “Definitely not,” Peyser said following an event at the Omni-Parker House Hotel, which featured state education officials(...)

Senate leader promises fresh look at charter schools

Senate leader promises fresh look at charter schools