The NYSUT “Revival”

In light of the reports today that NYSUT is working to strong-arm the Working Families Party (they vehemently deny this is happening) and that NYSUT will remain silent at AFL-CIO endorsements for Andrew Cuomo, I feel it is necessary to revisit the “REVIVAL” that the leadership team elected in April promised us as NYSUT members. Interestingly, only a few days after the coup  election, the “Revive NYSUT” website and twitter accounts were either wiped clean or locked. In the days leading up the election, I printed several copies of the “Where We Stand” and “Action Plan” pages from the web site. I have held on to them for a couple of months – hoping that my gut feeling that this election would just bring new faces to same old problems was wrong.

Today, NYSUT tweeted 2 things that grabbed my attention. One was what can only be deemed a strongly worded reply to those saying that NYSUT was working behind the scenes to get the Working Families Party to endorse Cuomo. They tweeted: “NYSUT has NOT endorsed Cuomo nor pushed WFP to endorse him. All rumors to the contrary are false. There is no chance of it happening.”  The second was “NYSUT issues early endorsements for DiNapoli, Schneiderman” This was most interesting as the “REVIVAL” folks talked the talk about member engagement and transparency, yet on a Saturday afternoon the Board of Directors decided to issue early endorsements BEFORE the endorsement conference. Transparency? I suppose so, since they proudly tweeted it out, but member engagement? I hardly see how they can say that there was member engagement on these endorsements since there has NOT been an endorsement conference!

From their own campaign website: WHERE WE STAND

  • We will defend public education. Period. Ok, so there was the “Picket in the Pines” which NYSUT jumped on when some grassroots chatter was going on about attending and picketing the Gov’s “Philosophy Camp” in the Adirondacks. All one has to do is to follow the Long Island Opt Out folks on Facebook, and one would quickly see that grassroots demonstrations are happening all over LI defending public education – but NO NYSUT! WNYers4PublicEducation have held their fair share of events – NO NYSUT!  Perhaps all the defending goes on in the glass tower of Latham? Other than the Picket in the Pines-full of photo ops with Randi of AFT fame- I haven’t seen much defense of public education.
  • We bring experience.  Yes, they are experienced leaders. Yes, they are experienced educators but they also promised to “bring forward new ideas in these troubled times.” If a photo-op with Randi is a new idea – well, then I must have just fallen off the turnip truck because photo ops are NOT a new idea.
  • We do not support Common Core as it is. I was especially encouraged by the line “a curriculum that is developmentally appropriate”. However, visit the NYSUT web site and you will see they are still encouraging members to use and upload lessons to “Share My Lesson” – the AFT attempt to make it appear that teachers are just in LOVE with the CCSS and are having a grand old time writing lessons that are aligned with it. And, additionally, haven’t there been plenty of NYSUT members saying that the CCSS have to GO – not be fixed, not be more slowly implemented, not ‘tweaked’?
  • We do not support Iannuzzi’s APPR or the way it was created. Here’s their take: “When a Board of Directors vote was requested, Dick refused and kept local Presidents in the dark until the deal was done.” Uhm, sort of like the early endorsements??
  • We are not afraid of the Commissioner of Education and Regents. This is especially interesting, because when Meryl Tisch visited Buffalo, a BTF teacher asked for NYSUT to show up and protest. Buffalo Teachers’ Federation was asked to show up and protest. What did this dues paying member get?? CRICKETS! Not a one of them showed – not a NYSUT leader, not a NYSUT LRS, not a BTF leader.
  • We are for transparency.  You know what, they have this one right – I haven’t seen financials, but I do know that my dues keep going up. They also pledge to be “accountable to the membership.” I’m going to reserve judgement on this one for now.
  • The tax cap was a terrible mistake. “We will fight to get rid of the tax cap completely. Recognizing that this will not be an easy task or one achieved overnight, we will chip away at the cap by going after short – term exemptions.” I don’t think there was one exemption this year – but there were several districts that voted YES on school budgets that were over the cap.
  • OPT OUT “REVIVE supports a parent’s right to opt out of unnecessary state tests.” That’s great news, but I would love to see the crack legal team at NYSUT also supporting the right of members to have an opinion outside of the school day – so that the unnecessary harassment of teachers who also support a parent’s right to opt out STOPS!
  • Social justice to bring real change.  “We will continue to establish REAL coalitions, not only in name but instead in action.” Don’t see it happening, don’t hear about it being planned ……and heck, I still get the weekly leader briefing. Maybe if so much space wasn’t taken up promoting “Share My Lesson” I would see social justice there.
  • We support NYSUT Constituency Groups. Unless you’re in MORE, or in the North Country, or in Western NY, or in Southwestern NY …… hmm…. UFT UNITY much?
  • Ed Reform “NY’s education reform agenda, under the direction of the Board of Regents and Commissioner King is not working. Revive will use data to push back.” UHM – but isn’t part of this fight we’re in all about excessive data collection – data collection that goes beyond FERPA? Who exactly will collect this data? Honestly, I have no more time in day to collect data for the glass tower dwellers to use.
  • WHERE WE STAND ON GOVERNOR CUOMO:  I’m going to be honest – this one scared me the most and continues to scare the crap out of me. I will let the REVIVE TEAM speak for themselves and you, dear reader, can draw your own conclusions: “Have you ever been so mad at your principal or superintendent that you did not talk to them for a couple of days? We all have. But have you ever gone months without speaking? ” “The REVIVE team recognizes that there is no support for an endorsement of the Governor, nor do we think he has earned one. This is not entirely the Governor’s fault. When the President of NYSUT does not meet the Governor to educate him about member concerns for months at a time we should not be surprised at the result. We will engage the Governor to address your concerns….hopefully to win him over. We will be the voice he cannot ignore; be it every week, day or hour until he understands our issues and concerns.”  

I fear these are dark days for NYSUT members …..unless you travel to Latham and join the “revival”.

Let It Go for the test refusers

I was making my way around the internet and found this, which was billed as a “parody”. I guess in the simplest terms, it is a parody, but sadly as I watched it, I realized that it was a video encouraging students to do their very best on the upcoming tests.

 

While I don’t have the outright musical talent, nor the equipment to make my own video, I have rewritten the lyrics in honor of all the students who refused NYS exams.

If anyone reading this has the ability and/or the desire to use these to make a video, feel free! If you want to change the words, go for it! If you just want to sing along, I’ve included a karoke version of the song as well.

Let It Go

(to honor all the test refusers)

The test lays flat on my desk right now

Not a question to be seen

A tyranny of secrecy

And it looks like I’m the pawn

 

The thoughts are howling in my head; a swirling storm inside

Can’t think about it, even though I’ve tried

 

Don’t open it, Don’t make a mark

Be the rebel you’ve always wanted to be

Refuse, Opt out –  don’t let them win

So  now WE WIN!

 

Pencils down, Pencils down

Can’t hold it back anymore

Pencils down, Pencils down

Walk away and slam the door

 

I don’t care

What they’re going to say

Let the tests rage on

The tests never measured me anyway

 

It’s funny how some distance

Makes everything seem small

And the tests that once controlled me

Can’t get to me at all

 

 

It’s time to show what I can do

Create and play and then break through

No test, No test, No test for me

I’m free

 

Pencils down, Pencils down

Can’t hold it back anymore

Pencils down, Pencils down

Walk away and slam the door

 

I don’t care

What they’re going to say

Let the tests rage on

 

My power flurries through the air into the floor

My soul is spiraling in amazing thoughts all around

And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast

I’m never going to test

The past is in the past

 

Pencils down, Pencils down

And I’ll rise like the break of dawn

Pencils down, Pencils down

That useless test is gone

 

Here I stand

In the light of day

Let the test rage on

The test never measured me anyway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Parent’s Fear

I had an interesting conversation tonight with a parent whom I was CERTAIN was planning to have her child refuse the tests this spring. This is what she said to me: “I just love my daughter’s teacher, and when I think that I could do something that might hurt her, I get worried.”  This is a common thread of conversation that I’ve been hearing lately among the once-certain, once-defiant parents who were completely committed to test refusals last summer.

I think I understand where their hearts are. I think I do “get it” when they say that their WORST FEAR is that something that they or they child could do would possibly have a negative effect on a teacher that is beloved, a teacher whom they recognize as one who cares deeply for their child and has done everything in her power to make sense of all the CCSS nonsense in NYS.

I also think that I understand in their heart of hearts, these parents aren’t afraid of rocking the boat, or afraid of standing up to NYSED. What they do fear, however, is that personal connection – how it would affect someone that they have come to trust and respect and admire.

Despite the many gains made in my little school district, this one fear still exists. It is driving decisions that are truly based in a concern for the well-being of an individual PERSON – one that they care about so very deeply.

So …….. to all of you out there that are living with this fear, I want to tell you:

1. You must do what is BEST for YOUR CHILD.

2. Your child’s teacher – that person that you have grown to respect and trust and admire – will not be ‘hurt’ by a test refusal. In fact, if enough of you refuse – a score cannot even be generated! And, truly, how unique is that – that your child’s teacher would not be defined by a number and neither will your child!

3. Teachers support you in your refusals, and you know what else? Even IF somehow your refusal “hurts” us – we know that you have our backs. That means more than anything that a test could ever tell us.

http://www.nystoptesting.com/2012/08/what-opt-out-is-not.html

Would I Lie to You?

This week, a very personable “professional developer” from BOCES came to my school to “guide” the K-6 teachers in the use of the Tri-State Quality Rubric – a rubric that is to help us all align our lessons to the CCSS and is to be used as a “learning tool”. We have been assured that this exercise is in no way evaluative. In fact, the goal is to help become more “thoughtful and reflective” as we plan lessons.

I can deal with this – professional development is not a bad thing. I have no problems with learning about new tools and strategies that will improve my teaching.  However, what I cannot deal with is the bag of lies that comes along with this professional development.

“The modules on the engageny web site are just resources.” This lie was repeated over and over so much that I believe the folks at NYSED think if they just get enough folks to say it, teachers will eventually believe it.  If this is true, then why, oh why, dear BOCES Staff Specialist when I go there are the modules listed under “NYS CURRICULUM”?

“The CCSS were developed by teachers.”  OK – so much has been written that by now I can’t believe that anyone honestly thinks I would believe this one, but go ahead and keep repeating it because obviously if you say it enough, it must be true right?

“This will strengthen your lesson planning, and it is not an evaluative tool about your teaching.”  I may not be the brightest bulb in the bunch, and I am in no way a “Staff Specialist”, but I fail to see how we can discuss my lesson planning, have an observation of the execution of the lesson plan and NOT talk about my teaching. Now, it is very well true that my teaching will not be evaluated – but how on earth do you evaluate my lesson planning WITHOUT making any comment about my teaching?  Of course, in my humble opinion this is exactly the problem with the CCSS and NYSED’s scripted curriculum – what is written on a piece of paper doesn’t necessarily translate to what is good teaching practice taking into account the unique make-up of my classroom.

I can stand a lot of things – among them the lies that are repeated over and over again about the CCSS – but I cannot stand for the lies that are being told to my child!

My child is a junior in High School, which this year gives him a “unique opportunity” as he and I have been told. He gets to take the “old” English Regents exam twice and he gets to take the “new” CC-aligned ELA test. Best of all, the highest of all three scores will be the one that “counts” as his final exam score.

He has been told by his Guidance Counselor and his English teacher that he SHOULD take all 3 tests. That is an outright lie!! Of course, they try to work their magic of telling him what a great chance this is to keep taking the tests to get the highest grade possible.

What is required in NY for graduation is to PASS the ENGLISH REGENTS EXAM – PERIOD!! So, my son has a plan: He will take the exam next week IF he’s satisfied with his score, he will NOT take any more ELA exams. He is fully prepared to “sit and stare” if need be, although I told him he could just stay home sick on those days. He wants them to know that he’s buying the LIE – he wants to make a statement and I couldn’t be prouder of him!

Tri State/EQuIP Rubric

http://www.engageny.org/resource/tri-state-quality-review-rubric-and-rating-process

So, this little gem is finally making its way to my school, and I can’t contain my excitement!! Finally, all those folks at Achieve (http://www.achieve.org/contributors) have developed a rubric to let me know how well my lesson planning aligns to the “shifts and rigor of the Common Core.”

Of course, we all KNOW that the folks at Achieve have years of educational experience in writing and delivering lesson plans for students.

For me, the very best part is the fact that my prep time will be used for training in the rubric, writing lessons, and then having BOCES employees come and evaluate my lesson planning and my lessons! Again, this makes perfect sense to me because those folks that have been trained at one of NYSED’s “Network Training” sessions are absolutely experts! 

My concerns about being ‘evaluated’ by a BOCES employee were immediately dispelled when I was told through NYSUT that everyone is doing it.  Of course, NYSUT would be on the lookout for my welfare as a dues-paying union member right?

Silly old teacher that I am – thinking that my lesson planning should be tailored to meet the needs of the students in my classroom RIGHT NOW – no matter their development and abilities. How ridiculous that I would plan lessons based on their needs and interests. How absolutely crazy that I would consider using the upcoming Winter Olympic Games as a theme for teaching math, science, reading, writing, and social studies. Of course, it makes much more sense that I be on the same “page” as every other second grade teacher in NY State – following those beloved scripted lessons in the other lifesaver NYSED has provided me in MODULES.

Second Grade ELA Modules – It Keeps Getting Stupider

Originally posted on @ THE CHALK FACE:

As I continue my ‘journey’ through Module 1 of NYSED’s scripted and paced curriculum guide, I find things that just make me want to scream. First of all, the pace is pretty much a 100 yard dash. I read to my students, they are to listen and learn. In fact, this is the name of the “strand” – Listening and Learning, not to be confused with the Skills Strand.

Each Listening and Learning Strand Module has a list of the CORE  VOCABULARY that my students are to learn – they should know the definition and be able to use most of  the words in their conversational speech.  Here is the list of the core vocabulary for the Fairy Tales and Tall Tales  module:

Core Vocabulary for Fairy Tales and Tall Tales
The following list contains all of the core vocabulary words in Fairy
Tales and Tall Tales in the forms…

View original 426 more words

Second Grade – Skills Strand Lesson 1: Thanks Engageny

So, today, I did the Core Knowledge Skills Strand Lesson 1 from Module 1. This is the lesson that SHOULD HAVE been taught on Day 1 of Second Grade.

There were many materials that I didn’t have – flip picture cards (hat, cat, sad, etc), and some things I didn’t do – the word dictation and “word chaining” (at — cat—bat—bad–mad–map). I think the “word chaining” was meant to be written as I read, but I looked at that and decided to skip that too.

I thought “Let’s get right to the reading bit.” I passed out the workbooks (printed by our BOCES Center and sold to us) and had my students open to Lesson 1.1. There was a story for them to read and on the following page 4 questions to answer. I had great confidence that most of them could this in about 5 minutes or less – I know them well as they were my first graders last year. I anticipated which students may struggle and was prepared to pull them as a small group to work at the table with me nearby, but still doing most of it on their own.

When nearly all of my class asked me to identify the word “Skipper”, I was honestly stunned. This shouldn’t have been a difficult word -even as names go. I took a closer look at the text they were reading, and this is what I saw:

010004

So, apparently, in “real world texts”, words have little dots separating the syllables? Have you ever read anything like this? Of course not! Why on earth would second graders be given text that looks like this? This does NOT look like anything they read anywhere else. Well, no wonder my “kids” didn’t know what they were reading! Yeah, thanks engageny for THAT!

Then, the questions:
005

Now, of course, in all the wisdom that engageny possesses (yeah, I’m being sarcastic) the words in the questions do NOT have those little dots. Thanks engageny for THAT too!

Following this lesson (remember which was to be taught on the first day of school) there’s this gem of a parent letter that they were supposed to take home. My students? NOPE – they didn’t take it home, but Thanks engageny for THIS too because you know, I am unable to write my own parent letter.

011012

And………..coming up in lesson 9 we’re going to work on compound words with this little gem of a worksheet:
013

Yeah, because it makes sense to teach compound words with words that aren’t even real. Thanks, engageny!

Tomorrow we tackle lesson 1 of the Listening and Learning Strand …… I am so

EX-CIT-ED!