Monthly Archives: February 2013

Why I MUST Occupy

I am going to Washington DC to join other activists at Occupy the DOE 2.0 because:

  • Try as I might, I cannot gain a lot of traction here in my little town. I talk and talk and talk, but for the most part, I feel like I’m talking to myself. Oh, my colleagues “get it”, but with declining enrollment, looming observations, and all the meetings and paperwork – they just don’t seem as fired up as I am about the current state of public education. I need to go to re-charge my activist batteries and return home energized to keep talking.
  • My students DESERVE better than the paced curriculum that NYSED is pushing on them. THEY do NOT need a teacher reading from a script, but a teacher who takes into account their individual differences and does her damnedest to make her classroom where each of them can progress at their own pace.
  • Our NATION deserves better. We cannot allow the likes of Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp, Mike Bloomberg, Bill Gates and Andrew Cuomo to control the narrative about what “good teaching” and “good learning” are. We have to STOP the Race to the Top!
  • I will have the opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded people who are informed, passionate and looking to organize in a way that my Union doesn’t seem willing to do.
  • I have to show my own children the importance of standing up for those who need help – whether they are children in rural communities or urban areas, I have to be the voice of the voiceless. My own kids need to know that being a citizen means you look out for others, and you speak up when you see injustice.
  • It’s just the right thing to do…………I hope you join me.

http://unitedoptout.com/event/occupy-doe-2-0-the-battle-for-public-schools-read-all-details-here/

Evil Ways

This was originally recorded by Willie Bobo in 1965, and the song was written by Bobo’s guitarist Sonny Henry. Bobo was Latin Jazz percussionist who was a big influence on Santana and played on some of their tracks in the late ’70s.

My apologies to the songwriter,but this tune has been bouncing around in my head screaming to be updated to reflect Education Reform.

You’ve got to change your evil ways, Andy
Before your nose grows too long
You’ve got to change, Andy
And every word that I say is true
You got me runnin’ and racin’ all over school
You got me writing, and typing and running myself down
This can’t go on, Lord knows you got to change, Andy

When I get to school, Andy
My room is dark and my computers are down
You’re hangin’ round, Andy
With Bill and John and-a who knows who
I’m gettin’ tried of waitin’ and foolin’ around
I’ll find somebody who won’t make me feel like a clown
This can’t go on, Lord knows you got to change, Andy

News from Commissioner King

And……….as if things couldn’t get any worse………….this was in my school email inbox on Friday! These are the kinds of “encouraging and thankful words” you too can receive if if you sign up for the Commissioner’s updates. I haven’t replied, but if I took the time to reply, my responses are in RED for PUBLIC ED! 
Message from Commissioner King
Dear Colleagues, That would imply that you ever were, in fact, a public school teacher – sorry you are NOT one of my colleagues! 

I hope your New Year has gotten off to a great start. Thanks for noticing, but it’s mid-February. I’m guessing you mean you hope that we got off to a great start with mid-year high stakes tests, test prep and January Regents exams. 

Deputy Commissioner Slentz and I have spent a lot of time on the road this school year, visiting classrooms across the state. It’s so impressive how so many teachers have thoughtfully integrated the Common Core into their lesson plans. From Webster to Goshen to the Bronx, teachers and principals have responded to this challenge in remarkably inventive ways, engaging their students and teaching them the valuable skills they’ll need to graduate ready for college and careers. Not sure how engaging mindless test-prep and Pearon worksheets are, but for many of NY’s school children, that’s what they’re engaged in EVERY SINGLE DAY! College and careers – well, who can afford college and where in NY are the careers? 

As you probably know, the deadline for having an approved principal and teacher evaluation plan was January 17. The Governor and Legislature included language in the state budget that required districts without approved plans in place by that date to forfeit their 2012-13 state aid increase.

Remarkably, more than 99 percent (685) of the state’s 691 school districts met the deadline.My deepest respect is for the 1% that DID NOT submit to the Governor’s threats!  It wasn’t easy; every district and local union had to negotiate the specifics of the plan and submit it to the State Education Department (SED) in time for review and approval. SED staff worked literally around the clock, right up to midnight on the 17th, to make sure every plan we received was thoroughly reviewed.Word has it that most of NY’s RTTT money was spent hiring non-qualified “temporary workers” to review such plans. In fact, a neighboring school had their sent back because the person reviewing it didn’t understand the words “highly effective”. How did that money spent on things other than PROGRAMS for children work out for you? 

Unfortunately, the state’s largest district, New York City, didn’t submit a plan and missed the deadline. Steps are underway to bring the City Department of Education, the UFT, and CSA back to the table in time to avoid jeopardizing further funding, including federal Race to the Top dollars.

But the failure of New York City and its bargaining units to reach agreement does not diminish the success of school districts and unions across the state that got the job done. Their success means teachers and principals will have the information and professional development they need to improve their practice. In turn, our students will have a better opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and careers.  It’s a great step forward for our schools, our students and our state. Let’s all be honest here……….APPR is a way to get rid of what you and your pal Andy would consider “dead wood” – veteran teachers. By the way, the BEST information I get about my students comes in my every day interactions with them – not from a computerized test! Professional development?? Well, I suppose if you consider the fact that all I’ve been “developed” in is how to complete MORE PAPERWORK for a flawed evaluation system, then that’s what Iv’e been getting! 

In January, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released the last of three reports about its Measures of Effective Teaching Project (MET). The MET Project, unprecedented in its scale and scope, was designed to determine the best ways to assess teacher effectiveness so that teachers can receive the feedback and support they need to improve. Pardon my language…….but honestly this is BULLSHIT! It was undertaken to further promote the corporate takeover of public education! Andy , Billy, and Mindy are most likely licking their chops counting the dough they’re making, while NY’s school children lose the ARTS and RECESS!  The findings strongly validate New York’s Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) approach and the hundreds of school district evaluation plans we’ve approved. In my best “Church Lady” voice: “Isn’t THAT convenient?”The study endorses the use of multiple measures, including a mix of classroom observations, student growth on State tests The parents in NY who are opting their children OUT of these insane tests are my heroes!!  and other measures. Many of the MET findings about what works best are either required by New York’s new APPR system (multiple observations, careful training of observers around use of a rigorous rubric) or permitted (student surveys, multiple observers including peer observers, and observations conducted using video). This latest MET report presents strong evidence that teachers with the best results on multiple measures of teacher effectiveness in one year will produce better-than-expected student outcomes in future years. You can read the results for yourself atwww.metproject.orgSorry, but I have better things to do with my time.

I hope the New Year finds you and your students healthy and learning. Don’t forget to visit EngageNY.org for new information and instructional tools. Meaning……….don’t forget to visit the site to find 300 page “modules” of paced instruction on just ONE UNIT of study, which are clearly an insult to my education and my intelligence. I do NOT need a script to teach – only your TFA pals need that because after all, they aren’t really certified teachers are they?
Thanks for all you do to help our students learn. Yes, despite YOUR efforts to make sure that I give up and give in……….I am helping my students learn WITHOUT Pearson workbooks. I am helping them learn not only skills, but how to be members of a caring community of learners where each of us is supported and respected for our UNIQUENESS! I will NOT allow you to standardized my students!! 

John B. King, Jr.

You Paid For It!

Thanks to WGRZ TV in Buffalo for this piece about the cost to taxpayers of NY’s APPR.

If the use of NY’s RTTT money doesn’t make you furious, just think about the budget shortfalls in your district. Think about what’s already been cut and what’s on the chopping block for this year Remember, it’s this same mandate (RTTT) that has been the driving force behind the APPR mess. It’s the same mandate that has your child tested and tested and tested – losing precious instructional and play time!

Is it really a good use of OUR MONEY? Wouldn’t it be better to use the money to restore programs that have been cut? Wouldn’t it be better for KIDS if teachers were hired to relieve overcrowded classrooms? Wouldn’t it be better if our kids NEVER had to take a high stakes test?

OPT OUT! SPEAK OUT! Time is running out………it’s time to ACT!

Try this link for video………. getting reports the link I included isn’t working!
http://www.wgrz.com/news/investigative/youpaidforit/article/198549/220/State-Ed-Department-Staffs-Up-for-Teacher-Evaluation

Opting Out in NY

There has been wonderful information shared on the Opt Out of the Standardized Tests – New York Facebook page regarding a memo from NYSED that explains the 95% participation “rule”. Folks have also been discussing their RIGHTS as parents to opt their children OUT of high stakes testing.

As a teacher, I wonder when what happened in New York City last year will happen to me. My picture and my “teacher rating score” published in a local newspaper declaring I am the worst teacher in Western NY.

At this very moment, information about NY’s PUBLIC school children – demographics, test scores, BMI, parents, academic record, and disciplinary records are being sent to Albany without parental consent.

It seems in NY, there are NO provisions to OPT OUT of anything relating to education. Privacy of students, teachers, principals and parents isn’t honored. Big government has their hands all over information that, honestly, I cannot discuss with colleagues because of its confidential nature. The exams that are given to students in NY are not transparent. Teachers who give state exams sign a “pledge” stating that they won’t discuss the test contents with anyone.

There is, apparently, one area in which NY State allows opting-out. That area is pistol permit information. This is the pistol permit opt-out form for Erie County. This form allows citizens who hold pistol permits to have their personal information kept confidential and NOT shared should a media source request such information.

I am not here to start a gun ownership debate. I do find it interesting that this is the area that NYS has, in all its wisdom, decided should NOT be FOILable. My teacher evaluation score, along with my name and address are NOT protected like this. My students’ privacy is NOT protected in this manner. Information is sent electronically to Albany and who knows where else WITHOUT parental consent.Does anyone besides me find it a little disconcerting to know that someone in Albany could be looking at my children’s test scores or body mass index without my knowledge or consent?  If the privacy of adults is to be honored in regard to gun ownership, then why isn’t the public screaming that the privacy of CHILDREN be honored as well?

Running on Empty

“I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
I look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too”

I have had this blog post bouncing around in my brain for the past two weeks, but honestly, I’ve just been too exhausted to sit down and write it.

February dawned in Western NY with a major “lake effect snow event”, and we were lucky enough to have a Superintendent’s Day. So, on a day when no one should have been driving, my colleagues and I trudged into the school for some “quality” professional development. We had been told that we would have all our questions about our APPR Plan answered. We were told that we discover that there is really nothing to fear.

As we waded through the 26 page Danielson rubric (2007), I looked around the room and saw in the eyes of my colleagues nothing short of a look of utter exhaustion. Glassy-eyed, we were instructed to note the difference between “effective” and “highly effective”. We were told that our lessons will be scripted because our observations have to have “evidence” of our teaching.

Our observation cycle will involve a pre-observation conference, the formal observation, and a post-observation conference. I grew weary just listening to this – already my head spinning about the paperwork that needs to be completed. Additionally, we will have an unannounced observation, and a collection of “artifacts” to submit before the end of the year.

All of this is just for our 60 points. We have another 40 points coming from individual SLOs or District-wide SLOs based on State Exams. The charts, the graphs, the DATA was shared with us about how those scores will be generated.

For the past two weeks, I’ve watched as my colleagues pass in the hallways asking “Is it Friday yet?” on Mondays. I’ve listened to the reports of the lone Principal scheduling back-to-back observations and through no fault of his, arriving late for an observation and missing the entire opening. Of course, not to worry, we can discuss that at our post-observation conference.

In the meantime, I’ve sat at an RTI meeting as well: the meetings that suck the life out of you as you sit and rehash an intervention that hasn’t worked YET for a student. As we sit and look at STAR Assessment scores, there is the ever-present feeling that I am failing this child. I should be doing MORE, MORE, MORE to get those scores up.

Throw in a Board of Education meeting with the news that we are about $300,000 short,and the rumors of who’s being cut start to swirl. Good people become paranoid, fearful, and start to name the names of people they think could be cut instead of them. The questions about the viability of our district resurface and our Board sits and says “We’re going to TRY to look down the road to get in better financial shape.” Would they accept that as my answer at a post-observation conference?

And, if it weren’t bad enough that we’ve had grey skies, snow, cold, and enough bad news to last a year – toss in 100 Days of School celebrations, Valentine’s Day, and one day when half my class was absent.

Everyone – the adults and the children are sicker this year. Maybe it’s because the flu is worse, but I’d be willing to bet it’s because we’re all exhausted. Teach better! Learn faster! Do this! Do that! And, do it to a level of DISTINCTION! (although as we’ve been told – Highly Effective is a place we’ll visit, not live in)

I come home and I’m asleep by 8 PM, waking at midnight and then trying to get some sleep after that. My children, who are in high school, spend time at sports practices and games and then come home to at least 2 hours of homework EVERY NIGHT!

There’s no more gas in my tank – I am running on empty and my friends are too……………