Tag Archives: unions

The Many Faces of NYSUT

I am really confused by NYSUT these days.

A letter was printed in the Albany Times Union by the TEACHER OF THE YEAR whose face graces the cover of NYSUT UNITED. You can read his letter using this link: http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Academic-excellence-to-the-core-4463752.php

But, wait……..isn’t NYSUT planning a RALLY on June 8? Why yes, indeed, Dick tells us : “It’s time to raise all our voices in unison to support public education. Educators, parents, students and community members will have the opportunity to speak as one.” 

So, NYSUT which is it? Do we LOVE the CCSS? Do we want parents, educators and students to support public education WITH the CCSS? Do we agree with Randi that there should simply be a moratorium on the testing? Do we think the CCSS were just “rolled out wrong?

What about the memo famously sent from Dick Iannuzzi telling teachers that we should be wary of discussing “opt out” with parents?

What about the news that was tweeted out of a listening tour that suddenly NYSUT’S crack legal team is looking into the confidentiality agreement that teachers had to sign before scoring tests?

What about Dick standing proudly with Andy when NYSUT agreed to the hell that is NY’s APPR?

What is NYSUT going to do about the impending destruction of completed tests – tests that will be used in that APPR to determine growth scores for its members?

Which face of NYSUT will we see tomorrow, the next day, the next week? Sorry, but this is NOT the way to instill confidence in your members, Dick!

Won’t Back Down

The story of teachers in two schools in Seattle, WA who are refusing to give standardized tests, as well as the story of teachers in Hamburg, NY who refused a flawed and unfair APPR plan are stories that inspire me. I KNOW that it is mass resistance like this, and the Chicago Teachers’ Union strike that will have lasting impact on changing the course of the ridiculous high stakes testing mania in public schools.

I read and watch very public resignations by veteran teachers who are fed up and refuse to be part  of the testing machine. I share their stories, I talk about them to colleagues, and I secretly wish I could be one of them. Maybe you’re a teacher reading this and wishing you could be one of them too. Maybe you’re a parent or grandparent reading this and wondering why more teachers won’t do the same.

The reality is that for many of us, our incomes are the primary incomes for our families. That doesn’t mean, though, that we can sit back and say “Well, how nice for them, but I could never do anything like that.” Maybe we can’t quit – maybe our families need us to keep working in a system that is broken. Maybe we think that because we can’t do those things, we can’t do anything. NOT TRUE!

We CAN resist from within. We CAN start talking to our colleagues about the testing madness. We CAN refuse to spend our days subjecting our student to endless, mindless test-prep. We CAN refuse to send home packet upon packet of test prep material over a ‘break’. We CAN plan projects and lessons that aren’t scripted. We CAN have honest discussions with our administrators expressing our concerns about what our students are losing out on because of test obsession. We CAN find one other person who agrees and attend a rally, a meeting or stand together at a union or faculty meeting and speak the truth! We CAN refuse to let any data that the school collects define our students for us or for their parents. We CAN write letters to the editors of our local papers. We CAN meet with parents and discuss NOT test data, but what we know about their child and development. We CAN tell parents that it’s a great thing to opt their children out of high stakes testing. We CAN close our doors and let the little children PLAY! And, let’s face it, we CAN make any lesson or any activity ‘fit’ the CCSS if we have to. We’ve all done those “dog and pony show” for our observations, haven’t we? We CAN accept that if we are deemed “developing” instead of “effective” based on a ridiculous rubric, it’s not the end of the world. We CAN start talking about curriculum and textbook decisions with the power of what we know – what is developmentally appropriate for our students. We CAN say that we will NOT standardize our students or our teaching to meet anyone’s demands – especially the writers of the CCSS. We CAN demand that our state and national unions start supporting what’s good for our students and not what’s good for the corporate agenda.

Remember, every drop in the bucket fills it a bit more. You may be one drop compared to the CTU or the teachers in Seattle or Hamburg or those who have publicly quit, but you CAN be one drop that keeps filling the bucket of resistance!

Lessons Learned

It almost always seem strange to me to celebrate the coming a “New Year” in January, as for me the new year begins in September. However, this IS the time of year when many reflect on the year that has just ended, so it seems appropriate that I should do the same. Here are some of the lessons (in no particular order of importance) I learned in 2012:

  • I am not alone in my disdain for the overuse and misuse of Standardized Testing to evaluate students, teachers, principals and schools. It’s a bit scary at first, when you start to speak up and are met with blank stares and/or eye rolling, but if you hang in there long enough – people WILL listen! 
  • The CCSS are not based in reality and worse, not based in anything that lifelong educators know about child development! Of course, they may have been IF actual educators had been given any input.
  • Race to the Top is a thinly veiled attempt of the Obama Administration to impose a “National Curriculum” – something that is prohibited by the US Constitution.
  • Opting your child out of any tests that will be used to measure teacher effectiveness will NOT hurt your child or your child’s teacher or your school. Fear is a great deterrent, and to those parents who are on the front lines opting your children out of testing I say “Thank You!”
  • If you want to do ONE THING that will make you feel empowered, you MUST make every attempt to attend either: Occupy the Dept. of Education or a Save Our Schools event!
  • Social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc) is a great place to make connections with folks who are just as passionate as you about saving public education from the corporate reformers.
  • The Chicago Teachers’ Union is the example that ALL teacher unions should follow. We should be advocates for what’s right for kids!
  • VAM is a SHAM – enough said.
  • Facebook groups like “Dump Duncan” ,”Opt Out of the State Test: The National Movement”, “Wear Red for Public Ed” and “Teachers’ Letters to Obama” are pages you should like and follow. There is a wealth of information there from activists all across the US and the World!
  • Diane Ravitch is a tenacious advocate for public education and teachers. Her blog is daily “must read”.
  • An administrator can bully you, make you feel as if you have created some big local controversy – BUT there are ways to still have your voice heard. You may need to be “incognito” (which some may say is cowardice, but may be necessary) but you can still tell the TRUTH about reforms that are killing public schools.
  • Response to Intervention is nothing more than a way to delay services to students whom teachers can identify in the first weeks of school. The hoops you have to jump through and the progress monitoring are tedious, not needed and ultimately do NOT give struggling students the help they need in a timely manner.
  • NYSUT, AFT, and NEA are not working in the best interest of their members! It is time to find a way to reclaim our unions and make them work for US and for kids! If we could all be like CTU, there would be some major changes in the focus of teachers’ unions. I see it coming, and it may not be fast enough, but I think things will change.
  • Individually, we must decide what matters most to us and then find people of like mind. Using those connections, even a small group of people can have an impact.
  • I greatly admire veteran teachers who have publicly resigned, saying “Enough!” and while I wish that I could do the same, that isn’t the action I can take at this time. That doesn’t mean that I buy the reforms, but I am acutely aware that my income is my family’s main income and if we want to continue to eat and live indoors, I simply have to find different ways to be active.
  • While I may have had a setback in 2012, I’m looking forward to 2013 and any part I can play in the continuing fight for public education.