Fighting to keep joy in teaching and schools in community hands

Greetings,

There's a lot to like about New York. (OK, although it's dangerous to admit in baseball season, I was born and raised on Long Island.) But my love for New York does not extend to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's plans for education. He seems determined to redefine education from being about the joy of learning to being about the fear of failing.

In her excellent Washington Post blog, The Answer Sheet, Valerie Strauss explains Cuomo's proposals and why they make teaching a very high-risk career choice. Among other "reforms," the governor wants students' standardized test scores to account for a full 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation rather than the current 20 percent. Apparently he has never read about the disastrous consequences of such strategies for teachers, students and public education as a whole. Check out how badly test-crazed schooling played out in Atlanta in this excellent New Yorker article.

Why am I writing to Massachusetts educators about New York? Because Cuomo is not a rogue actor but part of a broader network of politicians, hedge fund managers and policymakers who support policies - on issues from teacher evaluations to charter schools to school and district takeovers - that are tools in the assault on public education and our unions. We need to understand how these efforts work and be prepared to fight them. Cuomo's machinations have led the New York State United Teachers - NYSUT - to make robocalls to parents informing them of their right to opt their children out of standardized tests. That is some mean use of union power!

April Wave of Action Against Testing

The MTA is encouraging members to participate in the NEA's April Wave of Action in support of "less testing, more learning" by:

  • Moving forward with local efforts to pass resolutions, hold building meetings and work with community groups calling for the state Legislature to approve a three-year moratorium on high-stakes testing. Click here for information and sample resolutions.
  • Supporting the NEA's efforts to persuade Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known as "No Child Left Behind" in its current form) in a way that ends the overuse and misuse of standardized tests. Send an e-mail to MTA Regional Manager Taylor Brennan at tbrennan@massteacher.org to let him know of any testing or Teaching Strategies GOLD-related actions occurring in your locals so they can be added to the Events Page.

Fighting TS GOLD

Thirty-five kindergarten teachers and local presidents from 13 locals took part in a regional forum on TS GOLD held on March 31 in Dedham. They explained why they want the TS GOLD mandate to end. There has been a flurry of activity in several locals, including Springfield, where teachers met with area legislators about the issue, and Somerville. Somerville Teachers Association members voted unanimously at their annual meeting on Tuesday for a resolution describing their concerns about this time-consuming and intrusive mandate. Click here for more information. We are urging more locals to support similar resolutions before the next TS GOLD checkpoint in early June.

Support Holyoke Teachers and Students

Holyoke educators organized two fabulous, well-attended meetings on April 9 at which community members and educators talked about the schools Holyoke's students deserve and why a state takeover isn't the solution. Please join local associations across the state that are voting for a resolution in support of keeping Holyoke's schools in community hands. Holyoke teachers were heartened by the creative way that Hull teachers showed their support with this Facebook post.

Supporters are encouraged to attend a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting on the proposed takeover from 4 to 7 p.m. on Monday, April 27. It will be held at the War Memorial Building, 310 Appleton St., Holyoke. A vote on the takeover is expected no later than May 19 and could occur as soon as April 28. Please let us know if your local takes any actions in support of Holyoke by contacting Ari Mercado, MTA governance assistant, at amercado@massteacher.org.

UMass Still Fighting for Pay Raises Approved but Not Fully Paid

UMass faculty and staff won the first victory in their fight to receive their duly negotiated raises when President Robert Caret agreed to pay them their raises effective May 3. But click here to read about why we are still fighting. Unfair labor practice charges have been filed and members are continuing to organize to win the back pay they are still owed. Randall Phillis, president of the Massachusetts Society of Professors at UMass Amherst, is shown here expressing concerns of the faculty and staff and excoriating the administration's "outrageous pitting of constituencies of the UMass system against each other."

In solidarity, and in anticipation of many great things ahead,

Barbara