The Power of Voices in Building our Union

Greetings,

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the community forum in Holyoke at El Mercado Restaurant where grandmothers, fathers, mothers, daughters and sons, educators and concerned community residents met to answer the question: "What is your vision for the schools Holyoke deserves?" The power of their voices, their enthusiasm and the trust that brought them to the meeting grounded my hope in the strength of coalition building and union power. The following are some opportunities for members to build on that strength.

UMass Contract Activism Continues

UMass President Robert Caret refuses to honor the contracts between the university and bargaining units representing thousands of MTA members. We are asking our members who graduated from UMass or who are parents of UMass students to withhold donations to the school until our members receive their promised salaries. Please send the message: A Deal's a Deal. If you are a UMass graduate, parent of a UMass student or regular donor, you can send this message. Others are asked to send this message. UMass members appreciate the support!

Holyoke Hearing: Show Your Support!

Holyoke educators and supporters are urged to attend a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education hearing on the proposed takeover of the Holyoke Public Schools. The MTA and the Holyoke Teachers Association strongly oppose receivership and are urging the BESE to keep Holyoke schools in community hands. The BESE hearing will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. on Monday, April 27, at the War Memorial Building, 310 Appleton St., Holyoke. Click here for details. And keep those resolutions coming!

Student Activist Speaks Out

What voice is most often lost in the debate about education policies? The student voice, of course. Three cheers for student activist Casey Pease from Gateway Regional High School in Huntington. A group he formed called Through the Eyes of Students is currently supporting Holyoke students who don't want their schools taken over by the state.

Seattle NAACP Calls Standardized Testing a Civil Rights Problem

Standardized testing is the driving force behind school and district takeovers - and the de-professionalization of teaching. Standardized tests have a long history of misuse and abuse designed to "prove" the incapacity of blacks, immigrants and others. Taking note of this history and the particular impact of high-stakes tests on black, brown and poor communities, the Seattle branch of the NAACP released a statement calling for students and parents to opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests (their version of PARCC). Read about the statement here, on the blog of MTA Annual Meeting keynote speaker Jesse Hagopian.

Let the BESE Know Your Views on PARCC and High-Stakes Testing

MTA members have a great opportunity to let state education officials know what they think about PARCC - and about high-stakes testing in general - at a series of upcoming state-sponsored forums starting on April 28. The MTA has taken no position on PARCC versus MCAS, but we are strongly supporting a three-year moratorium on all high-stakes testing. Click here for information about our moratorium bill and for MTA messages on testing. We urge members to attend the BESE forums and speak out, both about PARCC and about what our test-driven education system is doing to our students, educators and schools.

The New Yorker on the Atlanta Cheating Case

In last week's e-mail, I referred to an article in The New Yorker on the cheating scandal in Atlanta, but we inadvertently linked to an unrelated (though also interesting) article on excessive testing in New York under Governor Andrew Cuomo. Since that e-mail went out, several educators in Atlanta have received stiff jail sentences for their roles in the scandal. No one is condoning cheating, but the article I meant to link to - which I link to here - paints a much more nuanced picture than is being portrayed in the mainstream media. This is not just about a few "bad" teachers going rogue for personal gain. The tremendous pressure on teachers and administrators to continually raise student test scores is at the root of the problem.

Earned Sick Time: Don't Let Senator Michael Rodrigues Take It Away

One of the major victories on Election Day was the overwhelming success of the earned sick time ballot initiative. Now, as bills and amendments begin to wind their way through the State House, Senator Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) has attempted to stall the implementation. Don't let him get away with this. If he is your senator, please call him and say: "We voted for it and we won it. Don't take it away." If he is not your senator, call your senator and tell her or him to let Rodriques know that attempts to steal this win from the voters will not fly.

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

Barbara