Delegates say NO to "personalized learning" and YES to funding

Delegates say NO to "personalized learning" and YES to funding

Barbara Madeloni

Barbara Madeloni, President


The Annual Meeting of Delegates, which is the highest decision-making body in the MTA, convened on May 19 and 20 to discuss, debate and vote on policy. In this e-mail, I highlight several of the New Business Items that were approved by the delegates. You can read all of those NBIs here in the members' area of the MTA website. (First-time users will need the number on their MTA membership cards to log in.) The votes of the Annual Meeting delegates reinforce the membership's commitment to defending public education and building union power to bring about the schools our communities deserve.

Personalized Learning: The New Threat to Public Education
NBIs #6, #12 and #13 address the threat posed by the state's promotion of computer-based "personalized learning" strategies, including one through a program called MAPLE/LearnLaunch. This overview is long, but well worth watching. It explains the real dangers of handing over our schools and students to corporate education technology entities.

Teaching and learning are deeply human activities. We cannot let ed tech companies depersonalize learning or make education a technocratic endeavor. We must assert the centrality of face-to-face relationships - community - and our professional knowledge and autonomy as essential to public education.

NBI #6 asserts that the MTA opposes DESE's MAPLE/LearnLaunch partnership and calls for the MTA to create a web page to "share strategies to combat the harmful effects of unvalidated ed tech products on our students, and to defend teachers' professional judgment and standards against interference by business interests."

NBI #12 calls for a web page dedicated to informing members about the threat to public education posed by privatization, including but not limited to personalized learning programs. This connects to our existing page on State Takeovers/Privatization and encompasses the many forms that privatization is taking in preK-12 and higher education. (Important note: The current page includes a link to a form where members in Level 4 and 5 schools are asked to report on their experiences. Please take a few minutes to fill this out if you are in one of those schools.)

NBI #13 calls for the MTA to update its 2016 report, Threat to Public Education Now Centers on Massachusetts, to include a section on corporate support for personalized learning.

Hold the Commonwealth Accountable: Fully Fund Our Public Schools
NBIs #9 and #10 call for the MTA to prepare to file a lawsuit against the governor and Legislature if they fail to address the school funding shortfall identified by the nonpartisan Foundation Budget Review Commission. The commission determined that public schools are underfunded by at least $1 billion a year. NBI #10 says that in the event a lawsuit must be filed, it should seek to end the state's punitive accountability system until and unless the schools are fully funded. Moved by retiring Springfield Education Association President Tim Collins, these two NBIs represent one way the MTA is responding to the failure of the Commonwealth to abide by its Constitution and "cherish" our public schools.

On a related note, the City of Brockton recently set aside $100,000 toward funding a similar education lawsuit, and officials in Worcester are also discussing the issue.

Fair Share Amendment Takes Big Step Forward
Next stop, the ballot! The proposed constitutional amendment to increase taxes on annual income over $1 million to help fund public schools, public higher education and transportation took a leap forward on Wednesday when the Legislature voted 134 to 55 to advance it to the November 2018 ballot. The MTA is proud to be a major backer of this initiative and to be working in coalition with other members of Raise Up Massachusetts. We will be working with locals to envision the schools our communities deserve as we organize to pass this amendment.

Adjuncts Demand Equal Pay for Equal Work: Rally for Adjuncts at UMass Lowell
Stand up for equal pay and benefits for adjuncts at UML at a rally on Tuesday, June 20, from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. The rally will take place at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center at 50 Warren St.

Make Our Voices Heard: We Want Your "Big Ideas About Education"
Based on the popular TED Talks model, MTA ED Talks give educators and others a platform to share their "big ideas about education." We are currently accepting applications for ED Talks 2017 to be presented at the MTA Summer Conference on Monday, July 31, at UMass Amherst. Click here to apply. Learn more and check out our catalog of ED Talks.

Less Testing/More Learning on June 27: We Are Just Getting Started
What can we do to resist high-stakes testing? How do personalized learning systems and high-stakes testing lead to privatization? How do we fight back? Strategize with other MTA members from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 27, at MTA headquarters in Quincy. All are welcome, even if they haven't been to earlier meetings on this issue. The focus will be on planning for the fall and next year. Go here to register.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for information about another effort underway to stop the weaponization of educator evaluations. An ed eval group has already met once and will reconvene in the fall.

In solidarity,