Union News: MCAS - Eclipsing Real Learning for High-Stakes Tests

Union News: MCAS - Eclipsing Real Learning for High-Stakes Tests

respect teachers


The Greek root of eclipse is ekleipsis, which has one meaning: abandonment. Yesterday afternoon, as the light dimmed, we could all feel that eerie and beautiful – but also a little terrifying – sense of the sun, our constant daily presence, abandoning us for a few awe-inducing minutes.  

Eighth graders would be glad if the abandonment of real learning in classrooms would only last a few minutes. But with the arrival of the civics MCAS, students spend up to eight days away from classroom learning. This is the perverse impact of the high-stakes testing regime – more and more time is taken away from actual learning – in order to test whether there is enough actual learning taking place. Please let us know how many days your students are spending on MCAS this spring.

On Wednesday, the House will release its proposed budget, following the governor’s proposal in late January. The word on Beacon Hill is that we should expect a “tough budget” because revenue is running behind expectations.  Of course, this ignores that the Legislature created some of this mess last year by cutting taxes by about $1 billion, with a big chunk going to the very wealthy.  

If we need more revenue, we might well look to the many ways that corporations use tax laws to avoid paying tax on corporate profits. Tax-achusetts you say? Actually, when it comes to taxes on businesses, Massachusetts is near the bottom of the 50 states. Cut educator jobs… or make corporations pay their fair share in taxes? There’s a choice to be made. We will be watching to see if the House makes the right one on Wednesday, and getting ready to make sure they don’t abandon the commitments we gave them the resources to make.

MTA Events and Solidarity Actions 

North Shore Week of Action

Over 5,000 educators from MTA and AFT Massachusetts, representing a dozen different locals from Gloucester to Chelsea, are holding “walk-ins” to fight for paid parental leave during a week of action this week, ending April 12. Every day, these North Shore educators will send a loud message: All educators, regardless of the district in which they work, deserve fair and just paid parental leave.

They are working together to lead a bargaining campaign for fair contracts. Follow them on social media for updates and details on these walk-ins.

Bargaining Certificate Workshops Registration for the MTA Bargaining Certificate workshops is now open. We are offering a wide range of classes that will enhance the skills and knowledge of negotiators, while also inspiring contract campaign strategies that build bargaining power. Classes include “Expanded Bargaining,” “Economics of Bargaining II,” “Public Sector Bargaining Law” and more. Go here to learn more, see course offerings and register. All MTA members are welcome to attend.

Important Student Loan Consolidation Deadline Approaching The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program isn't going anywhere, but a key benefit will end on April 30. Borrowers who have older loans issued through the Federal Family Education Loan Program have until that date to consolidate those loans and take advantage of a favorable calculation method that confers the payment count of the loan with the most payments on the resulting Direct Consolidation loan.To find out more about your options and why April 30 is a red-letter day, we urge you to join one of MTA Benefits’ free webinars, which always feature live Q&A sessions. Register for an upcoming session today.

Disability Insurance Enrollment Now Open How would you pay your bills if you were suddenly unable to work for an extended period due to illness or injury? Disability insurance protects your income in such situations. The MTA Disability Plan is a group plan that offers discounted rates. During the open enrollment period, coverage is guaranteed. Critical illness insurance and accident insurance are also available during this enrollment period. To be eligible to participate, you must be either:

  • A member in a district that has opted to participate in this program; or
  • A new member since July 1, 2023, in any MTA-affiliated district.

The MTA Disability Insurance Open Enrollment is going on now through May 17. Schedule an appointment with a counselor.

Webinar on the ‘Science’ of Reading

When: Thursday, April 11 at 7 p.m.
Where: Virtual 

If you are an educator or parent concerned about one-size-fits-all reading instruction and claims about the "science of reading," don't miss this enlightening and important free webinar “The Politics and Reality of the ‘Science’ of Reading,” hosted by the education organization, Uniting to Save Our Schools. The webinar features some leading scholars in the field of literacy. Register now at https://bit.ly/3VuH7J4. Professional Licensure When: Wednesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. Where: Virtual

Learn about the requirements to apply for and renew a Professional License, including how to collect evidence of your PDPs and how to handle a DESE audit. Learn more and register. NEA Induction Institute Information Session When: April 11 at 6:30 p.m. Where: Virtual 

The NEA Teacher Induction Institute is accepting interest applications from local affiliates looking to support the retention of early career educators (ECEs) with up to five years of experience for the 2024-2025 school year. The goals of the institute are to provide union-led, equity-centered comprehensive induction support, increase ECE engagement, membership and leadership, and build power to win policies and sustainable funding to support the retention of ECEs. NEA provides scaffolded funding, an equity-centered framework and ongoing professional learning, technical assistance and strategy support. Walk to Celebrate Colleen Ritzer The MTA is excited to offer limited complimentary race registrations for the upcoming 2024 Step Up for Colleen 5K on Sunday, May 5. The event starts at 9 a.m. with an opening ceremony at 8:30 a.m. Friends and family of the late Colleen Ritzer created this 5K walk/run to celebrate her legacy as an educator. The race benefits a scholarship fund named after her which supports future educators. If you are interested in attending the May 5 race, please email the MTA Governance Division at mtagovernance@massteacher.org.

Political Education 

Across the country and our own state, absenteeism is a real issue since the COVID-19 pandemic. And it has remained stubbornly high in low-income and high-income districts, and seems to have little relationship to how long students were out of school buildings during the pandemic. You are the experts – let us know your thoughts on why this is happening and how we might reverse this disturbing trend.

In solidarity,

Max and Deb