Teachers at a school in Chicago unanimously vote to boycott a test

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the entire faculty of Saucedo Elementary Academy, with the support of parents, have voted to refuse to administer a standardized test called the ISAT. Most of the parents have apparently already chosen to have their children ‘opt out’ of taking the test. The test administration is supposed to start on Monday, 3/3/14.

Naturally, the superintendent of schools is threatening to fire the teachers and revoke their licenses. From the Sun-Times article:

The teachers refusing to administer the ISAT could face disciplinary action, CPS officials said.

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said those teachers could be fired.

“I think it would be outrageous and wrong. . . . The teachers aren’t doing this for any gain. They’re doing this because they want to teach,” he said.

The CTU vowed to “mount a strong defense” if the teachers are disciplined.

Chambers said teachers know this is risky, and there might be consequences from the administration.

“We are not afraid. We’re standing strong for our kids and what is right,” she said.

Boycotters at Saucedo hope the school is a leader in the anti-ISAT movement, which has been gaining momentum in recent days.

This is a big step forward in the move against the top-down deforming of public schools (particularly those for poor children and minorities) into all-test-prep all the time.

Details here, and here. and here is a youtube video!

Published in: on February 28, 2014 at 9:48 am  Comments (1)  
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Criticism by Teacher/Reporter on Michelle Rhee’s “Crocodile Tears” re Chicago Teachers’ Strike

Definitely worth reading:

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Michelle Rhee wrote an op ed in the Washington Post on 9/28/12.
There are 512 comments.
Here are two that I wrote.  I couldn’t help but wonder at her short memory.

Chicago Teachers Strike Underscores Shift Among Democrats by Michelle Rhee

Washington Post, 9/28/12      http://tinyurl.com/9hnqr2t

Comments by Erich Martel

Dear Ms. Rhee, (Part I)

It’s always good to be reminded how “passionate” you are “about the rights of workers” as you continue to crusade unselfishly for the children and stand ever ready to counsel politicians on the make from either party.

Thanks to your acclaim, Chicago teachers and CTU President Karen Lewis and their many parent/ community supporters understood Mayor Rahm’s game.  They heeded the warning, “Beware of mayors bearing Michelle Rhee’s gifts.”  In the midst of a national election, they said, “Won’t Back Down.”

In your op-ed piece you made some statements that were rather surprising in light of your policies and practices back when you were our rock star chancellor in Washington , D.C.

First, there’s the 3-year cheating scandal, 2008-2010.  You were informed by CTB/McGraw-Hill, the testing company for the NCLB standardized tests, that classrooms in 103 DC schools were flagged for statistically excessive Wrong to Right erasures. You hired Caveon for a review, but restricted its forensic reach.  If you profess to care about the achievement gap, why would you allow students and their parents to be misled with potentially false results?

The bonus awards, including federal Race to the Top grants, were based on inflated scores.  Tell Chancellor Henderson and State Supt. Mahaley to institute a full and independent investigation, like the one in Atlanta .

I was really surprised to see you write, “When kids do make it to college, roughly a third need remedial work because they weren’t adequately prepared by the K-12 system.”

Did you forget how you treated math and science education in DCPS – well, all education, really?  When you and Kaya Henderson were appointed to DCPS in June 2007, DC already had in place standards that received top ratings from the Fordham Institute. The next step was to convene teachers to write aligned curricula.  As the bridge between subject standards and coherent lesson plans, their absence made lesson planning burdensome, making teachers vulnerable to poor evaluations.

You did nothing, because your & your foundation patrons’ agenda to be the lightning rod of teacher and union blame by developing a high-profile teacher evaluation instrument to find teachers ineffective and difficult to challenge when unfairly applied.  In addition and in sync with the evaluation, the union contract had to be weakened, so you could use budget changes, school closures or program changes to mass terminate scores or more teachers at one time, regardless of their evaluations and general excellence.

“Roughly a third need remedial work” – Are you forgetting that you instituted afternoon “credit recovery” in all DCPS high schools (“no traditional homework” allowed) in 2008-09?  Students cut day classes to get an easier pass.  Content mastery was a joke. I described it on Fordham’s Education Gadfly: http://tinyurl.com/bwco5sm .  Your lite diplomas: the fast track to remedial college classes.

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Dear Ms. Rhee, (Part II)

You wrote, “The US is falling behind … in math and science.”  I’m surprised you finally noticed. I arranged meetings for you with leading reading researcher Louisa Moats and with math researcher Barry Garelick, whose writings described the advantages of Singapore math and how EveryDay Math (used by DCPS) impedes math fluency.  Did you meet with them?

In July 2009, you dissolved the city-wide science dept, fired its director & moved all teaching support staff to the “the teaching & learning framework,” allegedly the basis of the IMPACT teacher evaluation, that had to be ready by Sept 2009.

The year before, you arbitrarily transferred Wilson HS’s AP Biology teacher (the most effective in DCPS) to a disorderly middle school. In 14 yrs: 124 5s; 92 4s; 95 3s; 92 2s; 38 1s):  http://www.reinstatedrart.com/student.html In 6 weeks, a student-initiated petition secured over 500 current and former students and parents, who cited his formative role in college preparation & why some chose science and medicine, asked you to restore him to Wilson.  You refused.  Yes, you want parent trigger laws, when they suit your agenda. When parents and students spoke up for academic integrity, you would not “back down.”

Your crocodile tears about the obstacles facing black and Hispanic students contradict your performance.  I’m reminding you of the events prior to your and Asst Supt John Davis’s involuntarily transfer me from Wilson HS in 2010: due to “significant philosophical educational differences with the Wilson HS admin” (www.dcpswatch.com/martel ):

1.  You allowed 5-year hs players on DCPS athletic teams, compromising academic and athletic integrity and NCAA eligibility.

2.  Dec 2009:  After I sent you a 10-page faculty survey (89% participation) describing hallway disruption at Wilson HS, you sent the principal assistance:  Suddenly administrators were visible in the halls, actually stopping student disruption during class time.

3.  March 2010:  When I show the principal my strategies for preventing cheating (small fonts, scrambled pages – like the SAT), he accuses me of “creating an expectation that students will cheat.  They will rise to meet your expectations.”  He confirmed it to WPost reporter Jay Mathews:   http://tinyurl.com/yeew6zm  With all the cheating on the standardized tests reported to you, why didn’t you inform me and the principal that I was doing the right thing?  Do you condone cheating?  The principal is always right?

4. April 2010: I report to you & Henderson that the asst principal and several aides & deans (no parents) took 88 seniors (mostly Afr-Am) to the Bahamas during 3 school days, 2 wks before AP exams.  Many students are failing (8 w/ >200 unex absences!). Once there, students were unsupervised. ONLY the chancellor (YOU) can approve int’l trips.  I had reported similar problems the year before.  Why did you approve it w/o checking: Is Wilson special?  Afr-Am students don’t matter?

 

Chicago Teachers Lead The Way

Anybody who is interested in promoting the welfare of the 99% of the population who don’t have offshore bank accounts or manage hedge funds should be ecstatic over the apparent success of the members of the Chicago Teachers Union in beating back most of Rahm Emanuel’s educational DEform policies.

A lot has been written about this strike. I am thrilled that over 90% of the teachers voted in favor of the strike, that they stuck together, and that they “stuck it” to arrogant Rahm.

Let us remember that EVERYWHERE that the billionaires’ educational DEforms have been tried, they have failed utterly. I salute the Chicago rank-and-file who stood up.

A few good recent columns by bettwer writers than myself here,  here and here. Or for the full URL, try these:

http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/107294/can-the-chicago-teachers%E2%80%99-strike-fix-democratic-education-reform#

and

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/09/201291774248929713.html

and

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/eugene-robinson-standing-up-for-teachers/2012/09/17/ad3ee650-00fd-11e2-b257-e1c2b3548a4a_story.html

Published in: on September 19, 2012 at 11:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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Over 90% of Chicago Teachers Vote to Approve a Strike!! Wow!!


Published on Labor Notes (http://labornotes.org)

Standing Up to Corporate School Agenda, Chicago Teachers Greenlight Strike

STEVEN ASHBY
    |  JUNE 12, 2012

After four days of ballot-counting, the Chicago Teachers Union announced yesterday that 90 percent of CTU members voted to authorize their leaders to call a strike if negotiations continue to go badly. Photo: Bartosz Brzezinski.
After four days of ballot-counting, the Chicago Teachers Union announced yesterday that 90 percent of CTU members voted to authorize their leaders to call a strike if negotiations continue to go badly.
An overwhelming 24,262 members, or 92 percent of the membership, voted. In a resounding display of unity, 98 percent of those voting authorized the strike. There was not a majority of CTU members at any of the 615 schools who voted “no.”
“We’ve been pushed, and pushed, and pushed—and finally we get a chance to push back,” said a CTU activist as she counted strike authorization ballots this week.
Teachers are angry over large classes, too few social workers and teachers’ aides, a deadening of a curriculum increasingly tailored to standardized tests, and a quarter of all schools lacking a library. They are angry at an unelected Board of Education demonizing them as adversaries.
They are angry that the board, ignoring the pleas of parents and teachers, has systematically moved to close schools and reopen them as privatized charters with a non-union, at-will workforce and policies that punish children with learning disabilities, English language learners, and those with difficulties at home that impede their test-taking abilities.
 
Teachers are angry at Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, for imposing unpaid work on them. He has pushed a seven-hour school day plus 10 extra teaching days with no additional compensation, heaping more on top of their already heavy workload. An April 2012 University of Illinois study found that teachers work an average 58-hour workweek.
They are angry over the board’s proposal of a 2 percent raise over five years and the imposition of merit pay, giving principals the power to reward favorites and punish union activists.
As CTU President Karen Lewis said, “We are tired of being bullied, belittled, and betrayed” by the Board of Education.
The overwhelming vote to authorize a September strike should “put an end to speculation about how educators really feel,” said Lewis, who added that “we listen to our members.”
The vote is an “indictment” of Chicago Public Schools administrators, Lewis said. Educators “who actually work in our schools,” not billionaire-backed anti-union lobbyists, are the ones who can improve schools “in partnership” with CPS, she said.
“We are calling on CPS to negotiate with the union in good faith,” Lewis said.
Thirty CTU leaders, all educators working in the schools, painstakingly counted ballots as 12 clergy organized by the interfaith workers’ rights group Arise Chicago took shifts to monitor the count, in an effort to deter anti-union forces from challenging the integrity of the vote. Anti-union elements attacked the ballot regardless.

Vaulting the High Bar

The teachers union had a high bar to reach. Illinois legislators, pushed by Mayor Emanuel and Democratic Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, passed a law last June that imposed the unprecedented requirement that 75 percent of all CTU members must vote to authorize a strike. The standard rule demands 50 percent plus one of those who vote approve a strike. Under the Illinois law, members who did not vote would count as “no” votes.
 
Leaders of the anti-union, billionaire-funded, and misnamed Stand for Children organization propelled the legislation. They lined up support from powerful politicians and lobbyists and pressured the state’s NEA and AFT teachers unions into going along with it. President Lewis signed on, but quickly said language was added into the bill she never agreed to.
 
Stand for Children and other anti-union forces gloated that there would never again be a teachers’ strike in Chicago as the 75 percent threshold would be impossible for the union to reach.
 
CTU proved them wrong.
The vote demonstrated the reach of the union’s seven-month contract campaign, an achievement made possible with the election of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators slate in June 2010.
Prior to CORE’s victory, the CTU was run as a top-down union with little member involvement. The new leadership took on the task of forming contract action committees to educate and involve the members, and to develop new rank-and-file leaders, in 615 schools. The union organized three conferences to strategize and implement the contract campaign.
The union put members in motion, with 6,000 attending a rally and march in downtown Chicago four weeks ago. The teachers joined up with the community-labor alliance Stand Up Chicago, which was demonstrating at the Chicago’s Mercantile Exchange shareholder meeting. Unions have been protesting the Merc for months because the trading group sucks up $77 million a year in handouts from the state while Illinois chops budgets for human services.
The exhilaration of the members was palatable: They roared as they marched. One activist told me during the march, “I’ve been a teacher and CTU member for 10 years and this is the proudest I’ve ever felt of my union.”
Following the dictates of the new state law, a three-person fact-finding committee will issue a non-binding report by mid-July, but only on compensation issues. The committee is composed of one representative of the union, one from CPS, and an independent reviewer.
The strike authorization vote gives the union’s House of Delegates—the CTU’s 800-member governing body—the authority to call a strike. CTU’s contract expires June 30, but a strike would not start before the first day of classes for most schools, September 4.
The labor working group of Occupy Chicago has invited labor and community activists to a June 26 meeting to plan a teacher solidarity summer outreach campaign.

Steven Ashby is a labor educator at the University of Illinois, has assisted the union’s contract campaign planning, and observed the four-day ballot count.

Published in: on June 14, 2012 at 8:26 pm  Comments (3)  
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