Linda Tanner A Real Candidate For Working Families

One of the goals of the NH Labor News is to help Granite Staters get to know the candidates who are running for office in New Hampshire. We focus on candidates who support working families, particularly those candidates who are working to rebuild the middle class and strengthen our rights as workers.

This week’s focus is on State Senate District 8 candidate Linda Tanner.

Linda Tanner NH Senate Candidate District 8
Background Information for Rep. Linda Tanner

Linda is longtime community activist, teacher, and coach. Linda has dedicated her entire life to helping others and improving her community. For over 30 years as a teacher and coach at Kearsarge Regional High School, Linda worked tirelessly to help her students succeed in and out of the classroom. During her career at Kearsarge, she served as a Department Chair, worked with the School to Work program and developed a state championship tennis program. She was honored by the NH Interscholastic Athletic Association for her years of service and elected to the NH Coaches Hall of Fame for Girls Tennis. She received her Bachelor of Science in Health Education from East Stroudsburg University and her Masters from Dartmouth College. In 2012 she was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives from Sullivan County, District 9.

 

As a public school teacher, were you involved with your local union?

I was president of my local association, the Kearsarge Regional Education Association for three terms. I participated on many negotiation teams, worked with members on issues at the local level, and worked with management towards better working conditions. I am a lifetime member of the NEA NH and have their endorsement for this campaign.

 

As a former teacher, I am sure you have a lot to say about the current public education system. Can you give me two things you would like to see changed?  And are these changes that you can enact from the NH Senate?

Public education has been under attack by those who would privatize education, eliminate compulsory education, and eliminate teachers’ unions. I ran for my House seat because I wanted to stop these political maneuvers that were undermining what, I feel, is the most valuable institution for maintaining democracy.

I think there is a great deal we could do to promote and fund our public education system in New Hampshire. I definitely feel the move from the punitive No Child Left Behind to the Common Core is a move that will help students. The Common Core sets standards but does not dictate pedagogy, deals with progress instead of achievement or failure and is the right course towards improvement and consistency. Just like other programs, it needs to be tweaked and re-visited. I would like to see educators who are working in the schools as teachers have a larger input into programs and initiatives.

As a high school teacher, I worked with a school-to-work program for the average student to encourage them towards further education and give some basic instruction in job skills. I taught Health Occupations Co-op for several years. I feel this is a very valuable program that should be expanded to teach not only content but job skills such as being on time, being able to speak to people, shake hands, show respect for co-workers and your product.  Recently I visited the Job Corps Training facility in Vermont. We are currently building a facility in Manchester. This type of program, which targets low income youth, is vital to providing vocational training in a setting that also emphasizes those job skills. It gives an opportunity for young people to better their position and at the same time provide workers for key jobs in our State.

As a Senator I will work to help New Hampshire schools become a model system that supports innovation, is relevant to the world of work and careers, and maintains rigorous standards for all school children.

 

You are running for the NH Senate Seat in District 8 that is currently held by Sen. Bob Odell. In what ways are you similar or different from Sen. Odell?

I found my voting aligned in many areas with Senator Odell.  I voted to repeal the death penalty, expand Medicaid, and deal with the issues around the Medical Enhancement Tax. However, Senator Odell voted against returning the period for teachers to be fired without cause or hearing from 5 to 3 years, voted against medical marijuana, and voted for the repeal of automatic continuation requirement for public employees’ collective bargaining agreements. These are three examples of bills he opposed that I would have supported.

IMG_0067This Senate seat has been, under Senator Odell, a moderate vote in a 13 to 11 Republican majority. My election to the seat will balance the parties at 12 all, which would make a major shift – especially on Labor issues. Medicaid expansion has a clause that requires renewal during this next session. Both Republican candidates have stated that they will try to repeal the Medicaid expansion, fight ‘Obama Care,’ and make NH a ‘Right to Work State’ as a priority. If either of the candidates opposing me wins this seat: Medicaid will be repealed, leaving thousands without medical insurance; and ‘Right to Work” for less will be passed along with other legislation that will hurt working men and women.

 

The current minimum wage is $7.25 and the GOP-led legislature repealed the NH Minimum Wage law. What would you do as Senator to help push NH toward a real living wage? Last year, one proposal was to raise the state minimum wage over two years to $9.00/hour. Do you think $9.00 is the right number? Or do you think it should be $10.10 as the POTUS is pushing, or even higher? 

First, we need to reinstate a NH Minimum wage that was repealed under the Republican leadership of Speaker O’Brien. I served on the House Labor Committee in this past term. The bill that was introduced should be reintroduced in this next term. This bill offered modest increases over time and originally had a provision for further increases based on economic indicators. I think we need to have a bill that will pass both The House and Senate. I hope to be one of those Senators to move this piece of legislation forward.

Do you have any legislation that you would like to see or have ideas on proposing if you are elected?  

I want to defend against the so called ‘right to work’ bills. If those bills pass it will let non-union workers benefit from our hard work in negotiations without paying their fair share. It’s a union-busting tactic.

I want to ensure fairness in workers’ compensation laws for those hurt on the job – so if they can’t work, they will still be able to keep their homes and survive. At the same time, I want to see how we can reduce the rate for employers. I want to establish a minimum wage and increase it above the present $7.25 so everyone has the dignity of a decent wage. I want to protect workers from pay cards and title loans that are stripping away hard earned money with excessive fees and astronomical interest rates. I want to offer solutions for the current lack of affordable and accessible elderly and work force housing.

 

If you could pick one issue from your campaign to highlight, what issue would that be?  

I am a person who is running for this Senate seat not to be someone special or advance a radical agenda but to work on legislation that will help the working men and women of this State. I taught for 35 years in the NH public schools and over that time, you see the communities, the State, through the lives of your students. I know the successes, the struggles, and the heartbreaking issues many of our citizens face. I want to be their voice in the Legislature.

 

Why should the labor community support your campaign?  

I am a lifelong union member. As a teacher for 35 years and continuing through retirement, I have been a member of the National Education Association. During my years at Kearsarge Regional High School, I was President of my local for three terms. I served on many negotiations and collective bargaining teams working for high quality education, good working conditions, livable salaries and benefits.  I proudly served as a State Representative for Sullivan County and as a member of the House Labor Committee.  I have the experience, knowledge and the political will to help the working men and women our State.

 

What can people do to help your campaign?

I can’t win this election alone. The opposition is well-funded and as committed to winning this seat as we are. I need your help to win this election. I need your vote and I need you to talk with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to urge them to vote for me. Also, with this large, rural district, we need funds for mailings, ads, and signs. Any amount you can send to us will help us get our message out.

Please see our website lindatanner.org for more information

 

 

 

 

The Truth About Why Educators Are Leaving

“…The primary reason they leave is because they’re dissatisfied.”  Richard Ingersoll, an education professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Educators in the report cite inadequate administrative support, feelings of isolation in the workplace among other things. This is a toxic situation and not an environment where anyone can teach or learn.

(Read) Up To Half Of Teachers Quit Within 5 Years (http://huff.to/1z46MoR)

Teacher

My Observations On Why Educators Leave By Kyle Leach
Originally posted on Farmington NH Dems 

I’m really proud to tell you my mom was a teacher. It is one of the most honorable professions in my eyes. She taught elementary school, sixth grade. She was really good at it and except for my brother and I, I don’t think anything made her happier. I think educating was a way for her to give back to community. I think she felt it exposed our common bonds, showed people how to come together, and helped people change their circumstances. She wasn’t just imparting facts and figures to be memorized. She was helping young minds become the next set of workers, shaping future leaders and thinkers, and helping young creatives find themselves.

She left very early each school day. She often got home late and when she was home, she normally was doing some kind of grading or prep work for part of the evening. She was dedicated. Her classroom was colorful, interesting, and constantly changing. Her walls were covered with bulletin boards, which she kept decorated the whole school year.  She had an aquarium and plants close to the windows and she had areas for individual seating and tables for community work at the back. Her room was full of art created by her students. She loved her classroom and she loved her students, a new set every year.

Being an educator was a calling for her. Her students respected her. Parents respected her, and at least to some degree administration honored the part she played in our education system and gave teachers what they needed to make students as successful as they could. Society on the whole gave educators a wide birth; and, except for the low pay standards, eduction was a field held in high regard.

Many problems still needed to be worked out and to this day still do. Gender and race issues were problems, as they are today. Many learning challenges were yet to be identified and children with special needs were still being neglected. People with mental and physical challenges fought to be integrated into everyday school life as they still do to today. Bullying was still the standard, but it wasn’t even thought a systemic problem back then.

Around the time I was ten, things noticeably changed. Over the next few decades a cascade effect would make the situation much worse. Some things were subtle, others not so much. Everyone seemed to have less money and less time to spend with each other. More people seemed to be working and much more often. Many people had multiple jobs and it was harder to find jobs within a field you had worked in, unless it was in the retail or service industry. Kids were alone in the afternoon and evening or had sitters much more often. People seemed to be withdrawing from each other and turning toward other forms of entertainment.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the nation’s safety net was being slowly dismantled, education was being under funded year after year, wages were static, savings were evaporating, and benefits, health, retirement, or otherwise were becoming exceptions not the norm. Costs for everything cars, homes, and food rose, in fact they continue to do so. People were turned on to to credit which made their problems worse. People were haggard, stressed and that didn’t get better. Educators had to deal with all this on the personal side, but professionally these things had even higher costs.

With more people working more often and kids and teens left to fend for themselves, I saw respect between adults and kids deteriorate. I also got to see the respect administrators had for educators diminish and saw litigation between the three parties skyrocket. The burden of dealing with these compounding errors fell to teachers in the classroom if for no other reason than they are with our students for at least seven hours of a day. Without universal support from administration to deal with issues in the classroom I saw teachers and children become isolated. I saw teens reject the flaws and hypocrisy of the adults around them. I saw children turn to teachers because they were the the only adults they could trust.

I have known many educators throughout my life. Many of my family members were teachers. Most of my friends are educators. When I went to college I settled on art as the place where my heart was. I went to a college known for fostering educators. I myself was thinking of being an art teacher. In the end I decided the education field was not for me. Knowing all I know now I can’t say that I regret that decision at all. When my husband Stan and I met fourteen years ago I made a much better living working for soulless corporations, without a completed college degree, than Stan did teaching high school all day and educating adults at college at night. Just so you know Stan has two bachelor’s degrees and two masters degrees. His passions and degrees are in the sciences, math, and eduction. Areas our children need greater and greater help with and arenas the increasingly corporate world has no idea how to convey or inspire, short of monetizing them.

When you couple social changes with low wages considering the amount of education and  sometimes limited benefits, increasingly poor administrative and legislative support teachers receive, especially when they are first starting out, what are young educators supposed to take from this situation? What incentive do teachers have to stay? If you want teachers to stay you have to create an environment that is constructive for learning and creation. You can’t overly burden them with administrative problems or parental responsibilities; neither are their roles. You have to find the right candidates to be good teachers and give those new educators support to be successful teachers when they begin. You have to treat them as the professionals they are and hold their positions in high regard. They help our children learn. They help or children create. They help our children dream and help them fine tune those dreams into reality.

Most people I know in the field of education have two things that really make them stand out. They are passionate about helping people learn and discover who they are, what they are good at, and they are inspired by how much potential each person holds, no matter what limitations they currently hold on to. If you can’t figure out that those are two things our society needs, you are part of the problem. Corporate structures are efficient, great at turning our dull cogs, and perfect at reduction, but they can’t make a thinker. If you want a great education system, if you want great people for our society you have to invest in the people that do the work to create those situations. Teachers. The difference between a bright future and a dull one depends on the degree to which we support our educators.  They will develop the minds and nurture the souls that will create that future.

Senator Shaheen’s New Ad BURDEN: Fighting For Student Loan Refinancing

New TV Ad: Jeanne Shaheen Is Fighting Rising College Costs, Working To Make A Difference For New Hampshire Students And Their Parents

Manchester, NH – A new television ad from Jeanne Shaheen’s campaign highlights how Shaheen is working to lower college costs for New Hampshire students and their parents by giving them the freedom to refinance their college loans, just like they can with a home mortgage or car loan.  The ad, running 30 seconds, began airing Sunday on televisions stations in New Hampshire.

“Jeanne Shaheen has deep roots in New Hampshire. She raised her family here and her record proves she shares our values. She understands the importance of education to our kids and their future,” said Campaign Manager Mike Vlacich.  “That’s why as Governor she expanded public kindergarten and created a tax free tuition savings program, and why as Senator she’s introduced new legislation to lower the cost of college loans.  New Hampshire comes first for Jeanne Shaheen and always has.”

In the Senate, Jeanne Shaheen was an original cosponsor of the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinance Act that would allow students in New Hampshire and across the country to refinance their loans at lower interest rates.  While the legislation was blocked by congressional gridlock and a Republican filibuster, it would have helped 25 million borrowers across the country save thousands of dollars on their loan payments.  Individuals with older loans at higher interest rates would be able to refinance at rates below 4 percent.

New Hampshire college graduates leave school with $33,000 in student loan debt on average.  It is the second highest rate of debt in the country.  Over half of the more than 200,000 Granite Staters with federally backed student loans would benefit from Senator Shaheen’s legislation.

Independent economists point to the relatively low share of first-time home buyers in today’s market compared with historical levels as a result of increasing levels of student loan debt.  Graduates with high monthly student loan payments are less likely to qualify for a mortgage or have been able to save money for a down payment on a home.

“New Hampshire students leave college on average with $33,000 in debt. It can slow them down for years. But right now, our students can’t refinance their loans the way you can refinance a car loan or a mortgage,” says Senator Shaheen in the new television ad.  “I want to change that.  I am fighting for a bill to allow students to refinance their loans. It will lower rates and save families thousands of dollars.”

Watch the new television ad here http://jeanneshaheen.org/burden

Stop The Attack On Public Education — AFT Welcomes “Democrats For Public Education”

Written by Larry Graykin

As a longtime liberal and a union member, I have been dismayed by the Democrats extended, gradual slide toward the political right. Once a little left of center, the typical Democrat nowadays is akin to a moderate Republican of years past. There is no question Eisenhower would be judged “too liberal” for any Republican primary nowadays. My fear is that he’d be deemed too liberal for the Dems, as well.

The worst of the Dems, to my way of thinking, are the Neo-Liberals, simply because they are fleece-wearing wolves. According to Elizabeth Martinez, the main points of neo-liberalism include:

  1. THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services.
  2. CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply — again in the name of reducing government’s role.
  3. DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminish profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job.
  4. PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.
  5. ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.”

In other words, Neo-Libs are Libertarians in Democrats’ clothing. And yes, as you might wonder, they DO have ties to ALEC, as demonstrated by Mercedes Schneider in her book, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education. 

I’m a teacher, and so I’ve been watching the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)—the Neo-Lib’s PAC that attends to education—for some time now.  From DFER’s “Statement of Principles”: “We believe that reforming broken public school systems cannot be accomplished by tinkering at the margins, but rather through bold and revolutionary leadership.  This requires opening up the traditional top-down monopoly of most school systems and empowering all parents to access great schools for their children.”  These are the lovers and promoters of Michelle Rhee, of charter schools, of vouchers, of top-down educational reforms (e.g., high-stakes testing, Common Core national standards, the use of VAM in rating teacher quality, etc.)  They support policies “that stimulate the creation of new accountable public schools and which simultaneously close down failing schools.”   These, in short, are enemies of the NEA and the AFT.

And into this landscape trots Donna Brazile.

Donna Brazile, says Wikipedia, is “an American author, academic, and political analyst who is Vice Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. She was the first African American to direct a major presidential campaign, acting as campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000.” And she is also one of the founding members of “Democrats for Public Education,” an organization that she first announced at AFT’s convention. “I am ashamed of some of Democrats in my own party. We’re not going to be silent while you are being attacked.”

It’s a wonderful speech. Watch it here:

Democrats for Public Education is brand new. Their website is not yet up. Their Facebook page  has little more than a “Stay tuned…” message. But we already know what they stand for. Brazile, along with two co-chairs, former governors Ted Strickland (Ohio) and Jennifer Granholm (Michigan), has indicated that “the group intends to champion additional funds to make quality public education available to everyone, and reject what Brazile called ‘market-driven’ reforms that undermine the learning environment. ‘We have done a poor job educating people about education. Only when we have clarified that, can we talk about how best to achieve it.’”

So…we have a new environment in which Democrats must live.  Each candidate must answer a question that once could be avoided: Will you continue to pay lip-service to unions while aligning yourself with DFER? Or will you truly stand on the side of teachers, students, and unions, and affiliate yourself with Democrats for Public Education?

As Pete Seeger asked in song, “Which side are you on?”

Granite State Rumblings: Ideas To Spend Quality And Fun Time With Kids This Summer

Every Child Matters NHI am just coming back from vacation and can honestly say that during my 10 days off I tuned out all of the work stuff, (if you left me a voicemail or e-mail, I’ll get back to you this week!), and just concentrated on having fun with Spidey. And we had a blast!

Every April we start a list of things we want to do together during the summer. Last year his list was full of places like Story Land, Santa’s Village, Clark’s Trading Post, and Disney World. (All wonderful places but they can be expensive). We always do one or two of the “family vacation” places, but last summer I introduced him to a lot of activities that we could do right in my backyard. He must have enjoyed them and they stuck with him, because this year’s list, while there was still Story Land, included almost all of the activities from last summer.

So we spent last week in the backyard and the living room more than we spent it on the road to those expensive family adventures. And, Spidey added some extra elements to the activities this year to make them more fun.

In case you forgot to write them down last year, or this is your first year receiving the newsletter, I thought I’d share them again, before the summer is gone.

Swing in a Hammock

Snuggle close, and sway the afternoon away. Look for pictures in the clouds and watch them change, or read books to each other.

Do Yard Work Together

Toddlers can help pull weeds and sprinkle the flowers with a tiny watering can. Have a kid-size rake and a bubble-blowing lawn mower on hand.

Play Dress-Up

Collect funny hats, gloves, purses, flowing gowns, and “superhero capes” at a garage sale or thrift store. Slip into your new finery, and have a make-believe garden party, Spider-Man adventure, or masquerade ball.

Build a Secret Fort

Drape old sheets over lower tree limbs and clotheslines. Eat dinner there. Stay up chasing fireflies and listening to “night sounds.”

Hold a Car Wash

Park your car in the driveway and let your child give it a good scrub with a pot of water and sponge or with the garden hose. Get the whole family involved for added fun!

Go on a Bug Safari

Dig for worms, scout for lizards, and hunt for frogs and tadpoles. Marvel at an ant carrying an oversize crumb.

Befriend a Firefighter

Bake cookies (or pick up some ice pops), and deliver them to your local fire station. The firefighters will appreciate the surprise — and your child will meet some heroes, see those awesome trucks up close, and learn a lesson about giving to others.

Chalk it Up

Everyone loves sidewalk chalk. Use the glow-in-the-dark kind so you and your child can glimpse your artwork from the window at bedtime.

Make Beautiful Music

Spread a blanket in the backyard for a stage. Ask preschoolers to create (and collect) “tickets” to the big event. Invite the neighborhood  kids to bring their instruments and perform — even your littlest musicians can join in using pots, wooden spoons, and shakers. Set up lawn chairs for the audience, and cheer your little stars.

Dance in the Rain

Surprise your kids by taking them outside during a gentle summer shower. Dance around in swimsuits, catch raindrops in your mouth, and jump in all the puddles.

Card Board Box Creations

Go to the grocery store and grab a bunch of boxes of all different sizes. Throw in some duct tape, markers, pillows, blankets and flashlights and build a city, a fort, or an apartment building!

Home Movie Time

Let your child make videos or a movie with your iPhone (most apps are $2-$5). Then make some popcorn, pile on the couch and have Family Movie Night starring your kids!

Go on an “Alphabet tour”

Bring a camera(s) and a notebook. Head into town and walk around. Beginning with the letter a, find something that starts with that letter (i.e. Adams Street). Take a picture of that item and write it down in your notebook. Continue with each letter and when you are done, each child has a personal and creative alphabet memory book.

Take a class together!

Baking, crochet, cross-stitch, guitar, painting, bread-making, illustrating, pottery, archery, kickboxing, creative writing, sculpting, acting, braiding, cake decorating, weaving, anything. Tons of local colleges, restaurants, craft stores, trade schools, and culinary institutes offer one-day classes or more. Such a fantastic way to connect with each other over a new skill. Plus you can harness their new skills for your own personal gain. Fresh bread, anyone?

Whatever you decide to do with your children this summer, know that the most important thing is not the place or the cost, but the time spent together.

Have fun!

AFT Calls For Education Sec. Duncan To Resign, After He Gets His Due Process

AFT Members Commit to Fighting Back Against Vergara, Harris Decisions
Special Order of Business Passes at AFT Convention

LOS ANGELES—Today, delegates of the American Federation of Teachers’ biennial convention in Los Angeles unanimously passed a special order of business—recommended by the executive council—to fight back against attacks on unions and teachers like Vergara v. California and Harris v. Quinn, and to fight forward to reclaim the promise of America.

The special order characterizes these lawsuits as “contributing to an escalating and engineered imbalance in our democracy.”

Amended from the floor, the order—originally drafted by the executive council—was revised to include strong language on Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who publicly supported the Vergara decision. It derided his promotion of “misguided and ineffective policies on deprofessionalization, privatization and test obsession.”

The order called upon the president of the United States to “implement a secretary improvement plan which will be based upon standing up for public education, supporting teachers and all school workers, inspiring parents and the public to join us in creating the public schools we want and deserve, and leading with us in reclaiming the promise of public education.”

It asked the president to take the following actions:

  • Enact the funding and equity recommendations of the Each and Every Child report issued by the congressionally chartered, bipartisan Equity Commission;
  • Work with us to change the NCLB/RTTT “test and punish” accountability system to a “support and improve” model; and
  • Promote rather than question the teachers and school support staff of America.

It goes on to say that if “Secretary Duncan does not improve, and given that he has been treated fairly and his due process rights have been upheld, the secretary of education must resign.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten made a statement following the passage of the special order:

“This special order is basically saying, “Enough is enough.” Teachers are evaluated and their future livelihoods are linked to that. And when they fall short, they should have a chance to improve. And that’s what this special order represents. Make no mistake about it: There’s a lot of hurt that has been expressed from the floor—the feeling that the secretary of education doesn’t walk in the shoes of public educators or provide the support and resources necessary to ensure all children have a high-quality public education.”

AFT Members Pass Resolution Advocating for New Teacher Accountability System

Resolution Calls for Move from Test-and-Punish System to Support-and-Improve Model

Image by AFT Union

Image by AFT Union

LOS ANGELES—To restore joy to teaching and learning and create strong community public schools that are safe, collaborative and welcoming places, AFT members today passed a resolution taking a bold stand against the obsession with testing and calling for an end to the failed test-and-punish accountability system to one focused on support and improvement. AFT President Randi Weingarten called it the most important resolution passed at the AFT convention.

The resolution, “Real Accountability for Equity and Excellence in Public Education,” which passed virtually unanimously, states that “the very purpose of public education and the joy of both teaching and learning are now at risk because policymakers perversely attempt to capture—and evaluate—everything about teaching and learning with testing.”

“Our obsession with testing, in the guise of accountability, is hijacking public schooling,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Testing should be about giving students a sense of where they stand and teachers and parents the information they need to tailor instruction and support kids. Instead, it’s being used to reduce children to test scores and teachers to algorithms.”

The resolution specifically calls out:

  • The over-reliance on flawed value-added measures (VAM) used to punish and sanction teachers;
  • The use of test results to fire teachers, close schools and hand schools over to privatizers;
  • The failure of test-based accountability to improve student performance or ensure equitable distribution of resources;
  • How the current system fails to recognize that two-thirds of the achievement gap is attributable to nonschool factors and is the opposite approach taken by education systems that outcompete us globally;
  • The increased segregation through public school disinvestment and charter school and privatization expansion;
  • How inappropriate education policies, austerity budgets, deprofessionalization and privatization have made education about competition instead of about the needs of all children; and
  • The need to respect teachers’ professionalism and engage teachers in improvin equity and excellence in our schools.

“Accountability shouldn’t come down to test-and-punish, and classroom teachers shouldn’t be the only ones held accountable,” Weingarten said. “That’s why we are making the call for a thoughtful accountability system that makes students, not data, the priority, focuses on meaningful student learning and ensures adequate resources. It’s time to stop the failed policy of making every child in every grade take standardized tests every year and evaluating teachers on standardized test scores of students they haven’t even taught.”

Instead of the current failed policies, the resolution calls for:

  • Engaging all stakeholders in planning and implementing accountability systems that are transparent and readily understandable by teachers, families and the broader public;
  • Ensuring that students are taught a well-rounded curriculum, including the arts, the sciences, social studies, civics, world languages, health and physical education, and social, emotional and character development;
  • Assessments that are aligned to higher-order thinking and performance skills;
  • Relying on sampling instead of testing every student at every grade level every year, but retaining disaggregated reporting by race, ethnicity, poverty level, English language status and disability;
  • Identifying schools needing improvement through measures beyond test scores;
  • Holding policymakers and administrators accountable for allocating the necessary resources to support schools;
  • Holding all stakeholders, not just teachers, responsible for meeting students’ needs and achieving both equity and excellence for all students;
  • Ending austerity budgets; and
  • Investments in wraparound services to address the social, emotional and health needs of students.

“Taken together, the education resolutions passed at the AFT’s convention offer a blueprint to help fulfill public education’s essential purpose as an anchor of democracy, a propeller of the economy and the vehicle through which we help all children achieve their dreams,” said Weingarten. “They help build the foundation for a public education system focused on great teaching, a rich and vibrant curriculum focused on learning over testing, safe and welcoming neighborhood public schools, valuing and respecting the voice of educators, and ensuring children have the resources and services they need to enable their success in the classroom and in life.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten Lays Out Bold Call to Reclaim the Promise of America

AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

AFT President Weingarten (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

Los Angeles—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten kicked off the AFT national convention in Los Angeles today by outlining a bold plan to both fight back and fight forward to reclaim the promise of America and create economic and educational opportunity for all.

In her keynote to more than 3,500 delegates, Weingarten outlined the coordinated attack facing working people, unions, public education and public services—by those who starve public institutions, criticize public institutions, demonize workers and unions, marginalize those who fight back, and peddle private alternatives.

Reclaiming the Promise of America

“The promise of America is being undercut by people who devote their fortunes to decreasing our strength, to advancing the politics of division and to promoting economic policies that redistribute more income to fewer people,” said Weingarten. But, she said, the AFT is better positioned than ever to take these challenges on.

“Despite the toughest environment unions have ever faced, I’m proud to announce that our ranks have grown since we last met. Today, we are larger than ever, a union of more than 1.6 million members,” Weingarten said. Since the AFT’s last convention, the union has grown by more than 64,000 members, making it one of the few unions growing and overcoming the challenges posed by harsh austerity and attacks from politicians such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The AFT gained members in K-12 education, higher education, healthcare and public services, with membership growth in 16 states, 180 new locals in 20 states and 83 new units in 19 states.

Weingarten noted that educators have additional forces lining up to support them, lauding the creation of a new group, Democrats for Public Education, led by Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Donna Brazile, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, “who want to stand up for our students, for our educators and for public education.”

The centerpiece of Weingarten’s speech focused on the need to fight back against the attacks and fight forward to reclaim the promise of America by being solution-driven, community-engaged, member-mobilized and “badass”—a term gaining currency with educators frustrated with attacks on public education and the current direction of education policy. While acknowledging that the promise of America has been more an aspiration than a realization for many Americans throughout our history, Weingarten said that “what’s been enduring and unifying is a vision of America based on a foundation of democracy and economic opportunity. You’ve heard it often: If you work hard, you’ll have a decent life.”

But the promise of America is more than that, said Weingarten. It is ensuring that every kid has a great neighborhood public school that is safe, collaborative and child-centered, not test-obsessed; that students can take advantage of college without being disadvantaged in the process. It is ensuring good healthcare and that Americans won’t go broke if they get sick. It is being treated fairly at work, getting a real raise once in a while, and not having to choose between one’s job and taking care of a sick child or aging parent. It is guaranteeing that a lifetime of hard work will culminate in a retirement with dignity, and that the voice of everyday people won’t be drowned out by the political purchasing power of the wealthy.

Increasing Educational Opportunity

Weingarten outlined key policy solutions to increase educational opportunity, move from a test-and-punish to a support-and-improve accountability system, realize the promise and potential of the Common Core State Standards, and ensure due process for educators. She called out the testing obsession that, under the guise of accountability, is hijacking public schooling and said that too many officials are “reducing children to test scores and teachers to algorithms,” especially by using value-added measures.

“They call what comes out of that black box a ‘value-added measurement,’ or VAM. I call it a sham,” said Weingarten.

She continued, “Accountability shouldn’t come down to “test-and-punish,” and classroom teachers shouldn’t be the only ones held to account. … A support-and-improve accountability system makes students, not data, the priority. It focuses on meaningful student learning and ensures adequate resources. It’s built on a foundation of professionalism and capacity to get the job done.”

On the Common Core, Weingarten said, “Some of you in this room think the standards should be jettisoned. Some support them because you’ve seen them help develop the deeper learning that is the antithesis of “drill-and-kill.” Some of you—myself included—think they hold great promise but that they’ve been implemented terribly.”

Weingarten reaffirmed her call for a moratorium on the high-stakes consequences for students and educators on Common Core-aligned assessments, and said that AFT members would debate the standards on the floor of the convention later in the weekend. She also announced a new AFT Innovation Fund grant for members who are dissatisfied with the standards or their implementation, and have a better solution to meet the needs of their students. And Weingarten called out Education Secretary Arne Duncan and state superintendents like New York’s John King for dismissing the concerns of parents and educators about the implementation of the standards.

“We need a secretary of education who walks our walk, and fights our fight for the tools and resources we need to help children, said Weingarten. “And we are deeply disappointed that this Department of Education has not lived up to that standard.”

In light of the recent Vergara decision, Weingarten launched a full-fledged defense of the need for due process.

“All workers should have due process,” said Weingarten. “And educators, healthcare workers and public workers need it. How else do we have the freedom to stand up for what’s right, for our kids, our patients and our communities? How else do we exercise our professional judgment and prevent going back to patronage systems, where your job depended on who you knew, not what you know?”

Weingarten made clear that not all due process laws are perfect and that, while we must protect against false allegations, there can be no tolerance for sexual misconduct. She also made clear that no teacher wants to work alongside someone not cut out for the profession.

“So I would hope that we could all agree that if someone can’t teach, we should first help, and if that doesn’t work, the person shouldn’t teach. And it shouldn’t take 10 years to litigate whether a teacher should be removed from the classroom,” said Weingarten.

Weingarten specifically condemned the Vergara decision as the wrong prescription, saying that it “presupposes that for kids to win, teachers have to lose.”

“The bitter irony is throwing out due process will make it harder to attract and keep great teachers,” she said. “So yes, we will fight it in the courtroom and the court of public opinion.”

Increasing Economic Opportunity

To create an economy that works for all, Weingarten outlined essential policy proposals that the AFT would advocate for, including growing the labor movement and reviving collective bargaining; increasing retirement security; easing the burden of student debt; funding a higher minimum wage, paid family leave, universal early childhood education, and full, equitable funding for all schools; and increasing investments in infrastructure and incentives to once again manufacture in America. She also highlighted the AFT’s work to invest union member pension funds in infrastructure and create 150,000 good jobs.

Weingarten also called for all Americans to pay their fair share, including closing tax loopholes for carried interest and enacting a financial transaction tax.

Doing all of this, Weingarten said, we will reclaim the promise of America.

“When we fight forward—with the full strength of our union, united with community, prepared to call out problems and bring forth solutions, and willing to be a little bit badass—we not only fight forward, we move forward.”

Weingarten closed out the speech with a call for members to be deeply engaged in politics, saying that elections matter—determining who nominates Supreme Court justices, and whether working people have elected officials who stand with them or attack their jobs and livelihoods.

Senator Shaheen Introduces Bill To Support And Expand Afterschool STEM Education Programs

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today introduced legislation to strengthen and expand afterschool programs that focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and help encourage students to pursue careers in STEM. The Supporting Afterschool STEM Act would provide resources to support afterschool STEM programing and strengthen state, local and community partnerships that research has demonstrated is critical in building STEM-relevant skills and interest among students.

“Encouraging students to pursue careers in STEM fields will help meet future economic demand for skilled, high-tech workers in the 21st century,” Shaheen said. “Giving young people the opportunity to get involved in STEM after school and develop STEM-related skills at a young age will help foster our economic competitiveness in the future and ultimately help grow New Hampshire’s economy.”

Research shows that most students who go on to pursue STEM fields in college and beyond are exposed to and engaged in STEM activities by the 8th grade; by bringing STEM education and activites to students in afterschool programs, Shaheen’s bill will help grow our increasingly important STEM workforce.

“The STEM Education Coalition is proud to stand behind Senator Shaheen’s Supporting Afterschool STEM Act,” said James Brown, Executive Director of the STEM Education Coalition. “One of our Coalition’s top goals is to ensure that we are using every opportunity possible to improve student success in the critical STEM fields, and this bill will help advance the notion that afterschool and informal learning programs have a powerful role to play in addressing our national challenges in STEM education. We need to leverage federal programs in this area, along with private-sector and non-profit efforts to ensure that we are improving student access to high quality afterschool STEM experiences – and this bill will help do that.”

“We commend Senator Shaheen for her ongoing commitment to afterschool programs and their role in STEM education,” said Jodi Grant, Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance. “In New Hampshire and across the country, afterschool providers have enthusiastically embraced STEM as an important component of their offerings for children. Many providers want and need support and technical assistance to grow and scale their STEM programs. Senator Shaheen’s bill recognizes this need and will help them get those resources, leveraging existing support systems like the New Hampshire Afterschool Network and other such statewide afterschool networks.”

 “The New Hampshire Afterschool Network is pleased to endorse this bill,” said Lynn Stanley, NH Afterschool Network Lead and Afterschool Master Professional. “Afterschool and summer programs provide children and youth hands-on, experiential activities that encourage an interest in STEM learning. Younger children exposed to fun and engaging STEM activities outside the school day are more likely to take upper level science and math classes in high school. This sets them on an educational pathway leading to STEM fields and careers.”

Shaheen has made promoting STEM education one of her top priorities in the Senate and is a recognized leader by STEM Connector in their 100 Women in STEM publication. Shaheen helped launch and co-chairs the Senate STEM Caucus and has been a longtime supporter of efforts that promote programs like FIRST Robotics since her days as New Hampshire’s governor. She has met with students across New Hampshire to promote STEM programs and promote policies like the Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program to provide high schools with new incentives to invest in STEM programs.

Granite State Rumblings: Why You Should Take Time Every Day To Read To Your Children

Mother reading to children (Neeta Lind Flikr)

Mother reading to children (Image Neeta Lind on Flikr)

Have you seen those bumper stickers that say, Read Aloud to a Child Every Day? Does reading aloud to a child really matter?

YES! And here is why:

Reading aloud helps children acquire early language skills.

  • Reading aloud is widely recognized as the single most important activity leading to literacy acquisition.  Among other things, reading aloud builds word-sound awareness in children, a potent predictor of reading success.
  • “Children who fall seriously behind in the growth of critical early reading skills have fewer opportunities to practice reading. Evidence suggests that these lost practice opportunities make it extremely difficult for children who remain poor readers during the first three years of elementary school to ever acquire average levels of reading fluency.” Torgeson, J. Avoiding the Devastating Downward Spiral, American Educator. (2004)
  • Reading aloud to young children is not only one of the best activities to stimulate language and cognitive skills; it also builds motivation, curiosity, and memory. Bardige, B. Talk to Me, Baby! (2009), Paul H Brookes Pub Co.
  • Reading aloud stimulates language development even before a child can talk. Bardige, B. Talk to Me, Baby! (2009), Paul H Brookes Pub Co.
  • Research shows that the more words parents use when speaking to an 8-month-old infant, the greater the size of their child’s vocabulary at age 3. The landmark Hart-Risley study on language development documented that children from low-income families hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers before the age of 4. Hart, B. Risley, T. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children (1995), Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Reading aloud helps children develop positive associations with books and reading.

  • The nurturing and one-on-one attention from parents during reading aloud encourages children to form a positive association with books and reading later in life.
  • Reading aloud is a proven technique to help children cope during times of stress or tragedy.
  • Reading aloud is a good way to help a child acclimate to new experiences. As your child approaches a major developmental milestone or a potentially stressful experience, sharing a relevant story is a great way to help ease the transition. For instance, if your little one is nervous about starting preschool, reading a story dealing with this topic shows her that her anxiety is normal.

Reading aloud helps children build a stronger foundation for school success.

  • “What happens during the first months and years of life matters, a lot, not because this period of development provides an indelible blueprint for adult well-being, but because it sets either a sturdy or fragile stage for what follows.” J.S. Shonkoff & D. Phillips, Eds., From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development (2000), Washington D.C.; National Research Council & The Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press.
  • Once children start school, difficulty with reading contributes to school failure, which can increase the risk of absenteeism, leaving school, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and teenage pregnancy – all of which can perpetuate the cycles of poverty and dependency.
  • Reading aloud in the early years exposes children to story and print knowledge as well as rare words and ideas not often found in day-to-day conversations or screen time.
  • Reading aloud gives children the opportunity to practice listening – a crucial skill for kindergarten and beyond.
  • Reading aloud to a child gives them the basics of how to read a book. Children aren’t born with an innate knowledge that text is read from left to right, or that the words on a page are separate from the images. Essential pre-reading skills like these are among the major benefits of early reading.
  • Reading aloud helps them develop more logical thinking skills. Another illustration of the importance of reading to children is their ability to grasp abstract concepts, apply logic in various scenarios, recognize cause and effect, and utilize good judgment. As your toddler or preschooler begins to relate the scenarios in books to what’s happening in his own world, he’ll become more excited about the stories you share.

Reading aloud is, according to the landmark 1985 report “Becoming a Nation of Readers,” “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading.”

Despite this advice, however, some educators and many parents don’t read aloud to children from a young age and thus fail to nurture avid and skilled readers. Indeed, this is especially true for children in low-income families. According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, only 48 percent of families below the poverty level read to their preschoolers each day, compared with 64 percent of families whose incomes were at or above the poverty level. Children from low-income families are also less likely to have exposure to print materials.

So this summer have some fun, free time with your child. Visit the library and get some books. Then in addition to the usual reading places—a couch, an overstuffed armchair, a child’s bed—consider less traditional ones:

  • Outside under a shady tree, in a sandbox or a hammock, or at a nearby park.
  • Toss a sheet over a clothesline or table to create a reading hideaway.
  • Keep a book in the glove compartment of your car for long road trips or traffic delays.
  • Spread a blanket on the floor for an indoor reading picnic.
  • Use your imagination. Almost every room in your house offers exciting reading possibilities.

Happy reading!

OUR FAVORITES

Image Vivid Image Flickr

Image Vivid Image Flickr

A few weeks ago I asked you to tell me what is on your list of great children’s books. Here’s what I heard from some of you (in no particular order):

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, illustrated by Fritz Siebel
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr., and John Archambault; illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Curious George by H.A. Rey
Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue by Maurice Sendak
Olivia by Ian Falconer
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
Corduroy by Don Freeman
Swimmy by Leo Lionni

Here are a few of  6 year old Spidey’s favorites:

Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner (any of the stories in the series)
There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived by Matt Tavares
Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta
Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow, Lenny Lipton and Eric Puybaret
Chicka Chicka abc by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

Want to find some books written by or illustrated by Granite Staters? Check out the list here.