AFT Members Pass Resolution Advocating for New Teacher Accountability System

Image by AFT Union

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.”

Why It Is A Bad Idea For Teachers To Be “Packing Heat” At School

Image by Jimi Lanham CC Flickr

It seems like every few weeks we are hearing about another school shooting or unstable individual attacking innocent people in the streets.

For some people the answer is always the same, more guns!

Fact: More guns do not mean people are safer. Research shows the exact opposite.

More Guns = More Accidental Shootings: People of all age groups are significantly more likely to die from unintentional firearm injuries when they live in states with more guns, relative to states with fewer guns.”

To counter the increase in schools shooting some school boards have approved allowing teachers to carry weapons in schools. Are you prepared for teachers in your local schools to be carrying concealed weapons, ready to shoot at any moment?

In 2012, less than one week after the horrific shootings at Newton, the NRA called for more guns in our schools. The American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who represented the teachers at Sandy Hook and thousands more across the country, issued a statement.

AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

AFT President Weingarten (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

This is both irresponsible and dangerous. No matter how much money the NRA spends or propaganda it tries to spread, one thing is clear—the NRA is not serious about confronting the epidemic of gun violence in our nation.”

Schools must be safe sanctuaries, not armed fortresses. Anyone who would suggest otherwise doesn’t understand that our public schools must first and foremost be places where teachers can safely educate and nurture our students.”

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Vice President of the National Education Association, completely rejects the idea, being pushing by legislators and school boards, of arming teachers.  As she phrased it, “People that would put our children, teachers, and janitors at risk do not deserve their office.”

Woman Shooting at Target (Image by Jimi Lanham CC Flickr)

Image by Jimi Lanham CC Flickr

If you live in Kansas, armed teachers will very soon be a reality! They are already using taxpayer money to pay for training programs.

Read this, “Armed Missouri teachers will have ’90 percent’ accuracy, firearm instructors promise

I am personally appalled by this idea because I read every day about another person who is killed by accidental gun violence. I do not want to read about how a teacher accidentally shot their second grade student.

“Shield Solutions training supervisor Don Crowley vowed that his students would have an accuracy of 90 to 95 percent at the end of five days of training.”

Really? A 90% accuracy after just five days of training? Hogwash!

I will concede that someone who is training for five days straight may be able to pass a test with “90%” accuracy, but that does not mean that in a month, or a year, that those gun-wielding teachers will still have the same accuracy.

Consider this, a study of New York City police officers involved in a ‘fire fight’ have an accuracy rating of only 18%. These are trained professionals who go through rigorous weapons training, regular accuracy tests, and yet they only average 18%!

What makes anyone think that a one week training class for teachers would make them more accurate that the entire New York Police department? There is serious difference between standing on a range, firing bullets at a paper target, and a person holding a gun, that is pointed at you, and is shooting back.

31,000 Americans died from gunshot wounds in 2010, and another 73,000 Americans were hospitalized with non-fatal gunshot wounds.   “From 2005-2010, almost 3,800 people in the U.S. died from unintentional shootings.” Over 1,300 of those were people under the age of 25.

What about the teacher who is careless and leaves their gun in a desk, unlocked, unguarded, where children are definitely present? Do not lie to yourself by saying this would never happen, because you know it would only be a matter of time.

The New Yorkers Against Gun Violence reported:

“The majority of people killed in firearm accidents are under age 24, and most of these young people are being shot by someone else, usually someone their own age. The shooter is typically a friend or family member, often an older brother.”

There are dozens of other examples of “responsible gun owners” who have shot themselves or others accidentally.

Do we really want this remote possibility in our schools???

I don’t.

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In a side note: New Hampshire Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and Mike Thompson (CA-05)  lead  163 House Members in Calling for a Vote on Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, A True Fighter For NH Families (New Web Video Included)

Screenshot YouTube Stand with Me

Screenshot YouTube Stand with Me CROPPEDAfter filing her candidacy to represent New Hampshire’s First Congressional District, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) launched a new web video, “Stand with Me.” The spot focuses on Shea-Porter’s New Hampshire roots, her promises kept to fight for jobs, education, and infrastructure, and her pledge to never take a dime from Corporate PACs or DC Lobbyists.

Over the last year and a half, the NH Labor News has been covering the actions of Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.  We have highlighted some of the ways she is protecting New Hampshire’s working families.  We have at times been critical of Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and all of Congress over their failure to pass some meaningful legislation that would move our country in the right direction.

Protecting Workers At Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter is a strong advocate for working families.  She has been adamant against the closing of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and reversing the effects of the draconian budget cuts of the “sequester.”

“I cannot stress this enough, Congress must pass a responsible budget that creates jobs and eliminates sequestration,” Shea-Porter said. “The men and women at the Shipyard are essential to our national defense and contribute $660 million to the region’s economy. Continuing the cuts of sequestration is unfair to these men and women, and it is a deeply misguided approach.”

The sequester forced workers throughout the federal government into furloughs, resulting in a loss of pay and a slow down of work.

“Our shipyard will not survive another 9 ½ years of sequestration,” said Paul O’Connor, President of the Shipyard Metal Trades Council. “Sequestration was never intended to be a sensible budget cutting device. It was a scheme of cuts so damaging that Congress would be forced to work together to avoid them. This is a bad law and it must end.”

Pay Equity

In Washington, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter used her position to push for pay equity for all working women.

“Working women are America’s mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives. We’re America’s factory and office workers, health care professionals and scientists, business executives and teachers,” said Shea-Porter. “Women are working everywhere, but women in America still make only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  Equal pay for equal work is a fairness issue and an economic issue.”

Standing up for Teachers

She submitted legislation to extend the REPAY Act, which gives teachers a $250 rebate for purchasing supplies for their classrooms.

“This deduction has been extended with bipartisan support for every year since 2002, but was allowed to expire at the end of 2013,” said Shea-Porter. “We owe it to our nation’s educators and our children to ensure that they have the necessary educational tools to succeed.”

Healthcare, Medicare, and Social Security

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has also been an outspoken advocate for providing affordable healthcare to everyone, and protecting our seniors from the Republican assault on Social Security and Medicare.

“Granite State seniors have earned their Medicare and Social Security benefits through a lifetime of hard work,” Shea-Porter said. “These programs are vital to the retirement security of millions of Americans, and we must protect them for future generations.”

After the news that 40,262 Granite Staters and more than 8 million Americans in total have enrolled in private health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act, Shea-Porter stated:

“I’ve heard from constituents, both Republicans and Democrats, about how the Affordable Care Act has helped them and their families. There are still challenges, but today’s news is confirmation that access to affordable healthcare has improved for New Hampshire families.”

“Everyone in New Hampshire deserves the consumer protections offered by the Affordable Care Act: it ends discrimination against those with preexisting conditions, allows children to stay on parents’ plans up to age 26, and ensures annual and lifetime out-of-pocket limits.” 

Leadership New Hampshire Can Count On

For many years Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has continued to show her strong leadership skills in and out of Washington.  As a member of Congress, she opposes corporate PAC money and pushes to get the money out of the political process.

Even though right-wing groups routinely attack her, she continues to submit bills to make the Affordable Care Act better. She pushed for Medicaid expansion and worked to expand the coverage of those who purchase healthcare from the ACA Marketplace.

“I (Carol Shea-Poter) advocated for Minuteman to enter the New Hampshire Marketplace to provide competition, and I am delighted that Minuteman will negotiate with any of our hospitals who want to participate on the new healthcare exchange.”

Continuing her efforts to make health insurance more affordable for small businesses, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) joined with two colleagues to introduce the Small Business Tax Credit Accessibility Act (H.R. 4128). This legislation would expand and simplify the Affordable Care Act’s Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credit to help more small employers purchase quality, affordable health-insurance policies.

Stick with someone we can trust in Washington.  Someone who has proven herself to be a true fighter for the middle class, and all working families.

“Granite Staters know they can trust Carol,” said Patrick Carroll, Campaign Manager for Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “Voters trust her because she fights for them every day. Carol Shea-Porter has fought to improve the lives of her neighbors in New Hampshire. Whether it’s more jobs, affordable education, access to health care, or protecting Social Security and Medicare, Carol Shea-Porter is the clear champion for New Hampshire families in 2014, and this video shows why.”

VIDEO — “Stand With Me”

During Teacher Appreciation Week Shea-Porter and Ros-Lehtinen Press for Action on REPAY Supplies Act

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter 
(image by MARCN Creative Commons On Flickr)

During Teacher Appreciation Week and as Congress Considers Tax Extenders, Shea-Porter and Ros-Lehtinen Press for Action on REPAY Supplies Act

“Classroom Expense Deduction must be addressed”

WASHINGTON, DC – As our nation celebrates Teacher Appreciation Week and leaders in Congress work to extend tax deductions that expired at the end of 2013, Representatives Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) urged Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) to hold a vote on the REPAY Supplies Act, legislation to continue a historically bipartisan tax deduction available to teachers who purchase classroom supplies with their own money.

“The Classroom Expense Deduction is a tax extender that we can all agree should not only be extended but should be made permanent. H.R. 3318, the REPAY Supplies Act, would do exactly that and given that this is Teacher Appreciation Week, we urge you to bring the bill to the floor for a vote as soon as possible,” Shea-Porter and Ros-Lehtinen wrote.

The Classroom Expense Deduction allows teachers who pay out of their own pockets for classroom supplies like books, software, and rulers, to claim a $250 above-the-line deduction on their tax returns. This deduction has traditionally been bipartisan and extended every year since 2002, but it was allowed to expire at the end of 2013.

The bipartisan Reimburse Educators who Pay for Academic Year (REPAY) Supplies Act of 2013 would permanently extend the Classroom Expense Deduction. Introduced in October 2013, the REPAY Supplies Act came in response to a letter Shea-Porter received from  Margaret Morse-Barry, a New Hampshire educator who urged Shea-Porter to look into extending the expiring tax deduction. In March, Shea-Porter and Ros-Lehtinen urged the House Ways and Means Committee to hold a hearing on H.R. 3318.

This week, Shea-Porter launched the hashtag #REPAYSupplies, and encouraged House colleagues to participate in a social media awareness drive. Tweets can be viewed here.

The REPAY Supplies Act has been endorsed by the National Education Association (NEA), National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT),  NEA–New Hampshire Chapter, AFT–New Hampshire Chapter, and New Hampshire School Administrators Association.

Full text of the letter to Speaker John Boehner and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp is below.

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May 7, 2014

The Honorable John Boehner
Office of the Speaker of the House
H-232, U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Dave Camp
Chairman, House Committee on Ways and Means
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Speaker Boehner and Chairman Camp:

We understand the difficult nature of reforming our nation’s tax code and appreciate the attention being given to the tax extenders that expired at the end of 2013. One tax extender that must be addressed is the Classroom Expense Deduction, a historically bipartisan tax deduction available to teachers who purchase classroom supplies with their own money. The Classroom Expense Deduction is a tax extender that we can all agree should not only be extended but should be made permanent. H.R. 3318, the REPAY Supplies Act, would do exactly that and given that this is Teacher Appreciation Week, we urge you to bring the bill to the floor for a vote as soon as possible.

Our country’s teachers are hardworking and dedicated to the success of their students.  Many people do not realize, though, that teachers often use their own money and personal time to further ensure that their students receive a quality education. The Classroom Expense Deduction allows teachers who pay out of their own pockets for classroom supplies like books, software, and rulers, to claim a $250 above-the-line deduction on their tax returns. This deduction has traditionally been bipartisan and extended every year since 2002, but it was allowed to expire at the end of 2013.

As our nation celebrates Teacher Appreciation Week, let us show our thanks to our educators by making the Classroom Expense Deduction permanent. The sixty-five bipartisan cosponsors of the REPAY Supplies Act agree: the Classroom Expense Deduction should be a permanent part of our tax code. Please help us show teachers that they are truly appreciated by scheduling the REPAY Supplies Act for a vote as soon as possible.

 

Sincerely,

 

Carol Shea-Porter

Member of Congress

 

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Member of Congress

 

CC: Ways and Means Committee Members

State’s Advisory Council on Education and Advanced Manufacturing Endorse Common Core Standards

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CONCORD – As part of ongoing efforts to ensure that New Hampshire students are ready for the jobs and opportunities of the 21st century economy, the Advanced Manufacturing Educational Advisory Council has unanimously endorsed the adoption of the Common Core State Standards.

The unanimous vote took place at the group’s regularly scheduled January meeting.

“Business leaders tell their representatives that they are challenged to find workers with the skills necessary for advanced manufacturing,” State Senator Molly Kelly, Chair of the Advanced Manufacturing Educational Advisory Council. “We need to be responsive to those needs while also supporting our local schools districts that want to adopt and implement the most rigorous standards possible.”

A state-based series of math and language arts standards, the Common Core is designed to help New Hampshire’s young people develop the skills and knowledge they need for success in careers and higher education.

“I am a strong supporter of such standards,” Barbara Couch, vice president at Hanover-based Hypertherm, Inc., and member of the Advanced Manufacturing Educational Advisory Council said in a statement. “The Common Core standards empower teachers to do what they do best by allowing them to discover and create optimal teaching tools and methods and encourage the sharing of best practices across all school systems.”

A state-based effort embraced by the New Hampshire Board of Education in 2010, the Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

“New Hampshire is instruction based on these standards so our students can reach even greater depths of knowledge and understanding and be even more empowered when they enter college or careers,” said Mark Conrad, superintendent of the Nashua Schools and member of the Advanced Manufacturing Educational Advisory Council.

About the Advanced Manufacturing Educational Advisory Council

The New Hampshire General Court passed legislation in 2008 creating the Advanced Manufacturing Education Advisory Council. Members include lawmakers, manufacturers, and educators who focused their work on the charge of the council: “to advise the Department of Education in the implementation, evaluation, and expansion of the advanced manufacturing curriculum, to assist the Department of Education in pursuing public and private funds in order to ensure statewide access for all public high school students to advanced manufacturing curriculum coursework.”

For more information, visit: http://www.education.nh.gov/career/career/manufacturing_council.htm

About manufacturing in New Hampshire:

Manufacturing is the largest sector of the New Hampshire economy, accounting for 15 percent of the jobs and nearly a third of the contribution to the gross product of the state’s export-based industries. One in eight jobs are in advanced manufacturing and since 2003, New Hampshire manufacturing exports rose nearly six times as fast as the state’s overall economy.

Grassroots and Dark Money Groups Building Media Campaign for Right to Work in PA

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Written by Sean Kitchen on the Raging Chicken Press

The never-ending push for Right to Work (for less) legislation in Pennsylvania is on the move again, but this time there’s more of a tangible campaign targeting the conservative base.  For 14 straight years, State Representative Daryl Metcalfe has introduced some form of Right to Work legislation, but this year’s legislation was introduced by State Representative Bryan Cutler (Lancaster, PA).  Last January, Jen Stefano from the Koch Brothers funded American’s for Prosperity in Pennsylvania held a press conference with Representative Metcalfe and announced that the legislation will become law.  Currently, it appears that dark money groups tied to right wing think tanks like The Franklin Center and Greenhouse Solutions are teaming up with a conservative activist from Southeastern Pennsylvania, and are astroturfing a social media and media campaign by using Facebook and Twitter accounts to push anti-union news and rhetoric from “independent” media outlets.

The players in this story are Simon Campbell – a conservative grassroots activist from Yardley, PA,  dark money think tanks, and astro-turfed media and social media outlets.  Simon Campbell is a local conservative activist from Bucks County PA.  He jumped on the scene in 2005 when he was elected to the Pennsbury School District.  The cause-celeb he ran on was a teacher bashing and anti-teacher strike platform.  While sitting on the Pennsbury School Board, Campbell started Stop Teachers Strike.  In 2013, Campbell’s four year term on the local school board was up and he and his colleagues were sept off board.   Weeks after the election, Campbell founded a 501.4(c) organization called Pennsylvanians For Union Reform, and thanks to his non-profit social welfare status, Campbell’s group is able to receive a whole lot of dark money.  Campbell’s resume as a right-wing activist has him giving speeches at luncheons or sitting on training sessions at Koch funded think-tanks like the statewide Commonwealth Foundation and Americans for Prosperity.

Then there’s a growing social media campaign. It appears that Campbell has been running a Pennsylvanians for Union Reform facebook page since June 2013, and has amassed over 20,000 followers.  That’s either one hell of a grassroots campaign or Campbell’s group has a few thousand sitting aside for social media promotion.   Then the page regularly posts stories from Pennsylvania media outlets that deal with union issues, but the majority of the posts come from two “independent” media outlets, Media Trackers and Watchdog Wire.  Out of the two media outlets, Media Trackers is more savvy when it comes to hiding their funding sources and who is actually writing their articles.  According to their website, Media Trackers describes itself as follows:

Media Trackers is dedicated to media accountability, government transparency, and quality fact-based journalism. Our site examines stories published in the mainstream media, explores claims made by some of the more partisan political groups, and provides the facts on the issues, people and elections that matter.

A 2012 Mother Jones article described Media Trackers as:

Conservatives have their think tanks, dozens of them at the state and national level. They also have a corporate-funded legislation mill in the American Legislative Exchange Council. What conservatives lacked, Ryun told the donors, were nimble attack blogs that could quickly capitalize on the latest missteps by big-government politicians or the “liberal” media—essentially hard-hitting, opposition-research-style shops that prize scoops, speed, and scandal over policy briefs and press conferences. His pitch: Create a network of one- and two-man digital media outlets with low overhead, rapid response, and a nose for controversy.

The donors loved it. They ponied up seed money in the low six figures, and Ryun’s conservative attack machine, Media Trackers, was born. Bonus: As a nonprofit, Media Trackers can keep the identities of those donors secret.

To obtain their non-profit status, Media Trackers changed their name to Greenhouse Solutions during the2013 IRS scandal, claiming that a liberal sounding name will ease the process.  When looking for Media Trackers’ journalists or blog staff, some of their writers were from the Heartland Institute,  a Rick Perry adviser, and a former journalist with the Washington Examiner.

The second fake independent media outlet involved in this campaign is Watchdog Wire, whose twitter account describes it as a “project of the Franklin Institute.”  Watchdog Wire’s media outlet is ran by the Franklin Center’s communications department.  Under the Franklin Center’s staff page, it lists Watchdog Wire’s staff.  The Franklin Center also has ties to two Pennsylvania groups, the Commonwealth Foundation, a right winged think-tank, and the Pennsylvania Independent, one of those “independent media” outlets.  Sourcewatch describes The Franklin Center’s ties to statewide think-tanks like the Commonwealth Foundation:

Franklin Center Director of Communications Michael Moroney told the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in 2013 that the source of the Franklin Center’s funding “is 100 percent anonymous.” But 95 percent of its 2011 funding came from DonorsTrust, a spin-off of the Philanthropy Roundtable that functions as a large “donor-advised fund,” cloaking the identity of donors to right-wing causes across the country (CPI did a review of Franklin’s Internal Revenue Service records).[18] Mother Jones called DonorsTrust “the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement” in a February 2013 article.[19]Franklin received DonorTrust’s second-largest donation in 2011.[18]

The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,[20] a conservative grant-making organization.[21]

The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM),[22] a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network,[23] which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation.[24] Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation.[25] SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.

What we are witnessing are the cogs turning in the right-wing infrastructure gearing up for an attack on public sector workers in 2014.  There has been a quiet 14-year movement to make Right to Work a possibility in Pennsylvania, and now the volume is being ratcheted up a few notches.  We are witnessing a “grassroots,” social welfare, non-profit group that has the potential to collect dark money run a social media campaign that is pushing for one issue; screwing workers’ rights.  The social media campaign, run by Pennsylvanians for Union Reform, is constantly pushing anti-union rhetoric from dark money dominated non-profit media outlet, like Media Trackers, or the Koch Brother funded, Franklin Center’s communication’s department at Watchdog Wire.  This is how the right wing infrastructure, with all their minions, all their think tanks and all their communications departments are going to try to undercut labor laws in Pennsylvania just like they did in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Florida in 2011.

 

Get this: Privatizers see the Common Core as a Distraction from school choice!

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I always consider policy discussions about privatization – proposals to dismantle public education and replace it with charters, vouchers and home schools  - a distraction from the real project of making our public schools the best in the world.  But anti-Common Core activists have the gall to see the work needed to move our schools forward - like increasing expectations by instituting higher standards like the Common Core - as a distraction from their privatization goal!

Just think about that.

New Hampshire’s anti-Common Core activists express these very views (a point I first made here) but the American Principles Project further fleshed out this manifesto on its blog a couple of days ago.  Here’s an excerpt:

American Principles Project has been an advocate for school choice since our inception.  We have been alarmed how the Common Core State Standards  has been an intrusion for private schools and even homeschoolers.  In principle we desire greater choice in education as parents should have sovereignty over how their children learn.  The Common Core diminishes parental choice as they are confronted by “common standards” at every turn.  Robert Holland of The Heartland Institute gave a dire warning last month saying that the Common Core would cripple school choice.

Ultimately, disempowerment may be the main reason for parental angst. Unless it is stopped, Common Core will deliver a devastating blow to parental choice at all levels. The one, limited power possessed by most public-school parents is the ability to seek change at the local school board. Unfortunately, the corporate and foundation-funded sponsors of CCSS copyrighted the standards and set up no process for local amendment.

The greatest leverage for parents comes when they can use vouchers or tax-credit scholarships to transfer their children to private or parochial schools. But even in a state with as strong a voucher program as Indiana, the government requires schools accepting voucher students to administer the official test, which has opened the door wide to CCSS-style assessment. Thus will governmental creep dilute the liberating effect of school choice.

Nor will homeschooling parents be exempt if CCSS stands, because many states also require home educators to administer the official test. Even more insidious, Common Core lead writer David Coleman (formerly a testing consultant) now heads the College Board and has vowed to align the SAT with the nationalized standards. Thus any student—whether from public, private, parochial, or home school—will have to be Common Core-acclimated.

….

via Common Core Is a Distraction From School Choice.

So there you have it.  The privatizers see the Common Core as a threat to their goal of dismantling American public education.  Naturally.

Are the Common Core math standards “developmentally appropriate” for Kindergarteners?

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Are the Common Core math standards “developmentally appropriate” for Kindergarteners? It depends, as always, on who’s teaching.

Opponents say that the Common Core standards, especially the math standards, are not developmentally appropriate for Kindergarteners.

But many New Hampshire Kindergarten and early grade teachers are using the math standards successfully.  When I ask, they say that Kindergarteners can definitely achieve the goals set out in the standards, under the right conditions.  One condition is that the child is prepared – meaning that she’s attended high quality pre-K or her parents have provided a rich environment full of words and numbers.

The second requirement is that she must have access to full day kindergarten.  We know that frequently is not the case, particularly for low income students.  But it appears that, at least partly, it’s about preparation, not something inherent in a five year-old’s stage of development.  So a state’s early childhood development policies are the issue, not really the Common Core or any other standard.

“But,” many say, “5 year olds need to play and discover together.  They need social and emotional development, not academic instruction.”  This is not really a Common Core issue either.  It is a long-running debate that predates the Common Core and will probably go on for a long time.  Some schools, including many Montessori and Waldorf schools, are better at combining play and learning than others.  And some teachers are.  So there’s real pedagogy involved.  But it doesn’t appear to be an issue of what a 5 year-old is developmentally prepared to do.

 

Here’s a typical post from a Common Core opponent – blogger Anthony Cody, in this case – saying that the goals the standards set for Kindergarteners are inappropriate”

Error #2: The Common Core Standards violate what we know about how children develop and grow.

One of the problems with the blinkered development process described above is that no experts on early childhood were included in the drafting or internal review of the Common Core.

In response to the Common Core, more than 500 experts signed the Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative. This statement now seems prophetic in light of what is happening in classrooms. The key concerns they raised were:

1.            Such standards will lead to long hours of instruction in literacy and math.
2.            They will lead to inappropriate standardized testing
3.            Didactic instruction and testing will crowd out other important areas of learning.
4.            There is little evidence that such standards for young children lead to later success.

Many states are now developing standards and tests for children in kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade, to “prepare” them for the Common Core. Early childhood education experts agree that this is developmentally inappropriate. Young children do not need to be subjected to standardized tests. Just recently, the parents of a k-2 school refused to allow their children to be tested. They were right to do so.

Mr. Cody makes a common mistake here, confusing the Common Core with the way certain states implement it.  In New York, a state with among the worst education policies in the country, all the bad things he enumerates do happen – but they would happen with or without the Common Core.

In fact, if you are willing to risk depression, watch the video posted here showing a NY teacher drilling disengaged Kindergartners in counting.  And this is presented as a model by engageNY.org, the official  New York State Education Department website set up to support the state’s education reform agenda.

Notice that the blogger makes the same mistake Mr. Cody does – he attributes this offensive teaching strategy to the Common Core when it’s actually the result of New York’s dishearteningly misguided public education policy.

People concerned about the importance of play and discovery for young children refer to studies like these to make the case that the Common Core standards are inappropriate, but clearly what’s appropriate is a matter of how it’s taught.

I asked a young NY mom the other day whether her four year-old’s private school – known for its commitment to play, discovery and development of “the whole child” – would consider this sample Kindergarten math standard developmentally appropriate:

“Count to 100 by ones and by tens.”

She didn’t know for sure but emailed me a couple of days later, saying,

“Jason[a pseudonym] and his classmates decided yesterday to measure the length of their classroom. They are using small colored cubes like the ones we have at home, and they laid out several hundred of them in a line across the floor.  Their job today is counting them.

So take a guess what sign showed up on the wall this morning to facilitate the counting – a chart with numbers from 1 to 50 and then numbers by 10s to 100 after that…

So there you have it – teaching to the Common Core math standard by mind-numbing drill or by mind-expanding discovery.  And within a few feet of each other!

Mr. Cody and Mr. Cerrone are not alone in making this obvious error.  Most Common Core opponents do it: show bad teaching or kids under stress from NY or somewhere else and attribute it to the new standards.

Why would they do this?  Because they are using the issue as a political tool to scare parents about the Common Core rather than actually engaging in the early childhood development debate about what’s best for kids.

A commentator concerned about the issue instead of using it to make a political point would approach the question entirely differently.  Here is Daniel Willingham talking about whether a particular approach to teaching is appropriate for first graders.

…you can’t always wait until children are “ready.” Think about mathematics. Children are born understanding numerosity, but they understand it on a logarithmic scale–the difference between five and ten is larger than the difference between 70 and 75. To understand elementary mathematics they must learn to think of numbers of a linear scale. In this case, teachers have toundo Nature. And if you wait until the child is “developmentally ready” to understand numbers this way, you’ll never teach them mathematics. It will never happen.

In sum, I don’t think developmental psychology is a good guide to what children should learn; it provides some help in thinking about how children learn. The best guide to “what” is what children know now, and where you want their learning to head.

Dr. Willingham is not in some political fox hole lobbing out whatever ammunition he has to defeat the new standards that must be bad because Bill Gates supports them.  He’s just trying to figure out the best way to help kids learn.  Mr. Cody and Mr. Cerrone should come out of their fox holes and learn from Dr. Willingham.

Reposted from ANHPE Blog

AFT-NH Takes Pledge To Reclaim The Promise Of Public Education

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AFT-NH Board of Directors took the pledge to
RECLAIM THE PROMISE OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

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Public education is under assault, and decades of top-down edicts, mass school closures, privatization, and test fixation with sanctions instead of support haven’t moved the needle in the right direction.

It’s time to reclaim the promise of public education—not as it is today or as it was in the past, but as it can be—to fulfill our collective obligation to help all children succeed. Together, we will ensure that all children have the opportunity to dream their dreams and achieve them. We will put the public back into public education. We will help our public schools become centers of their communities, secure a voice and respect for those closest to the classroom, and fulfill public education’s purpose as a propeller of our economy, an anchor of democracy and a gateway to racial, social and economic justice.

The AFT-NH Board of Directors asks that you take the pledge with us and Reclaim the Promise of Public Education.

Lastly, please pass this along to your co-workers, family members and friends. Post it on your Facebook page and send it out on your twitter account. We must spread the word that it is time to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education.

If you have any questions I can be reached at 603-661-7293 or at lhainey@aft-nh.org.

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

The PISA Results Are In So What Does That Mean? AFT Explains

MHT Save Our Schools Rally

Today the mainstream media was quick to jump on the PISA school rankings. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a ranking of schools worldwide that occurs every three years.

The results are clear, what we are doing in the United States is not working.  The current political agenda to attack teachers, slash budgets, and starve our public schools is actually moving us backwards.

Everyone knows and understands that we need to make changes in our schools.  The key is how we make those changes. What changes are truly going to help our children learn and grow?

The President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, released the following statement after the results we announced.

“Today’s PISA results drive home what has become abundantly clear: While the intentions may have been good, a decade of top-down, test-based schooling created by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top—focused on hyper-testing students, sanctioning teachers and closing schools—has failed to improve the quality of American public education. Sadly, our nation has ignored the lessons from the high-performing nations. These countries deeply respect public education, work to ensure that teachers are well-prepared and well-supported, and provide students not just with standards but with tools to meet them—such as ensuring a robust curriculum, addressing equity issues so children with the most needs get the most resources, and increasing parental involvement. None of the top-tier countries, nor any of those that have made great leaps in student performance, like Poland and Germany, has a fixation on testing like the United States does.

“The crucial question we face now is whether we have the political will to move away from the failed policies and embrace what works in high-performing countries so that we can reclaim the promise of public education.”

After the 2009 PISA report, Weingarten visited the top-performing nations of Japan, China, Singapore, Finland, Canada and Brazil to talk with teachers, principals, students and government officials about what makes their systems work for students, teachers and parents. Many of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s recommendations informed the AFT’s Quality Education Agenda and its Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education  principles.

AFT also released a short five-minute video that explains how we can learn from the PISA results.  The results show that we need to be supporting our teachers and creating an environment of mutual collaboration with our teachers unions.

We also need to look deeply at two of the major factors impacting our schools. The poverty level of the students, and the continual budget cuts that are starving our schools.

While pundits on the right say we are overpaying for our children’s education the truth is far from that.  We also fall far behind many of the other countries in funding for schools in impoverished areas.

See what the facts are behind the media headlines in the PISA results.

Read more on how we are ‘starving our public schools’ and AFT’s plan to ‘Reclaim the Promise’ of public education.