March 21, 2015

CJAD Teachers Panel discusses homework bans, success rate pressures & the importance of class size

Teachers Catharine Hogan and Robert Green discuss homework bans, success rate pressures & the importance of class size with Tommy Shnurmacher.

Click here for the podcast

March 18, 2015

If Teachers Can’t Make Their Unions More Democratic and Social Justice-Minded, Public Ed Is Doomed

By Bob Peterson | Published Feb. 12, 2015 by In These Times

Excerpt:

Social justice unionism is an organizing model that calls for a radical boost in internal union democracy and increased member participation. This contrasts to a business model that is so dependent on staff providing services that it disempowers members and concentrates power in the hands of a small group of elected leaders and/or paid staff. An organizing model, while still providing services to members, focuses on building union power at the school level in alliance with parents, community groups, and other social movements.

Three components of social justice unionism are like the legs of a stool. Unions need all three to be balanced and strong:

  • We organize around bread and butter issues.
  • We organize around teaching and learning issues to reclaim our profession and our classrooms.
  • We organize for social justice in our community and in our curriculum.

Unfortunately, few public sector unions in Wisconsin adopted this model of unionism. As long as we had an agency shop and could protect our members’ compensation and benefits, most members were happy.

We are now paying the price for defining our unions as contract bargainers and enforcers. Today, when we try to sign up members, many are aware that our collective bargaining rights have been severely limited. Often they respond, “Why should I join?” Others think we don’t even exist, as our identity has been so tightly woven to the contract.

Read more: http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17632/democratic_teachers_unions

March 10, 2015

Quebec Education Minister resigns in disgrace

By Robert Green | Published February 26, 2014 by Ricochet.media

Comedy of errors as government seeks to enforce austerity on education

Quebec Minister of Education Yves Bolduc resigned today, after a short tenure marked by one frighteningly obtuse statement after another.

First he claimed that “no child will die” from funding cuts to school libraries. Next he proposed to remove limits on class size in contract negotiations with the province’s teachers, claiming there is “no evidence” that such limits help improve student achievement. Then, in response to the release of an extensive study commissioned by his own ministry demonstrating the failure of the pedagogical reform first implemented back in 2000, he flat out denied the study’s results, claiming that it was “too early” to judge.

The most recent outrage came from Bolduc’s statement that it was okay for schools to strip-search students, provided it was done “respectfully.”

To characterize Bolduc as an incompetent clown in a comedy of errors is a mistake. He is no fool and knows exactly what he is doing.

If it seems he doesn’t care about the consequences of his policy proposals for public education, it’s because he doesn’t.

An education minister with no vision

In Margaret Thatcher’s England, Bolduc would have been referred to as a “dry.” The “wets” were those in Thatcher’s government ridiculed by the more hard-line conservatives for wetting their pants at the thought of implementing the various Thatcherite policies that would be so harmful to Britain’s working class. The “dries” were those unfazed at the thought of harming society’s most vulnerable.

Continue reading

February 28, 2015

The gloves come off as the CJAD teachers panel discusses the PLQ’s ongoing assault on public education

boxing_gloves3Teachers Catharine Hogan and Robert Green pull no punches in discussing the PLQ’s ongoing assault on public education with James Mennie (sitting in for Tommy Shnurmacher). Originally aired February 17, 2015.

Click here for the podcast.

February 22, 2015

Les enseignantes et enseignants méritent plus!

Published February 16, 2015 by Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE)

February 17, 2015

Quebec’s ongoing education-policy disaster

By Robert Green | Published February 16, 2015 by The Montreal Gazette

Earlier this month, an extensive study commissioned by Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport confirmed what Quebec’s teachers have known for over a decade: The famous “pedagogical reform” that was supposed to revolutionize the way students are taught in Quebec is a failure.

The study, which followed nearly 4,000 students, compared two cohorts of post-reform students with one that entered high school in 2004 just before the reform was implemented.

The results paint a portrait of an ongoing policy disaster.

Despite having added 50 hours of instruction in Mathematics and 150 hours of first-language instruction, results in both core subjects are significantly down.

Pascal / Montreal GazetteFeb. 7, 2015

Pascal / Montreal Gazette Feb. 7, 2015

Despite the fact that the reform was intended to raise the dismally low graduation rates of boys and at-risk students, these rates have instead seen significant declines for both groups.

Perhaps most worrisome for Quebec’s anglophone community is the fact that students in Quebec’s English school system were also identified by the study as one of the groups that saw a significant decline in graduation rates.

In other words, the millions of dollars spent developing and implementing this reform have been an utter waste of public funds. Continue reading

February 15, 2015

A Revitalized Teacher Union Movement

By Bob Peterson | Published in Volume 29 No.2 – Winter 2014/2015 of rethinking schools

If we don’t transform teacher unions now, our schools, our profession, and our democracy—what’s left of it—will likely be destroyed. I know. I am from Wisconsin, the home of Scott Walker and Paul Ryan.

In 2011, in the wake of the largest workers uprising in recent U.S. history, I was elected president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA). Unfortunately, that spring uprising, although massive and inspirational, was not strong enough to stop Gov. Walker from enacting the most draconian anti-public sector labor law in the nation.

That law, known as Act 10, received support from the Koch brothers and a cabal of national right-wing funders and organizations. It was imposed on all public sector workers except the police and firefighter unions that endorsed Walker and whose members are predominantly white and male.

Act 10 took away virtually all collective bargaining rights, including the right to arbitration. It left intact only the right to bargain base-wage increases up to the cost of living. The new law prohibited “agency shops,” in which all employees of a bargaining unit pay union dues. It also prohibited payroll deduction of dues. It imposed an unprecedented annual recertification requirement on public sector unions, requiring a 51 percent (not 50 percent plus one) vote of all eligible employees, counting anyone who does not vote as a “no.” Using those criteria, Walker would never have been elected.

Immediately following Act 10, Walker and the Republican-dominated state legislature made the largest cuts to public education of any state in the nation and gerrymandered state legislative districts to privilege conservative, white-populated areas of the state.

Having decimated labor law and defunded public education, Walker proceeded to expand statewide the private school voucher program that has wreaked havoc on Milwaukee, and enacted one of the nation’s most generous income tax deductions for private school tuition.

Under these conditions, public sector union membership has plummeted, staff has been reduced, and resources to lobby, organize, and influence elections have shrunk.

People familiar with Wisconsin’s progressive history—in 1959, for example, we were the first state to legalize collective bargaining for public sector workers—find these events startling. And they should. If it happened in Wisconsin, it could happen anywhere.

And it has. In New Orleans, following Katrina, unionized teachers were fired and the entire system charterized. Following Wisconsin’s lead, Tennessee abolished the right for teachers to bargain collectively. In Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission unilaterally canceled its expired contract with the teacher union. In city after city, privately run charter schools are dominating the education landscape.

Fortunately, teacher union activists across the country are revitalizing their unions and standing up to these relentless attacks. And this growing transformation of the teachers’ union movement may well be the most important force in our nation to defend and improve public schools and, in so doing, defend and improve our communities and what’s left of our democratic institutions.

The revitalization builds on the strengths of traditional “bread and butter” unionism. But it recognizes that our future depends on redefining unionism from a narrow trade union model, focused almost exclusively on protecting union members, to a broader vision that sees the future of unionized workers tied directly to the interests of the entire working class and the communities, particularly communities of color, in which we live and work.

This is a sea change for teacher unions (and other unions, too). But it’s not an easy one to make. It requires confronting racist attitudes and past practices that have marginalized people of color both inside and outside unions. It also means overcoming old habits and stagnant organizational structures that weigh down efforts to expand internal democracy and member engagement.

Read more: http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/29_02/29-2_peterson.shtml

February 10, 2015

The stakes have never been higher for public education in Quebec

By Robert Green | Published Feb 3, 2015 by Ricochet.media

The government’s initial offer to Quebec’s teachers makes it perfectly clear that current negotiations will be unlike any in recent memory. There is almost no aspect of the status quo that remains unaffected in the proposal.

In a context where Quebec’s teachers are already the lowest paid in all of Canada, the government is proposing a salary that will likely erode their real earnings by at least seven per cent over the next five years.

10891767_1596055107282503_5393442641761898663_nIn a context where the vast majority of Quebec’s teachers work untold numbers of unpaid hours on evenings and weekends because the current contract doesn’t provide them enough paid hours to execute their responsibilities, the government is proposing an increase to teacher workloads that would require them to be present in school for longer hours. It wants to be able to “assigns tasks” to teachers during these extra hours, which means even less time for planning, marking, communicating with parents and the myriad other tasks that teachers are responsible for.

In a context where limits on class size have been easily skirted in Quebec, the government wants to remove these restrictions altogether. School boards have been able to exceed provincial limits on class size by paying teachers a small amount of over-sized class compensation, but at the very least this represented a small financial deterrent.

In a context where support for the ever-growing number of students with special needs is already woefully inadequate, the government is proposing to remove the weighting system that reduces the size of classes with higher numbers of students with special needs. Continue reading

February 8, 2015

602$ de moins par année pour les retraités de l’État

By Marco Fortier | Published Feb 7, 2015 by Le Devoir

Les 540 000 employés de l’État perdraient en moyenne 602 $ par année en revenus de retraite avec une des mesures proposées par le gouvernement Couillard, selon les calculs du front commun syndical.

Le président du Conseil du trésor, Martin Coiteux, compte désormais calculer les revenus de retraite des employés de l’État en fonction de leurs revenus gagnés sur huit ans plutôt que sur cinq ans, comme c’est le cas actuellement. Conséquence : au moment de sa retraite, un syndiqué qui gagne 48 000 $ par année (salaire moyen des fonctionnaires en excluant les cadres, les médecins et les policiers, notamment) toucherait 602 $ de moins annuellement qu’avec le régime actuel, indiquent des données compilées par des actuaires syndicaux.

Un employé qui gagne 40 000 $ perdrait 502 $, tandis qu’un salaire annuel de 70 000 $ entraînerait une perte de 879 $ au moment de la retraite, selon les chiffres syndicaux.

Read more: http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/quebec/431220/negociations-dans-le-secteur-public-602-de-moins-par-annee-pour-les-retraites-de-l-etat

February 7, 2015

L’échec transversal

By Michèle Ouimet | Published Feb 6, 2015 by La Presse

La réforme au secondaire est un échec. Ce n’est pas un journaliste qui le dit ni un enseignant frustré ou un syndicat militant qui tape sur le clou de la réforme, mais une équipe de chercheurs qui a déposé un rapport étoffé de 113 pages.

Le mot échec n’apparaît pas dans le rapport et le directeur de la recherche, Simon Larose, ne l’a pas prononcé quand je lui ai parlé, mais le constat est là, incontournable, gros comme un éléphant dans un magasin de porcelaine.

L’étude est sérieuse, elle n’a pas été griffonnée sur le bord d’une table. Les six chercheurs de l’Université Laval ont suivi 3724 jeunes et 3913 parents de 2007 à 2013. Ils ont étudié trois cohortes: la première a échappé au vortex de la réforme et a commencé son secondaire en 2004; les deux autres étaient composées d’enfants de la réforme qui ont commencé leur secondaire en 2006 et 2007. Les chercheurs ont comparé les cohortes à l’aide de questionnaires, de tests et d’examens. Du sérieux.

Read more: http://www.lapresse.ca/debats/chroniques/michele-ouimet/201502/06/01-4841783-lechec-transversal.php

February 5, 2015

Une étude révèle que le renouveau pédagogique a causé du tort

By DAPHNÉE DION-VIENS | Published Feb 4, 2015

excerpt: 

Faits saillants de l’évaluation de la réforme au secondaire

  • Baisse du taux de diplomation au secondaire chez les garçons, les élèves à risque et les élèves anglophones
  • Légère baisse des résultats à l’épreuve d’écriture en cinquième secondaire, particulièrement en orthographe
  • Baisse des résultats en mathématiques chez les élèves à risque et ceux venant de milieux défavorisés
  • Vision plus négative de l’école selon les élèves de la réforme et les parents interrogés

Read more: http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2015/02/04/une-etude-revele-que-le-renouveau-pedagogique-a-cause-du-tort

January 25, 2015

MTA Referendum: Is NOW the time to propose extending term limits?

By Robert Green

Next week members of the MTA will be asked to vote on an amendment to the union’s constitution that will result in the electoral terms of MTA executive members being extended from one year to two years.

calvin-on-term-limits-for-dadsOstensibly this is being proposed by MTA President Peter Sutherland as a cost-saving measure for the union. While this measure, if approved, will certainly lead to the union saving on the cost of annual elections, there are several questions MTA members should be asking themselves before deciding how to vote.

The first question is why now? We are currently in negotiations for a new contract. Is this the time to come forward with a referendum that will potentially divide the membership? At this time when the stakes are so high for teachers and the future of education in Quebec, is this not the time that Mr Sutherland should be focusing on enhancing the collective power of MTA members? In proposing this referendum he seems to be focusing instead on enhancing his own power as MTA president. Even if one believes that this proposal is valid as a cost-saving measure, what would be the harm in waiting until after negotiations are complete in order to have this debate?

While it is undeniable that if approved by the members this proposal will save the union money, it is also undeniable that this proposal will reduce the degree of democratic accountability for our union leadership. Crucially it will mean that Mr Sutherland will not have to face the possibility of an election in the year following these negotiations. Thus far the MTA’s leadership has provided little vision as to how teachers can actually succeed in these negotiations and avoid repeating the debacle of 2005 when we were decreed back-to-work. By proposing this referendum now, instead of after the negotiations our current leadership will enjoy the benefit of not having to face the possibility of being held accountable for what transpires in these negotiations for almost two years.

Related to the issue of regular democratic accountability, is the issue of raising the MTA’s fees. Given our declining membership the MTA is in a financial crunch. Either we will have to make deep cuts to spending or we will have to increase the fees that teachers pay. The small savings that would occur if this referendum passes will not change this fact. Mr Sutherland knows very well that this is the case. He also knows very well that a referendum to increase fees will not be popular with the membership, particularly in the absence of any sacrifices being made by the union president with respect to his $92k+ salary.

To stand for election the same year that one is proposing to raise fees is not an attractive proposition for anyone. Indeed the last time the MTA leadership attempted to raise fees was six years ago, before the president’s post was being regularly contested in election. Since this time no MTA president has dared to raise fees, instead choosing to eat into the union’s accumulated surplus. In other words the possibility for annual elections served as a real disincentive for our union leadership to propose fee increases. MTA members should be asking themselves if eliminating the possibility for annual elections will not be making it easier or more tempting for our union leadership to propose raising fees.

The stakes have never been higher for Quebec’s teachers. Nearly every aspect of our working conditions are currently under attack by government. If MTA members want to send a message that Mr Sutherland should be focusing on enhancing our collective power rather than his own personal power as MTA president, they should vote no in this week’s referendum.

January 19, 2015

LES ENSEIGNANTS SONT TROP GÉNÉREUX

By SYLVAIN DANCAUSE | Published Jan 18, 2015 by La Presse

Excerpt:

Qui plus est, ce bénévolat en moins aura un impact économique. Ensuite, j’imagine que j’ai le droit à deux pauses de 15 minutes par jour et à un dîner d’une heure. Excellent ! Je ne serai pas disponible pour mes élèves. Ils ont des questions, des conseils, du rattrapage, des explications, de la récupération, des pleurs, de l’anxiété, etc. Désolé ! La porte est fermée.

Faire des appels aux parents ? Je suis prêt à discuter et à partager lors de mon temps officiel de travail. Dorénavant, je ne ferai que ce pour quoi je suis payé et je le ferai du lundi au vendredi de 8 h 30 à 16 h 30. La correction et les préparations de cours les soirs et les fins de semaine ? Terminé. Je ne travaille plus lors de ces moments. Bref, une belle grève du zèle en perspective.

Read more: http://plus.lapresse.ca/screens/d726381c-29f3-4f92-a96c-b8895f436586%7C_0

January 18, 2015

Éducation : l’hypocrisie de Philippe Couillard

January 16, 2015

ENSEIGNEMENT : J’AI ENVIE DE DÉCROCHER

By KARINE HAMEL | Published Jan 15, 2015 by La Presse

Excerpt:
Je ne veux pas devenir une simple fonctionnaire qui compte ses heures et fait le minimum. Ce n’est pas pour ça que j’ai choisi cette « vocation ».

Comme je songe à aller voir ailleurs si ma place y est, le gouvernement Couillard fait l’annonce de nouvelles mesures. Je vais le prendre comme la confirmation de mes doutes. Un nouvel enseignant sur cinq quitte en début de carrière. Et je crois que je ferai partie du lot. Je lis tous ces enseignants d’expérience qui disent être de plus en plus découragés, au bout du rouleau, qui craignent pour la relève. Je les approuve.
Read more: http://plus.lapresse.ca/screens/1448cf9a-fbd1-4d6e-81d9-2b1fcad52b65%7C_0.html