Archive for May, 2013

May 29, 2013

Why America Needs An Education Spring

by Jeff Bryant | Published May 28, 2013 by Education Opportunity Network


Disenchantment with education policies is not limited to Chicago. At the same time protestors filled the streets of that city, signs of discontent were evident in NewarkPhiladelphia, and Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Neither is the discontent limited to communities of the urban poor and people of color. A recent news report filed by an outlet covering the towns and cities of Western New York state put a completely different face to the resistance – mostly white, middle-class parents.

The reporter, Rachel Kingston, spotlighted the growing movement among parents to boycott standardized tests. She wrote, “Hundreds in school districts across Western New York – from Williamsville to West Seneca to Frontier – refused to have their children take the exams this April, in what’s becoming known as the opt-out movement.” The parents “worry their children are being deprived of a well-rounded education, and suffering both academically and emotionally because of it.”

But similar to the school closings in Chicago and elsewhere, what’s also driving concerns is that education policies are risky experiments with little prospect for success.

“It’s almost like the system is setting teachers up to fail, and setting students up to fail,” one parent stated.

“The assessments include field test questions which are sometimes above-grade-level – material the students being tested haven’t even learned yet,” Kingston reported. “Students don’t get their tests back once they’ve been scored. Their teachers don’t get to grade the tests. And parents never see the test booklet with the actual questions – only a score sheet with a number ranging from 1 to 4.”

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May 17, 2013

MTA Elections 2013: Comparing Presidential Candidates Robert Green and Peter Sutherland

By Robert Green

On his electoral campaign website, MTA presidential candidate Peter Sutherland offers a comparison of the differences between his candidacy and my own. While I will leave readers to judge the merits of Mr Sutherland’s comparison for themselves, I personally found that it did not mention many of the substantial matters upon which Mr Sutherland and I disagree.

In order to offer MTA members a more substantive comparison, please find below a brief summary of some of the key issues that Mr Sutherland omitted.

I hope the members of the MTA will find this to be informative.

For more information on my campaign or to read my electoral statement visit my campaign website

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May 16, 2013

CJAD Teacher Panel Discusses Grade Inflation, Student Stress and Problems with Quebec’s Curriculum

Teachers Catharine Hogan and Robert Green discuss grade inflation, student stress and the problems with Quebec’s curriculum with James Mennie of the Montreal Gazette, sitting in for CJAD’s Tommy Schnurmacher:

Click here to listen

May 15, 2013

Victory in Seattle as Teachers Win Battle in Standardized Test Boycott

By Jon Queally | Published May 14, 2013 by Common Dreams

Seattle teachers who took a strong and public stance by refusing to administer a “flawed” but mandatory standardized test earlier this school year are celebrating a victory after an announcement by the school district saying the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test will not be given to high school students next year.

“Finally, educators’ voices have been acknowledged,” said teacher Jesse Hagopian, who teaches history at Garfield High School in Seattle where the boycott movement began. “This is a great moment in the movement for quality assessment.”

“The teachers at Garfield are overwhelmed with joy,” Hagopian said. “I think this is a real vindication of the movement that was started at Garfield High School by teachers but was quickly joined by parents and students at our school, and around the city, and really around the country.”

The district’s decision was announced in a letter sent to school administrations throughout the city on Monday and followed on the recommendations of a review panel that looked at the testing regime and determined it was not “effective for high school-age students.”

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May 11, 2013

The Chicago Teachers Union: A New Template for Social Justice Unionism?

By Robert Green

This article appears in the Spring 2013 edition of ‘Our Schools / Our Selves’ published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

247175_460871493992960_1910992725_nOne of the first major protests I can remember attending was outside of the PQ government’s socioeconomic summit in 1996. I was an undergraduate at Concordia and while I definitely understood that this summit represented a threat to social spending, I had no idea of the extent to which this event would be a turning point in the province’s politics. The summit’s so-called consensus on eliminating Quebec’s deficit in 4 years would usher in the deepest cuts to social spending in the province’s history. I’ll never forget the ominous feeling in the crisp fall air outside the summit as evening set and a large effigy of Lucien Bouchard was lit ablaze by protestors, right in the middle of Boulevard René Lévesque.

Since then I’ve watched over and over again as neoliberal governments, in Quebec and elsewhere, have thwarted the efforts of public sector workers to defend their working conditions and protect the quality of public services.

I began my teaching career at what was unquestionably a low point for union morale amongst Quebec’s teachers. Jean Charest had just legislated the province’s teachers back-to-work with a draconian law that imposed massive sanctions on both teachers and their unions if they continued to strike. The only gains made by teachers in this imposed contract carried a dollar value of roughly the same amount that government had saved in unpaid salaries during the strike. The whole experience understandably left a bitter taste in the mouths of many of my colleagues. In the most recent round of negotiations teachers showed little interest in work action and ultimately voted to accept the contract proposed by government.

Meanwhile in Ontario the McGuinty government recently threatened back-to-work legislation before teachers had even announced any intention to go on strike! The heavy handedness just seems to be getting heavier.

As a public sector employee and as someone who strongly believes in the power and potential of unions to improve the lives of working people, these have not been the easiest of times. But as heavy handed as various neoliberal governments have been in dealing with teachers and other public sector employees, their attacks in no way represent some kind of permanent defeat. The rise of neoliberalism is however cause for a serious rethink about the way that unions operate. It is a challenge that calls on the labour movement to do what it has always done when historical circumstances have warranted; it calls on the labour movement to adapt!

It is for this reason that the recent victory of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is so significant. The CTU found a way to win in a context far worse than that of any teachers unions in Canada.

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May 10, 2013

Child poverty rampant in Canadian cities

By Iglika Ivanova | Published May 9, 2013 by

The story of child poverty in Canada is very much an urban story. One out of every 10 children living in urban areas was poor in 2010, compared to one in 20 children living in non-urban areas. Three-quarters (or 76 per cent) of all poor children in Canada lived in one of the urban centres shown in the chart above.*

Child poverty isn’t a question of jobs: the cities with worst child poverty only had middle-of-the-pack unemployment rates (out of the 19 cities, St. John’s, N.L. was 8th highest and Vancouver, B.C. was 11th highest). Similarly, the cities with the lowest unemployment rates in 2010 (Regina and Quebec) did not score particularly well in terms of child poverty. This is why it’s so important to talk about the living wage in Vancouver and wages in general.

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May 9, 2013

If America’s Serious About Appreciating Teachers, Here’s What it Takes

By Jose Vilson | Published May 7, 2013 by


How do we actually appreciate teachers?

For one, America can start by giving teachers more voice in policy and practice. Our voices in the decision-making process have been nullified or patronized, an attitude reserved for a woman-dominated profession. Teachers shouldn’t just have a seat at the tables currently reserved for wealthy businessmen, technology experts, policy wonks, fresh out-of-the-Ivy-League newbies, and politicians. They should get the opportunity to create the table, creating the consortia, and developing the protocols for how we discuss our profession. Respect for expertise goes a long way towards making teachers feel appreciated.

We can also pay teachers well. We can pay beginning teachers a liveable wage—$45,000—and get third-year teacher salaries up to $65,000 and up, maxing out at $140,000. Of course, we can have other discussions on remuneration, but, as National Board Certified teacher Renee Moore would say, “We shouldn’t be afraid to get paid.”

More to the point, we need to assure that teachers have a wage that keeps them satisfied with their jobs and unafraid to try best practices, akin to doctors and lawyers as they move up in their professions. Having a union assures that teachers get equitable salaries regardless of sex, race, or religion, and we can use a healthy mix of old and new solutions to ensure equitable payment for educators.

Lastly, we can improve working conditions for all schools. Instead of investing monies towards bigger central office staff and SmartBoards, we can work on improving our school buildings. We need to make them look friendlier and less like prisons. We can make school lunches healthier, and provide students with recess and the arts more often. We can reduce the constant need for standardized diagnostic testing that requires special programs and seating arrangements that take away from, not promote, classroom learning. Also, as education advocate Patrick J. Sullivan would say, our strategy for improving schools can’t be “open-close-open-close.” Sustaining these ecosystems takes much more thoughtfulness than we currently invest.

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May 7, 2013

High stakes, no prep: These tests are designed to fail

By | Published April 30 by The Washington  Post

Let’s face it – nobody likes taking tests. Exams, by nature, elicit a certain amount of anxiety. Tension. Maybe even fear.

But New York’s high-stakes standardized tests, given to all public school students, have rattled way more than a few nerves. Enough students have actually thrown up on their tests that schools are reportedly circulating procedures on how to handle vomit-covered tests.

One Long Island superintendent told the Wall Street Journal that some kids did, indeed, get sick on their tests. One student went to the bathroom and wouldn’t come out. Many dissolved into tears. Others simply refused to take the test.

It’s no wonder that parents, educators and even students are spearheading a small but growing revolution to opt out of standardized tests. From Seattle to Pennsylvania, more and more students across the country are boycotting tests that many say are increasing stress, narrowing curriculum and, at worst, leading to the kind of cheating exposed in the recent Atlanta Public Schools scandal.

The opt-out movement is a symptom of a broader problem. At their best, assessments should track whether students have learned the material they’ve been taught — and give students the chance to show off what they know. Test results should provide a clear view of where students are struggling so that teachers can help them improve.

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May 5, 2013

Keeping the Members in the Dark: On the MTA’s Growing Culture of Secrecy

By Robert Green,

Over the last several years a growing number of Canadians have been expressing concern about what has been deemed as the Harper government’s “war on science”. By de-funding or dismantling such things as the long-form census and the federal government’s experimental lakes area, the Harper government is effectively ensuring that information that might cause citizens to question its political agenda never sees the light of day. This tendency of those in power to attempt to sunshine2hide information that might reflect poorly on them is the very reason why constitutional guarantees of government transparency are so highly valued in democratic societies.

Members of the Montreal Teachers Association might be surprised to learn that a similar tendency towards growing secrecy has been developing within their own union.

Recently it has come to light that the MTA was in April 2012 found to have acted in gross negligence by Quebec’s Labour Relations Commission in its representation of two MTA members that sought to grieve the fact that they had been denied  contracts that were subsequently given to teachers without proper qualifications. Though the grievance had been filed, it was rejected not because the case lacked merit but rather because the MTA had not filed the grievance within the 4 month limit prescribed by the collective agreement. In its ruling on the complaint against the MTA the Labour Relations Commission stated “in the present case, the Commission considers that failure of the Association to file the complaint within the time specified in the collective agreement, combined with the consequences of it on the plaintiffs, constitutes gross negligence.” The Commission ordered the MTA to pay all of the legal expenses incurred by these 2 teachers.

While members of the MTA should be concerned that their union’s leadership has been found by an independent body to have been grossly negligent in its representation of 2 MTA members, of greater concern is the fact that this was never reported to the membership!  Despite the fact that the ruling involved a financial award that will ultimately be paid by the members, the current leadership of the MTA apparently did not feel that this was relevent information for the members to know.

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May 3, 2013

Teaching has become a precarious profession, symposium hears

By Janet Bagnall | Published May 3, 2013 by the Montreal Gazette


In Quebec, about 55,000 teachers have permanent positions; 20,000 are on short-term contracts; 16,000 are called in as needed to do replacement work or other tasks. There is a high turnover of teachers in the province, Tardif said.

“In a Montreal high school, in a single year Grade 10 students will be taught math by five or six different teachers. And in underprivileged neighbourhoods, the teacher turnover is very intense.”

Teachers want out, Tardif said. He cited studies showing that half of Quebec teachers have thought of leaving the profession. Twenty-one per cent have already taken time off. According to Quebec Education Department figures, one in four teachers who does not have a permanent position is thinking of leaving in the next five years.

Teaching has become a precarious profession, Tardif said.

“This increasing precarity and the worsening conditions of the work of teaching and the rate of school failure are two sides of the same coin.”

May 1, 2013

No Rich Child Left Behind

By SEAN F. REARDON | Published April 27, 2013 by the New York Times

Here’s a fact that may not surprise you: the children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion.

Whether you think it deeply unjust, lamentable but inevitable, or obvious and unproblematic, this is hardly news. It is true in most societies and has been true in the United States for at least as long as we have thought to ask the question and had sufficient data to verify the answer.

What is news is that in the United States over the last few decades these differences in educational success between high- and lower-income students have grown substantially.

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