Posts tagged ‘Teacher-parent solidarity’

November 22, 2015

CKUT’s ‘In the Motherhood’ explores what the Couillard Government’s attacks on public education mean for students, teachers and parents

In the Motherhood host Trixie Dumont discusses the Couillard government’s attacks on public education with teachers Fernand Deschamps, Robert Green and Chantal Kers and parent Stacey Dumont.

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November 3, 2015

Robert Green speaks with CBC’s Sue Smith about recent developments in negotiations with Quebec’s teachers

(the last 30 seconds of the interview unfortunately get cut off)

October 25, 2015

When it comes to funding education, Quebec’s Liberals govern like sociopaths

By Robert Green | Published Oct 14, 2015 by Ricochet.media

Government appears indifferent to the harm their policies cause to students

As public outrage over the Quebec Liberal government’s attacks on public education has grown, so too has the movement to surround schools in human chains on the first day of each month. Oct. 1 saw this movement not only grow to over 300 schools throughout Quebec, but also include a significant number of schools in the province’s English school boards which were participating for the first time.

The aim of this action was to send a clear message to Premier Philippe Couillard and his cadre: parents, teachers and support staff are united against the government’s attempt to balance its books on the backs of students. Of particular concern are proposals to remove limits on class size and cut a whole range of supports for students with special needs.

While the potent symbolism of community after community uniting to form a human chain in defence of their schools was not enough to persuade the government to change course, it did at least force the minister of education to publicly defend his actions.

His comments were disturbing to say the least. When asked why he would not restore funding for support for students with special needs, Education Minister François Blais stated that given Quebec’s current budget situation, such an investment would be “maladroit.” The minister was essentially saying that to leave in place existing supports for students with special needs would be “awkward” or “clumsy.”

A government of sociopaths?

Blais’ choice of words has left me with a serious question: Is Quebec’s Liberal government a government of sociopaths?

read more »

October 8, 2015

Robert Green discusses a range of issues facing Quebec’s teachers with CKUT’s Dan Parker and Stefan Christoff

Interview from the October 7th edition of CKUT’s The Wednesday morning after.

Click here to download

September 23, 2015

Montreal teachers’ pressure tactics are taking a toll

Bt Katherine Wilton | Published September 22 by The Montreal Gazette

Excerpt:

Teachers are angry that Quebec wants to increase class sizes in high schools and elementary schools and is proposing to no longer consider whether a child has a learning disability when calculating class sizes. A few months before negotiations began in March on a new collective agreement with the province’s teachers, former Education Minister Yves Bolduc told reporters there was no clear link between smaller class sizes and student performance, citing a 2008 Université Laval study. The government also wants to increase the work week from 32 to 35 hours and is offering a three-per cent wage increase over five years.

To read the entire story and view the two videos of WHS teachers explaining why they are taking work action: http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/montreal-teachers-pressure-tactics-are-taking-a-toll

 

September 10, 2015

Quebec teachers are defending children’s learning conditions

By Robert Green ! Published  Sept 10 By the Montreal Gazette

Imagine your child sitting in a classroom with 35 to 40 other students. What kind of education do you think they will receive in such a context? How much help are they likely to get if they find themselves struggling with the material? How much time do you suppose the teacher will be having to spend on the unpleasant task of discipline versus the joyous tasks of fostering learning, creativity, compassion and a sense of wonder in students?

Now imagine your child is one of many with special needs in this enormous class. What will be your child’s chances of succeeding if the limited supports currently in place for students with special needs are removed: no weighting system that ensures smaller classes when there is a higher proportion of students with special needs; no childcare workers in the class to assist the teacher; no resource room to turn to for extra help?

Now imagine all of this is happening in a context where deep budget cuts mean reduced access to psychologists, behavioural specialists and counsellors.

Parents throughout Quebec need to understand that this is what’s at stake in the current negotiations between the province and its teachers. It is no exaggeration to state that the Couillard government is proposing to rid our contract of nearly every clause that protects the learning conditions of students, from class-size limits to the various measures aimed at providing support for students with special needs.

As professionals whose primary concern is the welfare of children, we cannot stand for this, which is why the teachers of Quebec have been left no choice but to engage in pressure tactics.

read more »

May 16, 2015

Podcast: The impacts of austerity for students and teachers in Quebec’s public schools

May 16, 2015

The Liberal government’s proposed austerity measures have some very serious consequences for students and teachers in Quebec’s public schools. In addition to the insulting salary offer to teachers and the proposal to raid our pensions there are a number of measures that will directly affect students:

  • 20150507_133640

    Teachers and parents protest austerity in front of Westmount High

    removal of limits on class size

  • removal of the weighting system for special needs students
  • cutting the funding for resource teachers that help special needs students
  • cutting funding for after school homework programs
  • cuts to support staff including child care workers and special ed technicians

Robert Green discusses the impacts of these proposed policies with CJAD’s Tommy Shnurmacher:

Click here to download mp3

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

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

May 12, 2014

States’ standardized tests have a negative impact on parents’ civic engagement

Published May 10, 2014 by Science Daily

New research from a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has found that parents of public school students in states with more extensive and stringent student assessment systems express lower trust in government, less confidence in government efficacy, and more negative views of their children’s schools, thereby threatening civic engagement and the potential for future education reform.

In a study published by the journal Political Behavior, associate professor Jesse Rhodes merged data from an original survey of public school parents with quantitative measures of the scope and alignment of state standards, testing, and accountability policies, to determine whether and how education reforms influence the parents’ political attitudes and behaviors.

He found that highly developed assessment policies alienate parents from government and discourage parental involvement in education, an effect he terms “demobilization.” Parental trust in government was 11 percent lower in states with the most extensive assessment policies, and parental assessments of government effectiveness were 15 percent lower, compared to states with less developed testing polices.

Read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140407130927.htm#.U2_MSsaKD_0.facebook

February 7, 2014

Teachers in Oregon Vote to Strike for ‘Better Learning Conditions’

By Jacob Chamberlain | Published February 6, 2014 by Common Dreams

Teachers, parents, and students rally in Portland to support teachers union, improving classrooms

In an ongoing battle for student and teachers’ rights in Portland, Oregon’s public school system, nearly 3,000 teachers voted Wednesday night with an overwhelming majority to authorize a strike starting February 20th if school officials don’t meet their demands to improve education.

Among those demands, the teachers are calling for Portland Public Schools to hire more teachers in order to allow smaller class sizes. The teachers are also calling for a curriculum that “does not force teachers to teach to the test” and an increase in teacher pay that “provides fair compensation after years of sacrifice,” according to the Portland Association of Teachers.

“No teacher ever wants to go on strike, we want to be in classrooms with our students,” explained PAT president Gwen Sullivan. “But Portland teachers are united and resolved to stand up for our students’ learning conditions. It’s time to move this to a conclusion so that we can have a contract that is fair for teachers and good for students.”

Emphasizing the fact that the strike is over more than just teacher pay, Mark Wilson, a teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary in North Portland stated, “I wouldn’t strike if this were over a percentage point over salary. €œIt’€™s about class sizes.”

Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, parents, community members and students rallied outside the venue in support of the teachers.

Read more: https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/02/06-2

November 28, 2013

The Opt-Outers

What happens if enough New York parents say they don’t want their kids to take tests?

By Robert Kolker | Published Nov 24, 2013 by New York Magazine

More than a year before 7-year-old Oscar Mata was scheduled to take his first major standardized test, his parents received word from his school that he was failing. The Department of Education calls it a Promotion in Doubt letter—a well-intentioned, if blunt, method used to get families to take notice of gaps in a student’s skills.

The letter arrived in 2011, around the time of Oscar’s second-grade winter break. Before then, he had been happy at the Twenty-First Century Academy for Community Leadership in West ­Harlem. His parents, Andrea and Juan, had been drawn to the dual-language school, where English and Spanish learners took field trips together for innovative social-­studies projects. They say that Oscar is great at math and loved science, music, and art. He loved reading, too, until he started to get tested on it.

“There was this transformation of the whole culture—and curriculum,” Andrea says. “I could see it mostly through the homework. It really looked like test prep. There were even ­bubble sheets.” Oscar had more than a year before the third-grade test, when students start taking the New York State ­English ­Language Arts (ELA) and math tests—but the thinking goes that the sooner they learn how to take big standardized tests and the sooner any skill shortfalls can be dealt with, the better they’ll do in the long run. Oscar, however, had a paradoxical reaction. “His interest in school,” says Andrea, “took this immediate plummet.”

She felt as if her son had been caught in a vortex: The school starts teaching Oscar differently, he loses whatever spark of curiosity inspired him to want to learn, and the school punishes him for it. He made it to third grade, but by then, test prep had come to dominate his classroom. Grand plans for science experiments and hands-on interactive projects, Andrea says, “would just kind of fizzle out and disappear because there wasn’t time to do them.”

One underlying problem, she learned, was that his school had received a grade of C from the DOE’s school-evaluation system, and student test scores accounted for 85 percent of that grade. The principal was under extreme pressure to raise the school’s performance level, because a low grade could persuade families to pull students out of that school. By spring, with the third-grade state tests imminent, Andrea started to think seriously about having Oscar opt out of the ELA entirely. The potential ramifications were a mystery to her, but in a way, she thought, the worst had already happened. Her son just didn’t like school anymore.

Read more: http://nymag.com/news/features/anti-testing-2013-12/

November 14, 2013

Turn On, Tune In, Opt Out

By Owen Davis and StudentNation | Published November 5, 2013 by The Nation

Excerpt:

But while Seattle attracted the lion’s share of national media attention, schools throughout the country saw increasing numbers of students refuse standardized tests. Denver, Chicago, Portland, Providence and elsewhere witnessed opt-outs large and small.

Parent groups in Texas succeeded in halving the number of standardized tests given there. Students donned fake gore for “zombie crawls” in two cities, highlighting the deadening effects of test-mania. Little ones participated in a “play-in” at district offices in Chicago, living the motto that tots “should be blowing bubbles, not filling them in.”

This activism comes as a reaction to the growth of a testing apparatus unmatched in US history. Bipartisan No Child Left Behind legislation in 2002 laid the groundwork, requiring states to develop assessments for all students in grades 3-8, and threatening schools that fall short of yearly benchmarks. The Obama Administration’s Race to the Top heightened the stakes, encouraging states to develop test-based teacher evaluations and adopt Common Core standards.

Together they aim to capture all the complexities of a student’s learning in a few digits that sometimes add up to schools closed and teachers fired. Meanwhile three-quarters of districts facing NCLB sanctions have reported cutting the time allotted to non-tested subjects like science and music. And since Race to the Top’s passage in 2009, about two-thirds of states have ramped up their teacher evaluation systems, with thirty-eight now explicitly requiring evaluations to include test scores.

Read more: http://www.thenation.com/blog/176994/turn-tune-opt-out#

November 6, 2013

Corporate school deform vs. education justice

By Dana Blanchard | Published November 6, 2013 by The Socialist Worker

FROM RESISTANCE to high-stakes testing to a more assertive voice from teachers’ unions, big-money corporate education “reformers” are encountering significant new resistance. Now is the time for teachers to step up our defense of public education, both by highlighting the destructive impact of the so-called reforms and by building on the emerging alliance between our unions and the communities we serve.

This article attempts to summarize some of these important shifts and highlight places where our side can organize and push back, starting right now. The prospects for teachers unions in the struggle ahead will be the subject of the second part of this article.

It’s difficult to exaggerate the damage done by the education reformers. I’ve been a public school teacher in California for 12 years–a time that coincides with implementation of the federal government’s misnamed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.

NCLB unleashed the current wave of corporate school reform: the use of standardized testing to punish failing schools and evaluate every teacher’s effectiveness; the increase in privately run charter schools claiming to be an “option” for students in “failing” public schools; and a massive growth in for-profit textbook and testing enterprises that feast on funds from school district trying desperately to make yearly progress targets–goals that move further and further out of reach each year.

At the same time, I’ve seen a whole generation of new teachers who burned out early from the prospect of teaching under the gun of standardization and the lack of job security from perpetual cycles of budgets cuts in public education. Meanwhile, teacher farms like Teach for America place more and more young people in the front lines of education without adequate preparation, only for them to leave the profession for better jobs with less collateral damage.

But recent cracks in the corporate education reform monolith have given rise to new hope. New studies validate what teachers have known all along–top-down, punishment-based reforms don’t work. They don’t work for creating a profession that people want to dedicate their lives to, and they don’t work for the students who are most underserved by public education.

Read more: http://socialistworker.org/2013/11/06/corporate-reform-vs-education-justice

October 22, 2013

Forget teaching to the test — at this Washington Heights elementary school, parents canceled it!

More than 80% of parents voted to skip an exam that the state says helps evaluate teachers. Move is believed to be unprecedented.

By / Published October 21, 2013 by NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

A Washington Heights elementary school has canceled the new standardized multiple-choice tests for the youngest public school students — after more than 80% of parents opted to have their kids sit out the exam.

In an apparently unprecedented move, Castle Bridge School parents — representing 83 of the 97 students — rejected the new city requirement that affects 36 schools that serve only K through second grade.

“My feeling about testing kids as young as 4 is it’s inhumane,” said PTA co-chairwoman Dao Tran, mother of first-grader Quyen Lamphere, 5. “I can only see it causing stress.”

The state now requires schools to factor test scores — in one form or another — into their teacher evaluations, which are new this year in the city.

Students at the 36 “early education” schools are too young to take the regular state reading and math exams, so the littlest kids are sitting down for different tests.

As the Daily News reported earlier this month, such exams, given to kids as young as 4, require students to fill in bubbles to show their answers.

It’s like the SAT for kids barely older than toddlers. And parents resent it.

“Our principal does a good job,” said PTA co-chairwoman Elexis Pujolos, mother of kindergartner Daeja, 4, and first-grader AJ, 6. “A test could not possibly measure what she is able to.”