AFT MA June 2011 Newsletter


Published on

Published in: Education, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

AFT MA June 2011 Newsletter

  1. 1. Boston, MA 02111 Suite 402 38 Chauncy Street AFT Massachusetts Summer 2011Meet the Teacher of the YearW hen math teacher Adam Gray examined the performance data of studentsat Boston’s Monument High Schoolhe encountered a puzzle as trickyas any as he might assign in a mathclass. While MCAS results revealeda student body capable of highachievement, a significant number ofstudents at Monument, weren’t passingtheir classes, attendance was low,suspension rates high. Explains Gray:“The data showed that our kids had theability to do really well but were lowachieving.” In an effort to remedy that Graybegan an after school program in 2009with a simple but elusive goal: to makesuccess at Monument cool. Through OUTSTANDING EDUCATOR Adam Gray, who has taught math at Boston’s In This Issuehis Mu Alpha Theta honor society, the Monument High School for the past five years, is the 2012 Teacher of the’s first, Gray sought to change hisstudents’ attitudes towards academic Says Gray: “I’ve learned more about overcoming adversity and life’s obstacles from my students than they’ve learned about math from me.” 2 President’s Column Bold Printachievement by giving them something $45,000 from businesses to fund the contributions of teachers work for. “I made them a deal: if trips.) “I wanted to demonstrate that In addition to his new title, Gray 3 Honoring Distinguished Ser- vice in 2011you have good attendance, grades and these kids can achieve,” says Gray. also received a check for $5000 frombehavior, you will get an all expensespaid trip,” says Gray. The students at Monument, a small school located in the fabled Hannaford. He will now compete with candidates from across the country for 4 Diary of a New Teacher A third year teacher struggles former South Boston High School, the National Teacher of the Year. with the demands of differen-Rewarding achievement aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed Gray was chosen from among tiated instruction Fast forward two eventful years Gray’s dedication. The 26 year- hundreds of nominees, winnowedand Mu Alpha Theta has been anunabashed success. Started with just a old Gray has just been named the 2012 Massachusetts Teacher of the to four finalists: Ryan King of Masconomet Regional Middle School, 5 Educators at Second Mass. Charter Vote to Unionizehandful of participants, membership Year. The program, administered by Sarah Roberts of the South Shorein the group has swelled to includenearly 10% of Monument students. the Massachusetts Department of Charter Public School and William 6 On Campus: Academically Adrift Elementary and Secondary Education Madden-Fuoco, an English teacher atAnd the trips? There have beenthree so far, to Washington D.C. and in partnership with Hannaford the Urban Sciences Academy in West 7 Retiree Corner The Golden Apple Supermarkets, selects a teacher each Roxbury.Chicago. (Gray has raised more than year who represents the positive Continued on page 8Budget Cuts For Nation’s First Library Writers wantedT he Franklin Public Library may the biggest cuts. While the library will Are you a new teacher, para, have a storied history—it is the maintain its current operating schedule, librarian or faculty member very first public library in the a skeleton crew will be responsible for who would like to writeUnited States—but these days it is everything from checking out books tostruggling for its very existence thanks providing reference assistance. about your experiences?to deep budget cuts. The library, which “We’re very disappointed that the Contributors receive $300got its start when Benjamin Franklin country’s first public library has been per column and the exposuredonated books to the town of Franklin, targeted for such deep cuts,” says of appearing in a statewideMA has seen its budget shrink by 40% Wendy Doody, who heads the staffsince 2010. Now town officials have union at the library. The result, notes publication that reachesapproved the deepest cuts yet. As Doody, is that library employees have 25,000 readers. Write to:of July 1st, the Franklin facility will been forced to take significant cuts advocate@aftma.netlose nearly half of its staff members in pay in order to stay at the library.including the circulation manager, the “We’re being asked to do the sameyoung adult librarian and the head of jobs we used to do but for less. It’s liketechnical services. telling a teacher ‘I’m going to pay you as though you were a teacher’s aide, butDeep cuts ahead you’ll still be teaching.’” Librarians and patrons of theFranklin Public Library say that the Library a cornerstonedeep cuts will not only affect the Doody and her colleagues also fearquality of library services but make that service will suffer once the library If you’d like to receive anlittle fiscal sense for the town given drops to just six staff members. They electronic version of thethe relatively small size of the library warn of program cuts including fewer Advocate, send an email tobudget. Advocates for the library point story times, longer waits for service andout that its budget is less than 1% of the more self service by library patrons. Pleasetotal town budget and that the smallest include your home mailingtown department has been targeted for Continued on page 3 address for identification.
  2. 2. BOLD will overhaul the system of evaluating teachers and administrators. A broad- based task force has wrestled with so many issues that no one can keep a PRINT Thomas J. Gosnell count. However, two of the prime issues President, AFT Massachusetts have been the use of the Massachusetts Presidential Pick Comprehensive Assessment System Boston teacher Wai Chin Ng, a fifth (MCAS) test scores and the use of grade science teacher at Josiah QuincyThe School Year Does Not student learning (apart from MCAS) to evaluate teachers. AFT MA has consistently opposed Elementary School, has been named one of the best science teachers in theEnd Quietly country. Ng was among 85 educators from the use of MCAS as an evaluation tool across the nation, and one of just two for two reasons: here in Massachusetts, chosen to receiveI sit here writing this article one day congratulates them and all the other 1. The state did not develop MCAS the prestigious Presidential Award for after the Boston Bruins won their teachers honored at the ceremony, who to evaluate teachers. Excellence in Mathematics and Science first Stanley Cup thirty-nine years have achieved so greatly. Their success 2. No data exist to show that the Teaching. Ng and his counterparts receivedafter the last one. The twenty-first is duplicated every day by hordes of exam is a legitimate tool to their awards from President Obama at a White House ceremony last month. As forcentury has brought Boston a plethora teachers. evaluate teachers. Ng’s science students, they weren’t surprisedof sports championships. We can only Health insurance in the public In addition, only seventeen percent that their teacher would be tapped for tophope that another one will come in the sector continues to be a major topic at of the teachers throughout the state honors. “He’s the best,” one student toldfall. Cheers for the Bruins. the state house. Through my columns teach in subjects and grades in which NECN.To learn more about Mr. Ng, visitToday we also had the Teacher of in this newspaper and the emails sent the test is given. Year awards. The Massachusetts to the leadership of all the locals, I AFT MA has always supported theDepartment of Elementary and have kept you informed about the use of a wide array of factors in theSecondary Education honored a number twists and turns, and more twists evaluation of teachers. We do believeof teachers, three of whom are Boston and turns, and even more twists and that student learning, if properly used, Teachers Rock Four AFT MA members have beenpublic school teachers and members of turns of the ongoing saga. Currently a can be helpful. recognized as being among the region’s “mostthe Boston Teachers Union. House-Senate Conference Committee The Board of Elementary and outstanding” educators through a “Teachers Adam William Gray, Monument is continuing to develop what it will Secondary Education will adopt Rock Contest” organized by United WayHigh School, is Teacher of the Year. send to the floor of the State House of regulations which will affect all of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley and William Madden-Fuoco, Urban Representatives and the State Senate. communities. Some aspects will be Stand for Children. A total of ten winnersScience Academy, is a finalist for The bill adopted by the House will subject to collective bargaining. In so were recently selected from more than oneTeacher of the Year. severely diminish the quality of health called underperforming schools, as hundred nominees and will receive $500 Wai Chin Ng, Quincy School, insurance. The Senate bill is much designated by the state, they are to be in worth of school supplies from Houghtonreceived a presidential award for better, but it still has deficiencies. effect for the 2011-12 school year. For all Mifflin Harcourt. “The teachers nominatedexcellence in mathematics and science A very broad coalition of public other schools the 2012-13 school year is as part of the Teachers Rock Contestteaching. employee unions representing the goal. have made a difference that has extended Since so many seem too intent on fire, police, teachers, librarians We shall give all locals the support well beyond their classroom walls,” said Michael Durkin, president of United Way ofdisparaging public schools and public and multitudes of other municipal they need in implementing the new Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley.Theschool teachers, public recognition employees has been meeting for months regulations. AFT MA members selected include Cateof the achievements of these teachers developing strategies to maintain Once again another challenging Arnold, Boston Latin School; Chadis a wonderful antidote. AFT MA the best possible health insurance year is concluding. The incredible Harris, Umana Middle School Academy; coverage. All the unions in the coalition trauma, endured by our colleagues in Karen McCarthy, Brighton High School are continuing to meet with and talk Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, and other and Melissa Sue McKenzie, Merrimack with the legislators. We’ll keep you states dominated the news. Many Special Education Collaborative. informed. chapters remain to be written but public Congratulations to all—you rock! Our web site at education will certainly continue to continues to have current information. be of intense interest, to have great The official publication of Health insurance, as exceptionally battles, and to produce outstanding AFT Massachusetts, AFL-CIO important as it is, does not command all achievements. Library Drill Team Watch out when Middleborough Public the attention of AFT MA. The Board of May your summer fulfill your Thomas J. Gosnell, President Mark Allred, Sr., Secretary-Treasurer Elementary and Secondary Education dreams. ▪ Library technician Lori Salotto comes around with a library cart. Salotto was one of three squads of librarians to perform VICE PRESIDENTS Patricia Armstrong Member Alert: Health Insurance Bill Update in the State Book Cart Drill Team Competition at the state’s annual library A Deborah Blinder t press time a six member In the past two months, thousands conference this spring. Each year, groups Kathryn Chamberlain of librarians perform choreographed conference committee was of AFT MA members and other public Brenda Chaney routines to music all of which feature a Kathy Delaney considering the two health insurance employees in Massachusetts have called, staple of library life: the book cart. Salotto, Catherine Deveney bills passed in recent weeks by e-mailed and written their legislators to who is a member of the AFT MA-affiliated Patricia Driscoll the Massachusetts House of demand a say in the cost and quality of Marianne Dumont Massachusetts Library Staff Association, Representatives and the Senate. The their health insurance plans. Once a bill performed as part of Team Playaway in honor J. Michael Earle committee will likely report out a bill has been passed by the Legislature and of a digital audio player that many libraries Margaret Farrell Mary Ferriter by the end of the month. The bill must signed by the Governor, the battle over use to play audio books.The contest even Jenna Fitzgerald then be voted on by both branches public employee benefits is expected to has official rules; judging is based on control Richard Flaherty of the legislature before ultimately shift to the municipal level. of the book cart, precision, timing, degree of Paul Georges reaching the Governor’s desk. Says AFT MA President Tom difficulty and unique moves, as well as artistic Alice M. Gunning impression. What’s at stake for AFT MA Gosnell: “All of our members need to Daniel Haacker Joyce Harrington members? The legislation passed by be aware that their local governing Susan Leahy the House of Representatives earlier bodies—mayors, city councils, etc— Rebecca McInnis this spring would substantially erode will soon be making very important Francis McLaughlin Chairman of the Board the collective bargaining rights of decisions about health care. We’ll do Bruce Nelson Kimberly Wilson, a labor education teachers, paraprofessionals, librarians everything we can to keep our members Catherine Patten James Philip Bruce Sparfven and other public sector employees in Massachusetts. The House version informed about what’s happening.” For the latest health insurance news ▪ coordinator at UMass Dartmouth, where she is a member of the Educational Services Unit, has been named chair of the board of Richard Stutman would allow municipalities to force directors of the Massachusetts Coalition visit Gale Thomas employees into the Group Insurance for Occupational Health or MassCOSH. Jennifer C. Berkshire, Editor Commission and make plan design The nonprofit organization was founded in 38 Chauncy St., Suite 402 changes, including raising co-pays 1976 to advocate for safe working conditions Boston, Mass. 02111 and deductibles, without employee Editor’s Note for workers in Eastern Massachusetts.Wilson Tel. 617-423-3342 /800-279-2523 input. The Senate bill, by contrast, calls replaces former AFT MA field representative Fax: 617-423-0174 for coalition bargaining, a dispute- This is the final issue of the Phil Katz as board chair. resolution panel and includes some Advocate for the 2010/2011 school year. We will resume The Advocate loves good news. If you’ve important protections for retirees publication in September. Have got news to share, send us an email at: and the very sick. (For a side-by-side a great summer and we’ll see you comparison of the House and Senate 2 versions visit in the fall. —JCB
  3. 3. Honoring Distinguished Service in 2011F In great company our educators received this year’s representative. “She took me aside AFT Massachusetts Distinguished and said ‘you can do this—I’ll help When paraprofessional Barbara Service Award. The awards, you.’ That was the beginning, and after Ferreira learned that she’d beenwhich were announced at the state that I got more and more involved,” selected to receive an award, sheconvention in Danvers last month, says Downing. Her colleagues at the thought immediately of her colleaguesare presented annually to AFT MA from the New Bedford Federation ofmembers who have demonstrated Paraprofessionals who’d previouslyan outstanding level of service and been recognized. “I was so thrilled todedication to their union locals. This be chosen. Some great leaders fromyear’s recipients included Medway our union have won the award beforeMiddle School teacher Temma and to join them is a real honor,” saysDowning, Medway paraprofessional Ferreira. Her colleagues at CarneySusan Lynch, Barbara Ferreira, a Academy, where Ferreira works in aparaprofessional at Carney Academy preschool class, praise her leadershipin New Bedford, and retired member and devotion to the special needs Alice Gunning, retired member,Alice Gunning, the long-time president children with whom she works. “She Lynn Teachers Unionof the Lynn Teachers Union. exemplifies all of the traits needed AFT MA president Tom Gosnell to be a successful paraprofessional She’s always willing to offer herpraised this year’s award winners, and friend,” says co-worker Deborah assistance wherever it is needed,” saysnoting that they set a high standard Barbara Ferreira, New Bedford Gomes. Boland. When she’s not working withfor the union’s future leaders. “These Federation of Paraprofessionals Ferreira is also a role model, adds students in the classroom, Lynch tutors special needs students after school. Medway Federation of Teachers, where She also volunteers for numerous Downing has served as a vice president community organizations that help for the past six years, cited that high Medway families in need. As for Lynch level of involvement in their decision herself, she sees nothing extraordinary to nominate her for a Distinguished in her life of service. “My philosophy Service Award. Her commitment to has always been that I go where I’m the Medway Federation of Teachers needed.” is notable given that her growing role in the union has coincided with the Lifetime achievement growth of her own family—Downing Every year AFT Massachusetts has three kids, ages six, ten and twelve. honors a retired union member whose How does she do it all? As part of a career has exemplified dedication team, says Downing. “We have a great and service. The 2011 award was union in Medway. We all work together Susan Lynch, Medway Federation received by a brand new retiree: formerTemma Downing, Medway Federa- and help each other out.” And while of Teachers president of the Lynn Teachers Uniontion of Teachers she says that she couldn’t be prouder Alice Gunning who stepped down lastindividuals really embody what AFT of winning the Distinguished Service summer. Gunning’s inspiring history local president Elaine Safioleas. “SheMassachusetts is about. They inspire award this year, Downing hopes of union involvement began when she has been a strong leader and roletheir colleagues, their students and all that other young teachers will follow was a brand new elementary school model in tough times and is unafraid toof us in the union movement.” her lead and make time for union teacher and the Lynn Teachers Union stand up for what’s right. Her actions involvement—not matter how busy went out on strike. “I remember it so exemplify what a true union leaderMaking the time they are. “No matter how busy your life well—it was a scary, dramatic time for should be.” Temma Downing can still recall the is you have to step forward and take it all of us but we were striking to protectday when a soon-to-be retiring teacher on as best you can.” The right stuff the contract,” recalls Medway Middle School approached While it is unusual for two During the nine years that sheher about becoming a building paraprofessionals to receive the headed up the local, Gunning helped Distinguished Service Award in the bring an innovative professionalFor Nation’s First Library, Cuts, Cuts, Cuts same year, Medway para Susan Lynch development program to Lynn and led a successful effort by unions in the Continued from cover says that she isn’t surprised by the of the cuts. Librarians have distributed choice. “Being a para and a union city to provide public employees with Frequent patron Lesley McCaffrey, thousands of fliers in recent weeks leader require a lot of the same skills,” quality, affordable health insurance.who visits the Franklin Public Library to spread the word about the cuts. says Lynch, who works in an intensive These days retirement finds herat least once a week, told the Milford Says Doody: “When you drive into learning classroom at Medway Middle anything but idle. She continues toDaily News: “It saddens me to see that Franklin the first thing you see is a sign School. “You have to be very flexible serve on the AFT MA Executive Boardour library’s budget is being cut so welcoming you to the home of America’s and be willing to step in and help out and is also a mentor to Brant Duncan,drastically. People need to know that first public library. But our local officials when you’re needed.” the new president of the LTU. “With allthe here is an institution that is the don’t seem to value the service that we Medway Federation of Teachers that’s happening in our cities and ourcornerstone of our community. The provide.” co-president Megan Boland says that’s schools today I could never just sit onlibrary is the best deal in town.” exactly why Lynch’s colleagues in the the sidelines,” says Gunning.Certification threatened What would Franklin say? AFT MA congratulates all of this MFT appreciate her so much. “Susan Mary Frances Best, president year’s Distinguished Service Award ▪ Patrons like McCaffrey may have is an extremely active member of themore to fear from service reductions of the Massachusetts Library Staff winners. union and the Medway community.and cuts in programming once the Association, questions the wisdom ofcuts are implemented on July first. the Franklin officials who have chosen GOOD GRADThe Franklin Public Library is also to cut so deeply into the library’s AFT MA scholarshipin jeopardy of losing its certification, budget. “The cuts are completely out winner Marysawhich means that patrons may no of proportion given what a small piece Angelli, delivering the of the budget the library represents.” morning newscastlonger utilize certified libraries in the What would Benjamin Franklin himself at Lynn English Higharea. Certification may be lost when say? “Franklin liked to say that ‘an School. Angelli, wholibrary budgets are cut more than other plans to study stagedepartments. One of three cities in the investment in knowledge pays the best and productionstate failed to meet library certification interest,’” says Best. “That’s something management atrequirements last year, due largely we all need to remember these days.” Emerson this fall, wasto budget slashing that has fallen The ongoing recession has proved to one of nine high schooldisproportionately on libraries. be a mixed blessing for Massachusetts seniors to win an AFT libraries. While use of resources, MA scholarship thisHolding out hope including computer access, job search year.To learn about Now Wendy Doody and her support and free entertainment is the other winners, visitcolleagues are holding out hope that way up, libraries are also increasingly www.aftma.netdevoted library users will pressure vulnerable as cities and town face yetlocal officials to reverse at least some another year of budget deficits. ▪ 3Summer 2011
  4. 4. Diary Because differentiated instruction GOAL SETTING often gets more lip service than actual Third year implementation, I figured that my teacher Riana students would be the best ones to Good set big assess whether the pace of the class goals for herself of a New Teacher was right for them. On the back of this past year. But translating biweekly quizzes, students rated her vision of whether they found the pace of the differentiated By Riana Good, Spanish teacher, class to be “way too slow,” “too slow,” instruction into Boston Teachers Union School, “just right,” “too fast,” or “way too practice proved Jamaica Plain, MA fast.” more difficult To make my goal achievable, than GoodA s I end my third year of full- I broke the process down into anticipated. time teaching and transition to measurable components. For example: Still, Good is permanent status, I still feel new, • Rearranging furniture to better looking on thealbeit more seasoned. I’m still learning accommodate varied groupings bright side: “Theabout myself as a teacher and thankful by October 2010. Check! possibility for newfor learning even more through our beginnings next • Completing a distance learninggoal setting and peer-review processes year continues.” class on differentiation byat the Boston Teachers Union School. November 2010. Check! through a participatory action research school students reported that the pace Back in August, Roberta Kelly, • Creating two units with project, which provides opportunities of class was “just right” throughoutDirector of Educational Leadership at differentiation and for differing interests and skill levels. the year, reaching a peak of 77% at theSimmons College, helped us to frame implementing by November Students who are fluent and near end of the semester. Still, most of theour goals as specific and measurable. 2010. Check! fluent interviewed our Spanish- remaining students are reporting thatAs a result, I went back to the drawing • Developing a curriculum speaking cafeteria workers and class was “too slow” or “way too slow,”board a few times. I knew that I compact for heritage and native other invited guests in Spanish, indicating that the needs of manywanted to address differentiated speakers by December 2010. while other students gathered data heritage and native Spanish speakersinstruction, since my heterogeneous Still waiting on that one… by administering simple surveys in are still not being met. Where myclassroom has an even wider spread This is where my strategy started Spanish to the younger grades. Some ability to always meet the needs of allthan most. A single class contains to break down. I wasn’t able to create students are doing additional research students with differentiated instructionnew students who have never taken curricula and prep for all of my classes in Spanish, while others are gathering ends, the possibility for new beginningsSpanish, students who took Spanish grades K1 – 7 while simultaneously background information in English. next year continues. And so, if all goeswith me last year and students who creating enough material to provide To address their varying interests, as planned, there will be the option ofalready speak Spanish fluently. I those who tested out of the standard students are choosing to work on data separate classes for heritage and nativefinally settled on this lofty-yet- curriculum to work on their own analysis, visual art, spoken-word, Spanish speaker for each middle schoolattainable professional development curriculum compact. Not to be PowerPoint slides and/or video- grade next year. Sometimes, personalgoal: I would use differentiated deterred by this bump in the road, creation for the final project and growth goals are helped along byinstruction at least once a week so that80% of students report that the classpace is “just right” on the biweekly I re-framed my strategy to include differentiated learning within a project- presentation. Now, students remain in heterogeneous groupings that still ▪ logistics! based structure. The 7th graders are allow for differentiation.participation assessment by May 2011. currently investigating school food An average of 63.7% of middle- Earn your Master of Arts in Teaching at Northeastern. Offered through Northeastern University’s College of • Online, hybrid, and evening classes Professional Studies, the Master of Arts in Teaching • Part-time and full-time enrollment options allows you to secure your master’s degree and teacher’s • Leads to Massachusetts initial licensure in elementary or secondary education license in as few as 12 months. • PLUS program offering additional licensure in Special Education or a TESOL graduate certificate • Special tuition rate and financial aid available For more information or to apply, visit or call 1.877.668.7727 Next classes begin July 5, 2011 and September 12, 2011 4 The AFT Massachusetts Advocate
  5. 5. Teachers at Cape Cod Charter QUESTION TIME A teacher asks a question during a re-School Vote to Form Union cent public forum on a proposed overhaulT eachers and staff at the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School inOrleans recently became the second year. The arrangement, says Scott, produces tremendous insecurity and anxiety among the teaching staff at of the state’s teach- er evaluation sys- tem. At the forums,charter school in Massachusetts to many charter schools in addition to which were heldunionize. Teachers at the middle school, far higher rates of staff turnover than across the state,which serves 200 6th, 7th and 8th at district schools. “The most common educators expressedgraders, say that they were motivated complaint we hear is that when all of the concern about aby a simple desire: to strengthen the power rests in the hands of a principal plan to tie teacher evaluations to stu-17 year old institution. Teachers at the teachers no longer have the opportunity dent test scores.TheConservatory Lab Charter School in to lead,” says Glenn Scott, who heads Board of EducationBrighton became the first charter school up AFT MA’s charter school organizing is expected to voteeducators to unionize in 2009. project. on the proposal at the end of June.A stronger school The innovation challenge Explains sixth grade teacher Charter advocates argue that it is theJosh Stewart: “I firmly believe thatorganizing will result in a stronger absence of negotiated contracts between teachers and administrators that makes Evaluation Debate Heats Upschool in all regards, with the students, the schools laboratories for innovation.the staff, and the administration sharingin the benefits.” Teachers at the Cape But a growing number of charter school teachers say that the opposite is the A t a recent public hearing on proposed new statewide Educators askCod charter school are now working case—that putting too much power regulations governing teacher and administrator evaluation in tough questionswith school administrators to shape a in the hands of a single principal orcontract that they hope will afford them director makes innovation harder, not Massachusetts, veteran educator about a plan that Brendan Walsh had a tough questionthe benefits and rights they deserve,including provisions for class-size, easier. One such teacher, who spoke to the Advocate on the condition that for state commissioner of education, would tie teacherchild care leave and standardized neither his name nor the name of the Mitchell Chester. “How much consideration is going to be taken of evaluations toperformance evaluations. school where he teaches be identified, described a culture in which teachers the kinds of situations teachers are student test scores.Wanted: a voice fear that they could lose their jobs at dealing with?” asked Walsh, a long- Nearly 3,000 teachers are currently any time, where the principal challenges time social studies teacher at Salem in Massachusetts. In March aemployed by charter schools in sick days and recently cut teachers’ prep High School who now serves on that 40-person Task Force representingMassachusetts, a number that will time in half—with no explanation. “We city’s school committee. “If we’re the full range of education andincrease significantly this fall with the want to do these great things with the going to compare teachers, we have to community stakeholders released aopening of 16 new schools, 10 in Boston kids. But I also want to know that I’m compare students as well.” long-awaited report on how to redesignalone. Unlike traditional public school making a fair wage, that I’m going to Iterations of Walsh’s question have the state’s evaluation system. Theteachers, educators at charter schools have a job next year and that procedures been heard again and again in recent Task Force’s report recommendedcannot negotiate with administrators aren’t suddenly going to change.” weeks at six different public hearings that all school districts adopt a four-over how the schools are run; nor are sponsored by the Massachusetts point rating scale—unsatisfactory,their rights and working conditions Decision time Department of Elementary and needs improvement, proficient, andspelled out by the contracts that protect For teachers at the Cape Cod Secondary Education. At the hearings, exemplary—with educators ratedevery other public school teacher in the Lighthouse Charter School, it was held in Wilmington, Westborough, against standards and indicators instate. Massachusetts, which consistently the desire for more input in the way Agawam, Middleborough, Quincy four domains: curriculum, instruction,leads the nation—and ranks near the top their school is run that ultimately and Pittsfield, representatives of the and assessment; teaching all students;of the world—in academic performance, convinced them that forming a union department provided an overview professional culture; and family andalso has the highest concentration of was the appropriate step. Explains of proposed changes to educator community engagement.unionized public school faculty in the David Agnew, the school’s network evaluation regulations and solicitedcountry. coordinator: “I believe that unionization feedback from teachers, administrators Role of MCAS? will provide staff the opportunity for and other stakeholders. The state While the proposed frameworkA state of insecurity a recognized democratic process to Board of Education is expected to vote allows for a limited use of student Unlike educators at district schools, reach agreement on matters of common on the final regulations at a meeting on MCAS scores in informing ratings,charter school teachers are typically interest, allowing us to speak to our June 28th. Commissioner Chester has pushed foremployed on one year contracts, community with a stronger, more ▪ a more expansive use of test scores.meaning that they never know whether unified voice.” Three principles In a recent interview with WBUR,they’ll have a job in the coming school Over the last year, AFT Chester stated that “[MCAS] is the only Massachusetts has been advocating measure we have that will give our for a teacher evaluation system teachers and administrators a sense that satisfies three core principles: of how the year-to-year progression of good for students; fair to educators; students compares to what we’re seeing and collaboratively done, explains across the state.” Dan Murphy, AFT MA’s director For Brendan Walsh and hundreds of education policy and programs. of educators who turned out in recent Murphy notes that he’s hopeful that the weeks to learn more about the changes final regulations will reflect all three ahead, the prospect of an evaluation of these, thanks largely to educator system based on student test scores input. “We remain concerned about raises serious concerns. “I think back the role of student test scores, as well to my own teaching career and wonder as other components of the framework. what would have happened to me if I’d But where there is good will and trust been evaluated based on the test scores between teachers and administrators, of the students I taught,” says Walsh, and where teachers have a significant who taught some of Salem High’s voice in system design through most challenging students through the collective bargaining, we’re hopeful school’s career education program. that this framework can be used to “The real question we want to ask is create local evaluation systems that are ‘how is the teacher doing given what he truly about professional growth, not ‘gotcha,’” says Murphy. ▪ or she is dealing with?” Designing a new system For the latest information, The Board’s vote will mark the visit our teacher evaluation web culmination of months of often page, available at http://aftma. contentious debate over the best way to net/educator-resources/teacher- evaluate teachers and administrators evaluation/ 5Summer 2011
  6. 6. On Campus Dan Georgianna, Political Director UMass Faculty Federation, Local 1895On College Campuses, Academically AdriftA new book, Academically The authors end their book with a Adrift: Limited Learning on impassioned plea for higher education QUESTIONABLE COURSE College Campuses, by Richard reform based on curriculum and A new study finds that mostArum and Josipa Roksa, has attracted standards that challenges faculty to college students fail to gainmuch attention recently for its critique expect more from students. critical thinking, writing orof learning in U.S. colleges. Using the This short summary of findingsCollegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), doesn’t do justice to this careful complex reasoning skillsa timed test that asks students to statistical analysis of the failures of while on campus.Thesewrite essays based on readings during learning on college campuses. The troubling findings come eventhe test, the authors tracked 2,300 book is worth a read and has been as the cost of a college de-students at a broad range of schools widely summarized in the academic gree soars ever skyward.over four years starting when they were media over the web. It matches myfreshmen in 2005. experience and conversations with my degree as an asset, widely reported I agree with Arum’s and Roska’s They found that more than one colleagues over 40 years of teaching. as over $1 million in the graduates’ conclusion that higher learning beginsthird of the students showed no For example, their conclusion that lifetime. This goal is also enforced by with quality teaching challengingsignificant gains in critical thinking, students who study alone do better metrics of rating colleges by graduation students to do their best in theircomplex reasoning and writing skills. on the learning assessment test than rates. Both make sense in a world studies. But it will take lots moreThey also found large variation in students who study in groups, a finding of scarce resources faced by most state and federal funding for publicindividual gains among institutions widely criticized by some reviewers, students and most colleges, but both institutions and for need-basedand even larger variation among has been my experience. I have seen have perverse incentives for learning. financial aid for students in bothstudents in the same institutions but patterns of wildly wrong answers from Learning is extremely difficult public and private schools. It willpersistent, systematic inequalities groups of students swayed by the most to measure, and the production of also take tenured faculty demandingacross students with different racial talkative among them. learning is even more unpredictable. better education for their students andand ethnic backgrounds. I think, however, that the authors’ I think it likely that small classes academic freedom for all faculty before In separate surveys, the students “Mandate for Reform” does not of students with highly qualified their numbers become too small to ▪who took the test reported an average account for the backwards incentives and experienced teachers studying matter.of 12 hours per week on their studies in higher education. The goal of subjects that interest both teachersand most avoided classes that required most students and their parents is and students will probably produce Dan Georgianna teaches economicseven moderate reading and writing not learning but a college diploma, learning. This is what schools do with at UMass Dartmouth. Contact him atassignments. informed by the worth of a college the highest budgets per student, such as the Ivy League schools, but is out of reach for almost all students. Neal Olitsky, a colleague of mine CAMPUS UPDATE in the Economics Department who studies the effect of college on lifetime Fees Climb again earnings, argues that college degrees Members of the UMass board of signal to prospective employers the trustees have voted to hike tuition and quality of the job applicant. A signal of fees—again. According to the recently high quality and effort is rewarded in approved plan, the average in-state the labor market, which represents the undergraduate student in the University primary value of a college degree—not of Massachusetts system will pay $800 the learning done in college per se, more in tuition and fees next academic because employers can not directly year.The new plan will increase tuition measure learning. and fees by 7.5 percent, meaning the Almost all colleges and universities average in-state undergrad will pay $11,838, an $826 increase from the need students to make ends meet. In academic year that recently ended. order to attract students who must The decision is expected to bring in an pay more due to cuts in government additional $26 million to the university funding and reductions in financial aid, system, which will help close a $54 schools must increase the probability million budget gap, according to the of graduation, often by weakening news release.The remaining $28 million standards. Otherwise, students and gap will be closed with budget cuts. their parents will not take the risk of funding college degrees. The business model of students as buyers of college degrees causes WI Faculty, Staff Say ‘Yes’ to other effects that weaken standards. Organizing Efforts Graduation rates are used as The controversial Wisconsin law that performance measures for prospective would eliminate the collective bargain- students and for state legislatures. ing rights of public employees remains Non tenure-track faculty, who reduce tied up in that state’s courts. But faculty college costs and have little choice but and staff throughout the University of to service higher graduation rates, now Wisconsin system continue to sign up make up 70% of all faculty. for union representation. Earlier this Not all students fit into the model spring faculty at UW Green Bay voted overwhelmingly to join AFT, while of buyers of college degrees. Many academic staff at UW Superior formed students seek learning for learning’s the first staff union in Wisconsin history. sake. Music and fine arts attract plenty Members of the brand new union told of students, often against their parents’ reporters that the decision was spurred wishes. Many other students focus on by their desire to protect the integrity studies that they choose, but most high of higher education in Wisconsin. school graduates have not made careful decisions about what they want. 6 The AFT Massachusetts Advocate