High school teachers in Seattle have achieved a victory in their fight against standardized testing - Superintendent Jose Banda has announced that secondary schools will be able to decide whether or not they want to continue to deliver the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test after this spring. A boycott of the MAP tests began in December with the participation of almost the entire staff at Garfield High School, and ultimately spread to hundreds of teachers across six schools in the city. The tests will continue at the elementary school level.
Recent months have seen a growing backlash against high-stakes standardized testing across the United States. In February, a group of students in Portland, Oregon organized a boycott of the state's standardized benchmark tests. Parents in Texas, one of the most heavily tested states in the US, have formed the influential Texas Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessments to protest the standardized test regime there. And, as the Common Core State Standards move forward, AFT President Randi Weingarten has called for a moratorium on all high-stakes tests associated with that reform.
Finally, this article by Pasi Sahlberg slams the accountability agenda that is so characteristic of US education reform today:
". . . the toxic use of accountability for schools should be abandoned. Current practices in many countries that judge the quality of teachers by counting their students’ measured achievement only is in many ways inaccurate and unfair. It is inaccurate because most schools’ goals are broader than good performance in a few academic subjects. It is unfair because most of the variation of student achievement in standardized tests can be explained by out-of-school factors. Most teachers understand that what students learn in school is because the whole school has made an effort, not just some individual teachers. In the education systems that are high in international rankings, teachers feel that they are empowered by their leaders and their fellow teachers. In Finland, half of surveyed teachers responded that they would consider leaving their job if their performance would be determined by their student’s standardized test results."
More on the testing backlash:
Nate Blakeslee, "Crash Test
," Texas Monthly
, May 2013
21st Century Learning
Child & Adolescent Health/Development
Educational Technology - Impact on Teaching & Learning
Liberal Government - B.C.
21st Century Learning
- Ferrans, S.D., Selman, R.L. & Feigenberg, L.F. (2012). Rules of the culture and personal needs: Witnesses' decision-making processes to deal with situations of bullying in middle school. Harvard Educational Review, 82(4): 445-470.
Education - Public Opinion/Polls
Educational Technology - Impact on Teaching & Learning
- Kitchen, J., & Bellini, C. (2012). Addressing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) issues in teacher education: Teacher candidates' perceptions. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 58(4): 444-460.
- Robinson, J.P., Espelage, D.L., & Rivers, I. (2013). Developmental trends in peer victimization and emotional distress in LGB and heterosexual youth. Pediatrics, 131(3): 1-8.
- Bennett, S.M., & Gallagher, T.L. (2013). High school students with intellectual disabilities in the school and workplace: Multiple perspectives on inclusion. Canadian Journal of Education, 36(1): 96-124.
- DeLuca, C. (2013). Toward an interdisciplinary framework for educational inclusivity. Canadian Journal of Education, 36(1): 305-348.
- Howery, K., McClellan, T., & Pedersen-Bayus, K. (2013). "Reaching every student" with a pyramid of intervention approach: One district's journey. Canadian Journal of Education, 36(1): 271-304.
- Katz, J. (2013). The three block model of Universal Design for Learning (UDL): Engaging students in inclusive education. Canadian Journal of Education, 36(1): 153-194.
- Killoran, I., et al. (2013). Supporting teachers to work with children with exceptionalities. Canadian Journal of Education, 36(1): 240-270.
- McGhie-Richmond, D., et al. (2013). Teacher perspectives on inclusive education in rural Alberta, Canada. Canadian Journal of Education, 36(1): 195-239.
Teacher Recruitment & Retention
Education - Social and Economic Returns
Education - U.S.
Educational Technology - Impact on Teaching and Learning
Chicago teachers are still on strike, though a deal seems imminent. More on the situation in the Windy City, and the implications of the teachers' job action:
In Ontario, to protest Bill 115, elementary school teachers are "taking a pause" on extracurricular activities, and OSSTF are staging a rally tomorrow afternoon at the constituency office of Laurel Broten, Ontario Minister of Education.
Here is ETFO President Sam Hammond on Bill 115:
Teachers in Chicago could stage a walk out as early as Monday, which would mark the first teachers strike in that city in 25 years. This morning it was reported that the tenor of negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Board of Education has improved in the past day, and parties on both sides seem to think that reaching a contract agreement, and thereby avoiding a strike, is more likely now than it was earlier in the week. However, CTU president Karen Lewis says that the two sides are still far apart on key issues.
Watch Karen Lewis talk about why Chicago teachers are contemplating a strike:
According to the CTU, teachers are asking “for a contract that includes fair compensation, meaningful job security for qualified teachers, smaller class sizes and a better school day with Art, Music, World Language and appropriate staffing levels to help our neediest students.” The Board of Education wants to “add two weeks to the school year and 85 minutes to the school day, eliminate pay increases for seniority, evaluate teachers based on student test scores, and slash many other rights.” The CTU is “also concerned about the Board’s plan to close over 100 neighborhood schools and create a half public-half charter school district.”
Of particular interest to teachers in British Columbia is a tidbit of information that has made its way here through the grapevine: many people within the CTU are apparently looking to the BCTF for inspiration, and particularly to the way in which the BCTF managed its message during the 2011-12 job action. The CTU faces major challenges in attempting to win over the public as they head towards a strike, much as the BCTF did earlier in the year, and they are drawing lessons from the BCTF’s example.
Regardless of what happens on Monday, the conversation surrounding the Chicago teachers, both in Illinois and across the United States, is an important one to take note of. In the wake of vicious attacks on the public sector in states like Wisconsin and Ohio, unions in the U.S. continue to be demonized by the American right wing. The recent Republican National Convention in Florida highlighted the scorn and animosity directed towards unions by the GOP. In his speech at the Republican National Convention, New Jersey governor Chris Christie proudly recounted his anti-union record in that state, proclaiming,
They said it was impossible to touch the third rail of politics. To take on the public sector unions and to reform a pension and health benefit system that was headed to bankruptcy.
With bipartisan leadership we saved taxpayers $132 billion over 30 years and saved retirees their pension.
We did it.
They said it was impossible to speak the truth to the teachers union. They were just too powerful. Real teacher tenure reform that demands accountability and ends the guarantee of a job for life regardless of performance would never happen.
For the first time in 100 years with bipartisan support, we did it.
The Republican Party Platform details the GOP vision for the future of the labor movement in the United States. In a section called “Freedom in the Workplace,” they state:
We support the right of States to enact Right-to-Work laws and encourage them to do so to promote greater economic liberty. Ultimately, we support the enactment of a National Right-to-Work law to promote worker freedom and to promote greater economic liberty. We will aggressively enforce the recent decision by the Supreme Court barring the use of union dues for political purposes without the consent of the worker.
We salute the Republican Governors and State legislators who have saved their States from fiscal disaster by reforming their laws governing public employee unions. We urge elected officials across the country to follow their lead in order to avoid State and local defaults on their obligations and the collapse of services to the public. To safeguard the free choice of public employees, no government at any level should act as the dues collector for unions. A Republican President will protect the rights of conscience of public employees by proposing legislation to bar mandatory dues for political purposes.
In stark contrast, the Democratic National Platform includes the following passage:
. . . the President and the Democratic Party believe in the right to organize and in supporting America’s workers with strong labor laws . . . . The Republican Party would return us to the failed policies of the last administration, vilifying the American worker, undermining unions, and arguing that everyone should fend for themselves. We oppose the attacks on collective bargaining that Republican governors and state legislatures are mounting in states around the country.
Democrats believe that the right to organize and collectively bargain is a fundamental American value; every American should have a voice on the job and a chance to negotiate for a fair day’s pay after a hard day’s work. We will continue to fight for the right of all workers to organize and join a union. Unions helped build the greatest middle class the world has ever known. . . . We will fight for labor laws that provide a fair process for workers to choose union representation, that facilitate the collective bargaining process, and that strengthen remedies for violations of the law. We will fight for collective bargaining rights for police officers, nurses, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, teachers, and other public sector workers – jobs that are a proven path to the middle class for millions of Americans. We will continue to vigorously oppose ‘Right to Work’ and ‘paycheck protection’ efforts, and so-called ‘Save our Secret Ballot’ measures whenever they are proposed.
At the same time, President Obama and the Democrats have angered teachers’ unions with an education reform program that many feel unfairly lays a large portion of the blame for the woes of the American public education system at the feet of teachers and their unions. Furthermore, considering the close ties between Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with his hard-line corporate school reform stance, and President Obama, it’s no wonder that teachers’ unions are feeling more mistrustful of Democrats than they have in the past.
Unions in both Canada and the United States are facing a tough political climate, as teachers in BC and Ontario can attest. On a more positive note, though, Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist and campaign manager for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, had a piece published on CNN.com earlier this week titled, What have unions done for us? The comment section is predictably vitriolic, but Brazile makes a strong case for the continuing importance of unions in American life.
On Tuesday, thousands of Ontario teachers rallied against Bill 115, the "anti-collective bargaining" bill that the Liberal government introduced at the beginning of the week. The legislation, called the "Putting Students First Act," would freeze wages, reduce benefits, and ban teacher strikes and lockouts for at least two years. A government backgrounder on Bill 115 can be found here.
For more on the response from teachers to Bill 115:
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Collective bargaining is not going well for public school teachers in Ontario. In a scenario that BC educators can surely sympathize with, they face legislation that will freeze wages, cut benefits, and limit collective bargaining rights. On August 16th, Susan Lambert shared the BCTF's recent collective bargaining experiences with delgates at OSSTF's leadership conference - that video can be found here.
What follows is a summary of teacher bargaining as it has unfolded in Ontario since February.
Ontario is facing a $15.3-billion deficit and McGuinty’s Liberal government is taking a hard line on public sector bargaining. Teachers’ four-year contracts expire the end of August. The government wants deals before they expire.
In return for maintaining full-day Kindergarten, elementary class sizes, and prep time, the Liberals are asking the teacher unions to take a two-year salary freeze, to have no movement within the existing salary grid, and to put an end to retirement payouts for unused sick days. The government intends on not just freezing the grid but “fixing it for the long term”. If they don’t agree, the gains negotiated previously are at risk.
The government’s framework includes no increases to provincial pension contributions which could result in rolled-back benefits to avoid increased contributions by teachers.
ETFO President Sam Hammond attended a preliminary meeting to begin contract talks and instead encountered James Farley, a retired judge hired by the government, who tabled the government’s proposal.
ETFO called the offer “offensive” and declined to participate in talks scheduled for March. OSSTF denounced the offer as “unacceptable” and “an unprecedented attack on members’ rights”.
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan tabled the provincial budget and warned public sector unions that he would resort to legislation if workers who bargain collectively do not voluntarily agree to two-year wage freezes.
The Liberals warned ETFO that they risk losing smaller class sizes and extra prep time if they do not return to the bargaining table. According to the education minister, Laurel Broten, ETFO refused repeated requests to discuss the government’s proposals. Other unions were at the table.
One day before ETFO was expected to announce that it intended to negotiate locally with school boards, the education minister sent a letter to all school board chairs reminding them that the gains teachers won in 2005 and 2008 resulted from bargaining at the provincial table. It was intended to discourage boards from engaging in contract talks with teacher unions.
Sam Hammond said that ETFO will defy the minister and negotiate with individual school boards instead of with the government at the provincial table.
In mid-April, OSSTF filed a legal challenge with the Ontario Labour Relations Board against the Liberal government for its approach to bargaining. They ultimately joined ETFO in abandoning bargaining talks with the government, after two days of fruitless discussions. OSSTF’s proposal included a two-year wage freeze and a plan to encourage older teachers to retire; however, it did not include anything about the salary grid or sick days, and the government found the proposal unacceptable. OSSTF president Ken Coran indicated that his union would, like ETFO, negotiate with individual school boards.
In a surprise move at the beginning of the month, OECTA broke ranks with other teachers’ unions and signed a deal directly with the provincial government. Past agreements had typically been brokered between individual Catholic school boards and the unions, but five months of talks with trustees went nowhere. Ultimately, after the trustees walked away from the table, OECTA felt that their best chance for a reasonable deal was to negotiate with the government alone.
The deal would give OECTA members a two-year pay freeze, three unpaid professional development days, fewer sick days, and prevent them from banking unused sick days. Because the agreement is a memorandum of understanding between OECTA and the Ministry of Education, not a collective agreement, OECTA members did not vote; instead, the agreement was ratified by the OECTA Provincial Executive. Education Minister Broten called the deal a “road map” for bargaining with other teacher groups. Ken Coran announced at a press conference that, “The deal may be good enough for OECTA members, but it is not good enough for OSSTF/FEESO members.”
Towards the end of the month, assistant deputy minister of education Gabriel Sékaly sent a memo to Ontario school boards directing them to reach a deal with the teachers’ unions before the start of the new school year, and to work within the contract framework established by the Ministry of Education and OECTA. The memo implies that, should a board fail to do so, they could face a provincial takeover.
Premier Dalton McGuinty threatened to recall the legislature early in an effort to pre-empt teacher job action at the beginning of the new school year, should teachers and school boards not reach agreements voluntarily by the end of August. Educators are accusing McGuinty of unnecessarily worrying parents and misleading voters in order to shore up support for legislation; OSSTF president Ken Coran has stated that, “We have no plans to take any strike action at the start of the school year.” Greg Pietersma, chairman of the Upper Canada District School Board, is quoted as saying, “I can categorically state that students will show up to school on Sept. 4 and there is no union, no local, no school board in a position to either lock out or go on strike.”
On August 9th, the Minister of Education announced a Memorandum of Understanding with AEFO, the francophone teachers’ union. The agreement is very similar to the OECTA MOU, and includes a two-year wage freeze. However, a number of English Catholic and francophone school boards, upset at having been cut out of the bargaining process and concerned about a loss of management rights, have rejected the tentative deals that the government reached with OECTA and AEFO and have applied for conciliation. A conciliator will determine whether a settlement can be reached with the boards, though the odds of this happening are thought to be slim. If the conciliator does not succeed, the school boards and the teachers’ unions will have the option of a strike or a lockout.
A survey released by ETFO on August 14th shows that 77% of the 1,000 Ontarians polled believe that the government should negotiate to reach a mutual agreement with teachers, while only 19% believe that legislation should be imposed.
The Liberals' draft legislation was announced on August 16th.