Friday, August 30, 2013

A BAT Warning to Governor Cuomo

You are going to leave office having done more to demoralize teachers and students than any governor in the history of this state. By blaming teachers and administrators for test scores whose causes derive more from out of school factors than in school ones- you will end up driving out the state's best teachers and principals and creating a test driven public school system that will extinguish the light of intellectual curiosity in many students while humiliating others. If you had advisors who were lifetime educators, you would not be making this mistake, but you seem more interested in having your education brain trust come from the business community than those who really know what is happening on the ground. But rest assured that opposition to your policies will continue to grow and your emphasis on closing schools and firing teachers will backfire.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

There Has Been An Education Coup E'tat in the US- Time to Organize Resistance

When a country has suffered a Coup D'Etat, as Chile did in the 1970's, or a foreign invasion, as France did during the start of World War II, it takes a while for the population to figure out how to resist. Some collaborate, some passively conform, some pretend compliance and grimly go about their business, some move into active resistance, even at the risk of their lives

While it would be foolish to pretend that what has happened to education in the US in the last ten years has had the same life threatening consequences, it does have many of the elements of a Coup D'Etat. A well financed and highly motivated elite with little or no background in teaching or school administration has seized control of Education Policy in the US, excluding teachers and parents voices, and has imposed a grim test regimen on the nation's public schools that has driven joy and creativity out of our classrooms and made teachers hate their jobs The Common Core Standards, imposed with lightning speed across the country through bribery and intimidation is but the latest example of how School Reformers borrow the ethos and strategy of dictators to impose their policies. Teachers, parents, and students who have had not chance to discuss the standards, much less see them in operation before deciding whether to support them, are presented with a fate d'accompli and told they are undermining national progress if they dare to ask questions, and if they are teachers or principals, told that opposition can cost them their jobs

Well, despite the intimidation, a resistance has emerged, composed of parent opt out groups, anti- testing and anti-Common Core Coalitions, and this group, the Badass Teachers Association. With Common Core now part of professional development for teachers in most school districts, it is time to help the resistance spread. Just letting teachers know there is a group like BATS which thinks current policies are crazy is and important step. We now have a one page document in the files above that you can print out and distribute to colleagues-

BACK TO SCHOOL FOR BATS (2).doc Version History

Please discreetly hand this out to your colleagues and friends. Most will probably not want to join, but knowing there is a resistance of this size and militancy will give them courage and make them feel empowered to resist covertly, in their own classrooms. And who knows, over time, they may join us

But the important thing is to spread the word. Let people know that 26,000 teachers across the country have said "enough is enough" to top down Education Reform and are determined to fight back.

It's not only our jobs that are at stake, it is our students and our children's education, and the future of democracy in this country that are on the line

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pop Up Schools-Shortchanging Students of Color, by Prof. Lori Martin


Fifty years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered an empassionate speech. His famous speech will forever be remembered for its visionary content, but King offered much more than a dream. He offered a scathing critique of American society. He brought to the forefront of America’s consciousness, the gap between American society as it was, and American society as it should have been. 
Despite claims of a post-racial society, there is still compelling evidence that far too many of America’s promissory notes are returned; they are still marked insufficient funds. Promises of justice, fairness and equality are still unfulfilled for many Americans, including people of color. Evidence of the persistence of racial inequality is all around us. I have written about the persistence of racial wealth inequality and the overrepresentation of blacks among the asset poor. Other scholars, such as, Michelle Alexander, have written about the disparate impact of the War on Drugs. Eduardo Bonillo-Silva and Patricia Hill Collins are just two of the scholars writing extensively about the new racism and the myth of colorblindness-the idea that we as a nation no longer see race. Few places is the enduring racial divide as evident today, as it was five decades ago, than on the educational front. Almost sixty years after the historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling, and a half a century after a quarter of Americans marched on Washington, many of our schools remain separate and unequal. 
Those with power and privilege, an overwhelming majority of which are white, continue to have access to, what most would consider, good schools. Economically disadvantaged children, and children of color, remain trapped in bad schools. In contemporary times, these overwhelming black and brown children, watch as more affluent, often white students, have unencumbered access to schools that prepare them, not only with a lifelong love of learning, but for success in college, and for jobs in what social scientists call the primary sector. 
Jobs in the primary sector of a split-labor force provide security, opportunities for advancement, and benefits. People of color are often relegated to the secondary sector, which is characterized by low wage jobs, the absence of benefits, and very little job security. It’s no wonder that people of color are disproportionally employed in the secondary sector, if they are employed at all, when one examines the inequalities in education that continue to set individuals on separate paths based upon the social groups to which they belong. 
Far too many children of color find themselves in schools which, thanks to the new educational reform movement, are slapped with the label FAILING. Students, parents, and teachers are scapegoated in many of these districts, in part, to detract attention from decades of misguided educational policies that now accomplish work previously performed by ardent, overt segregationist. 
Black and brown children, as a result, are disproportionately forced to learn in educational environments that King and others could not have envisioned fifty years ago, would still be around today. An increasingly popular mark, on the relatively new educational landscape, is a phenomenon I call “pop-up schools”. Much like the popular children’s pop-up books, pop-up schools may be aesthetically pleasing, attractive at first glance, but in the wrong hands, are easily destroyed. 
More specifically, pop-up schools are schools that were designated as failing and closed down to prevent state takeovers, only to be given new life, if not a new name, with many of the same problems. Students in these pop-up schools (e.g. Charter Schools, Magnet Schools, Gifted and Talented Programs,) still lack access to the levels and types of resources readily available to more affluent and predominately white schools. 
School administrators, at these pop-up schools, are forced to take on the role of used car salesman. They are expected to sell students, parents, teachers, and the community, a bill of goods. They promise higher test scores, a new approach to instruction, etc. In reality, students, parents, and teachers encounter new schools that are often hastily put together. The consequences are varied and quite severe. 
Pop-up schools, particularly during the first few years of their existence, may lack the basic infrastructure to handle critical activities, such as schedule changes, leaving many bright students in courses that lack the academic rigor advertised. 
Estimated initial enrollment at pop-up schools may be inflated to show school boards and state education departments that they are viable. The inflation of initial student enrollment has led to the transfer of seasoned teachers within weeks of the start of the school year. A consequence of this “overstaffing,” is the severing of the teacher-student relationship at one of its most critical moments. This may also result in the transfer of highly qualified teachers who are passionate about what they do, for inadequately trained teachers who lack the passion, but possess requisite certifications to teach multiple subjects. This new breed of teachers can be shuffled from one grade, or one subject matter to the next, which results in a staff that could best be described as “jacks of all trades and masters of none.” Reports of this are evidenced throughout the country. This is not just an issue that is facing children of color, and low-income children, in America’s inner cities. It is a cancer that is eating away at educational systems in America’s mid-section and in the Deep South. 
Those with the means, most of whom are white, along with many public officials, who understand the way in which in the political wind is blowing, have in far too many cases, wholeheartedly, abandoned the public educational system. They have abandoned the public school system in at least one of the following ways: 1. They leave the central city and create their own public school districts, which are predominately affluent and white as a result of residential, not self-segregation. 2. They take their students out of public schools and place them in private and parochial schools with tuition rates that often exceed the tuition at most state universities. 3. They create an illusion of inclusion by offering a relatively small portion of the economically disadvantaged students, and students of color, the opportunity to attend private and parochial schools, and at the same time, divest in the public school system where hundreds of thousands of children must remain. 4. They create public schools that are seemly open to the general public, but charge tuition. 5. They create pop-up programs within abandoned schools where the Savage Inequalities Jonathan Kozol wrote about are highly visible. 5. They resort to blaming the victim, as opposed to, addressing the structural inequalities underpinning the entire educational system in America. 
This has got to change. While the King’s speech is remembered by most as a vision for America’s future, we must also remember that the speech was about much more. The struggle for social justice is about much more. 
At the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, King brought the issue of social inequality to the forefront and called upon all Americans to work towards the creation of a more equitable society. Sadly, persistent disparities, particularly in education, provide some of the most convincing evidence of the enduring divides in this country, one that is only exacerbated by the scapegoating of students, parents, and teachers, while the real culprits, those with power and privilege, (e.g. so-called educational reformers, disinterested legislators, etc.) get a pass. 
Our children, all of our children, deserve better. 

Lori Latrice Martin
Associate Professor of Sociology and African & African American Studiesop

Why You Should Join the BATS- A Recruiting Pitch

Fed up with testing? With invasive assessments that undermine your professional integrity? With professional development workshops where trainers spout jargon rather than give useful advice about how to help your students? With people who have never spent a day in the classroom shaping education policy and excluding your voice?

Then you might consider joining an organization where teachers who say “enough is enough” band together and support one another.

It’s called “The Badass Teachers Association, ” aka the BATS, and it is designed to bring together teachers across the country determined to take back their profession and make sure their voice is heard by those in power.

It is also the fastest growing teachers organization in the country, with nearly 26,000 teachers on its Facebook page, and with BAT organizations active in every state.

If you join us, you can take part in actions ranging from mass emails and tweets to marches and demonstrations, aimed at the elected and self- appointed leaders who are destroying our public schools and driving the best teachers out of the profession.

And if you agree with our basic principles- opposition to excessive testing; to test based teacher evaluations, to forced imposition of the Common Core Standards, to using Teach for America as replacement labor for veteran teachers—you don’t have to meet a political litmus test

We are a non- partisan/ multi-partisan organization. You can be a Republican, a Democrat, an independent, a conservative, a liberal, a leftist or none of the above, - so long as you are willing to fight for the rights of teachers, not only in your school or your district but all across the nation- you are welcome in BATS.

And you can have fun too. The BAT name, and the innovative ways we have of getting it across- check out our great tee shirts- is capturing the attention of teachers around the country and is making those setting education policy very nervous.

The last thing the Ed Deformers want is a group of teachers who can’t be bought, can’t be intimidated, and are organized to fight.

That is who we are. Join us.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Teaching Is Relationship Building-Something School Reformers Often Forget

 One of the most pernicious examples of the tunnel vision of school reformers is the “school turnaround” concept incorporated in the Obama Administration’s “Race To the Top” legislation and currently being implemented in school districts throughout the nation. “Turnaround” strategy proposes that a school designated as “failing”-invariably on test scores- be closed and either replaced with a charter school or reopened as a new school, in the same facility, with a different principal and no more than fifty percent of the current teaching staff. Not only does this concept presume that “bad teachers” are the primary cause of a school’s alleged failures, but it places no value on relationships that teachers build with students and their families, relationships that often last far beyond the time they were in class and are integral to student success and help sustain teacher morale even in the most daunting conditions Anyone who has been a teacher knows that building up the confidence of students and giving them the courage to realize their potential and find their voice involves more than classroom learning. It often requires individualized instruction and mentoring, joint participation in extracurricular activities and trips, and a commitment to maintain communication long after the student leaves your class. When this happens, students come to see relationships with their teachers as sources of strength throughout their lives, a form of “cultural capital” that allows them to surmount obstacles and realize their dreams. In working class and poor communities, where families are under constant stress, lifetime communication with teachers can be the critical factor enabling students to stay in school in the face of crises that would crush most people.

Janet Mayer’s wonderful new book, As Bad As They Say: Three Decades of Teaching in the Bronx, provides example of example of how this longtime Bronx teacher supported her students through personal challenges that included evictions, murders, rapes, heatless homes, unemployed parents and responsibilities for raising younger siblings. This influence didn’t just take place when students were in Mayer’s classes. It often went on for fifteen or twenty years after they left her school. And it led to students who could have easily fallen through the cracks becoming productive, successful citizens, some of them teachers themselves. The power of relationship building- something that cannot be measured by student performance on standardized tests- is something I have experienced over and over again in my own teaching at the college level. The most transformative moments in my teaching have not taken place during class sessions, or on midterm or final examinations, but it individual encounters with students where they confront obstacles and with my help, confronted strategies to overcome them

An example of this, from the late 90’s remain etched in my memory. M was a Fordham basketball star from an Irish working class family in New Jersey, who along with some of her teammates, had enrolled in several of my Black history classes at Fordham . She was incredibly shy, never saying a word in class, but one day, she showed up in my office and started crying. “Dr Naison,” she said, “I don’t belong at this school. I only got 800 on my SAT’s and I feel like everyone here is so much smarter than me. What am I going to do?” I took a deep breath, prayed I wouldn’t screw this up, and started developing a strategy. “M, they aren’t smarter than you, they just have more educated parents and went to better high schools. But we are going to overcome that. Every time you write a paper, hand me a rough draft a week before and I will edit if for you. Before every test, come with your friends to my office and I will give you a strategy for studying as a group. And in return, you and your friends can work with me on my crossover and spin moves!” The last comment drew a reluctant smile from M and she went to work. Little by little, she went from being a C student, to a B student, to getting B+’s and A-‘s in the last class she took with me during the second semester of her senior year. But the best part of this transformation was watching M find her voice. By the time she graduated, she was not only participating regularly In class discussions, she was being perceived as a leader by her fellow students, including those who came in to the school with much higher SAT’s and grades. After she graduated from Fordham M’s confidence only grew. After playing pro basketball in Europe for several years, she returned to New Jersey and became a teacher and coach, using her own hard won confidence to build the confidence of others

. In my forty years at Fordham, I have built many relationships with individual students I have taught, some of whom have gone on to become mayors of cities, leaders of government agencies, world renowned scholars and journalists, but no teaching or mentoring experience has been more satisfying than the one I had with M. Why? Because M represents the majority of students attending schools in America’s poor and working class communities. They not only lack the skills that upper middle class students acquire in their families and the high performing schools they attend, they often suffer from a crippling lack of self-confidence in approaching the tasks that schools present. That confidence deficit, I am convinced, is at least as important as the skills deficit and it cannot be overcome through test prep drills and group instruction. It requires individual attention from teachers, and not just in a classroom setting. It requires extra work and encouragement after school, on weekends, and sometimes long after the student leaves the teachers direct care. If you rotate teachers in and out of schools at a dizzying rate and create pressures that drive them out of the profession after a few years, you will destroy the relationship building component that is at the heart of great teaching. Ironically, under the pressure of federal mandates, this is being done in the very communities that have the greatest need for inspired teaching and mentoring.

"Education Summits" Without Teachers

Whether our leaders are Republican or Democratic, they seem to think Education Policy is too important a subject to allow mere teachers to have a voice in shaping it. These days, the only stakeholders that matter to elected officials are billionaires, large corporations and foundations and education policy groups funded by both. When Barack Obama held an education summit several years ago, no teachers were invited so it is not surprising that Florida Governor Rick Scott is taking the same approach in his state by organizing his summit during school hours. The result is the nightmare we are all living with- K-12 testing and teacher evaluation based on those tests, with added pressures imposed by the full court press for the imposition of Common Core Standards. The Education Coup D'Etat we are facing is the result of people crossing party lines at the top, so we must cross party lines at the grass roots in organizing resistance. The people we are fighting look at teachers, parents and students with paternalistic contempt. We must respond to their contempt with Solidarity and a vision of education rooted in love and respect for teaching, and for the students we teach, in all their variety.

Monday, August 26, 2013

What BAT Love

By now, everyone involved in this group, as well as those on the receiving end of its actions, know what this group is against- Excessive testing; school closings and teacher ratings based on student test scores; a one size fits all National Curriculum; using Teach for America to replace fired experienced teachers- but those people might ask, what are BATS for

Without speaking in an official capacity, let me try to answer that question

BATS are for arts and music in every classroom and every school
BATS are for recess, physical education, and time for play
BATS are for well staffed school libraries 
BATS are for trained counselors in every school
BATS are for first rate technical and vocational schools and programs.
BATS are for portfolio schools that get exemptions from state tests
BATS are for schools in high needs communities that function as 24 hour community centers
BATS are for culturally relevant pedagogy in communities where parents and students want that
BATS are for school farms and agriculture programs, in cities as well as rural areas
BATS are for teacher, parent and student input into school policies
BATS are for highly trained teachers who have the right to union representation
BATS are for slashing test budgets and using them to fund the innovations listed above

BATS are for creativity, spontaneity and joy, as central parts of the school experience

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Badass Teachers Association-Statement on 50th Anniversary of March on Washington


The Badass Teachers Association (aka the BATs) is proud to honor the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “ I Have a Dream Speech.”

That great movement offered a vision of a nation that would provide freedom and opportunity to all its citizens, and of people of all backgrounds coming together to achieve that goal.

Yet despite great progress and great sacrifice, that dream remains unfulfilled.

It is unfulfilled when more than 25 percent of the children in this country live in

It is unfulfilled when we have over 2 million people in prison in the US, most of them poor, many incarcerated for non-violent crimes.

It is unfulfilled when we have a two tier education system- one filled with art, and music and creative thinking for the children of the rich, and one filled with tests, for everyone else.

It is unfulfilled when hundreds of schools in the nation’s poor communities are closed, and those communities destabilized, over the protests of students, teachers and neighborhood residents.

It is unfulfilled when a handful of billionaires shape education policy, completely excluding teacher voices.

It is unfulfilled when the interests of a few profit making corporations take precedence over the needs of children, resulting in testing policies which put students and families under intolerable stress.

We cannot remain silent or complacent in the face of these injustices.

  We, the 25,000 plus BATs, pledge to work tirelessly to improve conditions in the nation’s schools and communities, and to make Dr King’s vision a reality in our time.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Decimation of the Arts in Virginia- A Teacher's Response

"The policy that cuts Visual Art class time for Kindergarten to 45 minutes was codified in January at the same time the required business class added for required HS Graduation replaced one of 2 Fine Arts requirements necessary for graduation. Kindergarten testing was approved at the same time.
This policy not only affected Art Teacher staffing, but raised no opposition because elementary Art was “demoted” several years ago from Core to non-academic. Arts’ Core status was traded away to make way for Art to serve as a placeholder for planning time; a few years later, teacher planning time that once involved curriculum and learning was replaced CLT program data mining.
As you are a former Kindergarten teacher, Dr. Garza, please know that an hour of continuous planning time is a key ingredient to student success, so this is not an innocuous concession.
Arts were part of the core throughout the County, and Art time was considered sacrosanct so children could process what they were learning. Art was placed into core through Grade 8 in one our highest ESoL schools in our FCPS, reading and math skills soared. Children were learning and meeting grade level expectations because their curriculum wasn’t being dumbed down for test prep, it was being enriched.
Kindergarten Art Time shouldn’t be negotiated for testing if we value learning and kids."
Take care, Sue

Stand up for Michigan


Today BATS show solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Michigan, a state where a particularly harsh recession has provided an excuse for an attack on public education of unmatched viciousness. What has happened to the schools of Detroit and Benton Harbor, where state takeovers have led to skyrocketing classes sizes, elimination of art, music and sports, teacher firings accompanied by the shattering of collective bargaining rights, and the unmonitored invasion of charter schools, some startlingly corrupt, provides a window into where we all may be headed if we don't fight back. Now, the state is discussing adding the huge expense of requiring adherence to Common Core Standards to the already overwhelming burden local school districts face. Please make your voice heard BATS, for the teachers and students of Michigan. In standing up for them, you are standing up for yourselves

Sunday, August 18, 2013

When Libraries are Evicted and Books are Thrown in a Dumpster

It is not accidental that those who display contempt for teachers show equal contempt for books, and for history. Yesterday's demolition of a "people's library" created by community residents adjacent to a Chicago public school in the dead of night by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel bears a startling resemblance to what happened to the 5,000 plus books accumulated by Occupy Wall Street when OWS was evicted, also in the dead of night, by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In each instance, the collection of books lovingly collected and used by thousands of people ended up in a dumpster. In the neo-liberal city, history is an inconvenience, teachers are disposable, and a book is an inanimate object infused with no more significance than a table or a chair. I fear for the future of our children, and for the entire democratic project, if this world view should prevail. It is our responsibility, as custodians of teaching, learning and the democratic tradition, to contest it fiercely.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

On Test Scores and Poverty

  To understand how unique our current historical moment is, and in particular, how much powerful corporate interests have seized control of BOTH political parties, ask yourself  the following questions:.

When FDR spoke of a third of a nation “ill-housed, ill clothed, and ill-fed” did he identify raising student test scores as a major component of his program to heal a wounded nation?

When LBJ launched the anti-poverty program, did low test scores of young people living in poverty represent a major target of the programs he initiated?.

When Dr King unveiled his idea for the “Poor People’s Campaign,” was poor performance on tests among the nation’s poor a central subject of his rhetoric?

   The very posing of these questions moves us into the  realm of absurdity- yet in state after state, and in the US Department of Education, “closing the achievement gap”- i.e. raising the test scores of students in poor communities- is lauded as the civil rights cause of our time and the one sure fire method to reduce inequality in a society where every other policy seems to maximize it.

  Do current policy makers know something that FDR, LBJ and Dr. King didn’t, or is the egalitarian rhetoric underlying their obsession with raising student test scores disingenuous and self-deluded?

 While I cannot pretend to know what policy makers, in their heart of hearts, really think, I do know this—that since No Child Left Behind was passed in 2001, child poverty has skyrocketed, the concentration of wealth at the top of the society has grown, the prison industrial complex has expanded, and the gap in college admission and retention between poor and wealthy students has expanded

And as for schools, we see the wealthy sending their children to private schools with few tests and a huge emphasis on the arts- and the poor and the rapidly shrinking middle class sending their children to schools which are stripped down test factories with beaten down and demoralized teachers

.This is the ugly reality that the flowery rhetoric of inclusion hides

  If narrowing the achievement gap is an anti-poverty strategy, is the single most ineffective such strategy in modern America History..

Friday, August 16, 2013

How to Destroy Teacher Moral- Message from a Teacher in a Western State

This is our first year for CCSS and MERIT PAY. I have been teaching for 23 years. I was evaluated formally, on day TWO! I got RED FLAGGED for not knowing the names of 30 students that I had never even met before. RED FLAGGED for not using technology in my lesson. Prior to DAY TWO, I had requested assistance with said problem of NO INTERNET, THREE times. RED FLAGGED for having students sitting on the floor. My room is small. Mi have never been able to fit more than 18 students in my class. I scrounged 25 chairs and two more discarded tables and shoved them in my room. Yet, still, I get in trouble for not being able to access students and for having them on the floor! Unbelievable! Two years and I can retire. Won't be soon enough for me.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A New York Teachers Letter on the Failed Leadership of John King

I am dismayed by the leadership provided by John King, Education Commissioner of the State of New York. He is deliberately creating a testing and curriculum that penalizes children - especially children with emotional illnesses and learning disabilities. I have spent my summer working with students who cannot graduate because they have not passed one of the five required Regents or RCT exams. These students have met all other local requirements and have passed the other four required Regents/RCTs - and would have passed the last remaining exam had the cut scores not been raised recently.
Certainly, it is a lofty goal to want all HS graduates in NY State to achieve superior academic performance at the A+ level. I have been teaching HS English for 30 years and each year I hope that this will be the year that each of my students achieves an A in my course. It has never happened. Until we can eliminate emotional illness, learning disabilities, poverty, and other sources of family strife, this is unrealistic.
I am dismayed by the changes made to the current HS Regents exams and the proposed Common Core Regents exams. Labeling 70% of our elementary students as failing is atrocious. BUT, preventing students from earning a HS diploma is shameful. This spring, the cut scores were raised on the Comprehensive English Regents. This shift resulted in failing grades for a number of students who would have passed the exam a year earlier. Simultaneously, the questions were more difficult and the readings were more complex than on previous exams. This shift was unannounced and therefore unfairly penalized hundreds of children and also prevented many of them from earning a diploma. In addition, the US History and Global Studies readings have also increased in difficulty. I might not object if the tests were more difficult in Social Studies content, but the tests are more difficult in reading complexity. The result is that students who have passed the English Regents or RCTs are failing the US History and/or Global Studies Regents or RCTs because they do not read well enough – not because they don’t understand Social Studies concepts. One of the first things I learned in my education courses is to determine what it is I am trying to assess and then to create a question that assess the appropriate learning. My students are weak in vocabulary and reading comprehension – yet they have all passed the Regents and/or RCTs in HS English. Why must their score on the US History exams be based on their documented disability in reading?
The newest proposed version of the English Comprehensive Regents will be given in June of 2014. John King proudly announced that this exam is modeled after the AP exam in English Language and Composition. Really? The AP test is our new benchmark for college and career readiness? The AP test is the bar for our graduation requirements? Why? I used to believe in the integrity of the Regents exams. I no longer believe that the NY State exams are valuable, worthwhile, or educationally appropriate. The new Common Core curriculum – along with the modules and activities crafted by Odell Learning (promised – but not delivered) – is not a curricular improvement. None of this is best practice. None of it relies on current research. None of it has been field tested. None of it is proven. It is all snake oil. I am ashamed to be part of this sham. Commissioner King is not only overseeing this disaster; he is proud of the fact that 70% of our students will be labeled failures.
I am no longer interested in “building a plane in mid-air.” I want to teach children. I want to expose them to fiction. I want them to be creative and engaged. I want them to fall in love with learning (preferably through literature) the way that I love learning. I, however, do not love this new way of learning (and teaching.) I do not love watching kids cry. I do not love hearing them as they call themselves stupid after failing a Regents for the third time. I will not love making the phone calls later today that inform children and parents that they have failed a Regents – again.
Susan Murphy Oneonta, NY


It is time to remove John King Education Commissioner of the State of New York. Commissioner King purposely decided to score state tests in such a way as to insure that the majority of the students in the state failed. The result was collective humiliation- of ELL students, of special needs students, of students living in poverty- and intimidation of the state's teachers, who future careers will be determined by these scores. The test results were a conscious, malicious "set up"-- and a power grab- by the Commissioner to close more schools, remove more school boards, and put more power in the hands of the state government at the expense of local school districts.

This is an abuse of power by an unelected public official. All throughout the state, teachers, parents, students and concerned citizens are rising up to say that excessive testing is squeezing the heart out of public education in our state, driving out the best teachers and principals, and destroying the confidence and morale of our most vulnerable students. It is time elected officials heard their voices. It is time those who serve the public say no to policies that when all is said and done, amount to collective child abuse.

We understand that some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the state support Commissioner King's policies. However, we urge you to hear the voices of all those quietly suffering because, through no fault of their own, they, their children and the students they teach, have been labeled "failures."

Child abuse is child abuse, even when disguised in rhetoric promoting equity and social justice.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Parents; The Secret Weapon Against Corporate Ed Deform

Parents are the secret weapon in the struggle to preserve public education in the United States and push back against the testing and micromanagement that is deforming it beyond recognition. If they refuse to allow their children to take the tests, and take legal action against the abuse that excessive testing imposes on special needs students, ELL students, and increasingly all students, the whole testing, evaluation and date collection machine grinds to a halt. We cannot as teachers, legally advocate for parents to take this step, but we can as parents and there are a growing array of networks and resources available for those who take these steps. I encourage everyone on this page to become a member of United Opt Out and local opt out groups in your state. What happened in NY State last April, where upwards of 10,000 families opted out, is the tip of the iceberg. Parent test resistance is the Achilles Heel of the School Deform Juggernaut. Spread the word. Spread the love. Spread the revolt!

Monday, August 12, 2013

What Dr King's "I Have a Dream" Speech Meant to Me

What Dr King's "I Have a Dream" Speech Meant to Me- Written for BK Nation

Dr King’s “ I Have a Dream Speech” changed my life, sparking a moral and intellectual transformation that led me to evolve from driven young man determined to beat everyone in everything to a civil rights activist and scholar in American History.

To understand where I ended up, you have to know where I started. I entered Columbia College in the fall of 1962 as a hyper-competitive 16 year old, a product of Brooklyn public schools, determined to prove that I could excel at an Ivy League college both athletically and academically. I tried out for the freshman basketball team, and got cut, but made the freshman tennis team and eventually won a spot as the number one player on the team, even though I was a product of Brooklyn public parks tennis. I joined the tennis team fraternity, had an active social life and worked overtime to get a B+ average. I was riding high. But my success hid an inner restlessness. I grew up with black friends and teammates and had always supported the civil rights movement, but felt so overwhelmed by proving myself at Columbia that I never did anything about it. I watched the Birmingham protests – with the hoses and police dogs set on non-violent demonstrators- with dismay, was deeply moved by James Baldwin’s portrait of Northern racism in is novel Another Country, but made no effort to become politically active and ended up spending my summer as a tennis counselor at an all white camp run by my high school basketball coach, where I self identified as a “beatnik” but had no opportunity to do anything bolder than hitchhike around the area on my days off from camp

Then, when I came home, shortly before I went back to school, I watched the March on Washington and found myself transfixed by Dr. King’s speech. As King presented a moral and spiritual challenge to every American to bring the nation’s ideals to life for the excluded, the stigmatized and the exploited, I felt he was talking directly to me, telling me that I could not be the person I aspired to be unless I put my talents at the service of this great crusade for justice. His words struck me with the force of a religious conversation. Unless I did something to stand up for a better America, I would be incomplete, prisoner of a quest for elusive personal victories which would always leave me dissatisfied

And so I made a decision. The day I arrived on the Columbia campus for my sophomore year, I would join the Columbia chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality and would make sure I did something meaningful. The decision led me to work as a tutor and tenant organizer in East Harlem, where for the first time in my life, I used my energy and ambition not to seek personal victories, but give people in need the wherewithal to empower themselves. That experience gave me a sense of purpose and an inner confidence that previously had been missing and translated into a more focused approach to my school work as well as an openness to friendship and love.

Dr King, you see, had reached me in a way no one had ever done before, touching an aching yearning not only for a better world, but a better self. This is what distinguished him from almost every other political leader in my lifetime. He put people in touch with enhanced sense of human possibility which ensued if they harnessed their driving will to succeed-what he later called “the drum major instinct”- to the cause of justice.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Have Aliens Taken Over Our Schools?

For the next month, teachers and principals are going to be given instructions, by their state education departments, about curriculum, instruction, and methods of evaluation which are complicated, poorly formulated, contradictory, and virtually impossible to implement without stifling anything creative going on in their classrooms. They will be wondering if they suddenly landed on a different planet, or whether aliens took over their schools. Welcome to the start of a new school year in the United States. The people in charge have no idea what they are doing or else are trying to discredit public schools so they can be more easily privatized. No you'e not crazy. They are!!!

Friday, August 9, 2013

To The Nation's Elites, Teachers are "Losers!"

To The Nation's Elites, Teachers are "Losers!"

There is a reason that people like Bill Gates, Chris Christie, Rahm Emmanuel, Jeb Bush, Andrew Cuomo, Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg and yes Barack Obama will never really listen to teachers voices. And that is because, in the competition for money, power, and position, which is what is all the that really counts to them, they see themselves as winners and teachers as losers. Regarding themselves as examples of what talent and ambition can achieve, they look at someone who spends their life in the classroom as lacking in drive and imagination, and therefore undeserving in having a voice in shaping the way we train the next generation of citizens and workers. Whether or not they will say this in their speeches, they certainly say it to one another, in their private meetings, and high powered policy seminars. It is why the only teacher training organization they really trust is Teach for America, because that organization shares their view that really talented people would only remain a teacher as a passage to a more rewarding career. Unless you understand this-- you will never understand why editorial writers, television personalities, corporate leaders, and elected officials systematically exclude teachers voices, and why the policies they ultimately support prove disastrous on the ground. Every section of the American Elite is poisoned with a fatal arrogance, and getting through to them with sound arguments is well nigh impossible. They only understand and respect power.

Badass Teachers Association Press Statement on New York Test Scores

The Badass Teachers Association, a Facebook group which was started June 14th and which now has 24,000 teachers nationwide, would like to make a public statement about the NYS test scores that came out yesterday. BATs refuse to accept assessments created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning. BATs feel that the real failures in this testing fiasco are not the children or teachers of NYS but the U.S. Department of Education, The New York State Department of Education, The New York State Board of Regents, and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. Those who administer and score these tests bear responsibility for the gratuitous humiliation of thousands of special needs students and English language learners throughout the state who should never have been forced to take these tests.
The public needs to realize all of the above entities don’t have helping children in mind but the special interests that line their pockets with money. 
Submitted in utter disgust,
The Badass Teachers Association
August 8, 2013

Thursday, August 8, 2013

NYSED's Test Score Catastrophe

The systematic deliberate humiliation of the children of New York State by the NY State Education Department will be neither forgiven nor forgotten. These obscenely low scores are the result they wanted when they chose to score the tests this way. Children crying and doubting themselves. Parents wondering what they did wrong. Teachers expecting to be browbeaten by arrogant state officials and fearing for their jobs. This is not only child abuse, it is teacher and family abuse. If you're not enraged, you are not paying attention. The only way to fight back is to refuse the tests, starve NYSED for data, and take revenge on politicians who support this at the polls.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fighting Test Based School Reform is the Moral Imperative of Our Time

All across the nation, teachers are being asked to implement policies which violate their conscience, their professional training, their best practices and common sense, with severe penalties if they resist. This is a policy nightmare of epic proportions. It has to be described as such, attacked as such, and ultimately resisted as such. Fighting  Test Based School Reform is one of the great moral imperatives of our time. It destroys careers, it destroys lives, it erases the best features of childhood.

What Education Activists Can Learn from the Struggle Against the War in Vietnam

One of the things I learned during the struggle to bring American soldiers home from Vietnam--if you think something is crazy and wrong, and believe that to the core of your being- say so even if no one around you is willing to support you. Little by little,the accumulation of such voices of protest, multiplied ten thousand fold across the nation, will inspire those who hear them to ponder why someone they respect is speaking out, and perhaps to enter in conversation with them about their beliefs. And such conversations will lead to new voices being raised and new conversations, especially when those conversations lead to actions. That is how a movement grows and I have seen it's results with my own eyes. Here is an example

In 1967, during the first anti-war protest at Columbia, where I attended college and graduate school, almost the entire football team was on the other side of the fence insulting and cursing the protesters, wondering why a few of their jock friends like me had joined the "pinks and the Commies." In 1968, when buildings were occupied by protesters, it look heroic efforts by people like my friend Roger Dennis, a star of the football team who supported the protesters, to prevent his teammates from pulling people out of the buildings. 

Then, in the spring of 1970 when the US Invaded Cambodia, the entire Columbia football team went on strike in protest.

What happened between 1967 and 1970. Not only historical events which forced people to think, but THOUSANDS of conversations between pro war football players and friends and team mates who had begun to doubt, and then militantly oppose, the use of American ground soldiers in Vietnam.

Those of us in education facing policies we know are destructive and wrong- but which have virtually unanimous bi-partisan support should ponder this example. We can change the conversation one person at at time, if all of us say what is in our minds and in our hearts

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Why Bullied Teachers Need to Join BATS- One Teachers Account

I have been teaching full-time since 1999 and was a substitute teacher for about 8 years before that.  I loved being in the classroom!  I still love being with my students, but I am currently in counseling because of stress at my school.  I know of at least 3 other teachers that are also in counseling.  I moved school districts about 6 years ago to be able to shorten my commute to work.  My principal has berated me in front of colleagues, given me less than stellar evals, and if I offer suggestions, he ignores them, but if someone else says the same thing, he will act on it.  I have been moved to a different grade level this year, even though I really didn't want to.  There is much more of the bullying, but let's just say that it stems from the fact that I refuse to be blamed for the lower tests scores of my students, most of whom are ELL's and are still learning the basics of our language.
I am almost finished with my Med in Reading.  Why did I go back?  Because when the bullying began, I thought "Well, maybe I'm not cutting edge anymore."  What I found out was that not only am I cutting edge with my instruction, but there's research to back it up.  So in addition to the bullying about scores, I get bullied because I'm an older teacher (I started teaching after my children were in school.)
Last, I am so glad to be a part of BATs because I now know;
1)  I'm not the only teacher being bullied
2)  Other teachers believe, as I do, that students are NOT widgets
3)  That change IS coming, and I just need to hang in there
4)  BATs help each other out - one of the book recommendations on a thread was Breaking the Silence; Overcoming the Problem of Principal Mistreatment of Teachers by Blase and Blase.  The timing for the recommendation was perfect!  I feel better prepared to face my principal this year

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Message from a Badass Teacher- What We Stand For!

Monday Message from a Badass Teacher- By Sarah Lynn

Badasses: THANK YOU. I've been with you since before we broke 100 members. I'll be with you come hell or high water. Thanks for being the amp for this young teacher's voice. Thanks for brewing up storms and kicking up dust and refusing to shut the hell up. 

I've been a hell-raiser, a questioner, a Badass for as long as I can remember. I knew I wanted to be a teacher since kindergarten, when I would come home and station teach my stuffed animals everything I learned at school that day. This morning, I was thinking of the most influential teachers in my life and how they helped to make me into a BAT before there was a name for it. They all had one thing in common: they taught the entire child. So it is with Mr. S, Mrs. H, and Mrs. D in mind that I am refusing to be a part of the dismantling of the education of my students this year, next year, or any year. So here is my Monday message for corporate reformers as they start their week:

Let me educate the whole child, the whole mind, the whole body. Given the chance, a child will see connections between art and science, between a novel and a life situation, between the natural world and technology and become an independent learner, a lover of seeking and discovery. Let ME create innovative, creative, critical thinkers. Let ME foster insatiable curiosity and thirst for knowledge, answers, and improvement. Let ME do my damn job and get your corporation the hell out of my classroom. We're busy. We've got things to do. We don't have time to line your pockets. The students that are coming from my classroom will be well-informed, will know you for what you are, and what you are doing. How many students in this new generation of consumers do you think I'll reach? How many teachers like me do you think there are? How many students are they reaching? All making a new generation of educated consumers. And they will speak with their dollars. Happy Monday.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Teachers Under Siege- And Why the BATS will Multiply When the School Year Comes

In every part of this country, teachers are under siege. Whether it is capping salaries and eliminating tenure, as in North Carolina; publishing teacher ratings based on junk science, as in Los Angeles; hiring Teach for America Corps members at the same time veteran teachers are being fired, as in Chicago; or imposing bogus evaluation schemes based on student test scores, as in New York and Tennessee, the humiliation and micromanagement of teachers continues apace, funded and supported by the nation's most powerful corporations and imposed by politicians of both parties. That is why we are here; that is why we continue to grow; that is why our numbers will explode when the school year begins. We will not be intimidated, we will not be discouraged, we will not be moved. For the sake of our students, for the sake of our profession, in the spirit of our nations democratic traditions, we will make sure that teachers voices are heard, and ultimately brought back into a central role in the shaping of education policy. No matter how hard the road is. no matter how long it takes.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

When You’re A BAT You’re a BAT All the Way-With Apologies to West Side Story

When You’re A BAT You’re a BAT  All the Way-With Apologies to West Side Story

Susan Ryan Murphy

When you're a BAT, 
You're a BAT all the way 
From your first lesson plan 
To your last teachin' day. 

When you're a BAT, 
Let 'em do what they can. 
You got colleagues around, 
You're the Baddest-Ass, man! 

You're never alone, 
You're never disconnected! 
You're home with your own: 
When Pearson is expected, 
You're well protected! 

Then you are set 
With a capital B, 
Which you'll never forget 
As they gauge AYP. 

When you're a BAT, 
You stay a BAT! 

When you're a BAT, 
You're the top teach in town, 
You're the gold-medal kid 
With the best-practice crown! 

When you're a BAT, 
You're a feisty badass: 
Little quiz, it's a breeze; 
Little test, kids will pass! 

The BATs are in gear, 
Our cylinders are clickin'!
The Feds'll steer clear
'Cause Mr. Arne Duncan's 
a lousy chicken! 

Here come the BATs 
Like a bat out of hell. 
Bill Gates gets in our way, 
then we all start to yell. 

Here come the BATs:
Little world, step aside! 
Better go underground,
Better run, better hide. 

We're drawin' the line, 
So keep your noses hidden! 
We're hangin' a sign, 
Says "Waltons are forbidden" 
And we ain't kiddin'! 

Here come the BATs, 
Yeah! An' we're gonna beat 
Ev'ry last buggin' Broad 
On the whole buggin' street! 
On the whole ever-mother-lovin' street!

Tandy Lynn Braid

How is this?? When you're a Bat,
You're a Bat all the way
From your first day of school
Till Your retirement day.

When you're a Bat,
If the shit hits the fan,
You got a colony around,
You're a Bat and we “can”!

You're never alone,
You're never disconnected!
You're home with your own:
Even when We are disrespected, Know you're always protected!

Then you are met
With a capital B,
Which you'll never forget
You are one alongside of me.
When you're a Bat,
You stay a Bat !

Michael Hureaux

When you're a Bat you're 
A bat cuz you note
Real life learners aren't built
Just by following rote;
When you're a Bat
You don't know everything
But to teach ain't a thing
If it ain't got that swing!
You keep a running game,
And guard the better shooters
Cuz teachers are too tame
And lots say "More computers
Make teaching cuter!"
When you're a Bat with a capital "B"
All the districts will see
They should not tread on thee
When you're a Bat
That's where it's at!

Ruth Florella Charlton

When you're a BAT
students know you don't play
 from the first day of school
to the last PD Day.....
c� � " r �g �" 1][4][1]{comment155392407992520_155402274658200}.[0].[right].[0].[left].[0].[0].[0][2].[0].[3].[0].[43]">When you're a BAT, 
You're a feisty badass: 
Little quiz, it's a breeze; 
Little test, kids will pass! 

The BATs are in gear, 
Our cylinders are clickin'!
The Feds'll steer clear
'Cause Mr. Arne Duncan's 
a lousy chicken! 

Here come the BATs 
Like a bat out of hell. 
Bill Gates gets in our way, 
then we all start to yell. 

Here come the BATs:
Little world, step aside! 
Better go underground,
Better run, better hide. 

We're drawin' the line, 
So keep your noses hidden! 
We're hangin' a sign, 
Says "Waltons are forbidden" 
And we ain't kiddin'! 

Here come the BATs, 
Yeah! An' we're gonna beat 
Ev'ry last buggin' Broad 
On the whole buggin' street! 
On the whole ever-mother-lovin' street!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Why I Have Not Try to Turn My Best Classes into a Higher Ed "Common Core"

Over the last 20 years, I have developed  4 classes at Fordham which have become very popular with students--. The Sixties, Rock and Roll to Hip Hop, Affirmative Action, and the Worker in American Life. By every standard, enrollment, class participation, new student projects, publications, future teachers produced, they have been successful. NEVER have I tried to make them part of a national curriculum for African American Studies, Cultural Studies or Labor history. Why, because with a different student population, a different teachers and in a school with a different academic culture, they might not work as well. So, what if Pearson approached me and gave me a million dollars to take my courses annd institutionalize them nationally? I would be horrified. Not because I don't think other scholars couldn't possibly benefit from looking at the syllabi, but because I don't want it forced on any body, especially for my profit or those of a global corporation. Same with Common CORE. Once profit and oercion enter, I fight it tooth and nail