What can we learn from UESF’s contract campaign?

10 Mar


There are a lot of good lessons for Oakland in this article about San Francisco teachers’ contract campaign. Unlike recent years in California in which cuts were the norm, increased taxes on the rich and a new school funding formula have given teachers the opportunity to fight for more in our contract campaigns. In particular, Portland and St.Paul were able to wage successful campaigns by building strong alliances among teachers, parents, students and community members. In this article, San Francisco public school teacher Matt Bello describes the kinds of demands that can help strengthen educators’ campaign for a fair union contract.


St. Paul Federation of Teachers Settles Landmark Contract!

6 Mar


Through joint parent, student, and teacher organizing, the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers just settled a landmark contract, limiting class sizes and standardized testing, and emphasizing culturally relevant education and access to pre-school, while creating a path for teacher aides to become credentialed. For more information, check out this article: http://advocate.stpaulunions.org/2014/01/30/parents-students-support-teachers-walk-in-demonstrations-across-st-paul/ 

Part of the reason why the union in St. Paul was so successful is because of their policy of open bargaining. Over the last four years,  St. Paul has pushed for rank-and-file teachers, parents, and community members to be present for and participate during bargaining, putting management on their best behavior: http://www.labornotes.org/2013/10/bringing-community-bargaining-table 

Here is a summary of some of their key wins, as written by a teacher-activist in St. Paul:

Smaller Classes

  • The district agreed to calculate elementary class size limits within each school at each grade level. This is an improvement over previous limits in which averages were calculated for each district attendance zone. Lower limits were set for high poverty schools. Secondary limits will be calculated for each teacher rather than school-wide. Starting in the 2015-16 school year, all secondary classes (except bands, orchestras and choirs, which benefit from larger numbers of students) will be required to comply with the negotiated limits. This is an improvement from existing language which applied in secondary schools only to English, math, science and social studies classes.

Education for the Whole Child

  • The district committed to hiring at least 42.0 new FTEs including more licensed media specialists, elementary counselors, school social workers and nurses. These are staff in addition to any hiring the district will need to do in order to be in compliance with the negotiated class size limits. The district also committed to ensuring access to art, music and physical education for all students.

Access to Preschool

  • The district committed to spending at least $6 million per school year to maintain and expand St. Paul Public Schools’ high-quality Pre-K program for 4 year-olds. These dollars will help reduce waiting lists for the program. This commitment ensures that the district will assign referendum funds to the Pre-K program now that the state is picking up the cost of all-day kindergarten.

Teaching, Not Testing

  • The district committed to a 25% reduction in lost learning time due to testing and test preparation activities by the start of the 2015-16 school year. In addition, the district committed to review existing assessments for cultural relevance. SPFT and the district agreed to work together to lobby state and federal authorities to reduce mandates for unnecessary testing.

Family Engagement

  • The parties agreed to an expansion of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, to pilot Academic Parent-Teacher teams (an improved way to do parent-teacher conferences), and to allow for more flexibility in the design of parent-teacher conferences at individual schools. In addition, parents will serve on school committees that make decisions about class size exceptions at their school and will have seats on school committees designated to address school safety concerns.

Culturally Relevant Education

  • In addition to our agreement to review existing assessments for cultural relevance, the parties made a significant agreement related to Educational Assistants that will increase the number of teachers of color. Educational Assistants—educators who already know St. Paul and have a strong track record of meeting our students’ needs—will have a career pathway created that will allow them to go back to school and get the coursework completed for a teaching license. This agreement will provide paid time off for EAs doing student teaching in the St. Paul Public Schools and stipends to help pay for education leading to teacher licensure. Educational Assistants will also be encouraged to participate on building equity teams.

High Quality Professional Development for Teachers

  • The parties agreed to increase support for new teachers coming into the district through the Peer Assistance and Review program. In addition, the parties agreed to increase the recognition stipend for teachers who are successful in receiving their National Board Certification (NBCT) and to provide time and financial assistance for those going through the certification process. The agreement preserves parity for school nurses, school psychologists, certified nurse practitioners, speech clinicians (CCC) and school social workers (LICSW) in addition to covering all of the different license areas currently part of the NBCT program. Seeking a National Board Certification is one of the most rigorous professional development paths a teacher can take during her/his career.
  • The parties reached agreements on a variety of other issues: Improvements to Payroll, an additional month of paid health insurance for parents on the unpaid portion of their parental/maternity leave, paid time off for religious observance, teacher-initiated school redesign, improved procedures for addressing school safety and discipline concerns, reduced usage of teachers on carts, language on staffing at Bridge View School and in the Birth to Three program, an employee sick leave bank, an ELL Professional Issues Committee, and increased protection from stranding.

Wages and Benefits

  • Under the agreement, teachers will receive their normal steps and lanes and maintain the district’s current level of contributions toward health insurance. In addition, teachers will receive an average schedule improvement of 2.5% retroactive to July 1, 2013 and a further 2% effective on July 1, 2014. Experienced teachers (steps 15-19 and step 20) will receive an additional 1% increase on top of their schedule improvement in each of the two years of the contract.

Portland students stand in solidarity with teachers’ strike

1 Mar

Check out this video of students speaking out in solidarity with the teachers’ union in Portland. What would it take to build this type of solidarity between teachers and students in Oakland?

Portland teachers prove the power of solidarity

1 Mar

Sarah Levy reports on a tentative agreement for Portland teachers that wins on most of the union’s main demands–thanks to teachers’ thorough preparations for a strike.

February 25, 2014 – Reposted from http://socialistworker.org/2014/02/25/portland-teachers-prove-power

Outside the theater where Portland teachers voted nearly unanimously to authorize a strike (Bette Lee)Outside the theater where Portland teachers voted nearly unanimously to authorize a strike (Bette Lee)

WITH LESS than 48 hours to go before what would have been the first strike in the history of the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), the union’s bargaining team reached a tentative agreement and suspended the walkout that was set to begin on February 20. The tentative agreement will now be put to a ratification vote by the rank and file.

The deal came after a marathon 23-hour-long bargaining session, but the critical factor in putting pressure on the school district–after 10 months of negotiations without much movement from school officials–was the union’s thorough preparation for a strike, which culminated in a near-unanimous vote on February 5 to authorize the walkout.

In a February 24 report about the agreement to the union’s contract organizing committee, PAT officials said that they had forced the school board to concede on a number of fronts, including probably the most prominent demand of all–hiring additional teachers to allow for a meaningful reduction in class sizes.

The district has promised to add a “minimum” of 150 teachers–a significant victory given the district’s prior refusal to even address the issue. Throughout bargaining, and until the last few days before the strike, officials had stuck with their offer of only 88 additional full-time employees (FTEs), claiming that the union’s demand of 175 was “unreasonable.”

Under the tentative deal, with the addition of 150 FTEs, the number of teachers in the district will grow by around 5 percent. Fifty FTEs will go to high schools, 70 to pre-K through 8th grade, and 30 to special education.

As a result, average class sizes will be reduced, giving students more attention from teachers, who, in turn, will see their workload reduced. The district was also forced to drop its demand to remove an overall cap on class sizes from the contract.

In another win for the union, elementary school teachers will see their planning time increase from 185 minutes to 260 minutes per week. The agreement also requires the school board, over the next two years, to re-establish student load levels back to where they stood in 2010-11, should the district choose to maintain the current class schedule. The district gets the option to add two school days, but must pay teachers at the per diem rate.

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SCHOOL OFFICIALS also agreed to pay raises of 2.3 percent in each of the next three years, retroactive to July 2013. This is a modest amount, but better than the pay freezes and pay cuts seen in many public-sector labor agreements. The proposed deal also mandates that the school district continue to pay 93 percent of health care costs.

The PAT also pushed back the district’s effort to delete contract language covering teacher evaluations and the use of student test scores in evaluations. The proposed contract contains language that bars “the use of student performance on standardized tests as a basis for involuntary transfers, layoffs, placement on the salary schedule, and/or disciplinary language,” union officials said.

In winning this provision, the PAT scored an advance on an issue where many local teachers unions have retreated. The union also withstood district attempts to restrict teachers’ right to file grievances over procedures.

The proposed contract also requires the district to consult with professional educators when selecting district-wide textbooks, and adds new academic freedom language allowing professional educators to determine “the support materials and methods used for day-to-day instruction, including differentiating instruction based on student needs.”

The union won a contract language preamble that acknowledges teachers’ role as advocates for children and public education. It reads, in part:

The parties believe that a well-rounded public education should prepare every student for college, career and full participation as an active and informed community member, regardless of race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or zip code. The parties also recognize that a well-rounded public education includes, but is not limited to, giving students a strong start, and providing students with an enriched, diverse and comprehensive whole-child curriculum.

The PAT did, however, make a concession on two fronts.

The union allowed the district to phase out incentives for a popular early retirement program. Under the proposed contract, teachers must have 15 years of service by June 30, 2016, to be eligible for the current retiree insurance benefits and stipend. After that date, according to PAT negotiators, “any qualifying retiree below the age of 60 no longer has the option of paying the first years of insurance premiums and having the district pay the final five years up to age 65.”

The union also agreed to limit the internal transfer process to one round of internal hiring, compared with two rounds of internal hiring in the past. This means that teachers with less experience can potentially bypass teachers with more experience, and probationary teachers could potentially bypass non-probationary teachers for jobs. But external applicants still cannot jump over teachers currently working in Portland Public Schools (PPS).

These are setbacks, but they are relatively minor compared to other teachers contracts negotiated recently, where unions have abandoned long-held opposition to merit pay and attacks on tenure. By preparing to strike, the PAT won a contract that holds the line on the issues teachers say they care most about.

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BUT EVEN with teachers relieved by the prospect of avoiding a walkout, many see this contract as only a first step in a much longer fight for the schools Portland students deserve.

As Lincoln High School teacher and PAT bargaining team member Steve Lancaster wrote in a message to teachers after signing the TA:

I believe we have achieved a contract that will improve teaching and learning conditions and moves closer to treating teachers as professional educators…

[But] we must consider the hard-won victory of this contract as a single battle in a larger war to restore our classrooms to conditions that make it possible for teachers to do their jobs…Enjoy this moment but remember that the fight is NOT over; there remains so much left to do to achieve the schools that we can truly say provide a world-class teaching and learning experience.

The gains made in this contract must be seen in the context of the last two decades, during which Portland teachers have made a series of concessions, supposedly to stave off even worse measures, like the firing of teachers.

Since 2003, when teachers worked for 10 days without pay in order provide students with a full school year and avoid a strike, they continued to give up cost-of-living increases and delayed paid step increases. They endured cuts to their pensions and increases in the amount they contribute to health insurance.

Over time, PAT members went from being some of the highest-paid teachers in the metropolitan area to some of the lowest–all while suffering an increase in workload.

To top it off, when the current round of bargaining began last April, teachers had just agreed to delay their step increases by six months to save $2.5 million. This, along with the district putting in an additional $2.5 million into the budget and the city’s injection of $5 million, covered a $10 million shortfall.

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GOING INTO contract negotiations, teachers framed their demands around the idea that teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. The PAT’s initial contract proposal at the start of negotiations began with a preamble titled “The Schools Portland Students Deserve”–modeled on a similar document put out by the Chicago Teachers Union in the run-up to its September 2012 showdown with the city.

The union used this framework to show how what they were demanding in their union contract–such as class size and workload (the total number of students one teacher sees) relief; wraparound services like counseling and other professional student support; and full funding for programs such as art, music and physical education–wasn’t just for the good of teachers, but for students and the community as a whole.

The union has also argued that smaller class sizes would disproportionately benefit low-income, minority and other students who are the most in need–contrary to the line of the Oregonian newspaper that greedy teachers would only hurt the neediest students with their contract demands.

Teachers also drew attention to the district’s skewed spending priorities, making it clear that the problem was not a lack of funds. One stark example: PPS’s decision topay union-busting consultant Yvonne Deckard some $15,000 per month–a total cost of $360,000 in taxpayer dollars over two years if she completes her no-bid contract, which runs through June. At the same time, the school district claimed it couldn’t find the money to maintain teachers or programs in art or physical education, or even libraries in many schools.

Teachers also pointed out the refusal of the district, which recently announced an unexpected $29.9 million in revenue, to put any of this money into the classroom Instead, school officials funneled the majority into a $34 million district reserve fund. (As an additional blow, much of the unexpected revenue came from recent cuts to the statewide Public Employee Retirement System, meaning teachers were already suffering reductions in benefits they were previously guaranteed.)

The district’s money hoarding even motivated a number of Oregon state representatives to send a letter to the school board, using remarkably similar language to “The Schools Portland Students Deserve”:

We are heartened by the [additional revenue forecast]…for PPS next school year, thus providing even more resources to reduce class sizes. Our expectation for our reinvestment budget was to make sure school districts had the resources to hire additional teachers and other educational professionals in order to decrease class sizes and improve the learning environment for all students.

The legislators’ letter concluded with a call for the “Portland Public Schools our children deserve.”

Another influential statement came from Rev. Chuck Curry , who wrote an “Open Letter from Portland Religious Leaders Concerning the Possibility of a Portland Teacher Strike” that was co-signed by 20 religious leaders of different faiths across the city.

“We stand in support of the PAT,” the letter begins, offering backing for the teachers’ demand for a “fair and balanced contract that both lowers class sizes and lifts up underpaid professional teachers.”

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -

BUT MOST impressive in the teachers’ strike preparations was the outpouring of grassroots and neighborhood-based support from parents and community members who, inspired by the teachers, were determined to put all the pieces together in order to insure the success of a strike.

In the weeks following the February 5 strike vote, hundreds of community members were recruited from among thousands of signers of petitions circulated by the Portland Teachers Solidarity Campaign (PTSC) and among Jobs with Justice activists. They were put to work spreading the word about options for parents in case of a strike and pooling local resources for child care and food distribution in every cluster.

PAT supporters could be seen outside nearly all of the district’s 80 schools, handing out thousands of leaflets, window signs and buttons. “Support Teachers” lawn signs were strategically targeted to surround school board members’ homes, and to line major streets. In the last few weeks, churches, unions and community centers began to offer strike-day child care.

As Jamie Partridge, an organizer with the PTSC and a retired letter carrier, said:

I was amazed at the outpouring of support for teachers, despite the constant drumbeat of anti-union propaganda from the district and local corporate media. Long-time and first-time activists understood the importance of this fight and jumped into organizing their schools and neighborhoods…I think it was when we actually put together the strike plan that we got the district to move.”

Meanwhile, the Portland Student Union (PdxSU) continued to plan and mobilize student support for teachers, spreading the message loud and clear that if “They strike, we strike, too!” Students had planned a march for the first day of the strike and were helping to coordinate baby-sitting and other strike resources where needed.

Cleveland High School senior Ian Jackson said that even if the settlement proves to be a win for the teachers, “There’s still a lot of work to do. The PdxSU stands by the statement that there can be no compromise when it comes to our education. Even if we win this, there’s still going to be standardized test-driven curriculum, there’s still going to be racism and inequity in our schools. The contract campaign was just a beginning.”

Together, the community organizing and students’ support for their teachers helped to counter the district’s attempts to weaken the union, especially in the last few weeks. When the district tried to say that a strike would only hurt the students, students walked out for their teachers, and churches pledged to provide child care.

When the district and mainstream media began claiming that a strike would hurt minorities and low-income families the most, these communities came together to coordinate child care in their neighborhoods and mobilize for district-sponsored English Language Learner parent forums to help spread the truth in multiple languages.

Further countering the district’s attempt to divide the community, the local chapter of the NAACP, the N/NE Coalition of Neighbors and the Black-led Portland Parent Union all came out with statements of support for the PAT.

Now, rather than winding down their organizing, teachers, parents and community activists are eager to maintain the current momentum and newfound community engagement. Discussions are on about possible next steps in a larger struggle to reclaim public education.

As Steve Lancaster, the PAT bargaining team member, wrote in his message to fellow teachers:

As we return to “regular life” and find ourselves buried in work, please keep the fire of activism burning. Remember how much further we still have to go to reach our ultimate goals. Achieving a school environment that is just survivable is not nearly enough. So recharge while we regroup, and prepare yourself for the next battle to win back our schools!

Confused about LCFF? Oakland students break it down, why the upcoming LCAP meetings are so important and what democratic school budgeting would look like

27 Feb

This is a repost of an article from a new Oakland student blog. Check out the original here: http://youngoakland.com/2014/02/students-want-their-voices-heard-in-new-school-budget-making/

Students Want Their Voices Heard in New School Budget Making

By , February 26, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 10.46.31 AM

By Nelzy, Katie and Ana

After a lot of effort by students in California, a new budget plan was passed by the state legislature to offer equity vs. equality. The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) determines the amount of money schools will receive for each California student, creating a new base line amount and providing additional money for students who are in need of more resources because they are low income, english learners or foster kids. The LCFF also offers students, teachers and parents a chance to work with school districts to have a say on how the money should be spent.

Under the LCFF, each student in California brings his or her school $6,342. On top of that a school receives $2,220 more for each student who is low income, or a foster kid, or an English Learner. But that’s not all! The schools in which more than 50% of students fall into those categories get another $2,220 per student.

Each district according to the LCFF law should have a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) which is similar to a group of people that decides how the money should be spent. In Oakland, there is a conflict because the Oakland Unified School District wants to choose the group for the people, but youth believe that students, teachers, and parents should choose the group.

Oakland Unified School District this year will be receiving $12.5 million more than last year because of the formula. Students say that the money should be spent wisely; they want the money to be spent on additional teachers which will cause classes to be smaller and give students more elective choices.

We asked Katie, a student at MetWest High School, to share her thoughts on where the money should go.“I think the money should be spent on the reduction of class sizes because when teachers are teaching thirty plus students per class, they tend to ‘favor’ certain students and only focus on them. Whereas in smaller classes of ten plus students, the teacher has the opportunity to thoroughly assist every student in the class as needed.”

Another student Chris says, “We should get new computers because we have dinosaurs, more art supplies and more electives like cooking class. Students, parents, teachers should decide where the money gets spent.”

Adan Feliciano, an OUSD teacher, said “This and the $25 million (at least) coming in next year should be spent directly on the needs of students and the educators/staff who serve them. Caseloads for teachers, nurses, and counselors should be lowered so that students can get more one on one attention from all the adults who serve them and support their development.” Another issue to be considered is who should decide how the money will be spent.

According to EdSource. “Schools must get input from parents as to how additional state funds intended for low-income students, English learners and foster children are spent,” organization said, explaining the Local Control Funding Formula and the importance of parent involvement in the decision making.

Adan Feliciano, an OUSD teacher, said “The Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) is super vague as it is – and from what I’ve heard, the school board will appoint the members. This is undemocratic.” In his opinion, “The best way to decide how funds will be spent is for a popular assembly of staff, educators, students, and parents to decide together how the money should be spent.”

In general, students think there should be participatory budgeting where people who are directly affected by the budget decisions get to decide how the money is spent. It is very important that students, family and community are involved because they fought for the money and should decide where the money goes. Get involved by going to to public meetings where students and parents can attend:

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Call Out by Parents to Protest at Board Meeting Wednesday

10 Dec

Who represents Oakland schools?

We do – parents, teachers, students, school workers

Inline image 1

Mass protest by parents, teachers, and students last May 22.

On Wednesday, Dec 11, OUSD’s School Board will be discussing how millions of dollars are going to be used this year and how the entire district budget will be divided over the following year.

Parents, teachers, students, and school workers are organizing all over Oakland to demand transparency and democratic decision-making in determining how these district funds should be spent.

At a meeting in an east Oakland school last Friday, parents expressed their frustration with Oakland’s unaccountable school board:

They don’t understand the realities in our schools

            It’s ridiculous because the money is there

             Is there any teacher in this school who has been here for more than ten years?

            What the teachers want is the same as what we [the parents] want

According to these parents, OUSD’s decision on Wednesday represents both an equity and quality of education issue.

For them, the reality is clear – the money is there. What we need to do is take power in order to take control over its immediate and equitable distribution.

Come join us this Wednesday, Dec 11, at 5:30pm at La Escuelita Elementary School- let’s make our voices heard!

Some food for thought for Oakland teachers the night before the contract convention

16 Oct


School protests in Philly

Where’s Education at in Oakland and Around the World?

It ain’t too much but at least we had a contract…for 3 weeks. Right?

Whether you voted “yes” or “no” every teacher in Oakland knows not only can we not thrive on a 1.5% or 2.0% raise, but our hard work and long hours in the classroom is about more than money. So is our union contract. 8 long years without the respect and dignity a contract brings aren’t compensated by a 3 week contract that leaves a lot of guide lines and open ended questions instead of strong agreements that create improved conditions for students and teachers. The only way we can build this strength is through unity, commitment and work. Join us in building a network of conscious, informed educators in dialogue with students and the community for the schools Oakland deserves.

What’s Happening in Public Education?

Public education is under attack in California, across the United States and internationally. Unions are losing the right to collective bargaining in Minnesota, Philadelphia schools are barely opening this year, and teachers in Mexico are rising up across the country to stop a misnamed education “reform” that aims to attack their working condi- tions as educators — the public education system across the globe is on the defensive.

Case in point: Philadelphia schools are operating at a $304 million deficit and 24 schools closed this past year, but instead of working to save the schools in Philly, the Governor of Pennsylvania is holding out on giving the schools a much needed $45 million in funding until Philadelphia teachers take a massive pay cut. Yet again, we see teach- ers painted as the bad guys who are destroying public schools.

Here in Oakland, students are facing increased class sizes and ongo- ing lack of safety in their communities and schools. Parents are working more hours than ever at low wage jobs, living on the hope that the education their kids are getting will help their families gain more stability. As teachers we are continuing to face working day to day without a real contract, increased class sizes, and ongoing “experiments” by the district in new evaluation programs.

Hope around the corner? How can we fight?

But there’s also a lot of potential for us to get really organized and strike back to change the conditions that are keeping us, our students and our families running on the treadmill of malfunction and systemic instability. First of all, students from across the district are getting together to discuss how to make schools the types of community institutions that they actually want to be at, and where they actually feel safe. Secondly, we’ve seen small pockets of teachers from various political perspectives come together to discuss how to make sure our work as teachers is aimed toward achieving real justice and equity. Lastly, parents from across the district united last year in an inspiring fight to defend the remaining Adult Education classes from begin totally gutted by the district – and most importantly, these parents won their important demand.

As teachers we need to learn from these struggles and recognize that if we want to get the schools that our students, families, and fellow school workers deserve, then we will have to come together to plan actions that disrupt the status quo – just like the Adult Ed parent-students did – and prepare our- selves to organize even larger actions. We need to be ready to strike. To win demands that improve our working conditions AND student learning condi-tions. To do this we need to work with parents, teacher, other school workers, and students to build a vision for a truly public school system.

Next Steps: Contraction Convention

The OEA Contract Convention is where
all of us teachers may speak out clearly for the types of demands that we want in our contract. For many of us, this means look- ing beyond just a raise, towards a vision of Oakland public schools we can be proud of for teachers and students. We need mean- ingful reduction in class size – which the government can and must fund. We need more staff on board to sustainably imple- ment restorative practices that our students want and deserve – and the money to make this a reality. We need our parents to feel welcome at school so that they can partici- pate in the construction of knowledge and relationships that constitute the essence of a quality education.



What’s Happening with Oakland Teachers’ Contract?

Who Benefits from New Evaluation System in the contract’s MOUs?

We have to start by asking: is the framework of “evaluation” even really about feedback? It often does not feel like it, especially when it’s an administrator popping in to “evaluate” from time to time, with the task of determining whether or not we should be employed the next year. Quality teaching arises from the human relations between students, school workers and parents and a key way to improve teaching and learning is collaboration between all these participants.

One of the “evaluation” pilots contained within the MOU between OUSD and OEA, the TEN pilot, actually has a collaborative approach to feedback as its aim. This is the only pilot that includes student, staff, and community feedback. But within the context official evaluation that “feedback” becomes one more punitive tool in the hands of administration. Furthermore, without the re-structuring of the teaching day to give teachers time for all of this, the model will be ineffective–or pile on additional responsibilities and stress. The potentially posi- tive aspects of the tool will be drowned out by the administrative prerogatives of discipline and punishment; in the context of evaluations, a punitive–not supportive–system by definition, the creative tools for generating teacher, student and family feedback for improved teach- ing practices will be negated by the lack of opportunities to sustainably build off of the feedback provided.

We need to fight for a real transformation of the conditions that teaching and learning are embedded in – this means fighting for the time needed to observe, collaborate, and support one another’s improvement. We need to fight to make sure these new evaluation systems are not another unfunded mandate and a real effective teaching tool. The district wants to make superficial changes to their evaluation policies and make us feel like we’re getting somewhere; we need to push for a fundamental shift in how schooling happens by emphasizing the ways in which real collaboration happens – the creation of time to reflect, observe, collaborate and improve.

CORE Waiver: We’re done with NCLB! That’s great, right?

All discussion of evaluation pilots, while important, cannot be discussed in a vacuum without examining the CORE waiver. This “waiver” allows OUSD and 7 other districts to opt out of No Child Left Behind. While some of us are excited that we won’t have to use the CST this year, the reality is that this is coupled with an additional focus on test-based teacher evaluations rather than meaningful systems of feedback and support to develop our teaching practices. Instead of bringing decisions about teacher evaluations to the local collective bargaining table, the CORE waiver sidesteps the union. Rather, the district negotiates directly with the federal government, undermining input from teachers and community. This needs to be better understood by all teachers, and we need to be discussing and researching it openly in order to build that understanding.

Special Ed . . . left out again!

How can we fight for real substantial changes in our students learning conditions? The Special Ed MOU provides no cap on class sizes and continues a practice of leaving some of our most vulnerable students with uncertainty. Right now the district has a “Task Force” to “engage community members” in a “dialogue” about Special Ed. To what extent do they already have a plan in motion? Are they just trying to involve us superficially so that we can eventually accept their plans? We need to organize as teachers to have our on the ground experiences truly inform attempts to improve Special Ed.

Most of us voted without reading the actual contract – why???

We rushed to a vote on a Tentative Agreement that the majority of our co-workers had little idea about. Why? The decision to have a vote on the TA with less than a week of school to go, left many members out of the final decision making process– a move that undermines

the tenants of union democracy. We need democratic participation of all school workers in deciding the type of contract we want. The best way forward is to really get our co-workers and colleagues to participate in the Contract Convention, and put forward our views of the type of contract Oakland’s community deserve – not just what’s “realistic” to a small group of union leaders.

We all want autonomy, right?

We all want more control over the scheduling, curriculum and funding of our schools. But the district’s version of “autonomy” weakens our ability to fight as a collective body against their cuts and attacks. Historically, the small schools movement shows us how the OUSD’s version of “au- tonomy” has meant dividing us all up into small schools with the result being decentralized funding (“Results Based Budgeting”) and district imposed curriculum such as Open Court and other scripted, “teacher proof ” curricula. Eventually most of these decentralized “autonomous” schools were closed down by central offices once their grants from foundations likes the Gates Foundations dry up . The district’s version

of autonomy is just more centralized control, with individual school sites being left with the “autonomy” to deal with the crumbs they’re kicking down to us. So, yet again, low-income communities of color are the experimentation grounds. See our blog (classroomstruggle.org) for more info on this.


ClassRoom Struggle

Web: classroomstruggle.org

Email: classroomstruggle@gmail.com



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