Tag Archives: Vision & Strategy

Garbage Science: Teacher Evaluation by Test Scores and Some Ideas for Stopping Them in Oakland

1 Apr

Some of you might have already seen the shocking results in the New York Times today.  Apparently, all the teacher evaluations programs pushed on school districts by Obama’s Race To The Top and the corporate de-formers have found a shocking conclusion: most teachers are, in fact, “highly effective” at their jobs.

Diane Ravitch does a great job of poking holes in this “realization” and cites some of their statistics:

In Florida, 97 percent of teachers were deemed effective or highly effective in the most recent evaluations. In Tennessee, 98 percent of teachers were judged to be “at expectations.”

In Michigan, 98 percent of teachers were rated effective or better.

This is serious news for Oakland.  As many of you hopefully know by now, GO Public Schools & Co. (including Youth Together, Youth Uprising, SEIU 1021, OCO, and Education Trust-West), is making a serious push to evaluate Oakland teachers by student test score data.  They are not alone.  Superintendent Smith is heading the same direction in conjunction with 8 other California school districts (in the group called California Office to Reform Education (CORE)).

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Why Teachers Should Care About the Contract: Aram Mendoza

1 Feb

This is a recent article from our newest newsletter analyzing the OEA contract struggle.  We post it here so you can access the citations and hyperlinks.  Here, Aram Mendoza analyzes the current contract negotiations of OEA and its importance for Oakland teachers and, more widely, the needs of Oakland students.  Aram also raises some very concrete tactics and next steps for individual teachers and teachers as a whole.

CTU FairContractNow

A Chicago teacher on strike last fall.

Why Teachers Should Care About the Contract

By Aram Mendoza

Oakland teachers, do we care about having a union?
Do we care about having a good contract?
What is an imposition and what should teachers do about it?

These are not rhetorical questions.

The reality is that we have been under an imposed “contract” since 2010.  What does this mean?  Simply put: Tony Smith and the OUSD school board have unilaterally, dictatorially, and undemocratically imposed terms of work upon education workers.  It means that the “last, best, and final” offer was put on the table by the OUSD district bargaining team and was NOT agreed to by the OEA bargaining team. Though this imposition was carried out in April of 2010 (which was why OEA’s last strike was in that same month), it was not the last time that Smith and the Board have imposed on education workers: last year’s “Accelerated TSA” campaign was imposed on Fremont, McClymonds, and Castlemont teachers without any public, democratic process.  More on this later.

Back to our current contract situation – we must ask: does our contract really matter?  As I’ve talked to co-workers and friends who are teachers in Oakland’s public schools I’ve come to see the total lack of information that we have in relation to our own contractual agreement with the district.

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If you think Paulo Freire is interesting…

8 Jan

What school of pedagogy has left the most significant imprint on Brazil’s largest social movement, the Landless Worker’s Movement (the MST)?  Forgive yourself if you said Paulo Freire.  While he did influence MST’s community schools, try out the pedagogy developed in Soviet Russia from 1918-1931.  In those years, according to the MST, vast and important experiments took place to develop an egalitarian and successful education system.  Don’t miss this fascinating recording of an Against the Grain interview with UC Berkeley School of Education doctoral student, Rebecca Tarlau.

Click here to access the recording from KPFA’s Against the Grain: http://www.againstthegrain.org/program/575/id/272230/tues-7-03-12-pedagogy-radical-change.

Chicago Teacher's Union? Nope. This is a rally of the largest social movement in Latin America, the Landless Workers' Movement.

Chicago Teacher’s Union rally? Nope. This is a rally of the largest social movement in Latin America, the Landless Workers’ Movement.

Election 2012: The True Impact on Oakland Schools

24 Dec

Here is a new article by two Oakland educators that explores the recent local and national elections as it relates to public education.  It touches on everything from Proposition 30, to Race to the Top, to GO Public Schools (an Oakland non-profit) which had an enormous impact on the recent Oakland School Board elections.  We hope it sparks conversation and look forward to your comments.

 

Girl in Voting Booth

Election 2012: The True Impact on Oakland Schools

By Margarita Monteverde and Felicia Vivanco

 

Introduction

Over the weeks and months leading up to the November 6 elections, electoral politics dominated the conversation in the news, social media and discussion; a unique moment in a culture normally preoccupied with shopping and celebrity gossip. These conversations, focused mainly on the two party debate over the presidential race, have now all but ceased. With Obama’s re-election victory and the passing of California’s Prop 30 (which puts funds into public education through a sales tax increase and tax on the wealthy) many residents in Oakland and across California breathed a celebratory sigh of relief. However, the post-election rejoicing may be premature when we begin to take seriously the real implications that these policies and politicians have on our lives. While the Obama hypeovershadowed local elections, a traditionally less popular topic during election times, the Oakland school board race drew more attention than usual this year. This was due to the unusually large number of contested seats across districts and the historic amount of money poured into these races which often go ignored by the public. If we believe in fighting for quality public education for all, then it is important that we take a deeper look at the landscape that has led to our current situation and what has now been laid down by the 2012 election results as it affects public education locally and nationally.

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How Chicago Teachers Got Organized to Strike

11 Dec

This article was submitted to us by a teacher friend.  She writes, “The article illustrates in a very simple way what needs to be done to have and be a union that is truly on the side of the working class. Two friends of mine that are teachers, and in the past had made a conscious decision to not be organizers, were pretty inspired by this article. I think the simpleness of the article is a big plus for people that don’t have politics in their heads 24/7.”

Here in Oakland, the lessons of the Chicago teachers are especially useful for us as OEA gears up for contract negotiations.  So if you’re interested in what Norine Gutekanst has to say here you might want to check out our Oct. 5 post with a video of Norine going in depth into the lessons of the strike.

Editors Note: This article was taken from zcommunications.org who reposted it from Labor Notes (we were unable to find the original link, apologies).  Thanks to both parties, and our friend, for spreading the words and work of CTU.

CTU teachers on strike. Note their signs raising working class wide demands calling for unity between teachers, parents, and students.

CTU teachers on strike. Note their signs raising working class wide demands calling for unity between teachers, parents, and students which the teacher organizers made real by fighting against school closures long before the 2012 strike.

How Chicago Teachers Got Organized to Strike

By Norine Gutekanst, CTU Organizing Director

The seven-day Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike in September didn’t just beat back a mayor bent on imposing some very bad “education reforms.” The union also developed a deep new layer of member leaders and won broad public support. One poll showed 66 percent of parents sided with us.

Our win was possible because of several years of patient organizing, focused on getting members to step up.

The work began with the election of a new leadership team from a reform caucus in June 2010. Many in the caucus had waged battles going back to 2001 against the school closings that were targeting Black and Latino neighborhoods.

We knew we had to build up the union to be ready to strike, if necessary, to defend our contract and our students. But the vast majority of our members had not experienced any of the nine strikes from 1967 through 1987. Leaders were committed to building a member-driven union to battle alongside parents and students and make our contract campaign one front in a bigger fight to save public education.

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Lessons from the Lakeview Sit-In

4 Dec

Here we are almost 6 months on from the Lakeview Sit-In.  The school has now been turned into offices and at least one-fifth of the former students of the 5 closed elementary schools have left the district.  Many of the ones that have stayed are now being taught in portables.  Clearly we did not achieve our major goals, even though now the Administration will think twice about closing more schools.  This article tries to capture some of the positives and negatives of the school closure struggle in order to glean lessons for us today and going forward.  They are just the reflections of one person.  So please contribute your thoughts too. It is imperative that we all collectively reflect, struggle, and keep our schools open for students.

Lakeview Banner w Kid

Lessons from the Lakeview Sit-In

By N. Finch

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Editor’s Note: This was written by a member of the Education Committee of Occupy Oakland which co-organized the Sit-In with parents and teachers of the 5 schools.

We sat-in at Lakeview Elementary June 15th but the seeds for our People’s School had been planted much earlier. Beginning in September, 2011, parents, teachers, and students from the 5 schools slated for closure fought to keep their schools open. Clearly the main surge of struggle was leading up to the October 26th vote, but beyond then parents and teachers continued organizing—refusing to accept the destruction of neighborhood schools as somehow advancing the vision of “Community Schools, Thriving Students.” They attempted all the official ways of lodging complaints: attending meeting after meeting at the Board, holding press conferences and rallies. As the District continued stonewalling them, they moved steadily more confrontational, refusing to accept the Administration’s flawed logic. They sued OUSD and even tried recalling the Board members who voted to close the schools. All of these outlets are intended to persuade the Administration to change course when their policies are proven wrong (See Reply to OUSD by Jack Gerson, in this newsletter). But in this case, we were faced with an intransigent Administration fully committed to privatizing our public schools and a yes-men Board. It was in this context, with all other avenues exhausted, that we walked into Lakeview June 15th to keep our 5 schools open.

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Reply to OUSD from the Lakeview Sit-In and People’s School

4 Dec

The Lakeview Sit-in lasted for 18 days from June 15th to July 3rd, ending in an arrest of a parent and a former student. The school board published a statement regarding the sit-in on June 22nd in an attempt to subdue the negative public attention they were receiving from the Oakland community in support of the Sit-In. Below is a letter released July 30th, 2012, by participants of the Lakeview Sit-in in response to the district’s statements.  We also republished this in our most recent newsletter.

Lakeview March

Reply to OUSD from the Lakeview Sit-In and People’s School

By Jack Gerson

The parent-teacher-community sit-in and People’s School for Public Education at Lakeview Elementary, now entering its third week, continues to gather support. By the end of its first week, OUSD administration had already felt enough heat to post a Media Advisory on their web site trying to justify the closure of five neighborhood elementary schools, including Lakeview. OUSD admits that “School closure is a painful step,” but insists “By consolidating into fewer schools, we can invest in better, richer programs for children and families.”

But Tony Smith and the school board are doing the opposite. Rather than creating “better, richer programs,” OUSD is shutting down essential programs, programs that especially serve those most in need: the black and brown communities, students with special needs, single mothers, immigrants, and jobless adults. The school closures are only the latest step in downsizing of Oakland public education launched under the state takeover of OUSD (2003 – 2009) and continued under the Smith administration.

Since Tony Smith became Superintendent three years ago, OUSD has:

1. Dismantled the Adult Education program that two years ago served 25,000 students, a program that single mothers, high school dropouts, and immigrants especially relied on to try to escape from the clutches of poverty.

2. Removed class size limits and increased class size, despite the fact that small class size is strongly linked to student achievement.

3. Made harsh cuts to the early childhood program that working families desperately need and is closely linked to children’s future academic and lifetime success.

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