Teachers – Please participate in this University of Pittsburg study on Election 2016

Wait, What? and education blogs across the country have been asked to post the following message and link about an important study that is being conducted about teachers and the Election of 2016.

According to the researcher;

The purpose of this research study is to understand how teachers are responding to the 2016 presidential election outcomes in their classrooms and schools. For that reason, we will be surveying teachers from across the country. We are asking you to complete a brief questionnaire (approximately 20 minutes). If you are willing to participate, our questionnaire will ask about your background (e.g. age, race, years in the classroom), as well as your experience in your classroom since the presidential election.

This is an entirely anonymous questionnaire, and so your responses will not be identifiable in any way.

In addition, Please forward the following link to colleagues in the teaching profession.

You can find the survey via:

https://pitt.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0rlGdn20Hu8t6IJ

A back-to-school wish for Connecticut (Guest Post)

Education advocates Jean Jaykus and AnneMarie Surfaro-Boehme were teachers in the Ridgefield Public Schools.  In this commentary piece that first appeared in the Danbury News-Times, they lay out their wish for Connecticut’s public schools.

Connecticut public schools are becoming unrecognizable.

Common Core top-down mandates and pedagogy are ingrained and embedded into the classroom and have infected all our public schools. TheFederal Government and large publishing companies have taken control of our schools, impacting every district in the state. And the taxpayer shouldn’t be fooled by the new “law.”

“The Every Student Succeeds Act” did not do away with the failed Common Core, and does not insure quality education for all our students because of its inflexibility. Common Core still exists in Connecticut, along with the federal government top-down, one-size-fits-all mandates which are destroying public education throughout our country. Connecticut is a state with diverse communities and students. We need to serve all our students.

The Connecticut State Department of Education and our local districts need to take control, decide standards, and write appropriate curriculum now. With the new school year starting, we have a chance to begin fixing the problems and issues facing our public schools. Elected boards of education need to do their homework, and be continuous learners on how to meet the needs of the students in their districts. They need to meet with staff and students, and engage in conversations that will have concrete results and not just rubber-stamp administrative requests. They need to follow the money spent on district initiatives and assessments carefully to be sure their budgets reflect informed decisions.

Our schools do not need more management, mid-level consultants and coaches. This overflow is creating mediocre rigid school systems and infers a lack of confidence in the teaching staff. Schools need administrators who are truly educational leaders who understand the truth about how students learn. They need administrators who care and have the courage and integrity to evaluate and support effective teachers who have the expertise to create a supportive environment for learning, and a commitment to quality education.

Unfortunately, the morale in many districts is low and teachers are uninspired with scripted lessons. Teachers need to sit through redundant professional development seminars trying to reinvent the wheel, and documentaries on what good education looks like in unconventional charter schools. Yet they are locked into rigid scheduling and told that their test scores must be even better. Teaching to the test has become an accepted practice. To reach this testing goal our young children are put into developmentally inappropriate programs with expectations that are known inhibitors to providing a quality education. This defies the research on how young children learn. If this trend continues public education as we know it will be gone.

We need right now a redirection for our schools, where Connecticut educators lead, decide, and create their own developmentally appropriate standards, meeting the diverse needs of the students. This is our wish for the new school year:

  1. Allow high-performing districts to keep the exemplary public schools they have by giving outstanding teachers a voice and the support to bring autonomy back into the classrooms.
  2. Empower at-risk districts to design and choose programs that work for them and meet their needs. We need to increase their funding and add more diverse magnet public schools, regional schools, and vocational technical schools to give students and parents opportunities and choices. Top down Common Core regulations are strangling our inner city schools, not serving at-risk students, and they are suffering the most.
  3. Celebrate excellence and an inventive spirit. Encourage projects that are designed to be knowledge based, hooked to the curriculum and embedding multiple disciplines, including writing, within the classroom structure. They must also make allowances for individual learning styles, opportunities to work alone or in partnerships, and time to share and articulate the research and the projects with classmates.
  4. Promote parent and community partnerships — parents, students and community coming together via conferences, science fairs, productions, apprenticeships, community service, etc.
  5. Get rid of block scheduling which is problematic and limiting especially at the elementary level. It fails all our students, especially those at-risk.
  6. Provide integrated school programs that promote supportive mentorships and long-term connections with students. These programs encourage the development of educational and social values.
  7. Change the current teaching trajectory immediately and begin again to value innovation, creativity, and classroom experience.

In Connecticut, we need a public school system of, by, and for the children it serves. Communities need to be engaged education advocates. Administrators need to stand up and do the right thing for children and teachers.

If we don’t act now, then the 21st Century may prove to be the demise of our Connecticut Public Schools, and a direct route to private and unaccountable charter schools.

You can read and comment on the original commentary piece at: http://www.newstimes.com/opinion/article/Op-ed-A-back-to-school-wish-for-Connecticut-9200717.php

Matthew Valenti’s Year 2 Letter to Connecticut Teachers

These are dark time for our students, parents, teachers and public schools, as well as our entire country.

Connecticut continues to  historically underfund its school funding formula.  The crisis is now being exacerbated by Governor Malloy and the Democratic legislature’s decision to implement the deepest education budget cuts in state history.

At the same time, the legislature completed its 2016 session without addressing the fundamental problems associated with the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scheme, nor did it step forward and require that the Malloy administration develop a teacher evaluation system that is not reliant on the scores of this failed and disastrous testing program.

People should be outraged and should be demanding that elected officials be held accountable for their actions.

In this guest commentary piece, Connecticut educator Matthew Valenti puts into words what many are thinking.

Valenti is not only a retired school teacher and champion on behalf of public education, he is one of the most outspoken advocates for teachers and the teaching profession.

Exactly one year ago, Matt Valenti wrote an open letter to Connecticut teachers that first appeared here in Wait, What.  It was entitled, An Open Letter To Every Teacher in the State of Connecticut (By Matthew Valenti).  Now, a year later, Matt returns to reflect on the state of the state when it comes to Connecticut’s teachers and public education.

Matt Valenti writes;

Last year, I wrote an open letter to all teachers in Connecticut and what a sad day it was for them.  http://jonathanpelto.com/2015/05/21/an-open-letter-to-every-teacher-in-the-state-of-connecticut-by-matthew-valenti/.  My letter dealt with the ineffectiveness of the newly elected second term Connecticut Education Association officers and how they ever could have been re-elected after their second term endorsement for a governor who slaps public school teachers around at every turn.  After reading my letter a year later, I thought it interesting to reflect on this past year’s events in our state on the teacher front.

After 40.5 years as a public school teacher, I retired in 2014.  This past school year, I taught a .4 position in a public school.  I was evaluated in April.  The evaluation system in Connecticut stinks!  As a veteran teacher, I could see no validity to the process.  It doesn’t help teachers or education.  Even the principal admitted to me that the new evaluation harms great teachers.  And I talked to teachers…..they are ready to leave.  So I ask all of you, how has CEA made our profession better for teachers or students this past year?  Just look at the recent post by Jonathan Pelto in Wait What about how the legislators treated teachers, students, and parents by reading what Jonathan wrote a few days ago  http://jonathanpelto.com/2016/05/20/ct-legislators-support-students-parents-teachers-malloy-common-core-testing-mania/
The majority of these were the endorsed candidates of CEA.

And where does public school funding stand?  Massive cuts from the state budget again!  What about testing?  Increased testing!  What about charter schools?  More support for charter schools and Common Core.  So, what exactly did our second term CEA leaders accomplish this past year?  You decide.  But I’m sure they have been effective with golf tournaments, teddy bears, and dinner meetings at Aqua Turf, or whatever “restaurant de jour” they chose to meet at this year!

Years ago, I signed up to be a lifelong member of CEA and NEA Retired because it was a one time payment and far less expensive than being billed the rest of my life.  So, I’m wondering what I get for my dues?  Threats of cutting my measly monthly 220 dollar health benefits I earned, threats of pension loss due to the outrageous behavior of the CEA endorsed legislators, a pension I paid into for 40.5 years?

When I took the.4 position, I was notified that my CEA and NEA retired status would be suspended and I would have to start paying half dues since I was considered active.  I railed against that!  CEA blocked me from making comments on their Facebook page, because they don’t want teachers to know the truth, and I have to pay dues?  And, did you ever look at their Facebook page?  Stories about planting flowers, lesson ideas for Memorial Day, 5 new books for children to read…..this is a union?  I want my dues to protect teachers from corrupt legislators, not hide in fear from a bully governor and report fluff on their social media page!

My suggestion for this election season is to see who CEA endorses, and vote the other way.

No one can think that voting for the CEA endorsed candidates will improve the state.  Look at the “progress” from the last election.

Best;

Matthew P. Valenti
Semi-Retired Teacher and Union President