In July 2014, the Massachusetts Teachers Association elected a new union President and Vice-President. The benefits were realized immediately. Dr. Barbara Madeloni and her V.P. Janet Anderson breathed new life into an educational organization that had been failing to meet the needs of its membership.
According to an article by Michael Levinson in the Boston Globe (6.6.14), Barbara Madeloni “won her race by openly criticizing the current union president…for his record of negotiating with – rather than fighting – officials on the development of teacher assessments and the Common Core…” He went on to say: “Her agenda forcefully rejects those policies, which have gained increasing support from Republicans and Democrats over the last 20 years. She supports a three-year moratorium on standardized testing and teacher assessments and denounces charter schools. Though these initiatives have never been popular with teacher unions, the MTA, under [the previous President] Toney, took a softer line, seeing compromise rather than confrontation.” Sound familiar?
In an article in Boston Magazine (September 2014), entitled “How tests are failing our schools”, author Zachary Jason reported that “rank-and-file teachers across the state hail Madeloni as a savior. She’s the first MTA leader willing to listen to their agony, and to tell the truth about how teaching in an age of accountability can be, as Holyoke teacher Cheryl Cluff puts it, ‘like waiting tables in a busy restaurant; you’re running and running and running, and you’ve lost your head’. Whereas past presidents and her opponent…were willing to compromise with state administrators, Madeloni is combative, unapologetic, and, as Augustin Morales, another Holyoke teacher, says ‘unafraid to make her life uncomfortable’. (bostonmagazine.org)
Wow! that resonates!!
For further evidence reflecting how new blood and inspired leadership can bring change to a staid status quo, read Barbara Madeloni’s interview, called “Standing Up to Superman” in the 7.7.14 issue of Jacobin Magazine. Just last week, the MTA made national news when delegates at its annual meeting voted their support for the opt-out movement…and so much more.
Click on http://massteacher.org/news/archive/2015/annual_meeting_coverage.aspx and consider the possibilities!!! I especially liked the post-convention press releases…read on and dream. That is leadership!!
There comes a time in any organization when it becomes necessary to make a change. In the CEA, that time has come; it is NOW!!
There is no doubt that CEA leadership feels that it has done an effective job pushing back against the onslaught brought on by the politically-driven Common Core State Standards initiative, the unproven and rushed change in standardized testing requirements, the systematic yet false narrative of failing schools and ineffective teachers, and the questionable storing and sharing of private, personal, and confidential information on students and their families. However, many teachers disagree as they see their freedom to deliver instruction as they determine they should based on their understanding of each student’s learning needs erode. Teachers find themselves testing student progress on standardized measures continuously and then spending hours of planning time entering student results into data storage systems. And then, to add to their frustration, teachers are threatened with having their expertise measured by student test results on unproven standardized assessments. Teachers feel overwhelmed by rapid changes in curricula practices in multiple academic areas with little or no professional input as to developmental readiness and continuity of instruction. Teacher satisfaction with their chosen vocation ranges from apathy to frustration and anger; many seek to retire early and others will simply leave teaching for more personally satisfying circumstances.
That said, CEA leadership has repeatedly lost opportunities to protect the integrity, love, and commitment that teachers have historically had for their profession.
– Slow to respond as the Common Core was forced top-down by the federal department of education onto state departments and subsequently onto locally-elected school boards.
– Slow to educate its members of the continuous threats to the delivery of instruction that teachers work hard to present to their students every day across the state.
– Slow to recognize that the old paradigm of political gamesmanship is no longer effective in defending teachers and enhancing student learning.
– Failure to mobilize teacher energy and commitment when hundreds of teachers articulately spoke out during 2014 Regional Winter Meetings across CT.
– Failure to take the opportunity to deliver a Minority Opinion or Report at the conclusion of the Governor’s Common Core Implementation Task Force which was prevented by design from asking the right questions.
– Failure to publicize its own member-supported positions that were passed overwhelmingly by delegates at the 2014 CEA Representative Assembly.
– Failure to respect the opinions and recommendations of membership and its own Political Action Committee in overriding their gubernatorial choice for “no endorsement” in order to give approval to Governor Malloy and his failed education agenda.
Despite their combative rhetoric at in-house meetings and their better-late-than-never rally against egregious and unproven standardized testing, CEA leadership continues to negotiate and accept minor revisions to reformist policies and promote these as victories with membership. CEA leadership is shortsighted, has failed its membership, and continues to allow the destruction of public education across the state. Although change is hard, the time for change is NOW.
As veteran Glastonbury teachers with a range of recent classroom experience, local union leadership activism, and political experience in their local school districts,
The WALSH/MINNICK Team offers
NEW INSIGHTS … NEW ENERGY … TRANSPARENCY … RESOLVE.
Like our neighboring state to the north, Connecticut’s teachers are ready to move on and push-back against the failed educational policies of the last few years. As educators, we represent a consistently strong record of performance results with our students. It’s time to change the narrative and it will require a change in leadership to do so.
John R. Bestor
2015 CEA RA delegate
Westport Education Association