Board Meeting Notes
Next Executive Board Meeting: February 1, 3:15, OMS
To: S.T.A. Membership,
From: John Gunning, S.T.A. President
Say No to PARCC
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets this week to vote on PARCC and/or MCAS 2.0 . The Board will be making an important decision that will affect the direction of public education in Massachusetts. The decision will affect all public school students and teachers in the Commonwealth.
Please contact DESE Board and express your opinion regarding PARCC and the proposed moratorium on high-stakes testing.
If you cannot attend the DESE hearing in Malden on Monday, you can still weigh in with your opinion by sending an e-mail or letter to the Board members. It only takes a few minutes to do! Please take the time to do so. If you have ever complained about the nonsense and idiocy of high-stakes testing, this is your opportunity to tell the Board how you feel. Click on the link above and take a stand!
STA Calls for Moratorium on High-Stakes Testing
Resolution by the Stoughton Teachers Association
WHEREAS, our future well-being relies on a high-quality public education system that prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship and lifelong learning; and
WHEREAS, our school systems in Massachusetts and across the country have been spending increasing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes testing in which student performance on standardized tests is used to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators, schools and districts; and
WHEREAS, the overreliance on high-stakes and standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in U.S. public schools by hampering educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society; and
WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that standardized testing is an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness; and
WHEREAS, the overemphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in too many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing a love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate; and
WHEREAS, high-stakes standardized testing has negative effects on students from all backgrounds, and especially for low-income students, English language learners, children of color, and those with disabilities;
THEREFORE, let it be resolved that the Stoughton Teachers Association supports locally developed, authentic assessments and more time for educators to teach and students to learn;
THEREFORE, let it be resolved that the Stoughton Teachers Association calls on state and federal education policymakers to adopt a moratorium on the high-stakes use of standardized tests so that educators, parents and other members of our communities can work together to develop assessment systems that support positive teaching practices and better prepare students for lifelong learning.
Resolution adopted by the Executive Board of the Stoughton Teachers Association, representing the 350 members of the Stoughton Teachers Association.
June 1, 2015
ADDRESSING THE ISSUE OF IMPERFECT “ACCOUNTABILITY” RATINGS
Many students and teachers begin PARCC testing today. Marcia Gonzalez, a Stoughton parent and Brockton teacher, addressed the school committee Tuesday night (March 24th) to discuss leveling schools based on high stakes testing. Marcia was kind enough to give us a copy of her remarks to share here.
Good evening. My name is Marcia Gonzalez. I am a resident of Stoughton and the proud mother of three children who are now in their twenties and thirties and who all received a wonderful education in the Stoughton Public Schools starting with their first day in kindergarten at the Gibbons through graduation from Stoughton High. Thanks to all of you who worked so hard to educate our children.
In addition to being a mom, I am also a foreign language teacher at Brockton High School. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot in the local press about the levels of Stoughton’s schools. As an educator, I am deeply distressed about the unfounded conclusions and judgments that are being drawn based upon these ratings. While everyone seems to be buzzing about the levels, if you were to ask 100 people what it means to be level 1, you’d be lucky to find a handful who could explain.
According to the accountability ratings, schools are rated based upon the performance of the whole school and, also, with a focus on certain sub-groups including low income students, English language learners, students with disabilities and minority students.
This may sound reasonable but here’s how the accountability formula plays out in real life. Consider these scenarios:
One hundred and fifty students enroll in your schools midyear after a horrific earthquake in Haiti. As educators you welcome them with open arms. They come with nothing and no one gives you anything to help teach them – no extra funding, no books, no additional teachers or counselors, not even a desk or a chair. Your ratings are sure to go down but you don’t care. You’re an educator - you care about the child – not someone’s label.
An elementary school is rated level 3 with a focus on special education. This school has a substantially separate class with 5 students who are in the fifth grade. When the 5 students move up to the middle school, they are taken out of the elementary population and that school rises to a level 1. This is the result of a demographic change. The next year, it can reasonably be expected that the level of the middle school will drop.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found sports analogies to be helpful. Let’s assume that last year’s varsity basketball team had a starting lineup of all seniors who are over 6’ tall. Their season record was 19 and 1 and they won the league championship. It was a fantastic season. Now the lineup has graduated.
This year’s team is made up primarily of sophomores who are all less than 5’ 9” tall. Their season record is 9 and 11 and they didn’t make it to the quarterfinals. What does this tell us? It’s the same coaches, assistant coaches, drills, facilities, practice schedules and inspirational speeches.
So, what should the rating be? When we measure achievement, there’s a less than 50% win-loss record. When we measure growth, they went from a championship team to not making the quarterfinals. How do they compare to other teams across the state? This team would probably be downgraded from a level 1 to a level 3.
This analogy teaches us that we must always be mindful of the context and consider the myriad factors that impact student achievement and growth – most of which are beyond the control of educators.
The moral of the story is that no one should be labeled as a superstar or a failure based upon these very imperfect accountability ratings.
Educating a child is a complex endeavor that should never be superficially reduced to a single number.
It’s time to stop the rhetoric!
IS THIS HOW GOVERNMENT SHOULD OPERATE?
John Gunning, STA President, addressed the Stoughton School Committee, March 24, 2015
In mid-January, the Stoughton Teachers Association learned that Superintendent Rizzi and Deputy Superintendent Ford created a website advertising a new business venture: Level 1 Educational Consulting in which they are partners with three other Stoughton Public Schools’ administrators whom they supervise, evaluate and negotiate the terms of their employment contracts.
Several weeks ago, the Brockton Enterprise published an article about Superintendent Rizzi and Deputy Superintendent Ford’s business venture. It was through this article that the STA first learned that, according to Dr. Rizzi, Mr. Ford’s employment contract specifically gives him the right to do “consulting”.
We were befuddled when we heard this because the STA had a copy of Jonathan Ford’s current contract that runs through 2016 and nowhere was the word “consulting” mentioned. So, the STA decided to investigate by making a formal request for Mr. Ford’s current contract. When we received it, we were shocked.
With two years and three months remaining on his four year contract, Superintendent Rizzi gave Deputy Superintendent Ford a new six year contract - April 1, 2014 through March 31, 2020. There are only two signatories to this contract – Dr. Rizzi and Mr. Ford. It was effective beginning April 1, 2014 – one week before last year’s school committee election -- but it was not signed until April 21, 2014. Was this a shrewd and deceptive political move on the part of Dr. Rizzi and Mr. Ford? By making his employment contract retroactive to April 1st, the former school committee wouldn’t know about it AND by making his employment contract retroactive to April 1st ,the newly elected school committee might not be able to do anything about it. Does this sound on the level to anyone?
The terms of the new contract include the following: a minimum 2.5% raise for each of six years plus merit increases for “services rendered in a satisfactory or better manner”; full reimbursement for all graduate courses; an apparent reduction of responsibilities because “curriculum and instruction” have been removed from Mr. Ford’s job title and the word “consulting” has been inserted as a permissible activity.
The fact that this deal was negotiated behind closed doors and that the contract was never, to our knowledge, made public is a cause for concern. In spite of our best efforts, we have not been able to identify a single person, including any elected official, who knew that Deputy Superintendent Ford has a contract through 2020!
Is this how government should operate? Whatever happened to transparency and making sure that the work of government is done in the sunshine? Are the taxpayers’ interests being protected by their elected officials?
Is this how it works in other communities? The answer is “no”. Scituate recently renegotiated its Superintendent’s contract. According to the report in the Scituate Mariner, the contract expires on June 30th of this year. The Scituate School Committee is pleased with the Superintendent’s performance and gave him a new three year contract with a 3% raise in the first year. For the second and third year, the School Committee set a parameter of “up to 3%” for a raise. In Scituate, the raise for the second and the third year will be negotiated annually based upon performance. After they reach agreement, the raise must be voted in open session according to the school committee attorney, Michael Long, Esq. Scituate sets a ceiling of 3% subject to performance with annual reviews and a public vote on the raise. On the other hand, Stoughton sets a floor of 2.5% for each of six years and provides for merit raises above and beyond with no cap, and no one knows about it!
In closing, the STA is concerned that some school committee members have been defending the indefensible for so long that you are finding it difficult to change course and ask the tough, but necessary, questions. There is something very wrong going on here. You were elected to represent the citizens of Stoughton – not the superintendent and deputy superintendent. If you don’t demand transparency and stand up for what is right, you are part of the cover-up. By doing so, you will be doubling down on a bad bet.