Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Your MTRB ballot

MTRS Elections: Members will be receiving ballots for the election to the Massachusetts Teachers' Retirement System. Our MTA has endorsed longtime educators Dennis Naughton and Jacqueline Gorrie for the posts. Please vote online when you receive the ballot. It's your pension contribution -- make sure it's managed well!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Some changes

As a school-based democratic organization, our WEA is undergoing some changes.   They are meant to keep our Association operating at full capacity in an open manner.   I'd love to hear what you think of the following:

  • Building-based meetings in October on the question "Where do you dues dollars go?"
  • The publication of a draft agenda in the members-only section before every board meeting so you can see what's being discussed.  As always, all members are welcome at all board meetings.
  • Personnel changes, which can be seen in our updated officer roster.  Many former building representatives have retired or moved into officer roles.  Thanks all those who stepped up!

I also wanted to copy below the text of the letter that Dr. Shaver-Hood co-signed with me to our elected representatives asking them to keep public money in public schools, and preserve the cap on charter schools:

To Whom It May Concern:

In times of cash strapped school district budgets, public schools are challenged to do more for their students with decreasing funds.  Regulations continue to increase, while revenues in Wareham continue to decrease. Moreover, the implementation of state and federal mandates, absorbs our limited financial resources.  Many of these mandates have been added to public schools’ obligations without the provision of additional funds to match.

Lifting the Charter School cap likely will result in the dismantling of the public school system in the Commonwealth.  Wareham educators provide our students with rigorous academic learning experiences, in-spite of the limited funding our district receives.   

At the present time, Charter Schools remove hundreds of thousands of dollars (over half a million dollars this year alone) originally intended for students in the Wareham Public Schools while being bound to less accountability.  We implore you to allow our district to retain the intended funds. For with these funds, essential interventions, materials, resources, and adequate staff would provide our students the opportunities to raise academic performance.  Instead, we are challenged by demographics, lack of funding, and outdated resources, then thrust into competition, which will place our students and district at a distinct disadvantage.  At the same time, we are responsive and accountable to our community through the democratic system of elected school committee governance, a representative function that the charter regime lacks.

We beseech you to advocate for the public school system in the Commonwealth by supporting S.326, an Act for a Moratorium on Commonwealth Charter schools.

With sincere regards,

Brian Fitzgerald
president, Wareham Education Association, Inc.

Kim Shaver-Hood
superintendent, Wareham Public Schools

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Testimony on standardized testing

My colleagues,

I was honored to be asked by our MTA to offer testimony on a bill currently before the state legislature to enact a three-year moratorium on high-stakes testing in Massachusetts at today's hearing of the Joint House and Senate Committee on Education.  As you have inspired me with your dedication, and I have learned so much from you, I wanted you to be the first to see what I'll be saying to our leaders in the State House today:

Dear Madam Chairs:

Across our Commonwealth today, educators are focusing on standardized tests.  Educators are trying to convince themselves that the tests are fair, are valid, are reliable even when specialists have proven otherwise. 

I would like to share the mentality that is the logical conclusion of these tests and this regime, one already spreading through our educators and schools.  The mindset goes like this:

Next year, educators are increasingly saying, my students’ scores will be better next year.   My students’ growth profiles will rise, and I will look better for it, my school will look better for it, my principal will look better for it. The community will look better.   

The files, records, reports, tables, charts, graphs, binders, datasets, slides, and profiles will glow.
Swapping out constructive lessons and authentic, educator-authored tests for drill and kill test prep will be the trick.

It will have been worth giving up recess, social play, reflection, and education in the arts.

My students are now able to answer questions cognitive scientists know are not appropriate.

Next year, the scores will be better.


Because my students will ensure all experiments have the anticipated results.

Students will have learned to only use the most predictable route to solve a math problem.

To beat the tests, my students will be affected by writing only as they are expected to be affected.

They will know to contemplate only questions that can be easily answered, preferably in the form of a multiple-choice answer.

The scores will be better because my students will use only approved methods taught to them to find solutions.

My students will accept no opinion of author’s purpose, mood, or theme except for the test-writer’s opinion.

My students will employ only the dominant understandings of history

The scores will go up, for students will connect observations in a linear and expected manner.

They will not confuse learning by invoking their personal experiences.

My students will not seek to add to our corpus of knowledge, but solely to repeat it.

My students will demonstrate their thinking in a step-by-step quantifiable approach.

My students will not endanger their scores with intellectual adventure and risk-taking.

The numbers will improve as they embrace consensus and orthodoxy.

My students will not disrupt assessment with creativity.

To improve their scores, my students will avoid unexpected modes of thought.

My students will avoid breaking ground.

My student will avoid fiction.

To succeed, my students will not write outside the box.

To succeed, my students will not think outside the box.

Because they do this, because this will be done to them, the scores will go up.

And due to the tests, that is all that matters.

We can beat back that mindset.  You can derail that future by reporting HR340, An Act Relative to A Moratorium on High-Stakes Testing and PARCC favorably out of committee as soon as possible.

I hope you will.  My students, whose writing on this subject inspired my testimony, hope you will.

Thank you.

Brian Fitzgerald
Wareham Education Association

Friday, June 5, 2015

More teaching, less testing

Do our schools need more learning and less testing? Willing to do something to show you agree? These stickers will be available at all Wareham schools on Monday for staff to wear, joining thousands of educators across the state who will be wearing them on Monday in favor of a three-year moratorium on using test to inflict high-stakes punishment on children and educators. Not a member but still want a sticker? Message us and we will get one (or several) to you.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Annual meeting, and teleconference

Thanks to all members whose opinions at Annual Meeting today offer thoughts and guidance on discussions going forward about evaluations and internal WEA matters. Glad to see officers, reps, and members coming together on these difficult topics!

Interested in joining a teleconference with MTA leadership on efforts to push back against the growth of standardized testing? Email Brian Fitzgerald for login and password info. The teleconference takes place on Wednesday June 3 at 7pm.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Calendar and testing survey

A reminder that a survey on standardized testing has been sent to WEA members.  Please complete it by Friday, March 13 for it to be included in the data.  The goal is to have 10,000 educators offer their ideas and information statewide.

Members should have received surveys about making up school days lost due to weather.  This survey does not represent a contract; stating that it would be possible to work on a given day is not equal to a promise.  We look forward to seeing the aggregate responses so that the Association can represent its members when negotiating any changes to the 2014-15 calendar.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Seniority list

A reminder to members that February is seniority month (in a way).  The draft Unit A seniority list is posted on the WEA website.  Please check it, and submit any challenges in an email to Dr. Shaver-Hood and President Brian Fitzgerald by March 2.  Exact criteria about determination of seniority is located in the Unit A contract, also available online.  Paper copies of the contract have been printed and will be distributed this month, if it ever stops snowing long enough.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Vacations in 2015

To answer many recent queries about the current 2014-15 WPS schedule: there is still room in the calendar for three additional snow days before any consideration must be made to go outside the passed schedule.  Should even that total be surpassed, the WEA will continue to advocate for all of the Wareham Public Schools community that set their plans on the understanding that the schedule would be faithfully followed.  As of now, there is no serious concern about canceling planned vacations.