What books do you want to read this summer?

It's time to vote for your favorite books for the 3rd annual Summer Reading Series jointly sponsored by the Caucus of Working  Educators and the Teacher Action Group of Philadelphia (TAG).

For information on last year's book groups, check out the 2015 Summer Reading Series Blog.
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Take the electronic survey by Friday, May 6, 2016 to help choose this year’s books. 

On May 24, the final list of books will be announced (along with exact meeting dates, times & locations) and registration will begin.

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Spread the word to educators, parents, community members, activists, and allies across Philadelphia and beyond!

To take the survey, please click on the link:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SR5NT5W

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THURSDAY: March in defense of North Philly communities and students

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The Caucus of Working Educators just signed on to endorse Stadium Stompers - a movement of students, communities members, and allies that have come together to stop the Temple stadium. 

Temple University has proposed a plan for a $100 million football stadium in the heart of historic North Philadelphia. Why should Temple be stopped, and why should WE join the fight?

  • The stadium will push a largely Black community out of their homes- including many of our students, families, and coworkers.
  • Temple is choosing to prioritize their own bottom-line over education.
  • Even Mayor Kenney has criticized the stadium as being a bad deal for the city. Our schools and communities deserve true investment, autonomy, and stability.
  • The Stadium Stompers will be marching alongside a simultaneous marches in support of the fight for $15 Minimum Wage and an end to stop-and-frisk and police brutality.

In the School District of Philadelphia we are familiar with bad, backroom deals in the name of education- but which do nothing to help students or our city while raising profits for a small group of business interests.  

Joining this movement is about more than signing on as endorsers. WE have to show up:

  • On Thursday, April 14, Stadium Stompers will meet from 2:00-3:30 at Broad and Cecil B. Moore by the Bell Tower to demand that Temple STOP the stadium.
  • At 3:30, Stadium Stompers will march down Broad to join the simultaneous #Fightfor15 March at city hall.
  • If you can't make it to Broad and Cecil B Moore by 3:30, you can head directly to City Hall to meet us.
  • Invite all your friends on facebook, and share widely!

Show up the whole time or show up for ten minutes- but be there! We must say NO to the stadium, NO to displacement and gentrification, and YES to education!

 

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April 26th: Collaboration of Educators!

Want to get professional development from your colleagues that really makes a difference? Ask your administrators now for permission to register for...

Philly Collaboration of Educators

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 (PD Day)

At McCall School (K-8)

and Central High School (9-12)

The sixth annual Collaboration of Educators is the outcome of the collective knowledge and creativity of Philadelphia educators. This is a grassroots, staff-led day of relevant and useful workshops.

View the Draft Agendas (workshops and tables added daily):

Propose a Workshop!

Register to Attend!

  • School District of Philadelphia employees must log in and register on PhilaSD.org > SchoolNet >PD Planner for Act 48 credit.

  • Non-school district employees register here.

Participants will choose their workshops on the day of the event.

Join the Facebook Event and Twitter #PhillyEdCollab for updates and discussions.

For more information contact Tom Quinn: taquinn@philasd.org

 

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How To Turn Around The "Turnaround" Plan

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The packed house at Munoz-Marin school on Thursday night.

Last Friday, four district schools got word that they were targeted to become “turnaround” schools, and that all staff would be laid off from the building, with no more than 50% allowed to return.

Yesterday, in a major reversal, Superintendent Hite made a statement to the press that the staffing requirements for these turnarounds are “flexible.”

So how did this turnaround language get turned around?

It’s simple: 

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Solidarity

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The vote tally is complete -- the Collective Bargaining Team took the majority. We congratulate Jerry Jordan and all of the candidates elected to the next term of leadership.

Thanks also to everyone who voted in and volunteered for our campaign. As a caucus that has not yet turned two, we have already accomplished so much. We look forward to our continued work together!

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About Those Election Results

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[Update: The vote tally is complete -- the Collective Bargaining Team took the majority. We congratulate Jerry Jordan and all of the candidates elected to the next term of leadership. Thanks also to everyone who voted in and volunteered for our campaign. We look forward to our continued work together!]

 

Here’s a question we have been asked more than once since this election started:

Why did we decide to run for PFT leadership?  

We didn’t do it for the money, or the recognition, or the office on Chestnut street.  We did it because we want the PFT to be stronger, and this work was the best way to make that happen.

To be clear, we organized to win this election -- and we're excited to get the results. But our campaign was about so much more than just asking for votes. We believe that the true power of our union lies with the rank and file, so we seized this unprecedented opportunity to connect with educators across the district. Whether it was in schools, on the phone, or online, we got people talking and we listened to what they had to say. Here’s just a few things we learned:

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Opt Out 101: For Parents and Students of the Philadelphia School District

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Need an opt out letter template?

Click HERE for the religious Opt Out letter.

Click HERE for the updated 2016 testing refusal letter (Why refuse the test vs. Opt Out? See below!)

Presiona AQUÍ para el formulario de rechazar los exámenes en Español // Click HERE for the Spanish 2016 testing refusal letter

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What tests are we talking about?

PSSAs and Keystone Exams are the two types of end-of-year, high-stakes standardized tests administered by the Philadelphia School District. Scores from these tests are used by the state and federal government for accountability purposes. Last year's PSSA had a new format and was aligned to "rigorous" PA-Core standards. Cut scores were set so that many students across the state received significantly lower scores. 

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Can opting out hurt my child's school?

Your child's school cannot be penalized for parents choosing to exercise their legal right to opt out. The School Performance Profile used by the state to evaluate schools does NOT factor in PSSA or Keystone participation rates. Additionally, 80% of the points awarded in the SPP are evenly split between "achievement" and "growth" ensuring that no school will be successful in both. This means even high-peforming schools can't do well, because they are unlikely to meet their "growth" targets. Since the passage of the ESSA, there have been rumblings by the federal government about required participation rates, but there is no evidence indicating Title 1 funds would be withheld or re-directed anytime soon. Plus, such penalties would be levied at states, not individual schools. You can read more about this at Fairtest.org.

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When do the PSSAs start this year?

This spring PSSAs will be given to students in grades 3-8 starting on April 11th, with make-up testing concluding on May 6. Click here for the full PSSA assessment calendar. All students in these grades are given Reading and Math PSSAs, unless a student has an IEP and "no standardized testing" has been written into it.  If your child takes the alternative PASA test, the opt out process is the same as for the PSSA. Additionally, Science PSSAs are administered to students in grades 4 and 8. Middle school students enrolled in Algebra 1 may also be given a Keystone Exam in May. By law, parents can opt out or refuse PSSA testing for their children. Be advised that some magnet and special admission high schools look at PSSAs scores as part of their application progress. For this reason, if your child is currently enrolled in Grades 3 or 7, you may want to contact the schools to which you wish to apply before making a decision about whether to opt out or refuse testing this year.

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How are the Keystone Exams different?

Pennsylvania law requires Biology, English, and Algebra Keystone Exams be administered to high school students. In some cases Algebra Keystones are administered to middle school students upon completion of that course.This winter, Governor Wolf signed into law a two-year delay in using the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement. As a result, high school students who are scheduled to graduate in 2017 or 2018 (current juniors and sophomores) are NOT required to pass all three exams in order to receive a diploma. If you opt out your child who is a junior or sophomore on track to graduate, he/she cannot be denied a diploma nor will he/she be required to successfully complete the alternative Project Based Assessment (PBA).  

However, as it now stands, students scheduled to graduate in 2019 (freshmen) and all younger students are still required to pass the three exams with a score of proficient or advanced in order to receive a diploma.  You should know that over half the students in the state have failed at least one Keystone Exam. If these younger students do not pass the exam after two attempts, they will be required to complete a very long online exam (PBA) that could take up to a semester to complete. At present there isn't any dedicated funding to administer or grade PBAs. Many hope that the graduation requirement will be eliminated entirely, but that outcome is uncertain. The next administration of Keystone Exams will take place from May 16-27

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So what is the actual process?

Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states where the right of parents to opt their children out of state-mandated testing is written into law. That right is described in 022 PA Code 4.4. This law says that you may only opt out on religious grounds. However, you do NOT need to offer any proof of religion or discuss anything about your religion or how it relates to testing, nor can school officials ask. 

Religious Opt Out:

1. Alert your child's school as soon as possible that you plan to opt him/her out of PSSA or Keystone testing. Be sure they have contact information for you, so that they can contact you about setting up a time to review the test.

2. Two weeks before the test is to be administered, tests arrive in schools. The school will contact you for a time to do the "review" before testing starts. They are expected to work with you to find a convenient time for you to do this.

3. When you come in to do the review, you will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement. Go ahead and sign it.

4. You will then review each test. You can take as much or as little time as you like doing this.

5. After you are done with the review, send a confirmation email to Dr. Hite at hite@philasd.org  with a cc to your child's principal stating that: as the parent of child X, you are opting him/her out of the PSSAs/Keystones on religious grounds having reviewed the tests on X date. Keep a copy for your records.

6. It's that simple. Again, no one can ask you for any specifics about the test or your religion. To do so would compromise the confidentiality agreement you sign, and they are not allowed to know the content of the test. 

Be advised that even if your child has started a portion of the test, say the Reading portion, they can opt out of the Math portion and/or Science portion. There is no opt out deadline. The school is required to provide alternative educational activities for your child during testing and cannot penalize your child for your decision. A template letter for the religious opt out is provided HERE

Test Refusal: 

The second way your child can receive a "no score" is to refuse for them in advance. Unlike the religious opt out, refusal does not require you to come in to review the test. Refusal is not part of PA Law, but is instead part of the assessment process described by the PA Department of Education in the materials it shares with each school's testing coordinator. The PA testing coordinators'  handbooks state that if for some reason a student refuses to take the exam, it should be coded as "other."  This code is registered on the front of the child's booklet.  The outcome is the same as parental opt out on religious grounds. In both cases the test is coded as a "do not score." In both cases the child simply does not receive a score. They do NOT receive a zero, and there is no penalty to the school or teacher.

The Office of Assessment of the School District of Philadelphia recognized the right of parents to refuse testing in advance through written request last spring. The District, however, does need to submit written documentation to the state proving that you do not want your child taking the standardized tests. Click HERE for a simple form you can use to refuse on behalf of your child. The contact information for the District's Office of Assessment is on the bottom of the form if school staff have any questions about the refusal process.

Click HERE for a screenshot from the Testing Coordinators' Handbook from this year's winter Keystone Exam administration that shows the language provided to schools about both the religious opt out and the refusal process.

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Questions? Ideas? Want to get involved and help other parents and students fight back against high stakes testing? Like the Opt Out Philly Facebook Page or email OptOutPhilly@gmail.com.

Consider joining Pennsylvania - Opt Out of Standardized Testing PA for support and discussion of opt-out-related issues.

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"Before 2011 We Were Able to Get Our Jobs Done": Two Philly Nurses Explain the Impact of Budget Cuts

"Long before the draconian budget cuts we nurses commiserated about the responsibility we felt in adequately addressing the mandated professional duties enumerated by my colleague earlier today. We had professional meetings several times a year in which we shared best practices, honed our skills, and supported one another in our difficult but rewarding jobs serving Philadelphia's children. Our passion for this work is unmatched.

But, let me be abundantly clear here. Before 2011 we were able to get our job done.

Before 2011 our quality, Philadelphia's school health program was nationally recognized. In fact, prior to the 2011 budget cuts school nurses were rarely in the news precisely because adequate, well functioning school nurse services did not constitute a newsworthy topic." -Eileen Duffey

This past Thusday, February 18th, two of Philadelphia's Certified School Nurses testified at City Council's first State-of-the-Schools Hearing on the impact of budget cuts on Philly's children. Their testimony can be found below. They were joined by inspiring testimony from Philly's counselors, as well as many other education leaders

Peg Devine and Eileen Duffey are both running on the Caucus of Working Educators Slate for PFT Leadership

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PA Supreme Court Decision is Reminder of the Need for Strong Organizing

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(Educators and families from Cooke, Huey, and Wister fight back against their schools being turned into charters.) 

We applaud last night’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision limiting the powers of the School Reform Commission. The ruling offers a breath of relief to members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, who no longer have to worry about our contract being unilaterally cancelled by the School District of Philadelphia. It also creates the opportunity to finally address years of unlawful hiring practices, ignoring seniority, and the back pay we deserve after years of missed step increases.

However, the ruling also highlights the need for strong organizing —and a strong union— to fight back against the continued assault on public education.

While the ruling potentially puts us back on the path to negotiate a contract, it also opens the door for uncapped charter school expansion. With the District on the hook to pay for it, this will channel further funds away from district schools to charter operators, and threatens the elimination of school staff, services, and buildings— when we are already operating with deeply inadequate staffing and resources.

How soon will this happen? The same night of the court ruling, the SRC approved three new charter school proposals for 2,500 students, putting approximately 100 PFT positions at risk. At this rate, how many of our union brothers and sisters will be left to enjoy the next contract we win?

Our union must act to reverse the SRC’s financing of the charter school industry before it swallows up our public school system. This can only happen by working alongside parents and communities to proactively invest in and fight for our public schools, instead of watching as more and more schools are closed or turned over to charter operators.

We must be a clear voice heard in Harrisburg advocating for the schools Philly students, parents, and educators deserve. And we must make sure the politicians who represent our members and schools —many of whom advocated in favor of charter schools at the February 16 SRC meeting— know that there are political consequences to their giveaway of our schools.

We need a union that can fight in court, in our neighborhoods, and in the streets with equal force. Alongside news of the failure of Friedrichs, the labor movement has a new opportunity to focus on deep organizing. As the rank and file caucus of the PFT, we remain committed to this fight on all fronts.

 

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What's the difference between the CB Team and WE?

Many PFT Members have been asking how the PFT will look different under Working Educators. Contract decisions, term limits, communication with members, inclusive leadership, and more-- here's how WE will make sure that the best days of our union ahead of us, not behind us.

Download the shareable PDF of this flyer here.

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