Building a Movement by Reading Together: Sign up for a Summer Book Club Today!

In 2014, when the Caucus of Working Educators was just a few months old, WE teamed with TAG-Philly to offer 9 book groups with about 85 participants for the purpose of bringing people together and learning about social justice unionism, threats to public education, and racial justice struggles in Philadelphia. Last year, WE and TAG sponsored twelve groups with 170 participants with a focus on racial justice.

This year, based on survey results, WE and TAG are excited to announce 15 book groups for 2016!

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Want to meet other people committed to educational justice struggles and other social movements in Philadelphia? Want to learn about the school-to-prison pipeline, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, organizing, feminism, gender & sexuality in education, or another topic? Want to read a classic by bell hooks or Paulo Freire or a New York Times best seller by Ta-Nehisi Coates? Want to be part of a strong and growing movement of educators and allies committed to public education?

Sign up for a book (or five) today!

And come to the Summer Kick-Off Happy Hour on June 2 at Frankford Hall from 4-7pm to find out more about the books and talk to other participants!

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This summer, we continue the tradition of bringing together people from all walks of life and all parts of the city- parents, teachers, nurses, counselors, activists, community members, students, and anyone else!                       

Want to learn more about past book clubs and how they started? Read this article on the Summer Reading Series in Perspectives on Urban Education by WE supporting member Kathleen Riley.

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1,000+ DAYS: NO CONTRACT...still here for Philly students!

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Next Friday, May 27, 2016 marks 1,000 days since the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract with the School District of Philadelphia ran out. Since then, instead of attempting to negotiate a fair contract, the School Reform Commission and Superintendent Hite have chosen to act to make it harder for Philly students to learn and teachers to teach—and, frankly, to live comfortably and productively.

They have attempted to cancel our status quo contract and impose terms on teachers. They have cheapened the teaching profession by botching contracts for filling substitute positions. They have spent millions to battle lawsuits brought to demand proper services and compensation. They are unwilling and unable to manage the health, counseling, and environmental needs of their schools' climate. They have funneled three-quarters of a billion dollars to unproven and unaccountable charter school operators.

The district and city residents need constant reminders that not only is a fair contract for Philadelphia teachers a huge step toward addressing these issues, but we are continuing to do our jobs even while Hite and the SRC are not. With inspiration from our colleagues in the Harrisburg Education Association, this #1000Days graphic was made by PFT members for PFT members for social media, and for a limited number of buttons to be distributed to PFT members and our supporters.

You are welcome to wear and share these as you see fit, even now, but we hope everyone will publicly show off our message in full force beginning Friday, May 27, and every day until the PFT wins a new, fair contract. Remind District leaders that we stand in solidarity, and remind our city that we stand for and with its children.

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WE Summer Kick-Off! Thursday, June 2nd

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Put aside your lesson plans and paperwork for the afternoon, and please join fellow educators, parents, and allies to celebrate the end of another school year, and share your skills and ideas to keep fighting for our schools, students, and profession. PLUS, sign up for a summer book club to get informed and learn together!

Happy hour food and drink specials! // Free street parking! // Children's area!

-Meet like-minded educators and public education supporters.
-Celebrate the end of a challenging school year.
-Reflect together on how to keep growing in our schools and classrooms.
-Share ideas to strengthen our union and keep fighting for the schools Philly deserves.
-Learn about the books for our 3rd Annual Education Summer Book Clubs, meet the facilitators, and sign up for one!

Thursday, June 2nd
4:00-7:00pm
Frankford Hall
1210 Frankford Ave (just above Girard)
Philadelphia, PA 19125

RSVP on our website or on facebook

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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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