EduMom serves on a lot of boards. Massachusetts Parents United now represents over 7,500 parents (7,520 as of this weekend to be exact, for those keeping track at home) so I’m asked to come out and talk about what our members are thinking. I spend a lot of time traveling across the state not so much TALKING to parents, but LISTENING to parents and working together with them to make sure I’ve got it right. And in that MPU is 72% Latino parents and frankly, more than 90 percent parents of color making us different from any PTA, PTO or other parent advocacy of our size, folks seem interested in what we think.
Today I joined a group at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to discuss an upcoming education celebration and how it should come together. It was genuinely amazing to listen to the opinions of superintendents, school committees, principals, administrators and others to come together to talk about what’s amazing in Massachusetts public schools — because frankly, we’re the bomb. We’re number one in the nation for crying out loud.
That being said, we still have a ton of work to do. That’s why I’m participating. Parents — especially parents of color — want to see direct action to improve urban schools. We can celebrate the past and be ready to talk about what comes next.
The experience is generally positive and our feedback is considered seriously and is well received. But even though I represent thousands of parents across the state, I doubt I’d make the MTA’s short list for joining the committee.
You see, we’re the respected voice of parents, except by the teachers unions. Today was a great example, as representatives from the teachers unions in Massachusetts invited to this statewide table kept shifting the conversation back to how they hate education reform — even though it’s what’s made us #1. There were several attempts to hijack the meeting to whine and attempt to grandstand to make a political point instead of getting any work done. It was fairly exasperating.
What was the big hijack about? The teachers unions don’t like "education reform." It’s been terrible for them apparently. Testing, accountability, all of it has been like hell since around 2008. On the other side, parents now have the ability to access whether their children are making adequate progress toward their educational goals and whether or not their schools are actually delivering for kids. We like it. Especially parents with children of color. We need this information because so often it’s our kids getting the shaft.
Please note that I didn’t say teachers. Many of the actual educators in the room — some of whom had 40+ years of experience — actually expressed gratitude for the changes and offered reflections having been on both sides of the major education changes back in 1993 that brought innovation to Massachusetts.
The union representation? Not so much.
This lead me to start thinking about another education reform table that is in formation — and one that parents like me will never see.
Buried in the "Rush Bill" — a lame attempt at an education omni-bus bill that was hastily slammed together and found dozens of legislative co-signers to — although I doubt very many folks have had a chance to actually read (S. 308) is another .
(This bill is trash for a number of reasons. From the attacks on charter schools to the atrocious attempt at healing the wounds around bilingual education replacing the current English-only with a ridiculous "bilingual seal of approval" that forces ELL kids into a "winner takes all" testing Catch-22 with white "bilingual" learners getting multiple shots at the prize and ELL kids getting only one, this thing is just one hot mess.)
It’s been written about a lot for all of the sections that come directly out of the Barbara Madeloni MTA playbook to put a moratorium on testing — but also creates an "Education Reform Review Task Force."
Who is on this wonderful task force? Let’s see:
SECTION 29. (a) An Education Reform Review Task Force shall be convened no later than September 1, 2017, for the purpose of:
(i) reviewing the use of MCAS or any mandated state assessments, the implementation of the educator evaluation framework established pursuant to section 1I of chapter 69, and the use of student data on standardized tests as a student high school graduation requirement or in evaluating educators, schools, and districts and
(ii) determining whether these mechanisms advance the paramount goal of the commonwealth established by the Education Reform Act of 1993, as amended by section 1 of this Act and, if not, should be eliminated or modified.
(b)The task force shall consist of the following stakeholders:
(i) the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, or the commissioner’s designee;
(ii) the secretary of education, or the secretary’s designee;
(iii) the Senate president or a designee, the Speaker of the House or a designee, and the two chairs of the Joint Committee on Education or their designees;
(iv) one member chosen by the Governor from a list of three names submitted by the Massachusetts Teachers Association
(v) one member chosen by the Governor from a list of three names submitted by the American Federation of Teachers/Massachusetts
(v) one member chosen by the Governor from a list of three names submitted by the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents
(vi) one member chosen by the Governor from a list of three names submitted by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees
(vii) one member chosen by the Governor from a list of three names submitted by the Massachusetts Elementary School Principals Association
(viii) one member chosen by the Governor from a list of three names submitted from the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators Association
(ix) one member chosen by the Governor from a list of three names submitted by the Massachusetts Parent Teachers Association; and
(x) the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the president of the American Federation of Teachers/Massachusetts;
(xi) three parents jointly selected by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers/Massachusetts, and the Parent Teachers Association, one of whom is a parent or guardian of a student enrolled in a public school that is in a school district in what has been designated as a “gateway city,” as defined by section 3A of chapter 23A, one of whom is a parent or guardian of a student enrolled in a public school that is located in a suburban school district in the commonwealth, and one of whom is the parent or guardian of a student enrolled in a public school that is located in a rural school district in the commonwealth.
(xii) in accordance Section 1E of Chapter 15 one or more students from the Student Advisory Council shall serve on this task force.
(c) the initial meeting of the Task Force will be solely for the purpose of naming additional parent community representatives. The communities to be represented will include but not be limited to, the ELL, SPED, and minority communities
(d) Appointments to the task force shall be made within 60 days of the effective date of this act. Vacancies in the membership of the task force shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointments. Members of the task force shall serve without compensation.
(e) The task force shall organize as soon as practicable following the appointment of its members, but no later than 60 days after the appointment of its members. There shall be two co-chairs, one elected by the members designated in sub-sections b (i), (ii) and (iii) and the second elected by the members in sub-sections b (iv) through (x).
So let me get this straight — the initial parents you are allowing on this board are parents that have been selected by the TEACHERS UNION?
The kids from the Student Advisory Council don’t even have to be approved by the teachers union.
Also lacking? As always, representation from charter school parents or home school parents — who are in fact, stakeholders.
And we welcome ELL, SPED and minority communities AFTER the fact?
What would lead Mike Rush to file such bizarre legislation?
Maybe this picture from WBUR sheds some light on why. Mike Rush is sponsored by the MTA, not the people of West Roxbury.
Unfortunately, throwing crumbs to the Mass PTA does little to remedy the situation either, considering we know they have been completely co-opted by the teachers union and evolved into little more than a fundraising mechanism for field trips. (Bake sale anyone?)
How about this for a refreshing idea: Why not force the teachers union to have their teacher representatives be approved by the parent members? You know, the people who actually have the most skin in the game?
What do you think?