An Open Letter to the New Bedford Community

Paraprofessionals, or Paras, provide instructional, behavioral, and other support to students, especially students with special education needs such as physical or developmental disabilities. That work includes everything from helping students with schoolwork to feeding and diapering them. A typical day includes de-escalating behavioral issues, helping students communicate, supporting students with physical disabilities move about the classroom and building daily living skills. Paras are often simultaneously working as educators, caregivers, guidance counselors, and translators – all wrapped up in one job.

This year has brought widespread recognition and thanks for the work that essential workers do, but kind words don’t pay the bills. There’s nothing more essential than caring for and supporting our highest-needs kids. It’s time for the New Bedford Public Schools to do the right thing, and give us the raise we deserve.


AFT Massachusetts Responds to New Federal Standardized Testing Guidance

"Standardized tests have always measured poverty, not learning. In the middle of a pandemic that has disproportionately affected Black, Latino, low-income, English learner and special education students, we don’t need a test to tell us that those students have fallen behind,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “Students need more learning time, not more time spent preparing for and taking standardized tests.”
“It’s disappointing that the federal government bowed to pressure and maintained the federal testing requirement, but we’re glad they acknowledged that this year’s test administration must look different, and that no student should be brought back in person just to take a test,” said President Kontos. “Now, the state needs to shorten the remaining test as much as possible, eliminate any punitive accountability measures linked to standardized testing, and reallocate test-related funding to where it’s really needed – in the classroom, helping students learn.”

CDC’s Schools Reopening Guidelines

On February 12, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released two resources for schools: Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Mitigation and The Science Brief: Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in K-12 Schools that add to CDC’s existing guidance for K-12 schools in opening for in-person instruction and remaining open.

AFT notes the CDC has identified the importance of layered mitigation, including compulsory masking, 6 feet of physical distancing, handwashing, cleaning and ventilation, diagnostic testing and contact tracing. It reinforces vaccine priority for teachers and school staff. Crucially, it emphasizes accommodations for educators with pre-existing conditions and those taking care of others at risk.

Report a COVID-19 Case or Unsafe Working Conditions in Your School or Library

School employees and public librarians are doing what they always do: taking care of their students and communities. But no matter where you are in Massachusetts or what your district's reopening plan looks like, everyone deserves to feel safe at work.
This tracker is brought to you by the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts (AFT Massachusetts) & Massachusetts Teachers Association.
Help us hold local and state leaders accountable. Report a COVID-19 case or unsafe working conditions in your school or district with our easy-to-use tool.