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AFT MA President Beth Kontos Criticizes DESE for Continuing Biased and Inaccurate School Rating System

DESE has proposed suspending certain school accountability measures for School Year 2021-22, citing unreliable MCAS data from School Year 2020-21, when MCAS was administered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, DESE plans to continue in 2022 with the heart of its accountability regime: the calculation of the school percentile metric, which is used to rank schools against each other based primarily on MCAS scores. DESE invited public comment on this proposal, and President Kontos’ letter was in response to that invitation.

“What troubles us greatly…is your stated intent to move forward with the school percentile metric—a metric that research shows to be biased and deeply flawed,” Kontos writes in her letter. “The disruption to MCAS data caused by the pandemic only exacerbates the problems with this metric.”

Kontos’ letter cites recent research, including from a Nobel Prize-winning MIT economist, showing that the school percentile metric and its underlying MCAS achievement measures are biased and inaccurate measures of school quality. In other words, the supposed inferiority of low-rated schools serving predominantly students of color is due to inaccuracy in the measures (standardized test achievement levels) and is not due to lower-quality education.

Boston Public Library Staff to Hold Unity Gathering After Multiple Hateful Incidents Disrupt Children’s Rooms at Local Libraries

Union Invites Public to ‘Fill the Library with Love’ to Begin Healing, Stand Up to Hatred and Bullying! In the wake of several separate incidents of disruption and hate at local libraries, the members of the Boston Public Library Professional Staff Association have called for a public show of unity and kindness. On Saturday, February 19 at 12:00 noon, at the Boston Public Library’s Central Library, union members will be standing out and speaking up at a ‘Fill the Library with Love’ unity gathering to support staff and patrons who have been through these attacks and show love for the safe space that the library offers our community.
In three separate recent incidents, a group that is opposed to masking, vaccines, and diversity came into children’s rooms at the Central Library and the Hyde Park Library to protest COVID protection measures. While there, they intimidated and harassed members of the public and staff at the library and refused to leave when asked. During another incident at the Central Library, a bust of Maya Angelou had gasoline dumped on it. These actions created an atmosphere of intimidation and fear that should never exist in the library.

Starbucks Workers Deserve a Voice at Work

"Starbucks workers in Greater Boston are at the forefront of the national campaign to form a union, and they have the full support of AFT Massachusetts and the 23,000 educators, librarians and school employees we represent," said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. "Like union educators, Starbucks baristas know that a union means a real voice in the workplace, better wages and benefits, and protection against abusive management. Right now, Starbucks workers are working for less than they deserve, while the company ignores their valuable ideas.

Solidarity with the Springfield Paraprofessionals

Join us and stand in solidarity with the Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals on February 14th at 4:30 PM as they fight for a living wage!

Springfield para educators have gone two years now, through the pandemic, with no contract! They have been active in negotiations with the Springfield School Committee and have seen little progress and a lack of respect for their work on the other side of the negotiation table.

America’s Parents Express Overwhelming Support for Teachers, Their Unions and Public Education

A supermajority of U.S. parents give their public schools and teachers top marks for their Herculean efforts to respond to the challenges of COVID-19, fresh polling shows, with perceptions of teachers unions soaring to record highs.

Black parents and parents in urban areas in particular feel that teachers and their unions have played an overwhelmingly positive role, and they blame the virus—rather than the professionals charged with their kids’ care—for difficulties during the pandemic.

Overall, 72 percent of parents say their school provides excellent or good-quality education, and 78 percent endorse the quality and performance of their teachers, up 7 points from 2013, according to a new national survey by Hart Research Associates and Lake Research Partners. 

Teachers unions are seen by parents as a more positive force in education today than prior to the pandemic, mirroring public polling conducted over the past year and tracking record high support for the labor movement as a whole.

AFT Massachusetts Staff Profile: Charlotte Kelly

"Charlotte is a tenacious organizer who takes every opportunity to talk with educators, families, and community members to do what is best to support public education in Massachusetts,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “I'm thrilled to have her on our growing team as we work to reinvest in our students and their schools, recover from the disruption of the pandemic, and build a brighter future for education throughout Massachusetts."

Charlotte’s years of organizing work make her well-equipped to support AFT educators as we organize in our school buildings and in our communities, building deeper relationships with parents, community groups, and youth. It also gives her the experience to help win our upcoming fights, like the campaign to pass the Fair Share Amendment, the ballot question which would fund transportation and public education by creating a 4 percent tax on annual income over $1 million.

AFT Massachusetts Calls for Return to Remote Learning to Keep Students and Families Safe

“The tests provided by the state allow for testing of all teachers and staff, and that should proceed. It should then be followed by a period of remote learning until the current wave of infections abates.
“This is not the time for finger pointing. It is time for Governor Baker and Commissioner Riley to accept the fact that we are in the midst of a runaway public health crisis that is beyond our control. They must acknowledge that returning students to school on Monday will inevitably make the crisis much worse.”

Paraprofessionals, often behind scenes, are heart, soul of schools

Paraprofessionals are the unsung heroes of the Springfield Public Schools (SPS). We are the people who assist teachers with classroom instruction, provide individualized support to struggling students and students with disabilities, monitor bus arrival and departure, and help maintain order throughout the school. We also build strong relationships with students, who look to us for social and emotional support. In short, we help make schools tick, often working quietly and behind the scenes.
Many paraprofessionals are also Springfield residents, with children or grandchildren in the schools. As such, we are directly invested in the schools and their success. When the bell rings at the end of the school day, we take pride in the fact that we have done our part to build a better community for Springfield families.

SPS officials love to say how much paraprofessionals are appreciated for their hard work and dedication. But we wonder: When will they appreciate us enough to pay us the living wage we deserve?

AFT Massachusetts Member Profile: Gina O’Toole

“Gina has been a leader in our Lynn local for years and she excels at member engagement,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “When the time came for us to hire an organizer at AFT Massachusetts, she was the natural choice.”

“Having Gina as part of our team has been an enormous help to me and the LTU (Lawrence Teachers’ Union)” says Kim Barry, president of the Lawrence Teachers Union. “Our weeklong series of walk-ins to protest the surge of violence at Lawrence High School certainly grabbed the attention of school administrators because Gina helped turn people out.”

Students Need Support, Staffing, and Resources, Not High-Stakes Standardized Testing, to Address the Effects of the Pandemic and Poverty

The MCAS test, highly correlated with student socioeconomic status, has always been a flawed and unreliable measure of both student learning and school quality. This was never truer than last school year, when the MCAS was administered in a haphazard manner during a global pandemic that exposed and amplified deep social and educational inequities.

Educators don’t need a standardized test to know that our students have missed out on learning since the onset of the pandemic, or that they need extra help to get back on track academically, socially, and emotionally. In many of our highest-poverty schools, test scores dropped because students lost family members to COVID-19, or because they were supervising their siblings instead of fully concentrating on their own schoolwork, or because they were busy working to keep their family from being evicted. This year’s test results, as they do every year, reflect our failure as a society to support students living in high-poverty districts; they’re not a reflection of our students’ true potential.