Impending Crisis: An open letter to UEA members


1/5/2011

It is with a great sense of urgency that I am writing to you today. I know that you are busy in your classrooms and your time is stretched to the limit. However, I am compelled to inform you of an impending crisis in our profession.

I want to talk to you at the classroom level. Because of non-funded student growth, classrooms are filled beyond capacity. Take a minute to think about your classrooms. Do you have fewer students? Probably not. How many of you have lost instructional days, professional development days, steps and lanes, or other benefits? Everyone!

In addition, it seems each year new legislation piles more on our already full plates, but seldom, if ever, do we see any workload reductions to compensate.

Potential legislation this year threatens our students, classrooms, and working conditions. Some possibilities include using student test scores to punish or reward teachers, grading schools, changing teacher evaluation procedures, additional cuts to the education budget and other changes we may not have heard about yet.

On the national level, we face challenges as well. There is a concerted effort to dismantle our union and vilify us in the media. Public education is under constant attack. It is very likely our profession will change dramatically over the next few years. If we as educators do not become involved in the conversation, those changes will be made without us.

Now the good news. When we act collectively, we make a difference! I KNOW we can change the tenor of the conversation, impact legislation, take back our profession, and become the voices of expertise. I am asking you to engage your elected officials, parents, school boards, neighbors, media and co-workers (both UEA members and non-members) in advocating for policies and practices we know will make a difference. Share your classroom stories and let people know what you need to make a difference in the life of a child.

Utah’s 2011 Legislative Session begins January 24. I encourage you to be involved as much as possible:

  • Know who your legislators are and contact them on issues important to you and your students.
  • Follow legislative updates on UEA Under the Dome (myUEA.org/politics).
  • Join us for Educator Day on the Hill, held each Friday during the Legislative Session – we’ll show you how to meet with your legislators, share talking points, provide lunch and even help with arrangements to leave school for the day.

We need to be vigilant in our efforts before, during and after the legislative session.

Michael Fullan writes, “If there is one thing you should remember…it is the concept of collective capacity.” Fullan defines this as “generating the emotional commitment and the technical expertise that no amount of individual capacity working alone can come close to matching.”

Together we can make a difference!

Sincerely,

Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh
President, Utah Education Association

P.S.: I welcome your feedback by commenting on this blog below.

Comments

Proposed Grading Schools Legislation-

Date Posted: 1/17/2011 9:16:07 AM
Name: Sharon

Jayne, Transparency in education is absolutely critical. I would challenge your thinking just a bit. Grading schools based upon subjective data runs in direct opposition of transparency. We need to develop a research-based, systemic model for reporting on schools. Let me talk to you about the inherent flaw in this proposed legislation. We have adopted the Common Core Standards in Utah. Schools in Utah will be phasing in this core over the next 4 years. The CRT testing, which is the proposed basis for grading schools, will not be reflective of the curriculum being taught over the next several years. This translates to misinformation to our parents and the general public. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me.

Poor Timing for Assessments

Date Posted: 1/8/2011 8:38:56 PM
Name: Lynette

Sharon, Thank you for your insightful leadership on education issues. I am glad it is you, not me. Sadly, it seems we "get" who the majority votes for even though those same voters, when polled, will say education is one of their top priorites. While the legislature and the State Office may have been well meaning in passing and implementing SB150, these people are not in the classroom every day. Here's the problem: The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades go on an exteneded school vacation over winter break. Many/Most do not read and practice the decoding and fluency skills we teach and practice each day in class. Then, WAM! Schools are back in session for a week or so and the Assessment for this notification required by SB150 takes place. The timeline is ill conceived. What is so sacred about mid year? I would suggest to the State Office to develop a wider "window" for those of us in the classroom to administer these assessments - - early December or the end of January. Yes, I will be emailing on issues during the session! Together, we can!!!!!

Grading Schools

Date Posted: 1/7/2011 11:55:58 PM
Name: Jayne Mecham

Grading schools will IMPROVE Utah schools! Many, many issues will be considered to come up with the grade - attendance, ACT scores, state test scores (UBSCT?), percent increase of those students at lower levels, percent decrease of those students that dropped back, just to name a few. Other criteria that might be considered - the number of teachers with Master's degrees and NBPTS certification. The direct result of having an 'A' school...the housing prices go up that feed that school. Why? Parents want their children in an 'A' school; they will see the difference between and 'A' school and a 'C', 'D', or 'F' school. If a school makes an 'F', they will have one year to raise their grade or the district/state takes over. Grading schools is a very good thing to have. It will make the teachers work together as a team, and it will force the lazy teachers to get off their desk chair.

We must hold one another to excellence

Date Posted: 1/6/2011 12:28:29 PM
Name: Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh

Pam, Thank you for your thoughts. I agree with you that the communication with parents is an essential and necessary tool. That is what great educators do. We must hold one another to excellence. I am hopeful that we can be recognized as the experts and engage in research based, systemic efforts to be the best we can! Thank you so much.

Impending Crisis

Date Posted: 1/6/2011 12:26:48 PM
Name: Jerry Monson

Thank you Sharon for being so on top of everything and alerting all of us to upcoming legislation. You are just what we need in this turbulent time. I attended the Carbon Rep. Meeting tonight, so a Rep there was able to read your message before I saw it. She was so impressed with your clear, concise, yet eloquent writing. She made everyone there want to get to their email to read it. So thank you for your inspiration and lighting the fire.

SB150 and merit system

Date Posted: 1/6/2011 12:25:50 PM
Name: Pam Clark

Thank you for all the work you do and keeping us informed! I'd just hate everyone to get too concerned about SB150, however. Certainly retention is not an effective blanket response for children below grade level, as the legislature first proposed, and the efforts to educate the them about that were effective last year. So, the current law is to send a mid-year notification letter to parents if their 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grader is below grade level. The letter also outlines what interventions the child is receiving. There is no threat of retention. I think this has GOOD potential for parents, teachers, and kids! Also I'd welcome "some sort of something" that values and encourages teachers' effectiveness in their students' learning. I don't know what is best yet, but I'm open to something that is fair, and encourages us to always be strengthening our teaching skills and staying out of ruts. I am saddened by those who resort to "teaching to the test" in their effort to fly under the radar of student testing, though. Please help the powers that be to come up with something good - that will have a positive affect for Utah's children.

You had me at "hello".

Date Posted: 1/6/2011 12:24:49 PM
Name: Pat Rusk

Sharon, I am so proud to be a part of UEA under your leadership. I will do my best to participate fully supporting the work of the lobby team and to encourage our members in Eastern to step up to the plate when you need us "back home". We all know that times are tough. Let's not forget that together we are tougher.

 

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