Detroit Teachers Drag Back To Work and California Profs Issue a Warning
by Rich Gibson for Substance, October 2006

After a 16 day illegal job action that won picket line solidarity across their ranks and with the community as well, Detroit teachers returned to work in mid-September under a sellout contract, facing all the working conditions they sought to fight including the absence of books, supplies and lower class size. In addition, elementary teachers lost the prep periods that were a legacy of a decades’ long fight, about half the bargaining unit lost 10% in health payment costs, and they faced a three year period in which the contract guarantees they will consistently fall behind inflation.

The contract, which the Detroit Federation of Teachers leadership deceptively called a “no wage concessions deal” was ratified by a three to one margin by teachers exhausted by a long and costly struggle. Days later, Detroit Public Schools management announced the loss of a minimum of 15,000 students, or about 8% of the district total, and the projected layoff of 430 educators, targeting counselors in particular. DPS had won provisions in the contract that will make it easier to replace tenure track teachers with substitutes. It is quite likely that the real numbers of students lost from DPS are greater than what was announced—and the announced figures were only made possible by a massive media campaign to lure kids to school on “count day,” offering toaster ovens, dinner with rappers, lotto tickets, play stations, and nearly everything but an education in exchange for appearing as a dollar amount.

Rank and file teachers complained that the same conditions prevailed in the schools that they struck against: no books, no toilet paper, no working lavatories, no supplies, bulging classes, and the only consistency from administration--- disrespect. One long term secondary teacher said, “I had an eleven year plan for teaching excellence, then retirement. Now I need a three year plan to leave.” A senior elementary teacher complained that while she has some books for her third grade students, she does not have books for all, and the books she has are falling apart. Comments from Detroit are notably similar to comments researchers hear in third world nations, centering on hopelessness.

Suburban parents began to complain about the presence of Detroit kids in their classrooms as DPS kids flocked out of the city. Some school systems take the youth selectively, only accepting those with high test scores and no record of behavior problems, while other districts simply take any child with the state’s $7200 attached. Oak Park classrooms bulged and, at Oak Park High, there just was no place to put the 500 additional Detroit kids who had enrolled, so they watched movies in an auditorium.

Two dissident slates are running against incumbent DFT boss Janna Garrison, chiefly responsible for the concession contract. One slate, led by veteran teacher and DFT member Virginia Cantrell, promises rank and file control of the union, transparency in the union budget (questioning Garrison’s salary and the purchase of a $5 million dollar building in 2006 as the union lost members by the hundreds), open negotiations, and close ties with the community. Another slate, led by Steve Conn, a key leader in the 1999 Detroit wildcat teacher strike, offered links with the radical By Any Means Necessary organization, calling for a Washington DC demonstration in December.

Rouge Forum ( promised a conference in Detroit, the first weekend in March, that would address the social conditions of schooling and, above all, the question of what to do.

In 1967. following the Detroit Rebellion in which thousands of citizens rose up against racism, joblessness, the police, and an apartheid education system, the Kerner Commission was established and issued a remarkablereport, which clearly laid the blame for the uprising on white  racism and police oppression.

Following the rebellion, welfare rules softened, thousands of jobs opened up for black youth, and health agencies reintroduced programs which had been abandoned by 1965 (up until about 1956, Detroit offered free health and dental care to all residents who could not afford it, through the Children's Fund of Michigan).

Below are promises that the Kerner Commission made to black Detroiters, every one of them hollow today, 40 years on.

To implement these strategies, the Commission recommends

* Sharply increased efforts to eliminate de facto segregation in our schools through substantial federal aid to school systems seeking to desegregate either within the system or in cooperation with neighboring school systems.

* Elimination of racial discrimination in Northern as well as Southern schools by vigorous application of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

* Extension of quality early childhood education to every disadvantaged child in the country.

* Efforts to improve dramatically schools serving disadvantaged children through substantial federal funding of year-round compensatory education programs, improved teaching, and expanded experimentation and research.

* Elimination of illiteracy through greater federal support for adult basic education.

* Enlarged opportunities for parent and community participation in the public schools.

* Reoriented vocational education emphasizing work-experience training and the involvement of business and industry.

* Expanded opportunities for higher education through increased federal assistance to disadvantaged students.

* Revision of state aid formulas to assure more per student aid to districts having a high proportion of disadvantaged school-age children."

California Education Profs Issue a Warning—Better Late than Never

A decade ago, Substance activists and members of the Rouge Forum warned that the regimentation of the curricula, noosed by high-stakes standardized testing, in the k12 world, would soon find its way to colleges and universities through colleges of education, which are frequently at the end of the pipeline for liberal studies undergraduate programs,

That admonition is true in California now, where college of ed (COE)  profs are directed to align their syllabi with the demands of the k12 exams. Notably, the majority of profs are acquiescing, and in the California State University system, many undergraduate departments are calling their COE colleagues, wondering how to align their syllabi as well, in order to get students. It is not unfair to say that ignorance, opportunism, cowardice, and racism, guide much of academic life today. At issue, however, is not so much the description of a frozen reality, but what changes it.

The Teacher Education Caucus of the California Faculty Association passed the motion below in October 2006. While the motion, predictably, follows the NEA path of not criticizing the racist and imperialist motives of those who want to regiment education today, by not merely regulating what youth know, but how they come to know it, and the resolution only calls for funding of the initiative, and not its abolition, it does at least call attention to the “injury to one only precedes an injury to all,” nature of Big Testing.
CFA Resolution
As part of a massive movement by the State Commission on Teacher Credentialing to reform credential programs in California (SB2042, 2000), new accountability measures have been implemented, some without financial funding. As part of these mandates, the State of California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing has mandated that all teacher education programs implement Teacher Performance Assessments for credentialing candidates (TPA) by July, 2008.
The TPA as an assessment tool is based on reductive, corporate-driven teacher performance expectations (TPEs). As an assessment tool, it is even more simplistic and rigid than these expectations, requiring the development of lower-level teaching skills needed to teach the scripted curriculum regulated by the high stakes tests required under No Child Left Behind. It may be inferred from the content of the TPA that programs employing this tool will lose quality in terms of equity and social justice as well as critical thinking, creativity, and the holistic growth of all participants: faculty, student teachers and teachers. These requirements imposed upon teacher education are only the beginning of state and national efforts that are currently referred to as student learning outcomes, assessment and accountability. These efforts are directed towards corporate control and standardization of all disciplines of higher education.
the CFA values the development of complex processes of accountability for teaching and learning if these processes are not framed in terms of reductive standards;
Whereas, the current move towards accountability contributes to the standardization of higher education from the ‘top down”;
Whereas, this standardization has serious implications for the academic freedom of all CSU faculty;
Whereas, the development and implementation of assessment tools are unfunded mandates that have serious workload implications, as well as implications for faculty, students, student teachers and teachers in terms of educational goals, practices and experiences.

Be it resolved, that CFA encourage faculty to become involved in a dialogue with others on campuses to learn more about these unfunded mandates, and
And be it further resolved that the CFA encourage faculty to decline to participate in the development and implementation of unfunded, reductionist assessment tools.

October 21, 2006

Unanimous support from Teacher Education Caucus
Majority support from the Peace and Justice Caucus