25 May 2007

March 4 Education - Group ahead of its time

An awe inspiring story, what March 4 Education did during that week in 2004.

The group was definetley AHEAD of its time.
When I joined in 2004, the group was still fired up!

Members organized a WCCUSD

budget presentation done by an "outsider" a real expert.
March 4 Education had all the candidates
from the school board election 2004 attend our meetings before the election.

March 4 Education members frequented board meetings, when an important issue came up, we agreed to have one of the members there to speak.

All our members attended the first School Site Council trainings after the 5 year freeze on "knowledge to the people" during Gloria's reign of terror.

Supervisor John Gioa even attended
one of our meetings, he was having trouble getting a response from the district!

March 4 Education's achievement that I can really be proud of (since I helped organize) is the honest to goodness "grassroots" school board candidate forum the group hosted at Unity Church Richmond back in 2004. March 4 Education used the power of the Internet
for higher good, and used resources such
as wccusdtalk list @ Yahoo to get REAL questions on the issues here at WCCUSD.

March 4 Education's School Board
Candidate Forum was not the only
candidate forum. It was the ONLY
forum that made the Q&A's public
on their discussion list.

was also first in this district to hold a
"No Child Left Behind" information night for the community. This was when WCCUSD got blindsided by their 10 YEAR 4 PI schools. March 4 Education was there too, even submitting to the board an alternative plan for governance for the board to consider when deliberating on the YEAR 4 PI schools.
Two of M4E members attended school site council meetings and english language advisory committee meetings at ALL year 4 schools. They asked questions, supported schools by ensuring that the district step in and assist the site in what they needed to get their site council knowledge on what this
group actually is for!

Five of our teacher members joined together as professionals and took a stand. In an open letter to their colleagues they addressed their concerns & observations.

October 10, 2005
Letter of Five Downer Teachers to their colleagues

Dear Colleagues,
Jonathan Kozol, educational author and activist, recently spoke at King Middle School in Berkeley. It was an inspiring evening and Kozol's message was clear: particularly at a time when public education (especially for poor children of color) is under attack, we as educators have a moral obligation to look out for the best interests of our students.
There are certain practices expected of us here at Downer School and across this district which do not serve our students and we will no longer go along with those practices. On the other hand, many of our students' needs are not being met and we pledge to do what we can to provide for those needs. It is time to stand up for the children entrusted to us and it is our intention to do so at every occasion. Listed below are some of the positive actions we will take on behalf of our students:
• School Governance: The district administration, including the school board president and acting superintendent, have publicly stated that top-down methods of decision-making are ineffective. In a very large school with a veteran teaching staff like Downer, it is vital that decisions which affect our students be made jointly by teachers and administrators. Adjunct duty committees have now been established. These committees need to be given the power to develop proposals within their areas of expertise which can then be brought back to the full staff for approval. It is also important that the committees be given time to meet, possibly one Project Meeting per month.
• After School Program: The after school program should serve as a support for students who are struggling in the classroom. Crucial to the effectiveness of such a program is input from the teachers who work with these students day in and day out. Some of us hope to offer after-school classes to provide for needs which are not currently being met.
• Student Study Team: The Student Study Team is critical as we strive to meet the needs of all students. It is a positive step that SST slates have been chosen for morning and afternoon meetings. However, many teachers are not familiar with the SST process. We will offer assistance to those teachers as they complete paperwork and implement classroom modifications; SST meetings can then be the culmination of systematic efforts to help children and will run efficiently and effectively.
In this list are some of the practices we will no longer support:
• Text-Based ELD Testing: With the current focus on accountability, teachers are required to administer (and students to endure) more and more testing. Most of these tests are ill-conceived, many are redundant, and all are time-consuming. The new ELD tests are all of the above. The test lacks clarity, collects information similar to that provided by CELDT and teacher observation, and severely impacts instructional time. We will not give these tests.
• Low-Quality In-Service Meetings: High-quality staff development is crucial as teachers seek to grow as professionals. However, much of the staff development offered by our district is of poor quality. Since our first obligation is to our students, we will no longer leave our classrooms to attend meetings (on- or off-site) which are not of benefit to us or the children we serve.
• Wednesday Project Meetings: Article 46, Section 2 of our contract states, "Staff development during modified Wednesdays in elementary schools shall be jointly designed by the schools' principals and the staff except that the District may require a particular staff development activity during one Wednesday per month." If classroom teachers were allowed to collaborate, as the contract states, Project Meetings would improve the instruction we provide for our students. District officials have recently agreed with UTR regarding this contract language. Therefore, we expect meetings to be jointly planned within the near future. If they are not, we will no longer attend.
• Phonics Lessons In 4th Grade: Research has shown that phonics lessons are useful for most students in grade 1 and for some students in grade 2. At the 4th grade level, it is inappropriate to spend large chunks of instructional time on phonics. Currently 4th grade teachers are expected to spend 20-25 minutes per day on these lessons. We will no longer do so.
It is our sense that we are not alone in feeling as we do. We hope that you will join us. We welcome your thoughts on all of these issues – collegial dialogue is part of the strength of any successful school. If you are interested in these ideas or have questions to ask, please feel free to speak with any of us. We will hold a meeting on Monday October 10th at 3 p.m. in Rm. 505 to discuss these matters in some depth. Working together – teachers and administrators alike -- we can continue to grow as a faculty and as a school.
Eduardo Martinez Elizabeth Jaeger Michael McDonald Thomas Prather Lina Prairie

Every teacher listed above was transferred.

After reading the letter again after a year, I continue to be awestruck
by these professionals with such bravery. Here we have 5 teachers
with years of experience give us their professional opinion on things
that are NOT working for our children's learning. They were RIGHT!
They still are right! And what did they get for their awesome efforts
on behalf of our kids and their fellow teachers?
Transfers, belittling, drama and ripped away from their school.

Read more about their story on March 4 Education website. Our teachers
received NATIONAL RECOGNITION for their efforts, and I walked beside them at last year's Cinco De Mayo parade, in honor of their
efforts in teaching with heart, because they were truly ahead of
their time.

Thanks to all the members of March 4 Education for being the group
that kept this parent fired up.

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