Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Tough for Teachers: Certification Overhaul

In Education on July 28, 2015 at 1:22 pm

Currently, there are few people who are unaware of the issues with the common core curriculum and its enactment across the United States. Students are required to sit for hours in a room being tested on information that the teachers themselves are at times only beginning to understand.

Less publicized, however, is the teacher certification process, which is undergoing similar changes revolving around a different set of standardized tests, this time for teachers. Much like parents opting their students out of the tests, prospective teachers are following a similar but more concerning path: they are leaving the profession.

I should know. I am one of them. Last fall, just shy of a semester away from graduating with a Bachelor’s in Childhood Education, I made the decision to withdraw from my major. I had wanted to teach since I was little, but now the profession is no longer what I thought it was.

One consideration while making my decision was the teaching exams. Within the last two years, New York State has mandated that all teaching candidates take the edTPA during their student teaching semester. The edTPA is one of four required exams for teacher certification. It consists of three different parts, a 20-minute video of your teaching, and multiple detailed lesson plans.

Originally the edTPA was only supposed to be used on an experimental basis, and out of the 30 states piloting the exams, Washington was the only other state to make it mandatory. However, Washington’s passing score is significantly lower than New York’s. New York requires a 49 as a minimum passing score for childhood education, while Washington requires a 35 as a minimum passing score.

In a radio interview, Fred Kowal, the president of the United University Professions union for SUNY employees, said the creation of the tests is “political goals merged with profit making.” In the same interview he quoted Commissioner King who said “one of their goals is to cut back on the number of teachers entering the field.” Teaching is a field that is always going to be around, but currently there are far more teachers than there are positions. Kowal goes on to say that one of the ways they are reducing teachers is by undermining the teacher prep and certification programs in schools across New York.  

As a recent drop-out of the School of Education at SUNY Oswego I can attest that the tests had a major impact on my career path. Over the past four years, student enrollment in the School of Education at SUNY Oswego has decreased dramatically. Between Fall 2010 and Fall 2014 the school saw a 43% decrease in enrollment. During the fall of 2010 the school had 1,650 students enrolled. That number dropped to 953 in 2014.

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SOS Teach-In on the State Budget: How Can we stand up for the future of Syracuse Schools, Services, and CENTRO

In Austerity, Budget, Education, New York State, UnCutSyr on March 13, 2015 at 8:45 am


What: SOS Teach-In on the State Budget: How Can we stand up for the future of Syracuse Schools, Services, and CENTRO

When: 7 pm, Monday, March 16, 2015

Where: Bishop Harrison Center, 1342 Lancaster Avenue, Syracuse


  • Dr. Rick Timbs, Statewide School Finance Consortium
  • Pearler Washington, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 580
  • Howie Hawkins, 2014 Green Party candidate for Governor
  • Raymond Blackwell, Save Our Schools

State government is the final days of budget negotiations.

The teach-in on the state budget is organized by the Green Party of Onondaga County to inform the Syracuse community on the impact of the pending state budget on Syracuse schools, city services, and CENTRO so they can make their concerns known to their state legislators.

The teach-in will feature a presentation by Dr. Rick Timbs of the Statewide School Finance Consortium on how the state budget impacts the Syracuse City School District budget, including the impact of the Gap Elimination Adjustment and the shortfall in Foundation Aid funding.

Pearler Washington of the Local 580 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, and Raymond Blackwell of Save Our Schools will also make brief presentations. Washington will address the CENTRO budget. Hawkins will give an overview of the state budget and the specific policies on the table to keep our public services adequately funded. Blackwell will address bringing parents and teachers together to support Syracuse schools.

The meeting will close with a question and answer session and a call to action for citizens to contact their legislators.

For More Info:

Howie Hawkins, 315 200-6046,

Ursula Rozum, (315) 414-7720,


“In These Times: Creating a Beloved Community as a Radical Act” — Teach In to Act Out — 29 January 2015 — Margo Okazawa-Rey, Elihu Root Peace Fund Chair in Women’s Studies, Hamilton College

In Community, Corporations, Education on February 1, 2015 at 9:12 pm

Editor’s Note:  Indy Media CNY attended the Teach In to Act Out (a 2-day conference on the history of student movements, intersectional organizing, university corporatization, resistance skill-building, and art & activism) organized by The General Body, an activist group coalition of students, faculty, and staff at Syracuse University.  We have obtained the full text of the Keynote presentation from Margo Okazawa-Rey and present it here for our readers.

“Greetings! Much appreciation goes to everyone who made “Teach In to Act Out” possible, especially Mary Rose who held my hand to get me here.

And thanks to all the comrades in the struggle who are here; I am honored to be among you!

I want to remember and honor two who left us recently. One most of you know or have heard of Leslie Feinberg, the transgender warrior who made us understand, among other things, the inextricable links between gender classifications and identities and global capitalist processes and the deeply loved spouse of our sister friend Minnie Bruce Pratt.

The other feminist most of you will not know or even have heard of Maha Abu-Dayyeh, the Palestinian activist and director of the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling, one of the most influential leaders of the modern Palestinian women’s movement, and one of my dearest friends and teachers. It was through her and our work together at WCLAC that I developed many of the ideas I will be sharing with you today.

As I was thinking about what to say today, Dickens’s lines from The Tale of Two Cities came to

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times;

it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness;

it was the epoch of belief, it was the winter of despair;

We have ample evidence of all these polarities:

The 1% of the world owns nearly half the world’s wealth AND the 80% of the world’s peoples are living on less than $10 a day

There are advances in medicine and technology; there’s creativity and beauty in the arts and music and performance AND wars, massacres, and horrific violence of all forms as we have been witnessing.

We also see possibilities, as many people, from various walks of life, organize for justice, equity, and a truly secure and sustainable world. This weekend’s gathering is a very good example of that. As are the nationwide organizing around policy brutality; worldwide organizing against violence again women; BDS movement to help end Israeli occupation of Palestine; the years long fight against installation of new US military bases in Okinawa and Korea; the struggle for rights of domestic workers in New York and LA, to name a few.

At the same time, the future looks unrelentingly bleak.

This country, the US, one of the richest and the most militarily powerful, is in deep trouble and is the source of deeper troubles worldwide. All of us in this room know the signs.  One of the most destructive, I believe, is fear combined with hyper individualism, so embedded in this society. Many, even some of the most conscious and privileged folks among us, are afraid and motivated by fear. This has led to accepting the prevailing message, for example, that aggression leads to peace and that closing borders provides security. A kind of collective and individual self-absorption has gripped this nation.

Audre Lorde said, “we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”

Cornel West says, “We’ve forgotten that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than we found it.”

But it’s not easy. Leaving the world a better place demands courage. West says, “In many instances, we will be stepping out on nothing, and just hoping to land on something. But that’s the struggle. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word.”

I am firmly convinced that we—those who care, those who struggle for a just peace—should give the last word to LOVE, understanding that its most generative expression is the struggle for justice. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has told us, justice is what love looks like in practice. As activists struggling for social and ecological justice, we must love as we DO: love the work, love the ideas and values that frame the work, and above all love the people we work with and humanity itself.

To do so, we must ourselves develop our own humanity because, in one way or another, we are indigenes of the neo-liberal, neo-colonial project that reproduces and adapts itself to try to ensure we will always be looking in the wrong direction—anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti this and that—rather than imagining truly radical alternative—and acting against our own interests—blame the next “Other,” among other things. But how do we grow?

In mainstream US culture, we are expected to grow by separating and individuating ourselves from others; that is how we are supposed to become mature. Along the way, we proclaim our uniqueness, difference, and exceptionality. And we are rewarded. By standing out, people may see us as leaders, as more intelligent and competent that others and so on. It’s an extension of the pervasive American exceptionalism. Many of us believe, deep inside, that we can do things better singularly than collectively, even as we gather in groups like this. When push comes to shove, we still place a lot of faith in individual charismatic leaders. In a sense, identity politics may be a collective example of this growth through separation and individuation as well.

As a kind of corrective, feminist psychologist Jean Baker Miller and her colleagues, developed a theory of human development suggesting that, in fact, growth and development happen through relational connection with and to others. They call this growth-in-connection.

Growing in this way as adults though requires different kinds of engagements in groups—whether we are talking about activist spaces, organizations, or universities. It means, using Joyce Fletcher’s term, a relational practice that centers caring, being involved in the nitty-gritties of organizing, seeking consensus, paying attention to others’ emotional needs and states, and addressing the contradiction that results from the structural inequalities (and hierarchies whether we acknowledge it or not) embedded in most kinds of group engagements. This kind of relational growth helps us to love deeper, more fully, and in Thich Nhat Han’s words, with great equanimity.

These ideas about growth answer a question that often emerges in conversations about how change happens: what has to happen first, individual change or change outside of individuals. “We have to change first before we can do the work.” This is what I have most often heard. But they are inextricably linked.

We must go even further because love and loving are not simply an individual act or stance. I want us to create Beloved Communities as we engage in the struggles. Because, as Dr. King said, “end [of struggle] is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding-goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in [our] hearts.”

We can do this. As the late poet June Jordan wrote in her poem for South African women struggling against the apartheid regime,

“We are the ones we have been waiting for!”

The following were added after the conference. One was inspired by Minnie Bruce Pratt, my teacher and friend, and other was posted on my FB homepage.

At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality. Perhaps it is one of the great dramas of the leader that he or she must combine a passionate spirit with a cold intelligence and make painful decisions without flinching. Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealize this love of the people, of the most sacred causes, and make it one and indivisible. They cannot descend, with small doses of daily affection, to the level where ordinary people put their love into practice….(O)ne must have a great deal of humanity and a strong sense of justice and truth in order not to fall into extreme dogmatism and cold scholasticism, into isolation from the masses. We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.

From adbusters: Today (31 January) we remember Howard Zinn, who left us 5 years ago.

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

DAT Movement Solidarity Rally

In Corporations, Direct Action, Education, Video Documentation on November 8, 2014 at 1:55 pm


View this archived event at:

Video includes footage of the rally chants and testimonials, interviews with passers-by, the occupying students in Crouse-Hinds, and interaction with SU Public Safety.

From the event listing:

“We, THE General Body, a coalition of over 50 student groups on campus are currently sitting in at Crouse-Hinds administrative building. Tonight (Friday), we learned that if any of our members exit the building over the weekend, we may not be granted re-entry.

SUPPORT THE MOVEMENT BY RALLYING OUTSIDE CROUSE-HINDS TOMORROW (Saturday) AT 12PM! We will begin negotiating with the administration at 1pm, and need a big crowd to show them that their restrictions cannot stop the movement. Bring signs, instruments, noisemakers, and friends!
This is what democracy looks like!
(list of demands and grievances can be found on site)


An Update on Negotiations from THE General Body

In Direct Action, Education, Media Advisory on November 7, 2014 at 6:34 pm


On Wednesday night, 80 members of THE General Body coalition student group conducted preliminary negotiations with Chancellor Kent Syverud and Dean Bea González in Crouse-­Hinds lobby. Following the meeting, Syverud, his executive team, and González met to respond to THE General Body’s 46­-page document of grievances and demands, opening up possibilities for next steps.

However, in an e­-mail to the entire University community on Thursday evening, Dean González expressed disappointment that negotiations did not move forward in time for today’s Board of Trustees meeting, and stated that next steps are contingent on THE General Body ending the sit-­in and vacating Crouse-­Hinds Hall.

We share Dean González’s disappointment in this impasse. Although Wednesday’s meeting offered a promising and positive start in negotiations, very few of the grievances and demands were covered in the 90-­minute meeting. THE General Body is disappointed that the University expects students to acquiesce to proposals that have no guarantees or timelines.

We remain committed to improving this University and will continue to show our dedication with our sit-­in at Crouse-­Hinds Hall. Backed by extensive faculty and community support, the sit-­in has facilitated teach-­ins and dialogue about pressing issues affecting all of us. The significance of the physical space of the sit-­in cannot be minimized. This is evident in national coverage from Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Nation, Democracy Now, and local Syracuse news sources including, TWC News, and the Daily Orange.

Neither González’s e-­mail nor the administration’s responses to our demands and grievances adequately address the full scope of the concerns of THE General Body, and fail to adequately respond to urgent student needs. For example, in response to our demand for emergency medical transport for students with mental health disorders, the administration simply restated their existing policy language, ignoring the fact that students are currently suffering from a lack of services despite the existing policies.

In her e-­mail to the student body, Dean Gonzales writes, “In making these many commitments, University leadership asked for only one thing from the student group in return—that they commit to depart Crouse-­Hinds Hall by tomorrow and return the building to normal operating status moving forward.” But in reality University leadership is asking much more of students. As senior Political Science/Public Policy major Ella Mendonsa remarked, “By not giving us a definitive plan of action to our demands, University leadership is asking us to give up our rights to adequate mental health services, to sexual assault advocacy services, to give up our rights to accessibility on campus for students with disabilities. These are services we shouldn’t have to fight for on this campus.”

We call on the upper ­level administration to honor their good faith and respect the negotiation process established during Wednesday’s meeting. We call on the student body, faculty, staff and community members to hold these administrators accountable.

As we stated explicitly in Wednesday’s meeting we want to reiterate that the sit­in will not end without written confirmation that the Chancellor and Dean are willing to commit to a clear timetable for moving forward with each item in our demands document.

Visit for more information about the sit-­in.

For More Information Contact Yanira Rodríguez,315 744 0329;; or Colton Jones,215­688­3237,

SOS! Save Our Public Schools – Brian Jones, Green Candidate for Lt. Governor, Speaks Out in Syracuse

In Education, Government, Taxes on October 7, 2014 at 8:38 pm


View this archived event at

“Public education in New York is under attack during Cuomo’s tenure as governor. New York schools are the most segregated schools in the country and they’re woefully underfunded. Additionally, the Common Core based test-and-punish regime currently being pushed in schools can be used to hold students back, deny them diplomas, fire teachers, and close schools. Instead of the privatization schemes pushed by Cuomo and Republican candidate Rob Astorino, Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones are calling for fully funded, quality public education, qualitative assessments instead of the punitive high stakes testing model, and an end to the attack on teacher’s unions.”