The Rochester Teacher

Winner of NYSUT journalism awards and the Ted Bleeker award as “Best of the Best”

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The Rochester RetiredTeacher

The Rochester Retired Teacher Association is a Dept. of the RTA, composed of all retired members of RTA. Learn more…

Our Union Contract

The newly bargained agreement is good for students and fair to teachers.

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WHEREAS, John King has served as New York State Commissioner of Education since 2011.  During his tenure, the perception of the quality of education in New York State has been disparaged by the public comments and choices the Commissioner has made…

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Online registration for the 24th J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Rochester is now available at Join us on the Rochester Institute of Technology campus at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 29, for what has developed into Rochester's most coveted after-work social/sporting event (A 3.5 mile road race /jog/or walk).

Click here to register…


Private schools 'cure' Common Core

The Common Core curriculum has become so controversial, some local schools have begun promoting the fact they don’t teach it. Allendale Columbia School in Pittsford has used billboards and its website to tout itself as the “cure” for Common Core. Right around the corner in Brighton, the Harley School is also free from the dictated curriculum and testing so many parents and educators have complained about.

Erica Bryant: Teacher eval system won't help students

Years ago, I visited the Kennedy Space Center and bought a coffee mug from the gift shop. It is decorated with some NASA equations, including one used to calculate the speed an object needs to escape Earth's gravity. This formula fits on one line. By contrast, the document that describes how to measure student growth for the purpose of evaluating New York's teachers and principals is 112 pages.

Erica Bryant: A school for the kids who want to learn

The last time I was at East High School, I watched a boy try to ask a question about a tornado. It was a Friday morning and there was blood on the floor, spit there by a student who'd been punched in the mouth on the way from his previous class. Another girl walked in dripping water from an ice pack she held to her eye. They both looked down or out the window as two other boys got in an argument.

Idea aims to draw suburban kids to city schools

From a public policy perspective, school choice can be useful in allowing poor children to transcend their immediate surroundings and attend a school in a more affluent area where middle-class expectations might buoy them. Unfortunately, that doesn't work when 9 children out of 10 are poor, as is the case in Rochester. There's no good way to slice such a high poverty rate.

Most city students don't attend neighborhood schools

The warren of residential streets in the Maplewood neighborhood is nearly overrun by school buses early weekday mornings, and somewhere on those buses there will be seats for Rhonda Olyer's children. No matter that School 7 is a short walk away, and School 41 just a bit farther — the kids will take the bus. On that point Olyer is firm. "I don't like the schools around here," she said moments after watching her daughter, 10-year-old Jayana Smith, board the bus for a three-mile trip to School 43 one morning.

City school budget proposal: More pre-K, no layoffs

Rochester Schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas Monday presented a 2014-15 budget proposal in line with his goals of helping young children read, expanding learning time and providing more arts, music and extracurriculars while closing a $42 million budget gap. The $784 million budget proposal, a 1.4 percent increase from last year, pays for about 28,100 students in city schools and another 4,100 in charter schools. It will need to be passed by the school board and the Rochester City Council before it becomes official.

If unions are the problem, why do we have so many high performing schools in Monroe County?

In a Democrat and Chronicle letter to the editor, “Address roots of school failure” (3/21),  Edwin Newton, was clear as to what he believes to be the fundamental reasons for the “dismal quality” of Rochester schools. Specifically, the root causes are the “three sins of teacher’s union policies”: tenure, ‘last in, first out,’ and paying teachers based on seniority rather than performance.

Demystifying The Teaching of Reading, Writing,

and Listening for Young Learners

In this multiple session course, teachers in Grades 1-3 are supported in learning about and employing reading theory and practice that is effective with the young learners in our classrooms. Teachers will learn how accessing student experience, cultural background and prior knowledge serves to inform and strengthen their instruction in ways that engage and center children in the learning process.

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RCSD Budget: Cutting ISS May Result In Even More Classroom Disruptions

Rochester City School District Superintendent, Bolgen Vargas, has proposed his $784 million budget for the 2014-2015 school year. The one thing that stuck out immediately in my mind was his proposal to cut In School Suspension for grades k-6 in schools with fewer than 700 kids. Lately there has been much local discussion about the problem of too many distractions in RCSD's classrooms, making it hard for the kids who want to focus on learning to actually learn. Vargas' plan to eliminate ISS is only going to make it more difficult for teachers who are overwhelmed with bulging classrooms full of distractions and unfortunately magnify the problem that much more.

Common Core tests will count for teachers, not students

The state Education Department is trying hard to downplay the second round of Common Core-based tests for grades 3-8, which begin Tuesday, as low-stakes exams with no passing grades and minimal consequences for students. Legislators have supported this notion with a provision in the state budget plan that halts any use of test scores to decide student placements.

‘You can’t expect much success on standardized tests when students don’t even have basic supplies’

The editorial board of a big-city newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, has gone on record as not only supporting the right of parents to have their children opt out of high-stakes standardized tests but also saying they are “right to protest” in this manner.

Peter Castle Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament

Shadow Lake Golf Course

May 17th

Golf - Cart - Dinner - Prizes

Click here for more information…

Secretary Arne Duncan defends against growing criticism from left and right

Indiana, one of the 45 states that adopted the national Common Core educational standards, has became the first state to drop them. Across the country, anger over the federal government’s role in schools has been focused at Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Special correspondent for education John Merrow reports on Duncan’s role in the evolution of American educational policy.

John Thompson: Legal Woes Growing for VAM-Based Teacher Evaluations

I used to be a legal historian. That did not mean I could practice law without a license, but I could be a pretty fair consumer of legal analyses. It also made me aware of how attorneys and judges think. When the idea of incorporating value-added into teacher evaluations was first introduced, I checked with lawyers who I knew to have solid legal minds.

RTA Crime Victims Assistance Committee

2014  Workshop Series

4:15 - 6:15 p.m.

RTA office

All RTA members are welcome to attend.  You must register in advance using the form below.  Return your completed form to the RTA office as soon as possible.  Box lunches are provided for those who preregister.  Space is limited; registrants will be accepted in the order in which registrations are received.

Click here for details…

New York won't store student data with controversial inBloom vendor

The New York State Education Department acknowledged today that it will reverse plans to store student data on a controversial cloud-based service called inBloom. "As required by statute, we will not store any student data with inBloom and we have directed inBloom to securely delete the non-identifiable data that has been stored," department spokesman Tom Dunn said. The statement is an acknowledgement of recently passed state legislation that prohibits the state from giving student data to inBloom or other vendors to store and manage.

For Cuomo, Pivotal Role in Charter School Push

It was a frigid February day in Albany, and leaders of New York City’s charter school movement were anxious. They had gone to the capital to court lawmakers, but despite a boisterous showing by parents, there seemed to be little clarity about the future of their schools. Then, as they were preparing to head home, an intermediary called with a message: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wanted to meet.

Public Schools for Sale?

Public education is becoming big business as bankers, hedge fund managers and private equity investors are entering what they consider to be an “emerging market.” As Rupert Murdoch put it after purchasing an education technology company, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone.”

Mistreating Teachers and Students in the Name of Higher Test Scores

A few days ago I received a letter from an experienced teacher in an eastern state that recalled Yogi Berra’s observation, “Deja vu all over again.” Her story brought to mind the treatment that caused my older daughter, a talented teacher, to leave the profession, and it makes me grieve for students, teachers and the institution of public education.

Charter School Refugees

Last week, the New York State Legislature struck a deal ensuring that charter schools in New York City would have access to space, either in already crowded public school buildings or in rented spaces largely paid for by the city. Over the next few years, charters are expected to serve an increasing proportion of city students — perhaps as much as 10 percent. Which brings up the question: Is there a point at which fostering charter schools undermines traditional public schools and the children they serve?

NYSUT votes 'no confidence' in King; calls for his removal

Delegates to New York State United Teachers' 42nd Representative Assembly today voted "no confidence" in the policies of State Education Commissioner John King Jr. and called for his immediate removal by the Board of Regents. In a unanimous voice vote, the nearly 3,000 delegates also formally withdrew the union's support for the Common Core standards as interpreted and implemented in New York state and, in a separate resolution, supported the rights of parents and guardians to opt their children out of high-stakes tests.

Sunday June 22, 2014

Rochester, NY US 14617

ROC City Values and Fleet Feet Sports present the 1st annual Teacher’s Challenge 5K Road Run/Walk. All proceeds raised from the race will support Rochester City School District teachers and students.


Social workers a staple of local education

One boy can't sleep because he's afraid his stepfather will come through the window and kill his mother. Another hoards food from the cafeteria. A young girl has a special place at home to hide when she hears gunfire: under the bed, in the corner farthest from the window. Erica Vera, a social worker at School 12 on South Avenue in Rochester, helps them.

Charter schools fail to boost achievement

Most Florida taxpayers are surprised to learn that charter schools are part of the public school system and are paid for by taxpayer dollars. Yet, in a yearlong study, the League of Women Voters of Florida has found that charter schools do not improve student achievement. Moreover, a lawsuit filed by Southern Legal Counsel contends that adding charter schools as an option does not fulfill the state's constitutional mandate for a uniform, high-quality system of public education for all children.

Michelle Rhee still doesn’t get it.

The former D.C. schools chancellor and now leader of a national organization that pushes corporate school and attacks teachers unions,  just wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post that uses bad analogies and a number of straw men to argue against the growing “opt out” movement in which parents are refusing to allow their children to take high-stakes standardized tests. A small but growing number of educators are refusing to administer the tests, too.

First woman to head NYSUT promises to be a strong voice for change

Karen Magee, a veteran elementary and special education teacher from Harrison, is the new president of the 600,000-member New York State United Teachers. Magee and her slate of officers were elected by a majority of the nearly 3,000 NYSUT delegates who voted Saturday at the union's annual Representative Assembly in New York City. Magee is the first woman to serve as NYSUT president, succeeding Richard C. Iannuzzi, the union's president since April 2005. A teacher for nearly 30 years and a longtime leader of the Harrison Association of Teachers, Magee was elected to a three-year term to lead the state's largest union.

Union revolt may signal trouble for Cuomo

A vote by a state teachers' union to overhaul its leadership may be a sign of trouble for Governor Andrew Cuomo. New York has already seen two education leaders ousted this year in elections that are rarely contested and typically undramatic. Richard Iannuzzi, a nine-year incumbent president of New York State United Teachers, was defeated by a comfortable margin Sunday, and James Jackson, a member of the State Board of Regents, was pressured by lawmakers to resign last month; both are casualties of an emotional controversy that has erupted among parents and teachers and mobilized lobbies with a variety of political goals.

Walton Foundation’s pours $164 million in 2013 education grants. Who won?

The Walton Family Foundation spent more than $164 million in 2013 to promote its corporate-influenced education reform agenda in 2013, according to a new list (see below) of grants that went to dozens of organizations. The foundation’s priorities are evident in who won the biggest amounts.

East High is not alone, says Commissioner King

There are schools in the Rochester school district in the same situation as East High, said State Education Commissioner John King at a press event at Greece Odyssey Academy High School today. And Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas could be ordered to come up with plans to turn those schools around, too, he said.

White and Vargas are Doing What's Right at East

Bolgan Vargas and Van White are right not to jump to an "easy" way out for the future of East High School. They have five options including closing, phasing in a new school, turning it over to a business or educational partner, replace it with a charter school or have a SUNY Institution take it over.

The Rochester Teachers Association would like to congratulate and welcome the newly elected NYSUT leaders: NYSUT President Karen Magee, Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta, 1st Vice President Catalina Fortino, 2nd Vice President Paul Pecorale, and Secretary-Treasurer Martin Messner.

Barriers Overcome - East High students eye college

Dorothy Holloway and some of her classmates in East High School’s Teaching and Learning Academy had heard the dismal statistic: barely one Rochester School District student in 20 is ready for college at the end of 12th grade.


Watch Colbert’s hilarious takedown of absurd Common Core math problems

Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert ripped into the Common Core standards on his Tuesday night show, ridiculing the absurd Core-aligned math problems that have baffled students, parents and teachers nationwide. “Common Core testing prepares students for what they will face as adults: pointless stress and confusion,” he said with characteristic sarcasm.

We Need to Talk About the Test

I’D like to tell you what was wrong with the tests my students took last week, but I can’t. Pearson’s $32 million contract with New York State to design the exams prohibits the state from making the tests public and imposes a gag order on educators who administer them. So teachers watched hundreds of thousands of children in grades 3 to 8 sit for between 70 and 180 minutes per day for three days taking a state English Language Arts exam that does a poor job of testing reading comprehension, and yet we’re not allowed to point out what the problems were.

Commissioner John King’s Message to New York:

“I Won’t Back Down”

State Commissioner  John King, with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan by his side, spoke this morning at New York University and sent a message to New York’s parents and educators: We are on the right track and we won’t back down! On the same day he spoke, elementary school principal Elizabeth Phillips published an op-ed article in the New York Times explaining that the state tests were too long and developmentally inappropriate.

Test Season Reveals America’s Biggest Failures

It’s testing season in America, and regardless of how the students do, it’s clear who is already flunking the exams. Last week in New York, new standardized tests began rolling out across the state, and tens of thousands of families said “no dice.” According to local news sources, over 33,000 students skipped the tests – a figure “that will probably rise.”

Ideas for East High, frustration aired at hearing

The second round of public hearings on what to do with East High School drew criticism — constructive and otherwise. Dozens of students, teachers, parents, school administrators and education advocates exceeded their three-minute speaking time limits to stress their dissatisfaction or propose last-gasp solutions to keep the doors of the tradition-rich but academically poor high school open. The hearing was held Thursday evening at the East Main Street school.

A Letter from Adam…

Dear Colleagues,

  1. The calendar for School Year2014-15 reflects countywide calendars with a few exceptions.  The RTA is urging the District to fix the discrepancies.

  2. Check your seniority rank by calling the RTA Office:  Martha, Margaret or Dave can help.

  3. The proposed RCSD 2014-15 budget eliminates 80 teaching positions and 21 administrator positions. It adds Social Workers, Music and Art teachers, money for textbooks, funds for summer learning and for full time Pre-K.

  4. Still negotiating salary adjustment for next school year. Hope to conclude negotiations before the end of June.

  5. RTA Office is on reduced hours during the week of 4/14-17, and is closed on

  6. Good Friday.

Have a restful and safe Spring break.


The Long Death of Creative Teaching

I once saw an eighth grader who was on the verge of being tossed out of his middle school even though he was one of the brightest kids there. When asked why he was failing, he said, “Why should I be doing the same frickin' thing since I was in third grade?" Another student I heard about could comprehend the whole "Harry Potter" series before she was 11 and read two novels a week, yet thinks she “sucks at English” because she is more nuanced in her thinking than the questions on standardized tests allow. She learned to hate reading.

What If RCSD Said NO?

During a public hearing Thursday night, East High School Principal Anibal Soler, Jr. asked the school board to exercise civil disobedience and consider saying no to the state. The district was given a shockingly short amount of time to come up with a plan to fix East High School. All of the options include outside management coming in or shutting the place down. “You cannot find another urban school district in the country that is performing without some kind of filter, without some kind of way to pick kids, pick staff, do something different,” Soler told the board. “The beautiful thing about East High, we don’t do that. We take what we get. We do the best we can. We work hard every day and we’re proud of it.”

An infuriating admission

Last September, Bill Gates admitted that he doesn’t know if the school reform initiatives that he is massively funding will work. To be precise, he said during an interview at Harvard University: “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” That was pretty stunning, given the fact that Gates has plowed so much money to his idea of school reform — including the bad idea of evaluating teachers based on student test scores — and that he keeps talking about initiatives, such as the Common Core State Standards, as if he knows for sure they will improve public education.

Syracuse TA files lawsuit over unfair evaluations

The Syracuse Teachers Association today challenged the way the State Education Department set growth scores for students who took last April's standardized tests, filing a lawsuit charging the state failed to adequately take into account the effects of poverty and, as a result, wrongly penalized teachers who work with the most disadvantaged students.

Statisticians slam popular teacher evaluation method

You can be certain that members of the American Statistical Association, the largest organization in the United States representing statisticians and related professionals, know a thing or two about data and measurement. That makes the statement that the association just issued very important for school reform.

East High as Fall Guy

I'm disturbed about plans for closing East High because the punishment does not fit the crime. The process is like an unfairly rigged trial where the jury is compelled to consider facts that can only lead to the defendant's (East's) conviction. Here's why. The state has targeted East for closure or transformation because its graduation rate has not "improved enough". According to state rules, struggling high schools must increase their graduation rates by 3% per year. If a school does not achieve this after three years, the state will force it to close or transform.

Spencerport teachers: New standardized tests 'useless'

More than five dozen teachers from Spencerport's Cosgrove Middle School have fired off a petition to state education leaders, calling this year's round of standardized English Language Arts and mathematics assessments "completely flawed" and "completely useless" when it comes to developing ways to help their students learn.

A Need to Go Public With Test Data

Elizabeth Phillips decries the gag order that school principals are under vis-à-vis the high-stakes tests administered in New York State (“We Need to Talk About the Tests,” Op-Ed, April 10). Best practice in educational and psychological measurement requires test developers to shoulder the burden of demonstrating the validity and reliability of their instruments. Unfortunately, the state and its test designer, Pearson, do not make validation data for state tests available to the taxpayers who fund them.