By Laura Barrett
H undreds of members across the state have attended MTA’s Reclaiming Public Education forums to describe their vision
of public education, express their views on high-stakes testing and the educator evaluation system,
and plan actions.
“We are gathering here today to kick off
conversations that are going to grow union solidarity,
deepen our understanding of what’s happening to
us and how we came to be in this place, and, most
importantly, to figure out what we can do about it,”
said MTA President Barbara Madeloni, addressing
more than 200 local leaders who attended an All
Presidents’ Meeting in Natick on Sept. 13. The
meeting introduced local presidents to the structure
of the forums.
“These forums are designed around both
listening and speaking,” Madeloni continued. “We
are going to disagree with one another as a union.
We should have places to disagree. That’s what
democracy is about. But if we do it with respect and
care, that’s good.”
As MTA Today went to press, 28 regional and
local forums had either been held or were scheduled.
At a forum in Hingham on Sept. 30, organizers were
thrilled that 80 participants attended — more than
twice the number who had registered — and that 16
different locals were represented.
Deborah McCarthy, former president of the Hull
Teachers Association, was one of the participants.
“Those members who joined in the conversation
for the first time wanted to know, ‘How can I find out
more information? What are some good resources?’
They were looking for ways to educate themselves,”
“The other reaction was a sense of camaraderie
and collegiality,” McCarthy added. “The members
felt they weren’t in isolation experiencing this alone
in their community. They found that very helpful.”
The forum plan was established by delegates
to MTA’s Annual Meeting in May, who approved a
new business item co-sponsored by Madeloni calling
for the MTA to support a three-year moratorium on
PARCC testing, the teacher evaluation system and
the use of any student test results to evaluate school
or teacher performance.
The intent of the NBI, according to Madeloni,
was to “take time to speak as educators and decide
what we want for our schools and how we can
achieve our vision.”
The item also called on the MTA to assist
members in holding forums to address issues
related to high-stakes standardized testing and
the educator evaluation system, including the
impact both are having on school climate, teacher
autonomy and educator workloads.
“The visions, issues and actions that members
are speaking to will be central to MTA’s positions
and action plans in the year ahead,” Madeloni said.
At the end of the All Presidents’ Meeting,
members summed up what their breakout groups had
to say, and they didn’t mince words.
“These mandated, for-profit, data-driven tests
are narrowing curriculum and ignoring the creativity,
joy, emotion and individuality of students, teachers
and communities,” said Kathryn Nickandros,
president of the East Bridgewater Education
“Standardized tests reduce a child to a data
point,” said Nancy Caswell, a Worcester teacher.
“They do not allow for differentiated instruction, even
though they keep telling us we have to differentiate
instruction. They actually victimize children,
especially English language learners and SPED
Two of the nine breakout groups also chose to
discuss the educator evaluation system.
“The new ed eval system is a stressful, time-consuming, inconsistent process implemented by
often unqualified evaluators,” said Theresa Fisher,
president of the Wilmington Teachers Association.
“It is punitive, causing a loss of control to educators.
It is not valid and reliable and doesn’t match the
vision that was originally intended.
“We want an evaluation system that is fair,
respects our professional judgment and allows us
autonomy in our teaching,” she continued. “We
want a system that allows meaningful feedback and
resources, that helps us improve our practice, that
“Raise your voice and be heard!
Where there is action there is life!”
— Webster teacher Linda Millet’s
written response after a Reclaiming
Public Education forum
in Auburn on September 25
An All Presidents’ Meeting in Natick on
Sept. 13 provided a venue at which local
association leaders could become familiar
with the format of the MTA’s Reclaiming
Public Education forums, which are being
held across the state. Above, participants
shared notes and a few laughs with other
members in one of the many breakout
groups. At left, Pat Barry of the Quincy
Education Association posted sticky notes
with participants’ comments during a
member forum held in Dedham on Sept.
16. “These forums are designed around
both listening and speaking,” said MTA
President Barbara Madeloni.
Photos by Laura Barrett and Jean Conley