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10 Smart Ways to Save on Gas this Summer

Want to spend less at the pump? How you drive, where you buy gas, and how you pay can help you fuel up on savings.

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If you’re one of the millions of Americans who will be taking a road trip this summer, you’ll likely feel a big pinch at the pump, as prices have climbed more than 30 cents a gallon in the first half of 2014. But you can cut your costs significantly all year round—even if you’re just commuting to work—simply by adjusting your approach to driving and vehicle care.

NEA Member Benefits explains how you can keep more cash in your pocket when you got to the pump.

Check out these 10 expert tips, many of which are backed by research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s highly respected Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

What would you tell the president about education in America?

What if you got a chance to sit down with President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan over lunch. What would you tell them about what’s happening in your classrooms and what they should be doing about education policy in the U.S?

Would you tell them about the overuse of standardized testing? The difficulties of teaching? How to improve the profession? Poverty? Students coming to school hungry?

Four teachers recently got the opportunity to share their concerns. Read about their experience and what they told the president in the Education Week article – “President Obama asks teachers for help with education policy. What did they tell him?”

Anti-toxic testing measure/Call for Duncan resignation

In view – Jeffrey Rizzo from Blanford, Melissa McInvale from Naugatuck, Caral Desantis from East Haven and Dan Hart and Mark Hill from Southington behind them. They are pictured at a morning state caucus.

In view – Jeffrey Rizzo from Branford, Melissa McInvale from Naugatuck, Caral Desantis from East Haven and Dan Hart and Mark Hill from Southington behind them. They are pictured at a morning state caucus.

A bold measure passed by the NEA RA probably has the testing industry as well as high-level national policymakers buzzing with concern today.

Connecticut’s 129 teacher delegates joined nearly 9,000 of their colleagues from around the country to address a significant resolution, one that will go down in the history books as the anti-toxic testing measure.

The measure calls for governmental oversight of the powerful testing industry with the creation of a “testing ombudsman” by the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Consumer Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. The position will serve as a watchdog over the influential testing industry and monitor testing companies’ impact on education legislation. NEA will continue to push the president and Congress to completely overhaul ESEA and return to grade-span testing, thus ending NCLB’s mandates that require yearly testing, and to lift mandates requiring states to administer outdated tests that are not aligned to school curricula.

During the year ahead, NEA will launch a campaign connected with the anti-toxic measure.

The campaign will be comprehensive and seek to end the high stakes use of standardized tests, to sharply reduce the amount of student and instructional time consumed by tests, and to implement more effective and responsible forms of assessment and accountability.

In addition to actions specified above, as part of this comprehensive campaign, NEA will take the actions specified below.

Ask states to lift the mandates requiring school districts to administer outdated tests, unaligned to current curriculum, stop requiring the use of such tests for any high stakes purposes, and ensure that standardized tests are never used for purposes for which they were not designed or validated.

Ask state affiliates to survey teachers to determine how many formative and summative assessments are given, and report that data disaggregated to identify state-mandated assessments, district-mandated assessments, educator-designed assessments (at the school or district level) or classroom-designed assessments by a teacher for a particular class.

Urge the public to support the use of grade span (i.e., once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school) standardized tests to reduce the amount of federally-mandated tests.

Partner with Education International and its affiliates to raise awareness about the widespread misuse of standardized tests and commercialization of public education on a global scale.

And have NEA and its affiliates  collaborate and form coalitions with the American Federation of Teachers, school board associations, administrator organizations, PTAs, PTSOs, other parent groups, business groups, such as Chambers of Commerce, and any other groups seeking to eliminate high stakes testing and its misuses.

Share what part you may be playing in supporting the NEA anti-toxic testing measure.

Finally, don’t miss another action taken in Denver when Connecticut delegates joined their colleagues in calling on U.S.Education Secretary Arne Duncan to quit.

The vote is a “venting of frustration of too many things that are wrong,” said Dennis Van Roekel, the outgoing president of NEA. He said it wasn’t directed at Duncan personally, but was about teachers wanting what is best for students.

CEA President Sheila Cohen said, “Connecticut’s delegates were squarely behind this new business item to oust Duncan. Teachers are deserving of respect and the teaching profession deserves a strong voice in decision making. Unfortunately, Duncan has given extremely short shrift to both.”

 

Doing the Association’s top business: See what teachers are up to

CEA President Sheila Cohen addresses delegates on July 4 at the NEA RA in Denver.

CEA President Sheila Cohen addresses delegates on July 4 at the NEA RA in Denver.

Emotions like excitement, passion, and enthusiasm along with ideas like teacher professionalism, student-centered leadership, and association organizing are on full display at the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly (NEA RA ) attended by 9,000 delegates, including 129 from Connecticut.

Educators are the “decisive element” in the lives of millions of students who face daunting challenges every day, Sean McComb, the 2014 National Teacher of the Year, said in his speech to the NEA RA this weekend. McComb is an English teacher at Patapsco High School & Center for the Arts in Baltimore County.

“I’m proud to be a teacher, a hope developer. Across this country, children look to their teachers… to give students a belief in themselves; to give them the skills to have agency to make it reality.,” McComb said. “That is what called me, like so many teachers, into this field, to be that decisive element in the classroom.”

In his speech to the NEA RA, NEA Executive Director John Stocks urged the delegates to take a page from the playbook of public education’s main adversaries and lay the groundwork for a focused, effective and relentless campaign to make our schools stronger.

Stocks explained that student-centered leadership is essential to safeguard education for future generations. And where can we find models for this leadership? Look no further than the dedicated and successful educator activists in the hall today, Stocks said.

“So we have a formula for student success,” Stocks said. In order for this formula to work, it requires union leaders to put students at the center of everything our schools do.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel delivered his final keynote speech with a passionate and stirring exhortation for educators to lead the movement to bring equity and excellence to the nation’s schools. Success in ridding the system of high-stakes testing and the influence of corporate reformers, creating higher standards, and building a quality workforce will depend on nothing less, Van Roekel told the assembly.

In elections at the NEA RA, delegates decided a team of women will lead the Association. Lily Eskelsen García, a former Utah Teacher of the Year who started her 20-year career in education as a food service worker before becoming an elementary teacher who worked with homeless children, was elected to head the 3 million-member NEA. Eskelsen García previously served two three-year terms as NEA vice president and was named by President Obama to serve as a commissioner on the White House Commission on Education Excellence for Hispanics.

Delegates also elected Rebecca S. “Becky” Pringle, a middle school physical science teacher from Harrisburg, Pa., as NEA vice president. Pringle, now one of the highest-ranking African-American female leaders in the labor movement, previously served two three-year terms as NEA secretary-treasurer.

Rounding out the top three NEA leadership positions, Princess Moss was elected secretary-treasurer.

To follow events at the NEA RA in Denver, please go to

http://www.nea.org/grants/ra-media.html

 

 

 

Teacher Fair Dismissal Law

The new school year is still weeks away, but it’s never too early to start preparing for another evaluation. CEA advocacy over the past two years has yielded important changes to the Connecticut Teacher Evaluation Guidelines. You can review those improvements here.

It’s also important to recognize that changes to the Connecticut Teacher Fair Dismissal Law became effective this week. You can review the revised law here.

Remember CEA’s Professional Practice, Policy and Research Department is always there to help you or answer questions. Contact linetteb@cea.org or Micheleo@cea.org

Finally, a reminder that CEA’s annual Summer Leadership Conference has workshops on teacher evaluation. If you are interested in attending, please contact your local Association president.

 

Governor puts $$$ behind effort to make Common Core succeed

There’s probably an office in Hartford somewhere where the reports of the state’s countless task forces are gathering dust. Not so with the final report and recommendations—released today—from the Educators’ Common Core Implementation Task Force.

“This may be the first state task force to be instantly funded,” said Governor Dannel P. Malloy, who established the task force in March.

Calling his funding and response to the recommendations “quick and deliberate action” to improve support for teachers and ensure that students succeed, Governor Malloy pledged to allocate about $5 million of the current budget of the State Department of Education to areas recommended by the Educators’ Common Core Implementation Task Force. The governor will also ask the State Bond Commission to authorize an additional $10 million to prioritize school technology upgrades to support transition to the new Common Core standards.

Governor Malloy also said today his administration will continue a dialogue with parents, teachers, administrators, and students as districts work to implement the Common Core State Standards. The specific actions released today are contained in Governor Malloy’s Connecticut Core Initiative.

The governor’s program is described as an ongoing effort to identify and address challenges with the Common Core.

CEA President Sheila Cohen said, “We are grateful to the teachers who spent countless hours working on the Educators’ Common Core Implementation Task Force, gathering information, and developing recommendations around key areas of concern—areas identified by educators on the front lines of public education. These areas include the time, support, materials, and professional learning and training opportunities that must be made available to Connecticut educators.”

Cohen continued, “While the recommendations are a positive first step, we recognize that much more work is needed to successfully implement the standards in our state. It is imperative that educators are front and center in continuing to develop specific approaches and strategies to successfully implement the Connecticut Core recommendations that can make a real difference in the classroom and improve student growth and achievement. Given the Governor’s commitment to these specific goals and his promise of having future open dialogues on all aspects of the Common Core State Standards, I’m confident we can move forward together to maintain the high standards we have for all Connecticut public school students.”

In March, pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order No. 41, the Educators’ Common Core Implementation Taskforce was asked to consider ways to advance the translation of Common Core State Standards into curricula; consider ways to strengthen the professional development opportunities available to classroom teachers and school leaders; and identify and highlight best practices and lessons learned by teachers, schools, and school districts across the state and nation.

Juanita Harris, A Danbury school counselor and teacher, was a member of the task force. She emphasized that the group’s charge was specific, and there are additional public school issues that need to be addressed including Smarter Balanced testing and the state teacher evaluation system. Harris called the report and recommendations released today “a good collaborative document and one of its highlights is a commitment to ongoing dialogue and a role for teachers in school reform.”

Elizabeth Misiewicz, a Ridgefield teacher, said she is hopeful that the report will be well received. Diana Burns, a Westbook teacher, described the task force report as “excellent, showing lots of thoughtfulness and collaboration.”

*Download: Report of the Educators’ Common Core Implementation Taskforce
**Download: Governor Malloy’s Connecticut Core Initiative

 

New teacher evaluation: Was it all worth it?

Dramatic changes in teacher evaluation—too many imposed from above rather than collaboratively developed locally—have drawn legitimate criticism. And as professional educators have advocated for better systems, often they’ve been caught in transition phases that cause everything from angst to tears to valuable time diverted from teaching and learning. Now, as assessments of teacher evaluation overhauls are being assembled, some people are asking: Was it all worth it?

Read the Hechinger Report story: How many bad teachers are there? Not many, according to new – and expensive – evaluations.

 

Attacks against teachers, students, and public education must stop

The goal of great public schools for every child remains the objective of the nation’s teachers unions. These associations fundamentally believe that good working conditions for teachers create excellent learning conditions for students. While this is the reality, it’s not what union opponents would have you believe.

Watch and hear how the NEA President set the record straight today.

 

Pleas for more time to get CCSS right

The state’s Educators Common Core Implementation Task Force is expected to approve final recommendations this afternoon and then forward them to Governor Dannel P. Malloy. The group is working to improve implementation of the CCSS across the state. The education community is hopeful that the recommendations will address issues teachers have brought to the forefront, including the amount of time, support and materials, and professional learning and training opportunities available to them.

Many have spoken out about the rollout needing more time, and today the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation joined the chorus. The Foundation called for a two-year moratorium on states’ making decisions based on tests aligned with the new standards.

The National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union, welcomed the Gates Foundation’s letter on the standards. “We absolutely need more time not only in using them in high-stakes decisions about teachers, but in using them in high-stakes decisions about students, too,” said Becky Pringle, secretary-treasurer of the association.

Read today’s NY Times story Delay Urged on Actions Tied to Tests by Schools.

 

This may stop you in your tracks

Little research apparently has been done about how to make effective use of classroom walls. Anecdotically many of us are impressed and feel the energy of a creatively decorated classroom.

But, in some instances, it appears we may want to rethink our reactions. A new study, reported in The New York Times today, found that when kindergartners were taught in highly decorated classrooms, they were more distracted than when they were taught in a room that was comparatively spartan.

Does this new study give you pause? Stop you in your tracks? Does the new study have you rethinking how early in August you’ll be in your classroom decorating? BlogCEA wants to hear about your reactions.

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