Mass Teachers Assoc Raises Legal Concerns, Blocks PARCC Gag Order

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UPDATED: See post script!!!

I ran across this very interesting article “MTA leadership raises concerns, takes action to address PARCC “security agreement.” MTA President Barbara Madeloni and Vice President Janet Anderson sent the following message to MTA members on Friday, March 13, 2015.

The MTA sent along a link to their attornry’s legal opinion as well as a link to the one-page security agreement that is part of a much longer PARCC Test Administration Manual. I cannot access the legal opinion because the site is password protected for MTA members. However, according to the article, a crucial conclusion in the legal opinion is that the security agreement is subject to collective bargaining:

If teachers are asked by the school administration to sign the document, they should decline to do so until local bargaining has been undertaken and completed. If they are directed by the administration to sign the document under threat of sanction, they should sign with a statement indicating that they have received the document but do not enter into the promises it entails.”

This begs the question, in the face of gag orders NYS teachers are expected to sign as a result of the upcoming state exams here in NYS, should/could NYS teachers associations/unions do the same to protect their members?

Here is the full notice from MTA to its members:

Several members have just brought to our attention a disturbing issue concerning a “security agreement” that PARCC test administrators and proctors are being asked to sign. We asked General Counsel Ira Fader for an MTA legal opinion on whether members should sign this agreement.

We are sending along a link to his legal opinion as well as a link to theone-page security agreement that is part of a much longer PARCC Test Administration Manual. In addition, here is a link to the website with PARCC manuals and other materials.

A crucial conclusion in our legal opinion is that the security agreement is subject to collective bargaining: “If teachers are asked by the school administration to sign the document, they should decline to do so until local bargaining has been undertaken and completed. If they are directed by the administration to sign the document under threat of sanction, they should sign with a statement indicating that they have received the document but do not enter into the promises it entails.”

The agreement states, “Failure to abide by the terms of the agreement may result in an investigation that leads to sanctions including employment and licensure consequences, according to your state policies.”

It is unfortunate that we are getting this information to you so close to PARCC testing time, but we just found out about it ourselves, and we immediately notified local association presidents and have asked the Commissioner of Education to rescind the signing directive.

MTA field managers have prepared bargaining advice and a suggested demand letter that has been sent to local presidents.

This “security agreement” is yet another example of the ripple effects of the testing regime that is diverting valuable time and energy from teaching and learning to bureaucratic compliance.

We have several important concerns about it.

  • As noted, we believe that signing such a document is subject to bargaining.
  • This agreement is on PARCC letterhead but otherwise it is unclear who the parties to the agreement are. The school district as a governmental entity does not appear anywhere in the document. The link to the full document takes you to the Pearson website. Is this an agreement with PARCC? With Pearson? With the district? Who will enforce it and how?
  • In the past, test administrators have not been required to sign a comparable security agreement in order to administer MCAS. MCAS test administrators who supervise tests with certain accommodations have been asked to sign a “nondisclosure” agreement. This does not raise the same legal concerns as the PARCC Security Agreement.
  • At least some members have informed us that they have not been given adequate training and time to learn all of the protocols outlined in the Test Administration Manual, yet they are being asked to sign a document accepting responsibility for understanding all of those protocols.
  • At least some members have expressed concern that they will be held personally accountable for behaviors and circumstances that are beyond their control, such as the adequate functioning of technology and “ensuring” that students don’t cheat.

We realize that, with testing scheduled to begin Monday, some members may have already signed the PARCC security agreement. Such action by individuals does not constitute a waiver of the local’s right to bargain, nor do we believe that you have prejudiced your own rights as an employee. Please confer with your local association leaders about how to proceed.

We will keep you informed of further developments.

http://www.massteacher.org/news/archive/2015/parcc_advisory.aspx

PS. MTA and MA Department officials concluded that teachers DO NOT have to sign the PARCC security agreement in order to proctor the test.

Here is MTAs full letter to the Department:

http://massteacher.org/news/archive/2015/~/media/Files/News/mitchell_chester_letter_regarding_parcc.pdf

Here is the PR:

Chester responds to MTA on PARCC “security agreement” issue

The MTA has received a fast response to its message urging Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester to rescind a demand that educators sign a “security agreement” related to administering the PARCC tests beginning next week.

MTA President Barbara Madeloni and MTA Vice President Janet Anderson wrote a letter to Chester on the morning of Friday, March 13, calling on him to rescind any requirement that teachers sign the agreement.

The MTA received the following e-mail from the spokeswoman for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education just hours after sending the letter to Chester:

Dear Dr. Madeloni,

Commissioner Chester wanted to make sure you had the following excerpt from his March 13 Commissioner’s Update, which just went out. He will follow up Monday with a more detailed response to your letter.

PARCC Security Agreement for Educators:

It has come to ESE’s attention that some educators who will administer PARCC have raised concerns about the PARCC Security Agreement included in the PARCC Test Administrator Manuals. As always, test administrators and other school personnel involved in the administration of state assessments are expected to follow the policies and protocols for test security and administration. Teachers, however, do not have to sign the PARCC Security Agreement in order to proctor the test.

Test administrators and other school personnel involved in test administration have an ethical and professional obligation to administer the assessments in accordance with the relevant policies and protocols whether or not the individuals sign the relevant acknowledgement form or agreement.

Members should check the MTA website and watch for updates and further explanation by e-mail in the days ahead.

http://massteacher.org/news/archive/2015/ed_commissioner_and_parcc.aspx?utm_content=buffer207a2&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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