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A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Are the BATs a Tour de Force?

By Peter DeWitt — April 17, 2014 2 min read
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No...not bats...but BATs.

Rarely do grassroots groups explode in numbers like the Bad Ass Teacher’s group (BATs). The BATs quickly grew to a group of over 19,000 teachers across the country. The group mostly existed on Facebook, but it unified a large group of teachers who were tired of the conversation around public education. Actually, they were really angry about the conversation around public education.

Fordham professor Mark Naison and Priscilla Sanstead created the group. Priscilla works full-time coordinating the group. According to Mark,

BATS has evolved into an action group where our state groups recommend actions, and our national action team decides whether to have a 911 alert and have the entire organization respond. Marla Kilfoyle and Melissa Tomlinson, our General Managers, coordinate those actions, with the advice of Priscilla, me and our 58 moderators. We now have almost 250 volunteers running the organization."

The group has come a long way in a very short period of time. The organizational structure that they have set up over the past few months has helped them have a stronger voice in public education. Their advocacy for public education has taken on a role in the political realm as well as through social media outlets.

In Mark’s blog, which you can read in its entirety here, he begins by citing the fact that some people were “disillusioned” with how the group was progressing last year. There were times that the BATs looked like they were only able to provide negative comments, but Mark said,

I have been thinking about why so many people who claim to be completely disillusioned with BATS and it leaders won't make a complete break and remain in the main group, or our state groups, while reserving their most bitter attacks against us for sites where we don't have the power to delete."

Naison goes on to say,

It's not only the number of members that BATS has, it's that the structure which Priscilla, and Marla and Melissa and so many others has created is virtually impossible to recreate. We are talking about the combination of a national organization, fifty state groups, a twitter page, a website, a youtube channel, a Pinterest site, and at least forty theme groups, staffed, by our latest estimate, by 245 volunteers!"

The BATS have really evolved over the past year.

The Evolution of the BATs

In an interview, Marla Kilfoyle said, “BATs have evolved from a “Facebook” group to a respected activist organization that is the voice of teachers nationwide. Diane Ravitch recognized us as one of the best activist organizations in 2013.”

Due to the politics of education, the BATS understand that they have to not only be vocal, but run for office as well. Kilfoyle said,

We are being asked by national political organizations to endorse candidates at the federal, state, local, and union levels. BATs are encouraged to run for office and we have many that are and have (local BOE's, union offices, and state offices, I also think we have 1 or 2 running for federal office). So, we have evolved from a Facebook group to an organization that is seeking to make replace politicians who support corporate reform and who DO NOT support addressing child poverty, social inequity in education, and social injustices that still exist based on a child's zip code!"

Not a Group of the Status Quo

Kilfoyle says the BATs educate teachers, parents, politicians and BOE members about what is happening in education by

Educating the public about corporate takeover of education. We have done this via the Facebook page but we are also appearing on the radio and TV around the country. We have had over 150 news articles written about us, we have appeared on close to 50 radio shows and made TV appearances around the nation. So, I think the education piece has been HUGE in making change and forcing the dialogue."

The BATs focus on the detriment of Common Core, over-testing, accountability based on student test scores, social inequality and injustice. But according to Kilfoyle,

We have seen our biggest accomplishments locally - In Tennessee our BATs there were able to go to the capital and stop an attack on teacher tenure (due process). In Florida our BATs along with amazing parent activist groups were able to stop the voucher program. In New York BATs along with many other activist organizations have pressured politicians to begin to fight Common Core and Cuomo's horrendous Ed. reform policies. We have testified at the regents' hearings and at the assembly hearings. In New Mexico we have BATs working very hard to get their Corporate Reform Gov. ousted (Martinez) and to get a former teacher and supporter of public education elected (Howie Morales)."

If you go to each individual state’s BAT website you can see a list of many more of their accomplishments.

What’s Next?

Every organization needs to look to the future to see where they can lend their support and have a voice. Kilfoyle says that in the future,

BATs will be supporting and speaking at the Take Back Our Schools Rally in NYC on May 17th, and we plan to be very active in our national union RA's this summer (AFT and NEA). We have a BAT Caucus at the NEA RA. In addition, we are sponsoring a rally in Washington D.C on July 28th where we plan to show USDOE how we celebrate Kids, Public Education, and Teaching. Lastly, we have BATs running for office (Tate MacQueen, democratic candidate for Congress in North Carolina), are looking into an initiative on College campus' to counter TFA recruitment by recruiting more young people into the teaching profession, and We will continue to support Network for Public Education's call for Congressional Hearings on testing."

The BATs have gone from a vocal group on Facebook, to a national grassroots group trying to make changes at the local level from state to state. It is clear that they have done a tremendous amount of work over the year.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.