Who are the Badass Teachers? What is the Badass Teachers Association (BAT)?

by Nancy Carroll

83aa84f5b93856b18cec5f16d2981228 Who are the Badass Teachers? What is the Badass Teachers Association (BAT)?

A feisty internet group of educators, called the Badass Teachers Association (BAT) launched on June 14, 2013. As of today the closed FaceBook group is at 25,619 members and growing like kudzu.

What is the Badass Teachers Association?

The About page of the FaceBook group states that is is “a diverse group of families and education professionals who wish to reclaim America’s public education system.”  The group has engaged in organized group actions such as massive phone and email campaigns.  Group leaders announce the mass action campaigns  a few days in advance so that as many BATs as possible can be part of the action.   On June 24, 2013 the group flooded the White House with hundreds of calls and emails to remove Secretary of Education Arne Duncan from office. Incidentally Duncan has never been a teacher and does not play one on TV.  Yesterday BAT members stormed the NEA’s switchboard to request that NEA remove their backing of Common Core and corporate interests in education.

7bded59eaedecc7655e0c1962548f63c Who are the Badass Teachers? What is the Badass Teachers Association (BAT)?Who founded the Badass Teachers Association?

Dr. Mark Naison: professor of African-American Studies and History at Fordham University, Director of Fordham’s Urban Studies Program

Priscilla Sanstead: parent activist founder of Beyond School, a facebook networking group for folks passionate about learning

Marla Kilfoye: parent activist and teacher from Long Island

The group lists their mission as:
Badass Teachers Association was created to give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.

They state their goals as:

BATs aim to reduce or eliminate the use of high stakes testing, increase teacher autonomy in the classroom and work to include teacher and family voices in legislative decision-making processes that affect students.

Why the name Badass Teachers Association?

A statement by the administrators about the name on the group’s page:

There have been many discussions about the name of the group. There are some who feel it is offensive or unprofessional to use the word “badass” and are uncomfortable with its use. We disagree. As Dr. Naison says: “We’ve had enough. We are not your doormats. We are not your punching bags. We are some of the hardest working, most idealistic people in this country and we are not going to take it anymore. We are going to stand up for ourselves, and stand up for our students even if no organization really supports us. We are Badass. We are legion. And we will force the nation to hear our voice!”
We hope that conversations about changing the name no longer continue. To that end, page administrators have been asked to end or delete any comments and/or threads where this becomes the topic. Our intention is to promote the goals of the group and move forward with our efforts.

A9522a57633c8b2ecc669066355025e59 Who are the Badass Teachers? What is the Badass Teachers Association (BAT)?re you a Badass Teacher?

When another teacher I know added me to the group- I first thought, “What the heck is this group? I don’t want to join a bunch of crazy union activists in a giant negative complainfest!” I also found the name off-putting and almost clicked the little FaceBook spoke to leave the group.

As I stuck around, read the threads, laughed at the memes that various teachers created (I made the ones for this article :>), asked questions, and participated in the discussions- my initial thoughts changed. I started embracing the bold badassery of the group, the camaraderie, and finding kindred spirits in the discussions.   For the most part, I’ve always been a creative, spunky teacher–in this group I realized that, YES, I AM A BADASS TEACHER!

In the first few days of the group, it seemed that educators were soooo relieved to have found a venue where they could vent about their shared frustrations. A small minority of more “veteran” teachers talked down to newer teachers in the group, one teacher even referred to others in the thread as “little people.” Others would announce their departure with dramatic gusto, like a petulant fourth grader stomping out of the classroom. (Hello!? Why couldn’t they just click the spoke quietly and leave? Or message the groups administrators? Whatever).

However, for the most part- it was like watching a giant emotional zit pop.  After the initial emotional explosion, I’ve noticed that for the most part the dialogue has become a tad healthier and more solution-oriented.  I ignore the overly negative drama mamas and pessimisstic put-down papas and stick with the solution-oriented winners in the group. The group appears to be moving more in a solution, directed action-oriented community, rather than a chaotic whine-o-rama.

b320220aef00a5c7c550451d85567ca0 Who are the Badass Teachers? What is the Badass Teachers Association (BAT)?The group is still in its nascent stages. Here are a few big picture action and discussion themes that I’ve seen popping up in the group thus far:

1. Declining teacher pay and deterioration of benefits, including pensions

2. Erosion of teacher autonomy, teacher’s rights and the rise of the scripted-teaching monolith

3.  Dynamic discussions about Common Core Standards (like it’s an imminent tsunami)

4. Frustration with Bill Gates, his foundation, the corporatization of public education

5. Charter Schools

6. Dissatisfaction with the current US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, disappointment with President Obama’s promises to educators,

..and the list spirals on…

I’ve opted to stay in the group because I’ve made some great connections and have enjoyed the camaraderie–and to be able to talk about the kinds of things that you just have to be a teacher to understand.

Are a you a badass teacher? Or have you been teaching a painfully scripted curriculum for so long that you have lost your voice?  Have you been hiding out in fear of losing your job for teaching outside the matrix, but what’s best for kids?

c39abee788b00a4c90f6b5fdba2db4c4 Who are the Badass Teachers? What is the Badass Teachers Association (BAT)?

What to Do Next IF You’re A Badass Teacher

Even if you’re repelled by the wild name, but seek a supportive, active, and safe group of refuge of other like-minded teachers, go here now to request to join the group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BadAssTeachers/  It is a closed group, so please be patient as an admin will manually add you. If you don’t like it, you can always leave, and be a lone badass (but that’s not as fun or productive to be alone in your badassery).

P.S. Once you’re in the Badass Teachers Association, make sure to find your state’s Badass Teacher group. I know New Jersey has a meetup today, and we’re planning a faburific one for Washington next week.  If you’re in Washington State, RSVP in the Facebook group, and join us.

Make sure to say “hi” to me when you’re there and introduce yourself– I look forward to connecting with you.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Marla Kilfoyle July 2, 2013 at 10:06

Hi Nancy – THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT HERE AND ON TWITTER!! We hope that through Badass Teachers Association be can push back and change the conversation about what is happening. We are tired of being quiet, we now know the truth about what is happening, and we are ready to speak out in full force. You are truly a BADASS blogger!



Nancy Carroll July 2, 2013 at 17:31

Thanks for the input, Marla! Looking forward to helping more teachers and connecting with them.
Onward and upward!
Nancy :>


Mike July 6, 2013 at 15:53

So… their mission is to not take responsibility and fight against evaluations? What a repulsive mission statement. How about a mission to empower teachers to police their own profession and develop the policies and tools necessary to be successful?


tmare July 6, 2013 at 21:33

Our mission is not solely to fight against evaluations. However, one of the major problems in education the push to base effectiveness solely based on a score on one test at the end of the year. The more this permeates our schools, the more kids are hurt in the process. The kids are hurt because the teachers are forced into a box that sums up the purpose of school as a means to pass a test and the teachers must buy into it or the face the loss of their job. It hurts kids, that is our focus.


Sarah July 6, 2013 at 22:51

I have nothing against evaluations. What I am against is my results being tied to a test. This past year, I had a group of 7th graders to prepare for the big writing test. The last time they took this test (in 4th Grade) only 40% of them passed. My principal wanted 80% to pass this year — even when over half of this group didn’t know how to write a cohesive paragraph at the start of the year. In order to do this, we spent an entire semester only writing practice test prompts. No analysis. No descriptive essays. No short stories. All we did is test prompts week after week after week. Even after all of this, I still don’t know how they did, because the results don’t get posted until the end of this month or early next month.

1) It is not fair to me to be evaluated based on how many of these students passed when they came to me so far below grade level to begin with.

2) It is not fair to the students to be bored out of their minds by a semester of test prompts. Yes, there may have been other ways to approach this problem, but this was the technique my principal ordered me to use.

This is why I oppose the standardized tests. They hurt teachers and they hurt the kids.


KinderQueen July 7, 2013 at 00:39

The BadAss Teacher association is to “develop the policies and tools necessary to be successful” not just for the teaching profession, but for our students.
The issue isn’t that we seek to be free of accountability or evaluations, it is about not tying those things to standardized tests that do not fairly or accurately account for student learning. Even before NCLB and RTTT, I was that kid who teachers basically ignored because I was always a top scorer on standardized tests. My “achievements” had nothing to do with the effectiveness of my teachers in much the same way that a teacher who has given real time and attention to a student at risk should not be evaluated because that child took the test without the benefit of a decent meal.
In more than two decades as a teacher in a high poverty, urban area I have met very few teachers who do not hold themselves personally accountable to their students, but they look at those students through a much more holistic context than standardized tests.


Terri Michal July 7, 2013 at 02:30

To quote Mike: “How about a mission to empower teachers to police their own profession and develop the policies and tools necessary to be successful?”

WOW!!! What a novel concept!!! To think that we had been organizing these call to actions against the white house and corporate reformers just to ask that every Friday be made Pizza and Pudding day and we could have been insisting our voice be heard, and a place be made, for us at the table when decisions that affect the future of our jobs and our children’s education are made! What an AHA moment! I can’t believe you came up with that all alone….the 20,300 teachers and advocates in BATA would have NEVER thought of that!!

I think you need to embark on your own personal mission to fully read, and understand, an article before you comment.


crunchymama July 7, 2013 at 04:20

Mike, nobody said we don’t want to be assessed. Read the rest of the sentence, please, especially the part about not wanting assessments that are “created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.”

Bill Gates is not a teacher, and yet his influence is all over this. Eli Broad is not a teacher; the Koch Brothers are not teachers; Arne Duncan is not a teacher; Michelle Rhee played a teacher for a couple of years but wouldn’t be hireable as even a substitute teacher where I work (neither, come to that, would Arne Duncan). THESE are the people whose influence is all over current educational policy in this country, and I don’t want them or their influence in my classroom.

Note: of all the above, Arne Duncan is the ONLY one who sends his kids to public schools. (Michelle Rhee sends one of hers to a public school, while the other attends a pricey private school.) The policies they are inflicting on schools and teachers and children in this country don’t apply to their children’s schools. This is the height of hypocrisy and far more worthy of your scorn than your misreading of the purposes of the BAT.


Jennifer Davis July 7, 2013 at 04:43

Read the mission statement closely. It states ” high stakes” assessments. We know we are accountable; we don’t want the kind you have to “front load” for, because it becomes teaching to the test!


Karen Walter July 7, 2013 at 05:15

I can follow a script as good as the next person. Is that best for my students??? Heck NO!!! How do you possibly evaluate a teacher on the impact they had on a student when that impact won’t be realized until the future??? Ahhhh….time travel!!! Haven’t seen an ‘effective’ let alone ‘highly effective’ evaluation system yet so time travel it is :)


Victor3 July 7, 2013 at 20:08

It’s really quite simple. Their mission is to fight against BOGUS and USELESS evaluations that waste instructional time and divert money from the class room, they have no fear of valid ones. They have always taken full responsibility for that which they are responsible for and reject being held accountable for things they have no responsibility or even control over.


Jeff July 6, 2013 at 20:59

Actually, the mission says:

BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations [that are] created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.
(Emphasis added.)

My understanding is that BATs will happily accept assessments, tests and evaluations that are fair and that help their students, and will help them to be better teachers.

Also, I think teachers do a good job of policing their own profession. (There are always a few who don’t, but they’re the exception rather than the rule.) I think BATs want policies and tools that let them do their professional job of giving kids whatever they each need to be successful, instead of reducing them to a single one-size-fits-all fill-in-the-bubbles assessment.


Deborah July 6, 2013 at 21:00

Mike, where do you get that the mission is “to not take responsibility and fight against evaluations” (quote from your comment)? By refusing to accept those evaluations that are “created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning” (quote from their mission statement), it seems they’re taking MORE responsibility.


Hannah July 6, 2013 at 21:12

The Badass Teachers Association was created to give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.

THAT is the Mission Statement… don’t misquote it Mike.


Kj July 6, 2013 at 21:16

Oh, this badass teacher accepts evaluation. *Valid* evaluation. My room’s open anytime for an honest, human, educator assessor to observe, ask questions, and judge based on criteria over which I have control. Bring it.

Evaluations based on my student’s test score when she’s shown up in class, two days before state test, after three months in treatment? No. (But I’ll welcome her back with open arms, and she will know more by the time she leaves me.)

Evaluations based on my student’s score when his mother just booted him out the door because her boyfriend didn’t like him, and he’s couch surfing at friends’? No. (But I’ll give him a safe space to learn and help him find stability, and he will know more by the time he leaves me.)

Evaluations based on my student with test anxiety and ADHD, so that the snapshot bubble sheet doesn’t begin to show what he knows or can create? No. (But I’ll give him projects and assignments and lots of movement room so he can learn and succeed with authentic assignments.)

Again: Bring it. But you’d bloody well make it valid.


DTonguis July 6, 2013 at 21:19

Oh, Mike…what a repulsive misrepresentation of the BAT mission statement. If you are a teacher (I’m guessing you are not) or an education advocate (highly doubtful) but you would like to see for yourself exactly what we are trying to do to help this nation from becoming a Third World Country, then please join. If not, please avoid giving real classroom teachers advice. Oh, wait! That’s also our mission! Not having people like you – who know SQUAT about the teaching/learning process – tell us what we are doing wrong in the classroom.


CA Maestro July 6, 2013 at 21:37

“So… their mission is to not take responsibility and fight against evaluations?”

The best trick the reform movement has thus far pulled is to convince people that their way is the *only* way to improve schools and the teaching profession, and that any voice against them is a voice against progress.

It’s not about eliminating evaluations, it’s about developing evaluations that are fair and effective.


Stu July 6, 2013 at 22:19


I have decided to evaluate your comment by using the rubric I use to grade 7th grade writing.

Argument – unclear and uses false assertions to support – F
Support of argument – no credible evidence is given to support the argument – F
Sources – evidence is not properly sourced according to MLA, Univ. of Chicago, or common sense – F
Mechanics – no errors in grammar or Punctuation – A

Final assessment – D minus, TRY AGAIN FOR CREDIT

COMMENTS: The author seems to be having a problem with reading comprehension. Either that or there is a problem with sensory impairment. Also, when quoting a source in an argument make sure to give the source for your assertion. I assume that you are attempting to quote something from the BAT page but I cannot find the assertion that you are making anywhere in the group’s resources.

See, this is the kind of evaluation we would support. An education professional taking a real life anecdote or example of something we said or did. You can see how this one example is so much more informative about the student’s needs and abilities than simply saying “The student filled in ‘A’ as the answer to #47. The correct response was ‘C’ “. TEACHER TIP: if you are confused, always guess C, that way you will have a 25% chance to get the answer correct on a multiple choice test. These are the tips I give my students before they take a multiple choice test instead of teaching actual CONTENT.

An education professional

PS The next time you decide to take on a group of teachers, bring your good stuff. We are used to exposing sloppy arguments with flimsy evidence. It is our job. We teach kids to think so they don’t go on the Internet and embarrass themselves in public.


Mike July 6, 2013 at 23:53

I am a 6th year teacher at a Title 1 school. I also write and education column and run a non-profit education association. I believe that education can change a society- That a great teacher can engage a whole classroom full of hard to reach students- That teachers are responsible for the students that do and don’t learn in their classroom. I feel the burn of every student I fail to reach every year, and I don’t DARE say that I’m not responsible for it. And that it is only when educators believe that, take ownership of that, and turn to meet that challenge that our system will get better. Ending testing isn’t going to change education- changing the mindsets of educators so that they take ownership of every single kid and make them their own will. Jeffery Canada, Ron Clark, and every other teacher that has gone on to become a transformational leader practices the truth of what I am saying. And they didn’t blame Bill Gates, TFA, charter schools, testing, or even poverty. They just do what it takes to make a difference. They’re badasses. That’s what I thought I was going to find here. It’s not.


Stu July 7, 2013 at 00:38


I love the implication that if a teacher has an opinion on testing, TFA, Gates, Rhee, et al that we really don’t CARE about our students as much as the REAL teachers who sweat blood for EVERY. SINGLE. CHILD. That we feel any less responsible for our kids than you do because we think testing takes away valuable instructional time and dumbs down the curriculum so it is not reaching the deeper levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

I refuse to work with my head down trying to do my best to reach all my students while people who have NO IDEA what it is like to teach throw more and more obstacles in my way. Obstacles that PREVENT me from reaching all my students.

I refuse to sit by and watch these ‘reformers’ get rich by hurting my students. ENOUGH. I have tried working harder and longer and caring more. That alone is not enough to make my students successful. More needs to be done.

If someone is hurting my students I have a moral obligation as a teacher to stop those people. That is why I am a BAT.


camb88 July 7, 2013 at 05:53

Mike needs to dig a lot deeper. Investigate. Find out. Follow the money, so to speak. He apparently does not see beyond his classroom and his school. Jeffrey Canada, Michelle Rhee, and other “transformational leaders” have lately been discredited by the facts and the data. Since he says he writes an ed column, one would hope that he is responsible enough to at least know what he’s talking about!


Paul July 7, 2013 at 22:17


You are living in a dream world and need to actually educate yourself. We are all reflective teachers who self evaluate all the time and have concluded, as professionals, educators, and intelligent people that the problems are not teachers or schools. It is poverty and the lack of resources. period. (and more). I have taught in 3 states, from pre-K to high school, in districts and schools with lots of money and in Title 1 schools. Do you know history? history of education? History of the labor movement in this country? the world? We dont blame poverty. Go read the data and the research. Politicians are ignoring the obvious reason students are suffering and why the perception of schools, that they are failing, are increasing; increased poverty-look at the data. I grew up on food stamps and reduced lunch yet hung out with families with lots of money; some of whom were professors and teachers. I was poor monetarily yes, but had a parent who had some college education, friends with college education, and was demanded and expected to go to college and encouraged, and forced, to do the work; and my mother had the educational resources to know how to do this; not all parents in poverty, or from cultures who dont value education similarly, have the same values. So do your research and get some experience. However, I do appreciate you for your opinions, though uniformed, to helping continue the conversations.


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