Archive for January, 2013

The UFT and the DOE: Reflections On A Deal Gone Bust

January 17, 2013

When the email proclaiming no deal between the DOE and the UFT arrived at 2:00 in the afternoon or so I could scarcely believe my eyes.  I suspect that there were many teachers who felt the same  way.     For days I was expecting to arrive at tonight’s Delegate Assembly   to protest what many (myself included) had believed to be a long ago done deal, one inexplicably validating the pseudo science of Value Added Metrics, (VAM) and one rammed into reality without the consensus of the dues paying rank and file whose careers and lives would sure to be hugely affected by it.  My suspicions were made much greater after reading the repugnant post of one Peter Goodman, a retired teacher in no way affected by the evaluation plan, who nonetheless attempted to paint those who opposed the plan as nothing less than Tea Partiers whose small minds failed to realize that the UFT had to please not only the rank and file but Mike Bloomberg, the sleazebags of DFER, and even Michelle Rhee.

Goodman, it was said, was merely a mouthpiece for UFT leadership,

Good God, I thought, is this the true thinking of the UFT?  Needing to please the very forces that have made no secret of their desire to eradicate the very idea of union from human consciousness?  Can it really be this bad ?

With thoughts like this in mind the email at 2:00 came as a jolt —  a jolt that also came with a long over due and unfamiliar feeling of pride in the UFT.  Here they stood up to the venal little bastard in City Hall after all.   Yippie!  Michael Mulgrew even went so far as to publicly call Bloomberg a liar —  six times, he said.

About time, I thought.

When I arrived at UFT headquarters   I encountered something I never  imagined  possible:  a line to get in to the DA that snaked two blocks up Broadway.  Seemed like every chapter leader and delegate in the city had arrived  — but to do what?  There was a strange and almost giddy feel in the air when Mulgrew at last arrived (to great applause) to speak about what happened.

There was, apparently, a deal said Mulgrew,  but Bloomberg being Bloomberg imploded it at the 11th hour.   Mulgrew clearly lamented Bloomberg’s maneuver and spent a lot of time explaining what he felt was good about the plan.  The foolishness of the initial buying into Race To the Top and the presence  of the aforementioned error ridden Value Added Metrics (now apparently called “growth”) were never mentioned.

Little by little the air went out of the balloon.

I was happy to see the thing torpedoed but I have no illusions about the lousiness of the state of things as they are.  Wind up with a psycho principal (a reality I am all too familiar with even if I do not live with it now) and you can kiss your career goodbye and there is nothing the union can do about it.    Such is the reality after a decade of capitulations to those who live to destroy you.

I’m glad I was wrong about the UFT standing up to Bloomberg and his allies.  I’m glad to see it happen at the very moment the bus drivers have gone on strike and further expose this man Bloomberg for the union busting pathological monster that he is.  I was glad to see the smiles on the faces of my long-suffering colleagues.  But I have no illusions that what transpired in the past 24 hours is anything but a brief respite in a war of life or death.  I would like to think it could signal a new beginning but I can’t quite believe that.

I would love to be wrong about that as well.

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Educators 4 Excellence and the Strings They Pull

January 3, 2013

Once again the farce that calls itself Educators for Excellence, a minuscule organization existing solely to implement the will of its hubristic and anti-democratic billionaire backers, most prominently Bill Gates and the hedge fund gang that calls itself Democrats for Education Reform, have managed to land yet another editorial in a major New York paper, this time the New York Daily News.

There is, of course, no sane reason that as microscopic an organization as is E4E would be treated with such respect and prominence other than the fact that the same people who have ponied up over two million dollars for the two year old propaganda group paid other people to make   some serious phone calls to the honchos at the DN and the heroes of the “Liberal Media” found it advantageous to do their bidding. Hence, another editorial for E4E.

It is more than ironic that these people have the gall to speak of merit.

The editorial, like Educators 4 Excellence itself, is pathetic.   And, like all the times I have actually encountered this deceptive little group, I was almost initially disarmed by pathos.  The last time was a few weeks back at a tiny and tinny E4E rally for the same cause in which head shill Evan Stone, with characteristic humility, bellowed idiotically into a microphone to his 30 or so followers, “ I am not satisfactory!  I am excellent!” with all the energy and passion of a depressed salamander.

For a moment I could not help but pity the poor fool who was trying so hard to please his ultra-wealthy employers who have removed him from the hard work of teaching so as to allow him to play dummy to their ventriloquist.     What else can one feel but pathos?

For a moment, anyway.

In the editorial, pathetically tilted  “Please help me to be a better teacher ” you have the same message, slightly augmented.   You might call this an Educators 4 Excellence version of   Paradise Lost desiring deeply to enter Paradise Regained.

Here you have the song of a teacher who claims that she relocated from the middle of the country “after working as a public school teacher for five years in Colorado” and  “moved to New York City because of its reputation for being on the cutting edge of innovation in all things,” assuming, of course, in education.

Here “cutting edge” needs be understood as the educational version of a century old scientific management, also called Taylorism: “a theory of management that analyzed and synthesized workflows. Its main objective was improving economic efficiency, especially labor productivity. It was one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineering of processes and to management. Its development began with Frederick Winslow Taylor in the 1880s and 1890s within the manufacturing industries.”

Taylorism was beloved by Henry Ford and any number of industrialists.

“Value added metrics” or VAM is a great grand child of Taylorism and as such is a half-baked completely unreliable and fraudulent method of evaluation that links students test scores to their teachers. It can torpedo teaching careers with no justification whatsoever.     Only a person utterly without an ethical center would inflict this crazy system on any teachers.  E4E, like their corporate overlords, are gaga over VAM.  At   least those who know of VAM’s existence, which, at least in terms of their rally, were very, very few.

Alas, hoping to encounter Paradise in “cutting edge” New York, the angst-ridden   author encounters only Paradise Lost and found herself longing for the system she had fled in which Denver  “successfully implemented a teacher evaluation and compensation system known as ProComp when I was working there. Under ProComp, teachers are evaluated by multiple measures, including student growth data, the amount of professional development they participate in and thoughtful, meaningful classroom observations.”

Ah, for the happy days of ProComp!  Alas, one wonders why she fled such an educational Eden in the first place.

Her next lines read as if they were penned by a committee.

“The city and the teachers union have until Jan. 17 to negotiate such a system or risk losing $300 million in state education aid. And if they don’t, we’ll lose a lot more than money, missing an important opportunity to create a world-class teaching force that can provide a great education to every child in the city no matter where they live or which classroom they end up in each year.”

The writer either does not know or  does not care that not a thin dime of the $300 million is  destined for the classroom.  The writer either does not know or does not care that the evaluation system is based partly on the presumption of good faith on the part of administrators – a good faith precious few NYC teachers have seen evidence of since the advent of the Eternal Mayor and his eternal war upon them — and partly on demonstrably bad science called Value Added Metrics.  In short, to implement such an evaluation system as it stands would be to treat the career of New York City teachers as if with a roll of the dice, a scenario that would not seem to faze Mr. Bloomberg in the least.  Or E4E.  Or Bill Gates. Or Democrats for Education Reform.  Or Andy Cuomo.  Or Barack Obama.

Sorry, we need to take your license.  You can never work as a teacher again.  But it’s for the kids, you understand.

Another part of her letter, considering that it entirely concerned with the appalling shortcomings of appalling administrators,  is nothing short of an unintended exposure and indictment of the Bloomberg administration.

“My experience in New York has been quite different. In my first job here, working with students who were considered some have the most disabled in the city, I received tenure without so much as ever having the principal observe me teach. The feedback I received was limited to a checklist that included things like the quality of my bulletin boards.

Never did I get useful feedback on my classroom management; never did I get quality advice on how to better differentiate my instruction to reach more students, and never did I receive insights from coaches or mentors on what had or hadn’t worked for them.”

The author seems to be clueless as to who is responsible for the above but assumes, somehow, the new evaluation plan will transform these incompetents into stellar performers – to use a word cherished by Ed reformers.

Finally there is yet another pathetic attempt to frame the argument in hipster language.

“There is simply no reason New York cannot do the same for its teachers. There is simply no reason that a city that has been at the leading edge on so many other things can’t lead on this.”

But all of this nonsense begs the question of why does this infinitesimal organization which represents less than 1% of teachers and would vanish back in to the hell from which it came the moment its sugar daddies ceased bankrolling it, repeatedly land editorials in widely circulated newspapers, seats on educational forums and interviews with Fox News and the Wall Street Journal ?

Of course, in a nation in which the 1% are waging eternal war against all those who are not them, it is apposite that it is so.  It is also reprehensible.

I said earlier that my dealing with E4E have sometimes led me to be almost disarmed by their pathos.  For a time,  for a time.

But then I think about what they doing, their level of their conscious deceit and cynicism masquerading as innocence and honesty. I think about the cold blooded hubris it takes to try and undermine the last standing union of size in the nation because it will land you a soft cozy job on billionaire welfare.  But mostly I think about the almost animal like lack of empathy embedded in the reckless, unproven, untested policies they promote and the ruthless, predator nature for those they work for.  I think about all the fine teachers I know who have been thoroughly demoralized by the likes of the polices E4E and its masters so insidiously work to implement. I think of dear friends and fine beloved teachers with families whose careers have been destroyed by the same a-human impulse that drives all of this corporate reformer psychosis.

And then I feel something very different than pathos.

I moved here from Denver, where evaluations are more rigorous

Comments (12)

BY / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 2, 2013, 2:55 AM
Mayor Bloomberg (l.) and UFT head Michael Mulgrew (r.) have frequently clashed over education reform.

ADAMS IV

Mayor Bloomberg (l.) and UFT head Michael Mulgrew (r.) have frequently clashed over education reform.

After working as a public school teacher for five years in Colorado, I moved to New York City because of its reputation for being on the cutting edge of innovation in all things. Little did I know that when it came to teacher preparation and support, I’d be taking a big step backward.

Today, five years after my move, our schools still haven’t caught up to forward-looking states like Colorado — and parents and students are left to wonder why there is often such a disparity in teacher quality from classroom to classroom.

A robust teacher evaluation system would begin to help change that by providing educators with meaningful, data-driven feedback about their performance — hopefully leading to training and mentoring opportunities to help us improve in the areas where we struggle.

The city and the teachers union have until Jan. 17 to negotiate such a system or risk losing $300 million in state education aid. And if they don’t, we’ll lose a lot more than money, missing an important opportunity to create a world-class teaching force that can provide a great education to every child in the city no matter where they live or which classroom they end up in each year.

Better evaluation is hardly a novel concept. In Denver, which is a fraction of the size of New York, we successfully implemented a teacher evaluation and compensation system known as ProComp when I was working there. Under ProComp, teachers are evaluated by multiple measures, including student growth data, the amount of professional development they participate in and thoughtful, meaningful classroom observations.

In turn, highly effective teachers in Denver can receive financial bonuses and leadership opportunities — things that signal to educators that performance matters. Studies have shown a positive impact on student achievement, and Denver is now evolving the system to meet new needs and challenges.

My experience in New York has been quite different. In my first job here, working with students who were considered some of the most disabled in the city, I received tenure without so much as ever having the principal observe me teach. The feedback I received was limited to a checklist that included things like the quality of my bulletin boards.

Never did I get useful feedback on my classroom management; never did I get quality advice on how to better differentiate my instruction to reach more students, and never did I receive insights from coaches or mentors on what had or hadn’t worked for them.

I’m currently working at a school where my principal recognizes the value of observing her teachers and working with them to improve their practice. I’ve been fortunate to receive her feedback promptly — and I incorporate her assessments into my planning to enhance the education I am providing. It makes coming to work that much more rewarding, but receiving that support shouldn’t depend on the principal. Rather, it should be offered to every teacher in every school.

Across the country — from Los Angeles to Newark to Washington — many districts have successfully negotiated new evaluation measures.

There is simply no reason New York cannot do the same for its teachers. There is simply no reason that a city that has been at the leading edge on so many other things can’t lead on this.

City officials and the city’s teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers, need to get beyond their eternal grudge match and start thinking about how they can help teachers enhance their profession — which, in turn, can only increase student performance. They can start by providing us with a stronger means to evaluate our work.

Keyock is a special-education teacher at Metropolitan High School in the Bronx and a member of Educators 4 Excellence.

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Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/better-teacher-article-1.1230605#ixzz2GtqchgA7