Yesterday was an interesting news day for teachers in New York insofar as there were not one, but two articles exposing the truth about the billionaire based pubic relations campaign known collectively as “education reform ” and two of its sacred cows: charter schools and test-based teacher evaluations.
The first was a report from Politico concerning Eva Moskowitz’s fabled Success Academies, they of the almost supernaturally high test scores of previously woe-be-gone students. There is something strange about the whole of the article, which tells of a buried internal report, completed last June by an “ethnographer” ` who was fired the following month. Somehow the report and other papers have wound up in the hands of Politico.
“While (author of the report ) Germano did not conclusively prove that teachers were cheating,” reports Politico, “he reports multiple incidents of Success staffers informing him that Success teachers may have prepared students for specific questions on internal tests, allowed students to copy answers from each other, scored their own students higher than students in other classes, and pointed to incorrect answers on exams and warned students to rethink their answers.”
The report also paints “ a picture of a growing enterprise facing serious institutional strain in the form of low staff morale, unusually high turnover, and the kind of stress that could drive teachers to exaggerate their students’ progress. “
None of this is news to anyone who has had the unfortunate experience of lengthy exposure to Success Academy.
As one who has worked in a school “co-located” with the very first Success Academy, and has watched the parade of very, very young, very, very white, very, very stressed teachers come and go like employees of Taco Bell, I knew there was something very, very, wrong with the miraculous test scores from the beginning – as did anyone with common sense. And I was reminded of the absurd scenario everyday. How could people with next to no teaching experience be such wondrous teachers? And why were such wondrous teachers always flying the coop?
Moreover, why did not a single student from any Success academy pass the test for any of the selective high schools?
Moskowitz, as yet, has not denied the authenticity of the report but you can bet her very expensive PR team is working over time trying to spin or bury this. Rest assured the effort to bury this will be as systemic and far-reaching as was that of the cheating scandal that surrounded fellow miracle worker Michelle Rhee during her reign in Washington. D.C., as well as the efforts to bury the law suits being filed against Success Academy after the “Gotta Go List” revelation.
The second and potentially far more resonant article centered on the unambiguous decision handed down by a Long Island judge on the case of Long Island master teacher Sheri Lederman, who challenged Valued Added Measure or VAM evaluations of “ineffective.” New York Supreme Court Justice Mc Donough ruled the score “arbitrary and capricious” and threw it out.
That the lawsuit came not from our unions but from a teacher — a very heroic teacher, I might add– who is fortunate enough to be married to a lawyer, is revealing of all too much of the problem. But I’ll celebrate victory any way we can get it, and this decision should be seen as a victory for teachers everywhere.
That such a ridiculous system was ever implemented to begin with is intellectually disgraceful, revealing an infantile idolatry of technology and an oceanic contempt for human dignity. It is a pity former New York State Commissioner John King was not hauled before the judge to defend the idiocy he forced upon an entire state of teachers in a forum in which he could not bully or weasel his way out of it.
Still the decision begs the question: where is the justice for the teachers who have been humiliated and degraded by this nonsenses and whose careers have been ended by it?
So… two chips in the privatizers’ armor in a single day is good but we would be naïve to think that the people behind this stuff will be the least bit chastened or humbled.
Allow an individual or a family to accumulate the wealth of a nation and they will begin to act like a nation. The millions of dollars that the Gates and the Walton family and Eli Broad have invested in the privatization of public education are but nothing when you have billions and billions of dollars at your disposal.
They will be back with more destructive ideas, rest assured.
Still, I suppose one must take heart in the fact that, slowly, slowly the general public is being informed of truths that teachers have known for years.