Friday, January 19, 2007

The More Things Change...

...the more they stay the same. Mayor Bloomberg's proposals remind me of nothing more than the folks who come to school each year to tell us how this is the way to teach, this is the only way to teach, and no teaching can ever occur unless you teach this way. They freely admit, of course, that they said the same thing last year, but that way, for some inexplicable reason, no longer works.

I've learned to block them out altogether by closing my eyes and focusing on one simple word, which unfortunately is not fit to publish.

So last year's reforms, as brilliant as they were, are not reform-minded enough, and this year we need to reform the reforms so as to create a reformation that's so well-formed, we can discard it utterly when reform time comes around.

There's a lot of talk about tenure. I have very mixed feelings about that. We ought not to grant tenure to people who are unfit to teach. Still, I don't believe this mayor is seriously looking to reduce the pool of available teachers. Supply and demand is a tricky thing, and NYC has been able to keep teacher salaries below market rates for over thirty years.

Do you really think we've seen the last of intergalactic recruiting? I doubt it.

But the mayor now says if you can't raise the kids' test scores, you may not get tenure. This, of course, makes the plainly idiotic assumption that the teacher is the only factor affecting test scores. Well, let me tell you, it's easy to raise test scores. Just do what Rod Paige did, and make sure kids who mess up statistics get left behind somehow. Or take all the tests yourself. There are lots of ways creative teachers can get around this, just as Mayor Mike himself doesn't count dropouts in his own statistics.

Are those the sort of teachers we want? Will we be surprised at the occasional indiscreet newbie who gets caught? Will the mayor get away with this nonsense?

One person who clearly doesn't know is UFT President Randi Weingarten, as usual, the proverbial deer in the headlights. Ms. Weingarten feigns shock at this utterly predictable finger-pointing. Mayor Mike has many fingers, though, and we all know which way they point. How on earth can Ms. Weingarten, his number one collaborator, be surprised?

She's now stood up to protect tenure, though as far as I can tell, it's not precisely under attack. Aside from the preposterous testing proposals, the threat seems more along the lines of enforcing existing agreements. And if it were under attack, or it is actually attacked, who would you want to protect it?

With Ms. Weingarten's explicit approval, mayoral control came into being, thus enabling the campaign of outright fear and loathing we've been subject to the last few years. Ms. Weingarten has thus far been too timid to speak against its renewal. For teachers, she's endorsed the sixth class, perpetual hall patrol, 90-day unpaid suspensions, a bought-and-paid-for phony opposition party called "New Action," and the all-new purgatory that is the Absent Teacher Reserve. For children, she's refused to make class size any part of contract negotiations.

Perhaps Ms. Weingarten, from her downtown ivory tower, has determined her actions will help us retain new teachers. The only potential improvement Ms. Weingarten has proposed was 25/55, and the other night, the mayor seemed to come out squarely against any enhancements to pension plans (In fact, it's almost certain he's got other notions entirely).

At every step, this mayor has outmaneuvered her. Like New York City's 1.1 million public schoolchildren, we need strong leaders who will stand up to bullies. Like them, we need leaders who will demand small class sizes in contract talks. We need leaders who understand what a raise is, what cost of living is, and who won't toss our hard-won benefits into the trash for less than nothing. We need leaders who understand that making a difficult job even more difficult is not precisely the key to retaining teachers.

We don't need Ms. Weingarten and her band of overpaid sycophantic Unity-New Action patronage cronies. They know only how to shut up and sit down for fear of endangering pension #2.

Thanks to Schoolgal

cross-posted to Take Back the UFT
blog comments powered by Disqus