Monday, October 06, 2008

Visionaries on Broadway

The UFT has made one agreement after another that's done nothing to help working teachers, city kids, city parents, or anyone other than their patronage mill and Tweed's propaganda machine. They made a toothless agreement on class size that resulted in no class size reduction whatsoever. They agreed to a reorganization which forced principals to consider the salaries of incoming teachers. They were shocked (shocked!) that principals tended to prefer 40K teachers over 100K teachers.

Now they've made an agreement about using standardized test data. According to Edwize, the data will be used: empower teachers with information useful in our teaching. In this same vein, the letter expressly prohibits the use of that information for evaluating teachers, in both annual ratings and tenure decisions.

The article continues to explain various reasons why standardized testing is unreliable. When you use it as an exclusive measure of teacher quality, it can give preposterously uneven results. Certainly a teacher moved from one school to another could have wildly different scores. I teach ESL kids how to pass the English Regents. I do OK, but it's certainly a lower percentage of my kids pass than those who teach kids who actually know how to speak, write and comprehend English.

But the New York Times, unlike the UFT, seems to perceive the obvious:

The new reports are part of a broader bid by the city to improve the ways teachers are recruited, trained and measured.

Why else would Tweed consider these reports at all?

With the incredible pressure on principals to improve test scores, with their jobs (and merit pay) on the line, it hasn't occurred to the UFT aristocracy that principals might utilize these reports in ways other than those intended by the Klein/ Weingarten agreement. It hasn't occurred to them that Klein himself might not abide by the agreement.

Wasn't Joel Klein the guy who unilaterally declined all sabbaticals for teachers? Isn't he the guy who made the toothless class size agreement the UFT touted, and then failed to reduce class size? Doesn't he work for Mike Bloomberg, who promised to rid the city of trailers, then welched? Isn't he the guy who agreed to keep ATRs on salary, made sure they'd never get hired, then pulled a New Teacher Project report out of his pocket claiming they were an independent organization (despite the fact he pays them millions per year)?

Has the UFT forgotten how many broken and unsatisfactory agreements they've made with Tweed? Do they really believe that principals will not use this info to rate teachers or deny tenure, whether or not they specifically say so?

It's a hallmark of intelligence to learn from experience. But Randi Weingarten is one of the smartest people I've ever seen, and her failed plans seem only to inspire even worse plans. What on earth is she thinking about? Tweed doesn't do education very well, but it's got a highly efficient and effective PR machine. Does she actually enjoy being outmaneuvered and clobbered by it?

They handed her the very worst contract I'd seen in 20 years, took back every gain the UFT had made since I began teaching, gave her less than cost of living, and got her to say "thank you."

I don't know whether she understands that yet. Why she keeps going back for more of the same is a mystery I can't get my head around.
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