Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Everything Is on the Table

I've heard quite a bit of talk about getting a "seat at the table," most of it from the UFT. For example, we decided to partner with Bill Gates to study teacher evaluation via testing, and now "value-added" is all the rage. Gates endorses it, it was widely placed into practice before this study concluded, and teachers have lost jobs based on various flawed iterations of this system.

I recall the NEA speaking out against the nonsense propagated by Gates and Duncan, and was therefore shocked that they've apparently decided to not only endorse the Obama/ Duncan team, but also to support some undefined teacher evaluation program that appears not to even exist.

Apparently, the allure of Obama has something to do with GOP candidates being even worse. I'll acknowledge that's a strong possibility, but it provides slim justification for an endorsement. In fact, at this point, an endorsement is a wink, a nod, and an ironclad agreement that no matter how his administration ignores, disrespects, slanders and vilifies us, he has our vote. That's an egregious error. UFT withheld endorsement of faux-Democrat Cuomo, and I hope AFT will do the same for President Hopey-Changey.

As for judging teachers via student achievement, the NEA's decision is a decidedly mixed bag.

...the union also made clear that it continued to oppose the use of existing standardized test scores to judge teachers, a core part of the federally backed teacher evaluation overhauls already under way in at least 15 states. 

This is a good decision. Everything I read suggests that there is no validity to any form of "value-added" currently being utilized. There is, then, the problem of how the hell to use it without any apparent system that's remotely effective. When and if they find one, though, the NEA has come to a very peculiar determination of how it should be used:

Some teachers also balked at another section of the policy — the proposal that failing teachers be given only one year to improve, instead of the standard two. But in the end a clear majority voted yes. 

How on earth can they come to that conclusion based on tests that do not, by their own admission, even exist?  And why do we need a union to help us get rid of so-called "failing" teachers? We know, for example, that "failing" schools simply means schools full of high-needs students, like Jamaica High School. On a smaller scale, couldn't teachers have more high-needs kids and consequently be determined failing, through no fault of their own?

It's time we stopped accepting baseless and unfounded labels. Having a "seat at the table" is absurd if not only no one is listening, but we ourselves also buy into unfounded assumptions. I'm reminded of Michael Moore's assertion that it's absurd to put "everything on the table," in the video below.

We need to deal in objective reality, even if it eludes the billionaires and hedge-funders who've taken over the education of our children. As Moore so ably points out, things that make no sense whatsoever do not even merit discussion (let alone endorsement).

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