This week we've been examining precisely what it takes to represent the UFT at a national or state convention. The prime requirement, of course, is to be an invited member of the elite Unity Caucus, and to do that you must agree to support all union positions in public. Ravitch, though I like her very much, fails to meet the standard. Here's why.
1. She publicly opposes mayoral control. UFT supports it, and this alone would disqualify her. It's a long tradition to expel Unity members for failure to conform. In fact, Albert Shanker used to expel people for opposing the Vietnam War. Mayoral control is what brought us the rubber-stamp PEP, and I've seen high-ranking UFT officials get just as frustrated with them as most of us are. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and placing all that power in the hands of an elitist billionaire, let alone anyone at all, was a huge error. We ought to stop pretending otherwise.
2. Ravitch vehemently opposes VAM, and has publicly labeled it for the junk science it is. She does not support using it for teacher evaluations, not at any percentage. Standard union argument is that principal's judgment can be flawed, and therefore other measures are needed. I cannot really argue that point, nor the one that there are plenty of crazy principals out there, but adding random nonsense to the mix hardly helps. In fact, if you have a small-minded principal, it's likely this person could work to see your value-added scores scour the depths of whatever underworld whatever remains of the soul of Joel Klein has been relegated to.
3. Ravitch fails to support Common Core, contending it should be tested before it's put into effect. This makes perfect sense to me. In fact, with the AFT circulating a petition against excessive testing, before supporting it, wouldn't it be a good idea for us to find out precisely how much testing it will entail? The spectre of nine tests a year, to me, hardly bodes well. I'm upset by Common Core in that it does not differentiate between ELA for American-born kids and ESL for my students. To me, that's patently idiotic. Issues like these ought to be addressed before we throw our support to any program.
4. Ravitch is highly critical of union-endorsed President Barack Obama, going so far as to say he's given GW Bush a third term in education. UFT members won't be talking any of that when Vice President Joe Biden addresses the crowd in Detroit. When Obama's people applaud entire teaching staffs being fired, when Arne Duncan states Katrina was the best thing to happen to NOLA education, Obama says nothing, but Ravitch is not impressed.
I could go on, but you get the point. I commend the AFT for selecting Ravitch this year. She's a much better choice than Bill Gates.
On the other hand, it's not particularly admirable that UFT leadership has excluded absolutely every New York City teacher who publicly supports her ideas.