Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What About the Kids?

With all this talk about how awful this contract is for us, it seems a good time to take a look at how it will benefit the students we serve. After all, the Daily News is interviewing legal expert Campbell Brown again. Of course, she and whoever pays for her to do whatever it is she does are only interested in firing as many teachers as possible. Will this contract do that?

Well, the city seems to be sending out signals it will divest itself of ATR teachers. Union says it won't happen, and that the one-day 3020a process will be "fast and fair." Only time will tell who's right, what with it never having been tested. It will be a tough day for those who get fined thousands of dollars, as are most, and an even tougher day for those who are fired. Since reformy folks are happy to fire teachers indiscriminately so as to cripple the last bastion of vibrant unionism in these United States, their ideas don't help anyone except those who line their pockets as a result.

So what about our students? Will the new PROSE feature, the one that lets teachers dump the contract in the trash and do whatever for a five-year stretch, help them? Will charter lite be the salvation of our young people? Honestly, I doubt it. Since the secret to all those schools who send 100% of their students to four-year colleges is to get rid of each and every student who wouldn't graduate, I don't see how they do that. Unless, of course, some school wishes to change its contract to take all the rejects from the school in the next town. Can public schools juke the stats as well as charters? Odds are they can't.

And what about class size? I teach two double-period classes right now. One has 14 students and the other has 32. Guess which kids I can give more time to. The NYC class size has been 34 since I started teaching in 1984. This contract continues our proud tradition of doing absolutely nothing about it. I haven't heard a single word from UFT leadership substantively addressing class sizes in contracts in thirty years. UFT says if we reduce class sizes it will somehow net us less money, and of course they negotiated us an almost immediate two-percent raise. In fact, in four years, we'll have gotten the raise everyone else got four years ago. We got nothing back for putting off money for years, and the opportunity to accomplish something truly worthwhile has been unceremoniously squandered by short-sighted negotiators.

Will "master teachers" help our students? They'll be making an extra 20K a year. Have they been holding back their mastery until they get their money? Hope not. Anyway, they're going to help their colleagues. Oddly, great teachers I know help their colleagues as a matter of course. But the new wave of master teachers will be required to have highly effective junk science ratings. It could be that those I'd consider master teachers will not, and given that I place no value whatsoever on junk science ratings, I may not fully appreciate our upcoming crop of master teachers.

Great teachers, in my opinion, would go the extra mile for kids, and I'm not talking about test scores. Great teachers get to know the kids, inspire them to feel better about themselves, and reject nonsense from Common Core architect David Coleman saying no one cares how they feel. They encourage them to pursue what they're good at. They write beautiful recommendation letters and help kids pursue their dreams. They make kids do things they never knew they could do before. But I won't be picking them. Leadership Academy principals will, and they surely know better than we do. And in this new paradigm, what makes a master teacher is not any personal quality, but rather 20 thousand bucks a year.

Will we be creating master teachers by sending them to 80-minute meetings every Monday and Tuesday? I have my doubts.

This contract mostly helps Bill de Blasio. If we vote it up, we've imposed a crap pattern that every other union will have to take, the lowest pattern in my living memory, of 10% over seven years. And he will never have another round of negotiation unless he buys himself a Bloomberg-style third term.

I don't see a single benefit this contract has for our students. And if they should grow up and decide to be teachers, I'm not particularly sure how it benefits them even then, aside from almost keeping up with inflation.
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