Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Worst Advice Ever

As NY State scrambles to follow the mandates of charter-owned Governor Andrew Cuomo and his Heavy-Hearted Assembly, everyone wonders how the hell NYC will deal with the specter of receivership. The geniuses who crafted this bill decided that if a lot of kids failed tests, it was because the teachers suck and the schools suck. Factors like the poverty infesting each and every district in which low test scores occur meant nothing. So what if it happened without exception? Haven't you ever heard of coincidence?

Who cares if the kids are learning disabled or don't speak English? Let's fire those lazy teachers, get all that school money into private hands, and feel better about ourselves.

And when I read articles like this one, I'm struck by how little even very good writers seem to know about our history. I mean, sure we're not closing schools, which was like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic to escape the water. Instead we're getting rid of the teachers:

More than half the staffs at both schools will be gone by this fall; 67 percent of the staff at Boys and Girls were either not rehired for their positions or left voluntarily, and 58 percent of staff at Automotive are not returning.

Ask yourself this--how many times have we turned over a staff, left the kids in place, and changed the test grades? To my knowledge, the answer is never. For example, reformy Steve Barr, after befriending and then firing most of its staff, failed utterly in his bid to turn around a notorious LA high school.. So for UFT and de Blasio to place their reps on it, in my view, is shortsighted at best. For one thing, should they fail, they will be turning over our schools to MaryEllen Elia, a tool to carry out whatever the hell Cuomo's deep-pocketed owners need carrying out.

I think they will fail. There is, in fact, no research, no practice, and no precedent for their success. Imagine, though, if they do not fail. Should that happen, they will have lent credence to the teacher-bashing, union-hating lunatics who attack us relentlessly, who hate us and everything we stand for. They will let potential teachers know that it is simply not worth the risk to teach high-needs children like those I serve.

The most outrageous statement I see in this story, though, is this one:

Major teacher turnover in dozens of schools is not an initiative that most would associate with the U.F.T. But Joseph Viterriti, a professor of education policy at the CUNY Graduate Center, said this could be an occasion for the union to flaunt its progressive credentials.

“The smart thing [for the union] to do is to come up with ideas that say ‘we’re for reform,’” Viteritti said. “It’s more likely to happen with a mayor they trust than it would have been in the past. This could be that moment where something really positive happens.”

I'm not sure whether or not Professor Viterriti has picked up a newspaper over the last ten years, but hey, why should a professor of education policy need to follow what goes on in education anyway? First of all, New York suffered through 12 years of Bloomberg "reform," and what have we got to show for it besides 62 schools in line for state takeover?  Perhaps Viterriti is unaware that UFT has supported mayoral control, charter schools, co-location, failed quasi-merit pay, and the Absent Teacher Reserve. Perhaps he doesn't know we've supported the abolition of seniority placement. Maybe no one has told him that we helped write legislation that got teachers rated by junk science, or that we approved Reformy John King as an impartial arbiter to determine our version of APPR.

Perhaps Viterriti doesn't know that there is no basis to suggest these "reforms" will work. And why should he? Even in the unlikely event that he did read the newspapers, there's very little in them to suggest these are arbitrary procedures with no track record whatsoever.

But let's forget about Viterriti and look at ourselves. In fact, we have an extraordinary track record of saying, "We're for reform." Wasn't it us who invited Gates and his MET program into our schools? Wasn't that the basis for the junk science ratings he's now inflicted on almost the entire country? In fact, didn't the AFT invite Gates to be keynote speaker at its convention? Didn't every UFT Unity loyalty oath signer applaud? Didn't former UFT President Randi Weingarten ridicule those who protested Gates from the podium?

Here's why stating, "We're for reform," is the worst advice ever. First of all, as I've pointed out, we've said it over and over. More importantly, the results of such statements, even if they've gotten us a "seat at the table," have been nothing short of catastrophic. We give them an inch, and they sue us to take away our tenure. We give them another, and they go to SCOTUS to demand we allow freeloading in our union. It is outright ridiculous to suggest anything UFT does will appease its critics. If you're reading this, President Mulgrew, be advised our critics want nothing less than

a. our total destruction
b. our utter irrelevance,
c. our total capitulation, or most likely
d. all of the above.

I understand what politicians mean when they advise not to negotiate with terrorists. The principle here is very much the same.
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