Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Frank Bruni Waxes Poetic on the Teacher Shortage

It must be great to be Frank Bruni. One day you're a food columnist, and the next you're an education expert. Today Frank is all upset about the teacher shortage. After all, his own paper wrote a big story about it. Nowhere did they bother acknowledging that teachers are pretty much under nationwide assault, but hey, why sweat the details when you're writing for the Paper of Record? The fact that they print the column should be good enough for anyone.

As it happens, Bruni himself is a prominent teacher basher. He believes passionately in junk science rating of teachers and can't be bothered to do the most fundamental research. Who cares if the American Statistical Association says teachers change test scores by a factor of 1-14%? What's the big deal if they say use of high stakes evaluation is counter-productive? He knows some guy who likes it and that should be good enough for anyone. Bruni does other important work, like spitting out press releases for Joel Klein's latest book.

But now he's amazed no one wants to be a teacher. Naturally, being a New York Times reporter who has access to pretty much anyone, he goes right to the source, the very best representative of teachers he can muster:

Teachers crave better opportunities for career growth. Evan Stone, one of the chief executives of Educators 4 Excellence, which represents about 17,000 teachers nationwide, called for “career ladders for teachers to move into specialist roles, master-teacher roles.”

“They’re worried that they’re going to be doing the same thing on Day 1 as they’ll be doing 30 years in,” he told me.

This is what Frank Bruni interprets as vision. Let's make one thing clear--Evan Stone is not a teacher. He was for a few excruciating and clearly unrewarding years. But once he learned all he could from that dead end job, he started this glitzy new E4E thing and got his hands on Gates money. Now he gets to make pronouncements to distinguished NY Times reporters like Bruni. Meanwhile, the rest of us are stuck actually teaching children. Naturally Bruni doesn't ask us what we think. After all, given our obvious lack of ambition, what could we possibly know?

Bruni has gala luncheons to attend, fois gras to critique, and he can't be bothered.  Still just because Evan Stone's E4E got 17, 000 people to sign papers in exchange for free drinks doesn't mean they actually represent those people. I happen to know, for example, a UFT official who signed the paper just to see what was going on at one of those meetings.

In fact, there's no evidence to indicate anything E4E says is based on anything beyond Bill Gates's druthers. Their support for junk science and calls to actually worsen already tough working conditions border on lunacy. Their acceptance of reformy money and embrace of a reformy agenda mean they do NOT represent working teachers.

Here's something no one told Frank Bruni--teachers who want to "get out of the classroom" make the very worst educational leaders there are. How many of us have worked under supervisors who don't love our job, who can't do our job, but who don't hesitate to tell us all the ways we do our job wrong? How many of us know the, "Do as I say, not as I do." mantra well enough it might be tattooed on our foreheads?

Yes, Frank Bruni, there is a teacher shortage. And yes, there are reasons for it. Some reasons are your BFFs like Joel Klein, Campbell Brown, and Gates-funded astroturf groups like E4E. They spout nonsense-based corporate ideas designed to destroy public education and union. You talk to them and can't be bothered with us.

Another big reason is mainstream media, which hires people like you. When people read nonsense like the stuff you write, they may not know that fundamental research is something you consider beyond the pale. They may not be aware that your piece does not entail talking to working teachers. They may think we don't love our jobs and we don't love working with and helping children. They may not know that merit pay, which E4E is pushing in one form or another, has been around for 100 years and has never worked. They may even think that Evan Stone knows what he's talking about.

But he doesn't, Frank. And neither do you. That's why you're a big part of the problem.
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