Friday, November 27, 2015

Why Is Reformy Andy Cuomo Backing Down on Junk Science?

Like everyone who pays attention, I was pretty amazed to read in the NY Times that Governor Andrew Cuomo is looking to tamp down his teacher evaluation mandate. After all, hadn't he said that the new system, the one he backed and pushed, was "baloney?" He was clearly upset that not enough public school teachers had been badly rated and fired. After all, the developmentally inappropriate tests he had mandated, with no preparation whatsoever, had managed to fail a large number of New York's children. Surely he could blame the public schools and turn them over to his wealthy BFFs. There were billions to be made.

But alas, there was pushback. The moms whose kids Arne Duncan insulted were not ready to throw in the towel. They were not prepared to label their children as dummies and turn over their schools to Cuomo's campaign contributors. Opt-out fever hit NY State widely, and grew in leaps and bounds. Cuomo, seen as invincible after his first run against some Buffalo lunatic, began to show chinks in his armor. And on education, his popularity fell into the toilet. Ever reformy MaryEllen Elia suggested that junk science should count for 20, rather than 50% of teacher ratings.

Diane Ravitch pointed to this piece as significant, but urged caution.

This may be a hoax, a temporary moratorium intended to deflate the Opt Out Movement and cause it to disappear. Do not rest until the law is changed to delink testing and teacher-principal evaluations. The new federal law–not yet enacted–eliminates the federal mandate that Duncan imposed without authorization by Congress. New York may now permanently eliminate this punitive, anti-educational requirement.

New York parents: As Ronald Reagan said,  “Trust, but verify.” I suggest turning that saying around: “Verify, then trust.” Meanwhile, to quote an even older saying, keep your troops together and “keep your powder dry.”

Of course I agree. Trusting Andrew Cuomo is an egregious error. Punchy Mike Mulgrew trusted him when he opposed Bloomberg's LIFO-killing bill, but it was pretty clear Governor Andy thought his new junk-science APPR bill was gonna serve to fire those inconvenient unionized teachers. Punchy Mike trusted him so much he didn't bother to oppose Cuomo in primaries, let alone the general election. Cuomo thanked him by enacting the not only the most punitive and draconian teacher rating system I've ever seen, but also receivership that made collective bargaining agreements moot  (a system for which Punchy Mike thanked the Heavy Hearts Legislature).

Why would Governor Andy even pay lip service to reversing his reforminess? I have a theory. Perhaps he expects Friedrichs to win. Were that to happen, the inconvenient New York teacher unions would crumble in influence. After all, even now they spend all their time looking for a "seat at the table" and don't accomplish a whole lot beyond buttressing the pensions of Mulgrew's pals in Revive NYSUT.

Were NYSUT and UFT to be effectively defunded, that might mean opposing public education would be even easier than it is now. After all, UFT already supports charters, and does nothing when Governor Andy forces NYC to pay rent for them even if the city doesn't want them. What's gonna happen if dues become optional?

UFT has not been gung-ho unionist in decades. Many members don't even know what union entails. How else can you explain an overwhelming vote for what is essentially two-tier due process? How else can you explain leadership even proposing such an abomination?

Maybe the reformies, after watching us invite Gates to keynote the AFT convention, not only don't fear us, but no longer even think we bear consideration. Maybe they know that removing the gravy train from our non-teaching leaders will render us even less of a factor.

Cuomo has no moral center and does nothing without a viable self-serving reason. While I shudder to contemplate the diabolical workings of whatever remains of his soul, he always has an ulterior motive.

Related: On Facebook, Kevin Glynn comments: With the receivership law in place, you no longer need teacher Evals. Jamie Mc Nair comments: If the Lederman case goes her way, the continued use of test scores to evaluate teachers will be politically next to impossible (or potentially illegal?). Perhaps Andy knows more than we do and just wants to look like he was on the side of the winner before the victor is announced.
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