Thursday, August 31, 2017

UFT, APPR, and the New Paradigm

Every week or so I get an email from a UFT rep whose job is organizing. I guess that's why his newsletter is called The Organizer. I'm urged to share it with my staff, but I prefer to write my own. It has a lot of recurring features, so it tends to be repetitive. I usually don't find anything worth sharing.

This week, though, it had something that opened my eyes just a little. That was a fairly impressive feat since I opened my laptop at around six AM. I expected to just scroll down and close the thing. But there it was, and it had me up and blogging almost involuntarily.

I was pretty surprised to see this piece from a NYSUT email included in The Organizer:

State test scores released this week are meaningless.

They don't count for students or teachers. They're derived from a broken testing system. They're rooted in standards that are no longer being taught. And they're the foundation of a totally discredited teacher evaluation system.

It goes on, but you get the gist. Of course I don't disagree about APPR. I signed the linked petition and I recommend you do too. I'm just surprised at the UFT's willingness to take absolutely any position at any time, with no regard whatsoever for past positions. Am I the only one who remembers what a proud deed it was when we got our first junk science system, and how Mulgrew himself had helped write the law? Am I the only one who remembers hearing how smart it was to get the whole thing enshrined in law?

Of course, that argument was no longer so popular when Andrew Cuomo and the Heavy Hearted Assembly redid the whole thing a year later. Cuomo said his own brainchild was "baloney" because not enough teachers got bad ratings. We needed to rate more teachers badly. That was Cuomo's rationale for pushing the new system.

So they changed it. The UFT argument then became the matrix. The matrix is gonna make everything better because it's gonna make it tough to get an ineffective rating, unless of course you do get an ineffective rating. Then we'll all try to look the other way and pretend it didn't happen, I suppose.

In any case, I've opposed APPR since its inception. I'm in good company, including Diane Ravitch, Leonie Haimson, and the American Statistical Association, just to mention a few. Yet when I objected to it at chapter leader meetings, I was criticized and ridiculed. I was overreacting. I was Chicken Little. I'm trying to recall how many times I've heard about how few people got bad ratings, and how the system was therefore an improvement. I've heard it from UFT leadership and school leadership.

Of course, very shortly thereafter I'd get to hear face to face from the people who got bad ratings. You won't be surprised to hear that they failed to see the wonder and beauty of this system. Now there is a new wrinkle that I've heard Mulgrew speak of. It's not value-added, but rather showing student progress. We'll work out ways to do this, via portfolios or something.

It won't surprise you to hear that I've asked people who study these things, and they've told me there is no research whatsoever to support these ideas for rating teachers. In fact, I know of no studies whatsoever saying anything about it at all. Yet I'm regularly told at the DA and elsewhere that it's a big improvement. I've also heard, from Mulgrew on down, that anyone who opposes APPR supports total control for the principal.

That's what you call a black and white fallacy--it suggests there is only one alternative to this proposal. Beyond that, it fails to acknowledge the pernicious nature of this system, to wit, allowing the burden of proof to be on the teacher at the 3020a hearing. That's one more feature of the system UFT leadership has been pushing as the best thing since sliced bread--not the feature, of course. They generally fail to acknowledge it, although one UFT Unity member on Twitter insisted that gave members more control. This is the same guy who got up and insisted he spoke to two random ATRs  in one day who loved the new incentive.

There has been a little space between NYSUT and UFT on this issue. For example, when the Mulgrew-endorsed toppling of Richard Iannuzzi as NYSUT President happened, Andrew Pallotta's Revive NYSUT claimed to oppose APPR. They blamed Iannuzzi for it. Though he did it together with Mulgrew, they never, ever criticized Mulgrew, nor did they vocally oppose it at inception. The hypocrisy was palpable.

Now I'm curious about this thing we're gonna do next year, if there is ever an agreement. Will there be portfolios and who knows what else in the future of NYC schools? To me, it seems like a whole lot of extra paperwork for already overburdened teachers. This would not be my preferred course of action with Janus hanging over our heads.

The APPR system has left teacher morale lower than its been at any point since I began over thirty years ago. Thus far, every so-called improvement has failed to improve anything. I'm not sure that the NYSUT position precisely mirrors that of UFT leadership.

Nonetheless, it takes a whole lot of chutzpah to simply take something you've consistently supported and rationalized, then call it useless. It's particularly egregious when you offer absolutely no explanation as to why you've changed your mind.

How are you supposed to trust people who do things like that?
blog comments powered by Disqus