Saturday, January 02, 2021

Today in PTA (Pass Them All)

Yesterday, I got a prescient comment from SC Math Teacher, and I'll repost it here. The first part is a quote from me, but he comes to an inescapable conclusion directly afterward:

“The last I heard, the DOE was holding individual teachers responsible this year for NX students. That means that next semester we could be burdened with not only our regular caseload, but also following up on students who didn't pass.”

This sounds like an incentive — an awful one, but an incentive nonetheless— for teachers to just pass everyone so the DOE can boast about fantastic graduation rates.

It's true. There are two possible interpretations here, and that's one of them. The other is that de Blasio and Carranza have decided to cut down on expenses, via not paying people to examine their "NX" grades. After all, why pay people to work when you can get them to do it for free? This is exactly the sort of thing we'd have expected from Bloomberg.

Currently, in my building, there are all sorts of per session gigs looking after previous NX grades. So teachers looking for extra hours can sift through work these kids may or may not do, make calls to which they may or may not respond, and try to get as many kids as possible pass these courses. I'm happy for the teachers who make extra money this way, and even happier that I don't have to bother with it.

Of course if any of us figure that it will be our task to drag the kids we couldn't get to do the work now to do it later, it's an enormous incentive to pass everyone. Who wants to be stuck with a full caseload plus all the students who didn't make it through last time? Not me, and likely not anyone. The teachers who take money for this surely don't want to do all that extra work for no compensation.

So there is a clear solution for all--you can fix it all for yourself. All you need to do is set your standard at absolute zero. If a student has never done a lick of work, never shown up, and none of your home contacts have been successful, you give the student a 65 and it's over and done with. There's no supervisor in your face or Zoom asking why you didn't pass this kid or that.

Otherwise, well, you have to justify your cruel grade,  make all those calls, beg the kids to do the work whether or not you make contact, and hope something happens. Of course, if nothing does, and you lacked the foresight to pass them for no reason whatsoever, you might be starting from square one the following semester.

This is a great system for the city. It expends not one cent, does no work, and puts the entire responsibility upon the working teacher. And, As SC Math Teacher says, if kids end up passing in larger numbers, de Blasio and Carranza get to take credit for passing those kids via their brilliant and innovative policies. We know, after all, that when kids do well the mayor is a genius and when they don't the unionized teachers suck.

I don't know about you, but I'm entirely disinclined to lift a finger for de Blasio. As far as I'm concerned, he's the worst mayor in my living memory. Now sure, you'll say, Giuliani and Bloomberg were awful, worse in many ways, and you're absolutely right. However, it was their job as anti-labor demagogues to be as awful as they possibly could. We had no reason to expect better from them. 

De Blasio was supposed to be the answer, the remedy to 20 years of mayors who hated us and everything we stood for. I contributed to him. I worked for him. I froze in an outdoor seat at his inauguration. (Back then I wasn't constantly walking a dog and had no idea how important it was to have wool socks.) Despite our hopes for him, he left all of Bloomberg's people in Tweed. The DOE is as hostile to us as it was with his predecessors, and is essentially a Bloomberg operation. (In Rudy's defense, he never had the management skills to go after us all that well, and was no more successful at that than he's been in overturning the 2020 election. He was always busy suing people who displayed paintings made with elephant dung and such.)

De Blasio is very much like other modern politicians in that he has no discernible moral center. We'll close schools at 3%, he said, believing the positivity rate would never get that high. Then, after a few nasty comments in the press, he went back on that. Cuomo, whose level went from 5 to 9%, for reasons that elude me, was no longer a Blaz benchmark. Now, if it goes to 9%, he'll look at it some other way. He believes he's some sort of hero for keeping schools open for a slim minority of city students during a pandemic. I believe he's beyond washed up.

Be that as it may, this is an awful policy. There is no moral justification for it. It's something I'd expect from Bloomberg. At least Bloomberg, being a cynical anti-labor billionaire, could align it with his "ethics-shmethics" public persona. De Blasio has no such excuse. This is a particular disgrace for Carranza, who absolutely knows better. 

It's on us to preclude this. We have duties, they are laid out in our collective bargaining agreement and decades of precedent, and this is not the year in which teachers need extra responsibilities. Right now, we need to hope the vaccine will be utilized widely enough that we can go back to simply doing what we do in September. That's the best we can hope for right now. 

I'd say shame on the DOE, but I've seen no evidence they have the remotest concept what shame actually is.

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