Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ms. Weingarten Blogs

UFT President Randi Weingarten is guestblogging at Eduwonk this week. Her first column was thoughtful, well-written and hard-hitting, directly refuting Chris Cerf. Ms. Weingarten feels the teacher voice is lost in the stampede toward improving test scores, and points out that teachers can actually do much more than that:
...teachers teach many important things in addition to skills and facts—complex problem solving, civility, aesthetic appreciation, moral values to name a few—and these are things that cannot be delivered in canned programs or assessed on a multiple choice, machine readable test. This evidence, along with standardized test results must be part of the mix in any responsible data-driven accountability system.

I couldn't agree more, and I'm very disappointed when my child's report card says approaching, meeting or exceeding standards--I'd prefer the whole A, B, C D thing.

Ms. Weingarten advocates increased teacher involvement as a real improvement for schools. I wonder, though, when exactly city teachers would do this. Since 2005, most high school teachers teach 5 periods, do hall patrol one period, and conduct tutoring sessions (a sixth class, if you ask me) four days a week. In overcrowded schools like mine, time is simply tacked onto each class, making them run as long as fifty minutes.

If teachers eat lunch one period, that leaves one period per day to prepare classes. Sometimes teachers work as subs that period, and get zero periods a day to prepare classes. Sure you can do it at home, but if you work one or two extra jobs, that's tough to manage.

So where do we find the time to do all this planning? Shall we extend the school day yet again? Shall we come in earlier in August? In July?

Unfortunately, many of the problems Ms. Weingarten mentions were enabled by mayoral control, which she supported. And the current regime at Tweed was plainly emboldened by the complete lack of opposition that met its third (third!) reorganization. Fortunately for them, Ms. Weingarten unilaterally disbanded a demonstration against it. This reversed a distinct downward spiral in PR for Mayor Mike.

Ms. Weingarten is eloquent, thoughtful, and quite intelligent. But if she wishes to be credible, she'll need to adjust her actions to match her words. For example, she might suggest we do planning in lieu of walking the halls, assisting the secretaries, dodging burgers in the lunchrooms, and teaching that sixth class (the one that isn't a class).
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