Friday, December 30, 2011

The Ratings Game

You'd think we were a TV station seeking Nielsons, but actually we're the largest school system in the country. An emergency headline from vacationing Gotham Schools blares that we're going to lose a ton of money, but doesn't bother to inform readers of the limited purposes for which the money can be used.

This, of course, leaves readers with the impression the evil UFT is obfuscating so that the lazy worthless teachers won't be accountable. To balance this coverage, Gotham features a DOE employee in their community section telling what a great job the DOE is doing (along with the usual pontification from failed teacher Ruben Brosbe).

The NY Times story is a little more comprehensive:
The money, known as school improvement grants, is supposed to help the schools lift their results through a series of changes, like replacing principals and at least half the staff members; giving teachers extra time for training and preparation; and extending the school day. In New York City, it offers, in essence, an alternative to the most common approach to dealing with failing schools, which has been to close them. 

We all know how effective closing schools has proven, and we all know that the high-needs students simply get shuffled off to nearby schools, which also end up closing. We also know that when new schools don't get grades that please the Emperor, he simply closes them too, taking no responsibility whatsoever. But will replacing principals and half the staff change anything? Will subjecting teachers to even more useless staff development from the people who close schools and have no idea how to improve them help students?

In fact, there are 33 so-called transformation schools getting almost two million each a year in these funds, and reports have been less than glowing. Firsthand reports tell me teachers are miserable, the schools are not better places for anyone, and the Danielson framework is a truncheon to beat staff into submission, or more likely to beat staff for no reason whatsoever. Shall we pursue further funds to expand this practice citywide?

UFT hangs tough, saying we won't accept a bad system. This represents common sense, the least common of all the senses, and I hope we stick with it. In fact, the only incentive to agree to any system whatsoever would be a fair contract, like the ones granted to the NYPD and FDNY. But despite the nonsense from the tabloids and the billionaire-sponsored anti-union groups, there is no bad teacher crisis that needs fixing, no teacher should be fired without just cause, and no system that allows that to happen is acceptable.

It's a disgrace that the state pushes baseless unproven nonsense, and a further disgrace that sleepy journalists can't be bothered to look beneath the surface and inform readers about it.
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