Thursday, October 10, 2013

UFT Moratorium--Too Little Too Late

It's fairly amazing to see Gotham Schools write that "the teachers union is already hoping to slow things down."  While it's true this is the first year junk science evaluation is officially in place, the fact is UFT officials were party to the law that mandated them. UFT supported it then, supported it through negotiations, and continued to support it when it was clear Reformy John King would make all decisions about it. In fact, UFT sources called people ignorant for objecting to King John's fiat, suggesting they didn't understand negotiation.

Unlike Gotham Schools, some of us have an attention span of years rather than weeks. We remember the selling point when this first surfaced. UFT bigshots said junk science only counted for 40%, while in other states it counted 50 or more. They neglected to point out that if you happen to fail the junk science portion it becomes 100%, and you're facing unemployment if it should happen the following year. Even when that became clear, UFT supported it.

In fact, UFT still supports junk science evaluations. UFT also supports Common Core, though it's never been field tested or proven valid anywhere. The sole objection UFT makes is that it ought not to be used to make high stakes decisions since there is not much curriculum available. While there's sense to that argument, it's pretty much a band-aid on the underlying issue. In fact, high stakes testing is a failed enterprise, unless you're looking to enrich the likes of Eva Moskowitz and Rupert Murdoch. The primary reason kids fail tests is neither because their schools are awful or their teachers are incompetent. The primary reasons they fail are that they are mired in poverty, unable to use English, or learning disabled one way or another.

Yet UFT and AFT have played along with the fiction that our teachers and schools are awful, and have collaborated to bring mayoral control, junk science evaluations, and neighborhood-killing school closures all over the country. UFT has supported charter schools, which are not generally little enterprises to offer enrichment to needy children. More often, they're investments for people who are not needy in the least.

Several teachers today approached me with comments about their young children, who were coming home only to spend hours with homework. One told me his kid, who usually loved to read, was beginning to hate it. Another told me her second grade son was doing algebra already, and that she'd surreptitiously entered her classroom and photographed every page of his English and math books to be able to hep him. This is simply unconscionable, and it's occurring in schools that actually have curriculum in place.

While a delay is something I support, it's only a band-aid. That's not optimal treatment for a cancer. If we are to support teachers, to support neighborhood schools, to support the students it's our job to serve, we must get back to teaching and remove high stakes. It would be one thing if they were proven to work, but that's not the case in Common Core. In fact, pretty much every other facet of corporate reform has been proven not to work.

So while this step won't hurt, it's time for activists to stand up and demand research-based practices. It's time for us to demand practices that are not based on ignoring root factors like poverty. It's time to demand practices designed to do something other than enrich Rupert Murdoch and his BFFs.

In fact, it's time to demand we reject all high stakes measures,and that we focus on helping neighborhoods and children rather than labeling them failures. Because make no mistake, that's precisely what school closures and Common Core are designed to do.

Despite all the talk about working hand in hand with the likes of Bill Gates, he's not our partner. The neighborhoods and children we serve are our partners, and we must focus on them. They don't need a band-aid solution, and neither do we. We need to reject junk science outright. We need to reject experimentation with untested arbitrary mandates on America's children. We need to tell Unity-New Action that working teachers are tired of appeasement, semantics, and waiting games

Nothing less makes any sense at all.
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