Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Seat at the Table

This is something our leadership always appears to want. And it's certainly true that it pays to talk to everyone. I'm not a big fan of Bill Gates, but you never know. Maybe one day, even someone as impervious to fact and science as he appears to be may decide to listen. But since there's little evidence to support that supposition, it's best not to bet the farm on it.

For example, there was the Gates Measures of Effective Teaching study, and we participated. Basically, this study wanted to determine what teachers could do to get better test scores. At my school Gates reps pretty much confused everyone, and gave us mixed messages on what they were trying to do. Fast forward to 2014, and we're being evaluated by test scores. The underlying assumption of the Gates study was that teacher effectiveness could be determined by test scores, despite no evidence to support it.

There's a lot of talk about how we could opt for portfolios, projects, or whatever. Unfortunately there's no evidence to support the assumption that any of these determine teacher effectiveness either. The mania to quantify teacher effectiveness may be something worth addressing, but until we can do so with some degree of confidence or accuracy, we ought not to be accepting of (let alone directly negotiating) abject nonsense.

To show our good faith, we allowed Gates to keynote an AFT convention. In gratitude, Gates turned around and trashed teacher pensions the following week.

We've supported mayoral control in NYC, twice, giving Mayor Bloomberg and his merry band of fanatical ideologues carte blanche to close almost every comprehensive high school in the city. Though Gates himself abandoned the push for small schools, we're stuck with them everywhere. As for union, this means a whole lot of schools staffed with untenured teachers who, understandably, won't stand for chapter leader. Thus principals can do whatever they want, contractual or otherwise.

We sold out teachers of closing schools, particularly those with experience, and sent them out as permanent subs. We exacerbated this situation by agreeing to have them move about week to week, school to school. Ostensibly, this was to preclude Bloomberg firing teachers. But since his dreams of further trashing seniority rights were not realized, it's hard to imagine he'd have really opted to fire the lowest-paid teachers he had.

Though a UFT rep came to my school to assure us that no APPR program would occur without a new contract, we gave up the best leverage we had to achieve on and agreed to allow Reformy John King to arbitrate it. Which great mind in the union determined him to be impartial I have no idea, but King managed, among other things, to impose more observations than either UFT or DOE wanted. Bloomberg rightly boasted of achieving the most draconian system in the state and giving nothing for it.

It's time to get that seat at the table, but the union has been aiming for the wrong seat all along. It's ridiculous to appease the corporate reformers and fool ourselves into thinking they and their pals in the media would stop trashing us simply because we've given them what they want.

It's time for our union leadership to give a seat at the table to union members who are tired of reformy nonsense that hurts teachers and working people. It's time to step out of the echo chamber and take a look around. New Yorkers know that Common Core has never been tested anywhere. New Yorkers know from experience it hurts children.

It's time for us to step over, onto the right side of history. Baseless nonsense will not stand. Let's not squander our resources enabling it and pretending it's temporary. Let's tell the truth and wake up the sleeping giant that is our membership. Let's show them we aren't just going along for the ride.

Our time is now. Let's build our own table, invite New York's parents and children, and make Gates grovel for a place if he wants one.
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