Friday, December 19, 2014

We Are the Bearers of Hope

It's a reformy world. All sorts of money seeks and follows demagogues like Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz. They get in the media and spew their blather unchallenged about whatever they like. Always, the bottom line is unionized teachers as scapegoats. The only solution is more and more selective test prep factories. If they can pick the best kids and get rid of the undesirables, they can post better test scores, which in their world is the sole factor that determines whether or not a school merits existence.

But we won't shut up. Big voices like Diane Ravitch, Leonie Haimson and Carol Burris are out there, loudly proclaiming the truth. When Eva Moskowitz attempts to spout her nonsense in a fair forum, multiple voices of reason stop her dead in her tracks. There are more of us than there are of them, we love our children, and we will not give up no matter how much money they fight us with.

In our own schools we are dispirited by the junk science evaluation system, terrorized by the whims of imperious supervisors. Mulgrew, displaying no connection to what we feel, boasts of how few teachers are rated ineffective. Talk to one of those teachers, facing job loss, and you'll instantly see how little consolation it is. At the same time, Mulgrew boasts to the DA that John King finds our system among the best in the state because so many of us are rated developing and are on improvement plans. You see how that works? It's good because so few teachers have adverse ratings, but it's also good because so many teachers have adverse ratings. It must be a greatly comforting to reside in the Unity Caucus echo chamber.

Everywhere I go I see teachers afraid of their own shadows. They're terrified they'll get poor ratings for no reason. They're afraid their small-minded vindictive supervisors will target them. They won't sign grievances because they fear that will make them targets. Consequently the Contract means nothing. You want me to put up a bulletin board and include a rubric that parents will neither comprehend nor care about? Fine. You have no time for me to do it? That's fine too.

Mike Mulgrew still thinks the evaluation plan is the best thing since sliced bread, and it's likely as not because he's never tried artisan bread that you cut with your own knife. After all, he took part in the creation of the law. He's proud to have made junk science a factor in teacher evaluations. Though he, like just about everyone, doesn't understand the MOSL, he has people who do, and while none of us actually understand it, the formula somehow worked, spitting out only a tenth of NYC teachers as sub-par.

Of course the consequences for those teachers can be draconian. If your supervisor gave you decent ratings and you're on a humiliating "improvement plan" simply because of junk science, that can be incredibly demoralizing. Of course if you were rated ineffective, and face 3020a dismissal charges with the burden of proof on you rather than DOE, you're facing the loss of your very livelihood. And yes, junk science can be the deciding factor placing you there. Then you're at the tender mercies of some UFT member who saw fit to join the rat squad.

Mulgrew, unlike working teachers, has nothing to be afraid of except an election that's heavily rigged in his favor. He well knows that most teachers find it so ridiculous they throw their ballots in the trash.

That's where we are. But there's no advantage in being afraid, I'm afraid. If indeed your supervisor is a bully, tolerating abuse won't make him any less of one. I've seen people who have opted to keep quiet so as to avoid retaliation end up the subjects of retaliation anyway.  There's no upside to fear, be it justified or simply garden-variety paranoia.

Those of us who see the truth must speak it. Those of us who see what's right must preach it. We must prop up our brothers and sisters who are fearful and oppressed. We must point to others who say the truth. These are tough times and there are those who'd leave us for dead.

But we're far from it. And for our own sakes and for those of our children, we can't give up. The fight's not easy, and the fight's not fair. But we have the numbers and we will prevail. There is simply no other option.
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