Thursday, August 20, 2015

John Kasich Has a Royal Edict--Sit Down and Shut Up, Teachers!

That's the message I get from John Kasich, who talking heads sometimes falsely paint as the least insane rider on the Republican Clown Car. I'm not getting a whole lot of laughs from these clowns, as every one of them seems to hate us and everything we stand for. Though a bunch of them oppose Common Core, I personally believe it's not on principle (they don't have any). Republicans oppose it because it was introduced by President Barack Obama. If GW had introduced it, perhaps the Democrats would have fought it. Maybe not, since they were on board with NCLB. I'm not seeing much principle on that side of the aisle either.

Kasich is getting a lot of attention for his meeting with self-appointed education expert Campbell Brown yesterday. He said if he were king, he'd get rid of teacher lounges. Let's get one thing straight--it's not a great idea to elect people who fantasize about being king. It's the President's job to represent We, the People, not to issue edicts on what we should and should not do. Kasich uses what authority he already has to do things like rescind collective bargaining for day care workers. He says he doesn't want to impose right to work laws, but actions speak louder than words, and SCOTUS may soon make that unnecessary anyway.

Much has been written already about how there are, in fact, few teacher lounges anyway. In my school, there are a few adjuncts to bathrooms that have tables and chairs. In our school, they also have computers and there are always a few teachers working out lesson plans and power point presentations. Oh, the luxury of sitting in a bathroom. The only school I remember working in that had a dedicated teacher lounge was Newtown High School, where I worked for one semester in the 80s. I have no idea whether or not it's still there.

Teacher lounge has a broader and more obvious meaning. Right here, this is a virtual teacher lounge, and John Kasich would like nothing more than for us to all shut the hell up. Here's why:

Kasich said at an education summit in New Hampshire that many teachers believe that "we’re out to take their job" when schools evaluate teacher performance and that teachers' lounges provide an environment where this worry spreads.

So basically, when we're judged on the test scores of students we may or may not teach, and when our jobs literally depend on the outcome, we shouldn't worry. Who cares if the American Statistical Association says there's no validity to this method of evaluation? So what if there's no science or research to back it up. John Kasich says it's no problem, and that should be good enough for anyone.

"No we’re not out to take their job. If you need help, we’ll help you. If you’re a terrible teacher, then you should be doing something else because you’re going to find more satisfaction doing something else that you’re good at," he said. "We have to constantly communicate that."

How is Kasich going to help us? As king, he doesn't even want us to speak to each other.  Does Kasich know something we don't? If so, why doesn't he tell us about it? Are we supposed to trust a guy who says he doesn't need right to work, but who rescinds collective bargaining when given half a chance? Apparently that's precisely the level of critical thinking King Kasich wants from working teachers.

He then suggested that teachers' unions contribute to educators' worries.

That's because Kasich thinks union leadership stokes the fires of teacher discontent. I can't speak for all union leaders, but right here in Fun City Michael Mulgrew participated in a law that imposed junk science value-added ratings on NY State teachers. I have heard him praise it repeatedly. He likes to call it a growth model and say of course we can get kids from point A to point B. That may be so, but  tests that purport measure it are a whole lot more specific, may or may not be valid, and are subject to NYSED setting cut scores wherever the hell they feel like.

That's not to mention, of course, things like PE teachers being judged on scores kids get in English. An alleged improvement is that now PE teachers will be judged on the English scores of kids they actually teach. Do you need to be a genius to conclude that PE scores may vary wildly from English scores no matter how good or bad the PE teacher may be? Are the English teachers supposed to hear no evil and not realize that tests designed to measure student achievement do not, in fact, measure what they do when they teach?

Teacher unions contribute to my worries, but not in the way Kasich thinks. Teacher unions here made noise about opposing Andrew Cuomo but failed to do so when it counted, during the primaries and election. Teacher unions have enabled and supported mayoral control, junk science ratings, two-tier due process, and the erosion of tenure and seniority rights. In stark contract to Kasich's royal musings, the overwhelming city teachers are so cynical and demoralized that they can't even be bothered to vote in union elections. Kasich should be getting together with the other GOP hopefuls and having a party.

And if that's not enough, we're now facing the end of automatic payroll deduction. UFT's top-down method of governing, along with its miserably inept contract negotiations and craven willingness to give up whatever possible for a "seat at the table" has failed to inspire. It will be very had for people like me to convince thoroughly disaffected members to pay dues.

Up in that ivory tower at 52 Broadway no one frets over that. It's tragic they live in an echo chamber where absolutely everyone has signed a loyalty oath. Hopefully we can do so before SCOTUS puts a knife in our heart, because make no mistake, if it goes down this year, there's nothing to prevent it reading its ugly head again.

And I have a message for John Kasich--there may or may not be a physical teacher lounge in most buildings. But there are virtual ones everywhere, you're looking at one now, and we are not going down now, or ever.

Not even if you become king.
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