Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Was S and U Better Than the Current System?

For me, that isn't much of a question, but I'm told at the last chapter leader meeting a speaker said the current system was an improvement over the old S and U system. I was late, which is probably for the best since I'd certainly have argued that point. Of course, with the overwhelming majority of my fellow chapter leaders having signed loyalty oaths for those free trips and after school gigs, no one at all would have stood with me.

Now the argument, which I've heard before, is that the principal could have written any damn thing and given a teacher a U in the past. That's true. Another argument is that fewer teachers got rated double ineffective than double unsastisfactory. I suppose that's true too. But that's where that argument ends. Ask anyone who's been rated double ineffective and tossed to the wolves by the UFT Rat Squad (sporting a 70% conviction rate, last I heard). Those people are facing unprecedented 3020a dismissal hearings in which the burden of proof is on them. To wit, the city need not prove these teachers are incompetent. Rather, these teachers need prove they are not incompetent.  For my money, that's guilty until proven innocent, and fundamentally anti-American.

First of all, it's very clear to me, in the hands of a competent supervisor, that the old observation format was superior to the current one. My former co-blogger Arwen wrote a great post illustrating this. Unfortunately, not all supervisors are competent. I once did an elaborate values game in a class and was observed. My supervisor asked me for my source, and plagiarized the instructions rather than write anything. She then rated the lesson satisfactory. Of course she was totally incompetent, but under the new system she'd still be totally incompetent. But if she did rate you badly, for whatever reason, she'd have to prove you were incompetent.

Things are different now. You get rated by a rubric, which ostensibly makes things fair, but really doesn't. You could have my old incompetent supervisor, or a host of current ones, and they can pretty much write any damn thing that suits their fancy as long as they can rationalize it via the rubric. Now what if they just make up a bunch of stuff that didn't actually happen? In that case, your recourse, the APPR complaint, just won't do. In fact, if your supervisor writes you up for standing on your head and singing Sweet Adeline, you won't get to address the fact that it didn't happen until and unless you're appealing an ineffective rating.

I know this very well because I watched a video of a lesson a colleague gave, and the genius who observed it got a whole lot wrong, but that didn't matter. We only got the observation tossed because the rocket scientist observer failed to rate student behavior. Now imagine that happened to you, and you knew the supervisor's limitations. Would you be chomping at the bit to file another APPR complaint? Let's say the supervisor is small minded and vindictive, and let's say the supervisor actually knows Sweet Adeline. He could write any damn thing, and unless you were fortunate enough to be rated ineffective, there would be nothing you could do about it.

Now UFT leadership will say effective, highly effective and developing are all the same, but the fact is they are not.  I will grant there's not a whole lot of difference between HE and E other than the possibility of being observed three times rather than four. But a developing rating carries with it a Teacher Improvement Plan, or TIP, as we in the biz call it.

Now imagine your supervisor is a troglodyte and has rated you developing for no good reason. Imagine having to sit with that supervisor and listen to him pontificate about why you suck and what exactly you have to do to not suck so much. Now I'll grant the UFT folk that this is better than being fired, but it's miserable and degrading, and I know people going through it. None of them will agree that there is no difference between HE, E, and D.

Now here's the thing--people who work for the UFT don't need to think like us. Special reps don't teach at all and district reps teach one class. Some of the UFT officers teach one class too. None of them are rated by the new system. In fact, they are all rated S or U and I've yet to hear a single one of them complain of how awful it is. In fact, if it's so awful, why aren't they up in arms demanding to be rated by the Danielson rubric?

Because, like when Arne Duncan, Andrew Cuomo and John King push programs for our kids they wouldn't subject their own to, what's good enough for us is simply not good enough for them. And hey, if any UFT employee wishes to prove me wrong, go right ahead.
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