Sunday, June 26, 2016

Impress Your Friends with Pretentious Language!

Actually there are a whole lot of people who fit the description of ultracrepidarian. What DOE reps don't love explaining things they don't understand? In education, they flourish. It's almost a requirement for reformies, who traffic in untested, unproven, misleading, or utterly discredited ideas. As an added benefit, it has the rings of something ready to fall apart at any moment from either physical or moral decay, like Andrew Cuomo.

As my Facebook friend Christina Cortes pointed out, this is a perfect description of Bill Gates. Bill's latest adventure entailed telling underdeveloped countries to raise chickens. Evidently Bill thought they'd never heard of chickens until he informed them of their existence. Next he'll be regaling them with tales of how well they can eat if only they'll vacation at all-inclusive resorts.

Of course if you want to see ultracrepidarianism at work up close, all you need to do is check your rating form. It's a checklist, and when you get it you have to ask yourself this--does it reflect your teaching style or your supervisor's observation style? Is it based on classroom performance or the personal prejudices of your 28-year-old supervisor, his two years of non-Danielson teaching experience, and his mother's important DOE gig?

That, of course, may not be the case. While I'm really outraged by incompetent supervisors, I do know a whole lot of reasonable and thoughtful ones too. So let's say you have one and the first 60% was fine. You looked at the checkboxes and they said you Don't Suck. However, that's not the end of your rating. You have to wait until September, when the junk science portion kicks in. That, of course, is pretty much anybody's guess. Maybe you'll get lucky, and move from Doesn't Suck to Really Doesn't Suck, and thus be observed next year only three times instead of four. That's pretty life-changing, isn't it?

Mulgrew proudly told the DA that most ratings were brought up by the use of junk science. That's good, I suppose, unless you happen to be among those who were not. What if, for example, your MOSL score dragged you from Doesn't Suck all the way down to Really Sucks? Well, that would really suck. You might get visits next year from the UFT Rat Squad, and if they don't like what you see you may have to prove at 3020a that you Don't Suck.  If you can't, you could find yourself working around the block at Arby's, selling curly fries to your former students. I happen to know a very smart and capable young teacher whose rating went down to Really Sucks because she happened to be working at a school with low test scores. She did better this year, but that doesn't make up for the abuses of the idiotic system under which we work.

Perhaps you're asking yourself this--is Mulgrew, who loves this system more than sliced bread, an ultracrepidarian? As far as junk science, I'm gonna have to say no. To his credit, Mulgrew openly admits that he doesn't understand the junk science. He says he has people who do, but no matter what they're telling him, I doubt it. Diane Ravitch says she doesn't understand it. My principal is kind of a data guy--he explains it better than anyone I know, and deals with it pretty well. Despite that, I'm not persuaded anyone on God's green earth actually understands it. I'm not sure it's even meant to be understood.

But Bill Gates acts like he understands it. So does Andy Cuomo and the New York Post. They love them some value-added ratings. We live in a country where Donald Trump is a serious candidate for President and we rate our teachers via a methodology that has no more credibility than voodoo.

I'm not gonna pretend to understand that.
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