Thursday, July 28, 2016

Even the Rat Squad Doesn't Know Everything

Yesterday I heard about a teacher who was terminated. I'm always sad when I hear that happens, but I guess it means the system, designed to fire teachers, actually works the way it's supposed to. Maybe I should alert Andrew Cuomo, but I'm pretty sure he won't read my message unless I enclose it in a suitcase full of cash.

Of course it doesn't matter, because Cuomo decided the system was "baloney," and he did so well before we got to examine its results in the largest school district in the state. After all, we're a little less than a third of the entire state population, so why bother with us? What does it matter that we picked up the junk science system a year later than everyone else? Why not just move ahead and condemn your own signature system, making it even more unreasonable while taking absolutely no responsibility whatsoever?

UFT President Michael Mulgrew is very proud of this system. He says it's a model for the state. However, in this model, the UFT Rat Squad, designed as a check on the system, rates 70% of those it observes ineffective. This means you have a very large chance of having the burden of proof on your shoulders, rather than those of the city. It would be on you to prove you are not ineffective. I've seen UFT Unity members defend this, saying the teacher should control the process. However, people who actually understand burden of proof will tell you that it's extremely difficult to prove a negative.

It's easier to prove a positive. That's why this person, despite having not been rated ineffective by the Rat Squad, is now unemployed. I can't go into specifics for a few reasons. For one, I'd be betraying a confidence if I were to give details to which I were privy. For another, I haven't actually got any details beyond those I've shared anyway.

Here's what I do know. Even with that miserable 30% Rat Squad save rating, if you're facing 3020a, you're guaranteed absolutely nothing. The only thing they win for you is the right to face the same 3020a people have faced over the years previous to the new APPR law. I hear you can appeal, but that appeals are rarely successful. I suppose when you're fighting for your life you do what you have to, and I suppose you have nothing to lose by fighting to the end.

Still, I question this system. It's tailor made to fire teachers, hardly a worthwhile goal. If indeed there is a zombie plague of bad teachers, which there is not, who gave tenure to all the zombies? In fact, even if there are some incompetents, which there are in absolutely every field, who gave them tenure? With years to observe people, how could you overlook something as fundamental as incompetence? Why are there no consequences for people who don't see it? Doesn't that mean they are incompetent? And aren't they the very same people judging whether or not we are competent?

I don't know enough to judge this particular verdict, and as I said, I have no notion on what it was based. But I don't believe people pretend to be good teachers for a few years and then just do whatever when they get tenure. I do the best I can in the classroom, and it's hard for me to understand why anyone wouldn't. There's nothing quite as miserable as running bad classes, which I did pretty frequently my first year or two. It's absolutely imperative to get support in the beginning.

What happened here? Were administrators giving away tenure like candy because they were too lazy to do their jobs? If so, why do they still have their jobs? If not, how did people slip through the cracks? Is the system working, or are incompetent administrators working the system?
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