Friday, December 16, 2016

DA Takeaway--Through the Looking Glass with UFT Unity

Given the volume of outlandish and contradictory statements from the Unity loyalty oath signers, it was very hard to take notes quietly at the DA the other day. Mulgrew opened with sexist statements about Betsy DeVos, calling her, "our own beauty," before launching into ridicule of her name. This mirrored the UFT Unity Twitter feed, which took down a tweet or two after being called on them right here on this blog. You can still see what they said, though. (In fairness, there was later a PowerPoint with actual information.)

Mulgrew then drew us into his dream world, effusively praising the new evaluation system which, alas, has not only never been tested, but also does not yet even exist.  Mulgrew, who has never taught a single class under any evaluation system he negotiated, spoke with complete confidence about "authentic" measures that would be used to evaluate our teaching. He is no longer using the phrase "growth model," but continues to contend that growth can be measured via portfolios or project-based learning.

Remember that this is the same Mulgrew who boasted of taking part in writing the law that brought all this nonsense upon us in the first place. This is the same Mulgrew that called the system wonderful when Reformy John King created it, with his blessing, the same Mulgrew who ridiculed those of us, including Diane Ravitch and the American Statistical Association, who labeled it junk science. This is the same Mulgrew who boasted of getting every aspect of Danielson in as opposed to the seven or eight Bloomberg wanted, and the same Mulgrew who later boasted of getting it reduced to seven or eight, like Bloomberg wanted, after he was gone. This is the same Mulgrew who boasted of getting artifacts in, and then of getting them out.

Mulgrew is now saying, even though he deemed test-score ratings wonderful when they came out, that we will not use tests to rate teachers. He has finally concluded, as many of us did long ago, that this would result in teaching to the test. He says, though, that some teachers love being rated on tests. It's really remarkable that we're basically advocating a crap shoot because it's that risky to have administrators evaluate us. With such an absolute lack of faith in the ability of administrators, you'd think they'd want to do something about that, but they refuse to move on our resolution addressing it. Somehow it's OK to shout to the skies about how unfair they are, but wildly undiplomatic to take general action on it. 

Again, there is no research or practice to support anything Mulgrew says. I have no idea whatsoever how projects or portfolios will be rated or who will rate them. Mulgrew spoke derisively of those who ridicule us that we will actually grade the work ourselves. On the other hand, unlike Mulgrew, I'm a teacher and I actually spend hours grading things. I wonder, if we are not grading the work, who is? Is it the supervisors, the ones who he wants to make sure don't rate us? Is it the geniuses up in Albany? People from other schools? Space aliens? Who knows? Mulgrew, right on the heels of the most catastrophic failure in our union's history, continues to speak with total confidence, and we are expected to trust him absolutely and hope for the best.

Despite the punitive evaluation system pushed by Governor Cuomo, Mulgrew says he continues to support us. It's obvious to me, at least, that Cuomo is a creature of convenience who will do or say anything at any moment to advance his own personal ambition. Mulgrew mentioned in passing extending the moratorium he claims we are responsible for, but which actually was put in place to try to appease the statewide opt-out movement. Though Mulgrew claims to be meeting with parents, and I hear he is, he then said that it was dangerous for more than 5% of New Yorkers to refuse the test. This is no different from what he has been saying since opt-out appeared.

We then came to the discussion of the Resolution for Respect for All People. The history of this resolution is pretty interesting, to me at least. I wanted to jointly initiate such a resolution with Unity, so rather than write it, I proposed it to leadership. They said they'd get back to me. Days later, at an Executive Board meeting, where I rose to promote this idea, they had the resolution already written, with no input from us. (So much for trying to cooperate with Unity.)

This notwithstanding, the resolution was very good. With a few adjustments from Ashraya Gupta of MORE, all of the high school reps supported it enthusiastically. The next day, though, instead of crediting Donald Trump with his racism, bigotry, and misogyny, it was edited to attribute this to "the Presidential Election" instead. This was, of course, absurd (and still is).

Peter Lamphere of MORE rose at the DA to restore Trump's name. Mulgrew, ever the student of Robert's Rules, called on several Unity Caucus members to speak against it and never once asked for a voice of support, and it wasn't as though there weren't any. I saw several close to me with hands raised, ready to speak. One Unity member said it was obvious this was about Trump, so there was no need to add his name. LeRoy Barr, though, said we couldn't place his name because we were trying to get everyone on board, including Trump supporters.

I have to say Barr is a gifted speaker, passionate and persuasive. I saw him speak in Minnesota at the AFT Convention and he was great. Here, he spoke off the cuff and was just as effective. Yet he contradicted the other loyalty oath signers by saying we didn't want to alienate the Trump supporters. So which is it? Is it so obvious that we're talking about Trump that we need not name him, or is it important that we refrain from speaking his name so that the Trump voters continue paying dues once He Who Shall Not Be Named makes the United States a "Right to Work" nation? There is, of course, a third possibility--that UFT leadership thinks Trump voters are too stupid to attribute the racism to Trump. Maybe Unity assumes they will think it was Hillary or Bernie Sanders who advocated grabbing women "by the pussy." Who knows what goes on in those top-secret Unity meetings?

All I know is that they rise to support whatever they're told to. I was pretty surprised when Barr touted debate at the Executive Board as a reason to stifle it at the DA. While I did appreciate his willingness to enable it, and while that certainly sets him apart from Mulgrew, who can't even be bothered to sit through his own Executive Board meetings, the fact is the result of any Executive Board debate is a foregone conclusion. There are seven of us elected by UFT high schools against the will of leadership, and 95 loyalty oath signers who must vote and speak as told.

There is no logical reason to withhold criticism of the execrable and anti-democratic Donald Trump. However, anti-democracy is a quality that Trump and UFT Unity share. This, sadly, is just one of the qualities very likely to result in our losing on the NY Constitutional Convention, and maybe the pensions for which we've worked our entire careers. Another is our dogged insistence on falling down well before anyone has even pushed us.

The very worst quality of UFT Unity leadership, though, is that they just bet the farm on a candidate who stood for nothing, lost the farm, and still can't bring themselves to take clear and principled stands on issues that, debate notwithstanding, aren't even debatable. 
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