Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of UFT Leadership's Evaluation System

We now have another evaluation system, the third or fourth in as many years. Who can even keep track? There's a handy-dandy UFT explanation, with which lowly teachers like me are supposed to discern what the hell is actually going on. In many ways, it raises more questions than it answers, but you have to expect as much from a system that's been essentially made up of whole cloth, that's never been researched or tested anywhere.

The Good--Test scores reflect little more than zip code and percentage of special needs. Therefore, when we forcefully inject test scores into teacher evaluation, we condemn those with large numbers of ELLs, IEPs, and various issues to bad ratings. The option of portfolios, or project-based learning or whatever, while it has its flaws, may prove beneficial.  This may work better for teachers I know who got acceptable ratings by supervisors but were dragged down via test scores. Mulgrew can stand on his pedestal and preach of how rarely this happens, but if you're the one to whom it happens, that's cold comfort indeed. As someone who represents them, I can tell you that statistics mean little or nothing to people whose careers are under attack for no good reason. The fewer people caught in this miserable trap, the better.

The Bad--Again, this system has never been tested anywhere. There is no research whatsoever, anywhere, to suggest there is any validity to it. We have no idea what will happen to teachers like those I mentioned above (or whether it will adversely effect those who previously did well). I  certainly hope fewer of them are caught in the junk science web. But even if that happens, it doesn't argue to the validity of this system. It only means it sucks a little less than the other one.

UFT failed utterly to address a major issue with teachers I speak to on a regular basis, to wit, the number of observations.  Even in my school, one in which most administrators are not insane, teachers live in dread of the random drive-by. For those with administrators who are out of their frigging minds, it's a nightmare. Who knows what they see, since objective reality plays no part in it? When 12 hands go up, why do they see only two? Will they now act because you objected to the counseling memo placed in your file for no good reason? Who knows? It's the same crapshoot it was under the old S/ U system, Danielson means nothing, and even if you have incontrovertible video evidence you can't effectively object to the fictional aspect until and unless you're up for 3020a.

Fewer observations would not only relieve some of the terror of UFT members, but would also give administrators some incentive not to be assholes. If you observed two classes and found them to be OK, you'd be finished. If you wanted to be an asshole and ruin someone's life for no reason, a better system would require you to do more observations and more work. It would require you to do more writing. In my experience, supervisors who are incompetent at writing often need to assert themselves via bad observations. A system that required more work to screw people might dissuade that.

The Ugly--I call it the "UFT Leadership's" system because working teachers had no say in it. That's a disgrace. It behooves a union, particularly one whose dues will soon be optional, to consider member voices.

I have no idea who conceived of this system. I don't believe it was Michael Mulgrew because he cannot even sit through an Executive Board meeting, let alone hear new ideas or freely discuss them with elected high school Executive Board members. What I do know is that neither the Executive Board nor the Delegate Assembly, let alone rank and file, got to vote on these matters. I also know that no one who hasn't signed a loyalty oath had any part in crafting this plan. We can therefore never know whether anything but self-interest had any part in the decision to accept it.

We also now know the utterly predictable reaction to evaluation systems from our enemies. They wasted no time in getting their message out. From the Daily News:

"This is a scheme to rate every teacher effective, cooked up by Mayor de Blasio's biggest donors and it's a major setback for students," said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis.

Of course, like everything that comes out of her well-compensated mouth, this is utter nonsense. But it's important because when StudentsFirstNY, and DFER, and Moskowitz agent Families for Excellent Schools, and all the other crabgrass orgs move suitcases full of cash into the campaign coffers of tinhorn politicians like Governor Andrew Cuomo, they move him to once again pretend he cares about public education. This, in fact, is why he called the first evaluation system "baloney" and pushed a new one down the throats of our spineless Heavy Hearted Assembly. The only reason we may get away without the idiotic "outside observers" is because of the determination and persistence of the opt-out movement (which earns no respect at all from UFT leadership).

So the risk, if this helps teachers at all, is that yet another system comes down the pike to rate teachers poorly. This appears to have played no part whatsoever in UFT Unity's game, which never considers the long-term.

I guess they're happy high up on the 14th floor of 52 Broadway, doing whatever it is they do up there. But I have no idea how they're planning to pay the rent if they don't start considering those of us who do the actual work day after day.
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