Thursday, January 05, 2017

Being Observed in NYC

Last night I went to a chapter leader training about the new evaluation system. I heard a few things. One is that the new portfolio and student achievement stuff doesn't actually exist yet. I'm not sure how I missed that. So not only does that stuff sound odd and potentially time-consuming, but no one actually knows what it is yet. Will it help teachers or students? It's hard to say, but I doubt it. When you make up a program out of whole cloth, when you haven't got any studies or research to support it, when you then enact it and hope for the best, it's hard to vouch for its validity.

Another is that MOTP reform is supposedly coming later. So maybe we won't have to worry quite as much about random drive-bys. I saw no indication that this was a UFT goal, but teachers would like to see fewer, and so would administrators. There are a whole lot of them who are overwhelmed by the demands of these observations. A single department in my school has 54 members. Can you imagine doing 200 observations and writing up reports? I guess you could do it, and I guess you could meet 200 times with teachers. I guess you could also do the rest of your job too. How well? Who knows?

If UFT leadership wants to improve this system (and who knows what they want, what with a President who doesn't answer email or attend his own meetings), they will meet the law's requirement of 2 observations per year. They will arrange for additional observations on an as-needed basis. A principal, not mine, told me that she could observe someone once a year, and if there were no issue, she could leave it at that. If they needed additional help, she could do more observations and work with the teacher in question. This was someone I respect, and I always remembered that.

Thought the MOTP reforms are supposed to come later, at least one of them is already here. Though presented as some kind of improvement, the four informals option now included two visits from colleagues. I'm not bothered by that. But I'm one person, and I'm not as sensitive as some of my colleagues. Teachers are beaten down and demoralized and terrified. This has been happening over time, and the new evaluation system hasn't helped. UFT reps can stand and talk about what an improvement this new system is, but that shows how out of touch they are. I don't know a single teacher who likes it better. I hate getting a checklist, and if it says I'm effective I don't much care what else it says.

This is not the only reason that UFT leadership is out of touch with how working teachers feel about this. You can't overstate the fact that no one in leadership has actually been subject to this system. No one. No one knows how it feels. And all their feedback comes from those in the Unity echo chamber. Since they've all signed loyalty oaths, their judgment is suspect. How can you trust someone to represent you if that person has signed an oath to support Michael Mulgrew in all things? How can you trust people who've agreed to speak one way even if it negates your personal experience? How can you trust people who've taken patronage jobs that depend on loyalty to leadership? Shouldn't someone who represents members be loyal to them first?

The first time we got an evaluation system we went to 52 Broadway to vote on it. That was kind of a pro forma exercise, as UFT DA is dominated by loyalty oath signers, and it was very clear how they were supposed to vote. When that didn't work out, Michael Mulgrew left it in the hands of Reformy John King. Evidently Mulgrew thought the reformiest man in New York was a fair arbiter. Chalkbeat reported that neither UFT nor DOE wanted so many observations, but John King knew better.

The system was revised two more times. UFT sent their band of negotiators, none of whom had lived under this system, because they know best what's good for us. Always. They didn't bother putting it up for a vote, because why bother? Democracy is for losers, and America should know that, having cast 2.9 million more votes for Hillary Clinton than President-elect Donald Trump.

My mind keeps running to Friedrichs two, and what will happen when dues are optional. If leadership wishes to help itself, it's gonna have to be responsive to us, to say the least. I'm not sure a dynasty can change its spots. But I'm always hopeful.
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