Wednesday, January 11, 2017

UFT--No Rank and File Voice in Evaluation System

Like a lot of people reading this, I'm in the classroom every day. I also talk to teachers every day, both online and in person. So far, not one single teacher has expressed happiness about the new evaluation system, not this iteration, not the last one, and not the first one either. In fact, the only place I hear enthusiasm expressed over APPR is at UFT meetings, except for the ones at my school.

Inspiring though it is to hear good things about the evaluation system, I only hear them from people like Michael Mulgrew. Now I'm sure Michael Mulgrew was a teacher at some time, but he's not one now, he hasn't been one for years, and he isn't affected by the evaluation system. I'm not exactly sure where Mulgrew or any of the union's APPR enthusiasts get their information, but I'm certain it isn't from me.

The other day at the Executive Board I asked whether we would be consulted about changes in MOTP, specifically a reduction in the minimum number of observations. Though no one directly addressed that question, I presume the answer to be no. As for consultation in advance of this negotiation, I can attest that I wasn't consulted and neither was anyone else I know.

There's an overarching pattern of leadership doing any damn thing it pleases with utter disregard for rank and file. This is the system we've devised, it's wonderful, so now your job is to love it. Actually the Executive Board is supposed to meet around the Delegate Assembly so as to help it do its work. And AdCom, which is leadership, is supposed to do the same for the Executive Board. In fact, the reverse is true. AdCom makes decisions, UFT Unity in Executive Board does precisely as it's told, and the DA pretty much carries the mandates of AdCom. Rank and file? Meh.

A few years ago, when the first iteration of this APPR came down, there was a vote in the DA scheduled. I dragged my school's three delegates there to vote against it, as my members would've wanted. But Bloomberg decided he didn't need no stinking evaluation system, so there was no vote. Rather than try to negotiate, Michael Mulgrew found the reformiest man in NY State, John King, and had him decide for us. Since then rank and file has had absolutely no voice in evaluation, not even via the DA.

When I suggested we reduce the minimum to two, reserving extra for those who were in need of support, I was told that a higher number of observations was more likely to result in a higher rating. That's an interesting argument, but it doesn't address my suggestion that only teachers receiving unfavorable ratings be observed more. In fact, if people who got good observations were to stop at two, that would mean that others could get even more than four. By the logic that answered my question, this would be a win-win.

So why doesn't anyone take my suggestion? I'd have to say because the issue has been decided by leadership and they don't need any stinking input from me, thank you very much. People on the 14th floor know everything already. That's how they got up to that floor, elevator or no. The 95 rubber stamps in the Executive Board all nod their heads in agreement, because that's exactly what leadership hand-picked them to do. Only the high school reps dissent, and everyone else kind of wishes we would shut up and go away. Before we showed up the food was better, and they were all allowed to sit there, eat more peacefully, and just vote yes to absolutely everything.

My friend Sam Lazarus says there are only two problems with the UFT--the leadership and the membership. He's right of course. Leadership thinks it knows everything and manipulates the system so it can do any damn thing it wants with no checks or balances. Membership is beaten down by crap like the evaluation system and rightly has little expectation of influencing leadership. The overwhelming majority thinks it's a waste of time to vote in union elections, and for the most part it's a self-fulfilling prophesy.

But once membership finds out it can save $1300 a year by not joining the imperious top-down UFT, things will be different. From everything I see and hear, leadership simply cannot adjust its attitude or behavior in any fashion whatsoever. This bodes ill for all of us.

What does it take to wake up a hopelessly entitled machine?
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