Saturday, August 11, 2018

UFT Trial Balloons and Reformies on Curriculum

When UFT leadership wants ideas out, they have Peter Goodman. Goodman is not precisely my favorite, and it pains me to link to him. I wrote a review of Diane Ravitch's book in what is now Chalkbeat, and he wrote me some warning in the comments about how I had to be careful. Perish forbid I express opinions in public. What an awful thing for a teacher to do. Better, evidently, to live in fear, tremble quietly, sit down, and shut the hell up. Ravitch commented in my defense, and Chalkbeat deleted the exchange.

It's hard for me to express how stupid it is to offer such advice on a public forum. It's hard because it's so blatantly obvious it doesn't even merit explanation. Anyway, Goodman has this blog in which he seems to float trial balloons for leadership ideas. Last week it was a hope the contract would be completed by September. This week it's a lament that Carranza partners with people he knows rather than UFT leadership. That's not what's disturbing, though.

What's disturbing is that Goodman is citing reformy Robert Pondiscio to push for curriculum. In fact, he quotes him:

The idea advanced here—that content-rich, standards-aligned, and high-quality curricula may be the last, best, and truest arrow left in education reform’s quiver
* Use incentives, not mandates, to maintain local autonomy,
 * leverage teacher expertise and teacher leaders in the work, and,
 * use the procurement process to expand use of the highest-quality curriculum,

If you take that at face value, it sounds pretty good. If you think about it, which Goodman evidently does not, it's problematic. Why on earth are we concerned with arrows "left in education reform's quiver?" Every working teacher in New York City feels those arrows (and slings) each and every day. One well-used arrow is the evaluation system. Another is Common Core. Another is every single school closing we've experienced. Another is the ATR. Another is our inability to grieve letters in file. And who can forget the arrow that places the burden of proof on working teachers at 3020a?

Maybe you think it's sheer coincidence that the reformy Fordham Institute is also pushing curriculum. A commenter on Twitter had an apt response:

It's time for us to start learning from experience. We've tried working with the reformies. Remember when Randi Weingarten went to a baseball game with Bloomberg? Try not to vomit, but remember Klein kissing her? Remember when we partnered with Bill Gates to do the MET study? Remember when we invited Gates to the AFT Convention, and he thanked us by going out the next week and attacking teacher pensions? Remember when we let Reformy John King be the independent arbiter to determine what our evaluation program would look like?

Reformies are always all about empowering teachers. Every stupid incomprehensible idea that comes down the pike is about giving you options. You have the option to do whatever the hell they tell you to. Thank you very much. You have the option of teaching exactly this way, each and every day, or getting a crap observation. You have the option of some delusional Boy Wonder supervisor placing letters in your file for things that did not actually happen.

I see the value of curriculum. I see the value of trying to "leverage teacher experience." But I also remember hearing many such promises that evolved into realities that were quite different,. I remember years of debate over Common Core. One of the big lies from reformies was that it was teacher designed. Mostly, it wasn't. Another was that is wasn't curriculum, when actually it was intended to drive curriculum. Having failed in that, they're now pushing for something more direct.

Goodman's role may well be to put out test balloons for leadership. Mine then, is to point out what is stupid and counter-productive, and wherever possible, to speak out against it before it becomes official policy. If Carranza wants to partner with us, I'm all for it. Let's be careful though, that we aren't partnering with every reformy in town when we do it.
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