Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Mayor Bozo Ready to Lower Standards Yet Again

If you're a teacher, you constantly hear talks of standards. The standardized test is the Bible, the Holy Grail, and the Ten Commandments all rolled into one. If your student gets 64 on the NY State English Regents, she is unfit to graduate. However, her classmate who gets a 65 is college and career ready. That's because this instrument is so precise and absolutely reliable it cannot be mistaken, even if some who've studied it contend it's an unreliable piece of crap

On the other hand, who needs standards for a deadly disease? Mayor Bill de Blasio has been running a clown show ever since his pathetic bid for the presidency. He failed to close the schools when the pandemic had us in dead in its sights, and had the chancellor demand 108,000 signatures from epidemiologists before bending to what was obvious to the whole world, save City Hall and the White House. 

Then came September. We're opening. We aren't opening. We'll open next week. No, the week after that. No we don't have to test anyone for COVID. Well, if the UFT is going to strike, maybe we will do a little testing. We'll make it mandatory, but if students don't consent, we'll ignore it and hope for the best. And if Cuomo says we'll close at 5%, we'll do better. We'll close at 3%, because we have higher standards than the state.

But once the mayor followed through with that promise, it turned out that there was public sentiment against him. Evidently, some of the 35% of families who chose in person learning a day or two a week were upset. How dare this mayor deprive their children of the opportunity to sit socially distanced and masked far away from one another? How could they lose that opportunity?

And what a system it was. We had a hybrid. It was sometimes in person and sometimes on line. The way it worked was this--if one third of the students were in school, two-thirds were online. And because there weren't actually enough teachers to do this, he'd hire some more. You can teach 12 kids in the school, and I can teach 56 others online. But that wouldn't be so bad because there would be a virtual content specialist planning the classes, so somehow I wouldn't have to do any work aside from handling 56 kids online, which is of course a veritable walk in the park.  Except the mayor never actually hired any of these virtual content specialist so screw me, I have 56 students at a time.

That was terrible, but there was a small bright spot. I would not want someone writing plans for me, even if that person were designated a virtual content specialist. The fact is I have my own voice as a teacher, and for better or worse, that's who I am. How do I know that another person can write for me? Of course, the mayor had decided. The chancellor, who pays eloquent lip service to how much he values teaching, didn't value teacher voice very much after all. Carranza appeared to value following the mayor's directions way more, or why would he have demanded 108,000 epidemiologists when we gave him 108,000 teacher signatures?

Evidently, Mayor Bozo had paid millions to consultants to come up with an impossible plan to use teachers who didn't exist. So it was perfect, of course, and the fact that it didn't work, ever, was neither here nor there.

In fact, that the only action the mayor took that appeared visionary was to close with an abundance of caution. Once people started objecting to that, of course, the mayor flip-flopped yet again, taking the flip-flop to an art form. Where are we headed? Well, according to Chalkbeat, we will follow the state model and close at 9%. After all, that's only triple the threshold of the mayor's sole principled stand, and that should be good enough for anyone.

The thing is, even that new lowered standard may not stand:

Cuomo hasn’t said whether he’ll stand by that rule, but de Blasio said that the state’s “standard” was still in place as of now.

“That is my understanding,” de Blasio said Tuesday. “But our goal is to never have it become part of our reality.”

It's funny. When people see fit to judge what is and is not reality, I'm a little skeptical. And if it's based on Cuomo, who has no moral center that I've ever been able to detect, it's even less dependable. Cuomo was saying 5% back when de Blasio was saying 3. Why is 9 now okay? And de Blasio is looking for a way out of that anyway:

De Blasio suggested that he could push back on the state’s 9% closure rule, citing relatively low positivity rates in schools and increasing in-school testing to a weekly basis. The positivity rate from school-based testing was .29% from early October, when in-school testing started, until Monday, according to the most recently available data.

There are so many holes in that you could drive a truck through it. We all know that the testing has been anything but random. Only 15% of students had given consent, last I heard. And the testers were coming to schools and taking only volunteers. Few if any were compelled to be tested. UFT and CSA have agreed to mandatory testing, but other unions have not. We still haven't heard whether or not that would be corrected. And even if the rate is zero in school buildings, when it's 9% outside, everyone should be inside, at home, as much as possible. (That's not to mention that winter is here, and the city demands we open school windows to sub-freezing air.)

Mayor de Blasio now deems himself visionary for opening the buildings. Those of us with feet on the ground have watched the city COVID rate triple under his leadership. We have yet to see the results of Thanksgiving get-togethers, I didn't have one, but one family member who did now has COVID, and I'm sure there are more to come. Oh, and while it's likely escaped the mayor's attention, Christmas is coming.

This mayor has no standard except his own popularity. He sees himself as a hero. Everyone else seems to know that this mayor has one quality that has escaped almost every other politician in these highly polarized times. What's that? People on both the right and left are united in their utter lack of respect for him.

In fact, even the noisy parents and editorial boards demanding open school buildings don't respect him. They won't be singing his praises or pushing him for higher office after he's term-limited out. Maybe he'll have to go out and get a job or something. Will he learn anything?

It's part of my job to have faith in the abilities of learners. Still, as far as Bill de Blasio goes, I'm not optimistic.

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