Monday, November 14, 2011

Why the Push for Teacher Evaluation?

There is a crisis in this country. A crisis of unprecedented proportions. Apparently, there are billions of dollars being poured into this education thing, and many hedge fund managers are not getting even a fraction of this cash. What to do? Most importantly, we have to get rid of this whole union thing so we can stop frittering away vital resources on salaries for teachers. Of course, that message would not sell well enough to accomplish the goals of redirecting the cash.

Thus, there is a crisis in this country. Apparently, the public schools the children of hedge fund managers would not attend on a bet need fixing. The problem? Teachers, the very people preventing the hedge fund managers from wetting their beaks, need to be removed before things can be set right. Therefore, we need evaluation systems like the one in Tennessee that will enable us to remove as many of them as possible. Since it would not be cost-effective to deal with poverty (After all, hedge fund managers tend not to be impoverished anyway.), we'll need to blame all student defects on the teachers. Then, we can get rid of them and their inconvenient job protections, and hire temps to do the job for a few years for almost nothing.

Here in New York, we have a system, a system designed in conjunction with the UFT, NYSUT, and the geniuses who run the State Education Department. This system is so flawed that more than half of Long Island's principals have come out against it. Diane Ravitch applauds them, as principals with principles.

Governor One Percent, Andrew "I am the government." Cuomo, has unveiled a mini Race to the Top, designed to pressure districts into accepting a new evaluation system. Who cares whether or not they work? Governor Andy's priority is protecting millionaires, and indeed, he's taken a principled stand against asking them to pay taxes. That's for the little people, like school teachers, and if they lose their jobs for no reason, why the hell should he care?

Whether or not systems are effective is of no consequence to him, other corporatist politicians, or the corporate media. In fact, days after Michael Winerip hammered home the flaws of the Tennessee system in the pages of the NY Times, its editorial board strongly endorsed it, apparently not having bothered to read their own paper.

Here in NY, trials of the new evaluation system are a disaster, and the writer of the framework the DOE uses doesn't much care for the way it's being used. Is it asking too much for the DOE to bother comprehending the framework it claims to support? Apparently, yes it is.

In any case, if the union wishes to help the billionaires realize their vision of having more money at our expense, it will rush to place an evaluation, any damn evaluation, in place ASAP. After all, how else will NYC get Governor Andy's grant money--money which cannot be wasted on things like reducing class sizes or hiring more teachers, but will be fully dedicated to "reforms" to ultimately place money wasted on schools in the pockets of billionaires.

If, on the other hand, the union wishes to help actual working people, it will take all the time in the world to make sure any evaluation system actually works. And it's an uphill battle, considering that at least 20% will be based on "value-added" metrics, not proven to be effective anywhere for anything.
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