Thursday, January 22, 2015

Time to Go Beyond Hashtags and Name-Calling

I'm at a rare loss for words today. With the news of Cuomo's demands--50% of teacher evaluation based on test scores, charters, tax credits for private schools, it's pretty clear he wishes to drive public education into the ground. After all, public school teachers don't fund his election coffers, and are unlikely to change this policy when he runs for President. He's got absolutely no use for us, unlike the hedge-funders and zillionaires who support his signature reforminess.

NY State has long determined teachers are not to be trusted. That's why we're not allowed to grade the Regents exam papers of our own students. For goodness sake, some crook of a teacher might find a way to change a 64 paper into a 65, detracting from the absolute necessity that failure of a kid go to summer school, or spend another year in high school, or whatever. But Governor Cuomo has taken it a step further. He doesn't trust the administrators either.

Governor Cuomo, therefore, thinks the 50% of rating based on what happens in the classroom should mostly be done by complete strangers. Just like it's unfair for teachers to judge their own students, according to the State, Governor Cuomo thinks the supervisors who work with us each and every day ought not to judge our performance. Therefore he wants to give our supervisors 15% worth of evaluation while the visiting geniuses from other schools, or SUNY, or some distant galaxy far, far away will give 35%.

The current system, which he advocated for and praised just a few years back, has not yet fired enough teachers for the taste of Andrew Cuomo. Therefore, he demands increased accountability. This is a curious attitude from a man who hobbled and then personally disbanded the Moreland Commission investigating corruption when it got a little too close to his office. I guess ethics are for the little people.

Odder still is the anemic and bizarre response by both NYSUT and UFT. There's still no correction I've seen from the position that we should fight for school funding rather than a reasonable APPR. Are we still to fret, as Mulgrew suggested, over the possibility that people will think we oppose the APPR? With all due respect, I know a lot of teachers, and I don't know one single teacher who supports the APPR.

I'm bone weary of the perception, bolstered by the incurious and unquestioning media, that we are a plague of zombies out to destroy the lives of children. I'm not gonna sit here and maintain that every teacher without exception is excellent. But the overwhelming majority of teachers I know are serious and hardworking. There are very few teachers I know who merit the sort of scrutiny that's being showered on us all. It's degrading and demoralizing.

I know a young teacher, a brand new teacher with a great attitude. She said to me the other day that happiness is a choice. It's a choice she embraces, and I can tell she will share it with any kid fortunate enough to be in her class. I want to encourage her, to let her know that she's right, and that her particular gift is worth more than, say, showing a kid how to score 5% higher on some multiple choice test. I want to give her a future that's at least as good as my past.

I don't know if I can do that, though. I think it's time for UFT and NYSUT to open up their brain trust and figure out something substantively more effective than hashtags. If leadership has got anything whatsoever up its sleeve, now's the time to show it. Calling Cuomo clueless and comparing him to Bloomberg may feel good to them, but many of us recognized his shortcomings way before they started saying it.

It's time to slow down the party the rubber stamps are throwing on our dues and do something well beyond liking UFT on Facebook.

We can't wait.
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