Sunday, May 24, 2015

DA Takeaway

The DA last week was fairly unremarkable. One thing I found unusual was that I voted with Unity, I think, every time. All of the resolutions were fairly Mom and Apple Pie, both of which I support. Nonetheless, some things are notable.

Both Lauren Cohen and Megan Moskop of MORE were treated civilly, and managed to pass their motion and amendment. This is a great improvement over last year, when the Unity faithful shouted Lauren down for daring to mention their loyalty oath in public.

It's a great idea to let schools hire ATR teachers regardless of salaries, but if I'm not mistaken, Unity didn't do squat to oppose student funding a few years back. Anyone who pointed out the danger of that was a crank, a lunatic, and had failed to sign the aforementioned loyalty oath that proved you were reasonable. Thus, you were subject to abuse, personal insults, or being cut off by impartial Chair of the DA, Punchy Mike Mulgrew. I once watched him tell a chapter leader who questioned the endorsement of Bill Thompson that he didn't believe in democracy.

Punchy Mike was notably toned down this month. Perhaps someone spoke to him, or perhaps his shortened report didn't give him enough time. He didn't outright insult anyone, and he didn't appear as dripping with sarcasm as he often is. The Mulgrew I saw last week was somewhat of an improvement. Of course, he couldn't help himself from repeating his ridicule of critics of the APPR system. Those critics include Diane Ravitch, Carol Burris, yours truly, and virtually every working teacher with whom I speak. Mulgrew characterized us as saying every teacher was going to get fired.

Of course not every teacher is going to get fired. But some are, and I assure you they are not particularly thankful about it. It's outrageous that Mulgrew can cite fewer negative ratings while ignoring the high stakes attached to them.

Mulgrew now suggests the coming matrix is an improvement on this system, which he touted as wonderful when it came out. But once again, the optimal measure of junk science in teacher evaluation is precisely zero percent, whether you label it VAM, growth model, or John King's Awesome Adventure. I'm chapter leader of the largest school in Queens and Mulgrew doesn't answer my email. Given that, I'm fairly certain he hasn't got time to spend with some inconsequential teacher being fired because of The Bestest Rating System Since Sliced Bread.

I'm also a little put off that Mulgrew needs to repeat how smart the UFT is so frequently. Last month, he labeled himself a "ferocious" reader, though I'm pretty sure he was reaching for "voracious." Of course, maybe he is ferocious, and for all I know he throws books in the air and punches them, pretending they are Common Core opponents. Regardless, I'm put off by people who call themselves smart. It's really more impressive to me when others say people are smart. I tend to judge intelligence by what people do, and if I'm not mistaken, Mike Mulgrew, our leader, just thanked the Heavy Hearts for passing the most anti-teacher bill I've seen in this state.

Mulgrew also cited the social media campaign that resulted in that anti-teacher bill as a success. If we have many more victories like that we'll all be working at Walmart. And again, while Mulgrew urges us all to be on social media, he is not there himself. In what universe is that considered leadership?

There was also a discussion provoked by Mary Ahern's question, why would UFT want independent evaluators to count for 25% when NYSUT wanted it maxed out at 5%? Mulgrew gave a long, rambling response. When on topic, he suggested it was smart to have a wider range, as that gave us more freedom to negotiate. Of course, the optimal rating percentage of rank strangers who know nothing about you or your students, who may or may not be teachers, is zero. I'd argue the NYSUT number is much closer to zero and therefore preferable. But I'm not "smart," like whoever is making decisions for us, so what do I know?
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