Saturday, May 30, 2015

What Mike Mulgrew Doesn't Know About APPR

I've been going to the DA and taking notes the last few months. One theme I hear from UFT President Michael Mulgrew is that people like me are hysterical, that we don't understand what a great improvement this system is. You see, since a smaller percentage of people get negative ratings under this system, it's better. That's it. There is no nuance, no accounting for people's feelings, and no awareness whatsoever what working teachers go through.

After all, Mulgrew is not a teacher. I don't know how long he was in the classroom, but he certainly isn't there now. Some of the UFT officers and DRs teach one class, but single-class teachers aren't subject to the APPR system that Mulgrew helped negotiate. They still get rated S or U, and I haven't heard of anyone rated U for teaching one class. If I were a supervisor, with 5 million observations to do, I probably wouldn't even bother with those people.

I teach in a good school, and I don't have bad ratings. I will almost certainly be rated effective this year, though I won't know until September. I've been observed four times and, as far as I know, none of them went badly. So let's say things go as I expect. Let's say I don't get a negative rating, I don't have a Teacher Improvement Plan, I don't have to meet with my supervisor each week to discuss why I suck and how I can suck less. Let's say they don't send a UFT Dementor Teacher to determine whether or not the burden of proof is on me or the DOE when they try to fire me.

Here's what I feel. I feel it's another two years before they can bring me to 3020a and move for my dismissal. Let's say I don't go senile over the next few years and I continue to get decent ratings at my school. Am I at peace? No, I am not. Because I honestly don't trust the MOSL, the junk science that will determine the rest of my rating.

Right now it's not too bad. I'm on the committee at my school and we've decided, wherever possible, to use the broadest measures possible so no teacher is tied to the scores of his or her classes. This makes sense to me because actually, classes vary. Beyond that, a crazy supervisor could stick a teacher with a class that would do poorly. Or an honors class could fail to go from 98% to 99%. That class could sink to 97%, which would clearly indicate the failure of their teacher via junk science metrics. We don't want teachers to suffer for things like that. Also, we don't want teachers in competition. We don't want teachers to feel they'll be hurting themselves by, for example, tutoring students of a colleague.

I teach ESL and for the last few years have been teaching beginners. I love doing this, but not everyone does. And it strikes me as risky. This is because the new NYSESLAT test is all about Common Core and nothing about acquisition of English. Oddly, I still cling to the fiction that helping kids acquire English is my job. But everyone knows fiction plays just about no part whatsoever in Common Core. Few seem to know that acquisition of academic English does not happen instantaneously, and must be preceded by basic conversational English.

I now wonder whether I'm on a suicide mission. The state can attach my rating to the ridiculous and invalid NYSESLAT exam and say I suck and must therefore be fired. I'm not clear on how and when they will do that, but it seems inevitable. The new Cuomo/ Heavy Hearts plan will also bring in total strangers who know nothing about me or my kids to observe, and they are doing this specifically to create more negative ratings. It's not like this is a great secret. Cuomo openly complains we aren't firing enough teachers. I've got thirty years in and if they fire me my family and I won't be living on cat food. Better me than one of my younger colleagues.

Mulgrew can ridicule me and all of us who oppose junk science. He can call us paranoid, cranks, whatever. But he has no idea what we, all of us, are going through.

Too bad because, given that, he cannot and does not represent us at all.
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