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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

NYC Educator: Judging Teachers and Junk Sciences

From Betsy: One of my favorite bloggers posts about the AFT's Randi Weingarten and her pursuit of junk evaluations for teachers. See NYC Educator's thoughts, below:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Getting Rid of "Bad Teachers"



That's what AFT President Randi Weingarten focused on in some sort of AFT gathering. I don't get invited to AFT gatherings in my lowly capacity as representative of the largest high school in Queens. That's because a prerequisite for AFT gatherings is to support whatever the UFT supports, like mayoral control, junk science evaluation, or genuflecting to Bill Gates. Better we send people from schools with twelve teachers who really know what their roles are, to wit, do what they're told and shut the hell up about it.

Now no one actually wants bad teachers. No one wants bad weather, bad haircuts, or bad karma either, but there you go. But what is a bad teacher? Well, according to the new APPR, for which the union helped compose a state law, it's anyone whose students don't get sufficient test scores. Yet, according to brilliant math teacher Gary Rubinstein, who actually crunches the numbers, and Diane Ravitch, whose statue I keep on my car dashboard, judging teachers by test scores is junk science. This means teachers will be rated, continued, or fired based on junk science, essentially on a random basis next year.

Am I a bad teacher? Who knows? I'll just have to wait and see the test scores of my students. Since they don't actually speak English, the tests may prove challenging for them. Of course, in this age of no excuses, it's simply my fault if they fail. If I have kids dragged here kicking and screaming from China, kids who refuse to learn English or mix with anyone outside of their language group, that's my fault. Sure, it goes against absolutely everything I know about language acquisition, but Reformy John King hasn't actually studied language acquisition. Under the NYC agreement, his is the only opinion that matters.

I'm a little surprised at what Weingarten says here:

...she acknowledged she did not want to be in the business of defending all teachers.

What should this mean? Will the AFT decide whether or not I am worth defending when up on charges? If my kids, who speak no English, fail tests, does that mean I'm on my own? Should I, as chapter leader, determine, OK, I'll demand the contract be enforced for teacher A, who's a good teacher, but not teacher B, who's a bad teacher?

There is, in fact, a process for disciplinary matters, and the contract applies to all of us. At least now it does. Were that not the case, it would be like saying, well, I can't run around killing people whenever I feel like it, but it's OK for George Zimmerman. Or teachers have to pay taxes, but GE doesn't.

That may be OK for Grover Norquist and Florida, but it's not justice. We are teachers. We are role models. We need to do better.

We can't say you get representation because you're a good teacher, but you don't because you suck. This is particularly egregious when the definitions of good and bad teachers are legally determined by junk science.

I can't claim to know what Weingarten is thinking. But, to paraphrase, "Don't ask for whom the rules apply. They apply for thee."

Hopefully, at least.