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Monday, December 31, 2012

What About Observers Having No Teaching Experience?

Get Observed Teaching By Someone With No Teaching Experience?

UnknownI was about to write a searing post about an organization I knew next to nothing about, but upon looking further, I've changed my opinion.  Here's the chain of events leading to a new conclusion. 
Basically, I saw a job post on by a non-profit organization called Turnaround for Children, looking for--
"former teachers, education researchers, and current graduate students in social sciences and education to visit schools in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Harlem, and Queens to conduct systematic observations of teachers' classrooms. Observers will receive training in a widely-used observation protocol (Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)), and will use this protocol to observe classrooms in various school settings." 
At first this sounded alright to me. My mind ran with the idea of former teachers conducting observations of teachers in various contexts--being that external person to balance out any bias that principals and other school-based observers may have. That could be a good thing.
Then I read on to the job requirements:
  • Bachelor's degree in education, social sciences or related fields of study required. Teacher certification or former classroom experience preferred.
  • Experience in performing classroom observations preferred(experience with CLASS protocol preferred); experience in quantitative or qualitative data collection preferred.
This is where I started getting red in the face.  So, the organization would ideally have experienced teachers conduct the observations (though one year could constitute experience, I suppose), but they would actually settle for people with no teaching experience observing--and evaluating?--practicing teachers?
I decided to read up on the organization. Here is their website, and here is an article, Addressing Poverty In Schools, by Joe Nocera about the history of the organization and its founder, Dr. Pamela Cantor. They seem to have a good mission, in which they come into struggling schools and work with the most at risk students--those students who have been traumatized and are just not getting what they need in the school's regular structures. From experience, I know that there is a good handful of students in every high needs school that need more than the regular classroom structures and relationships can give them to address the issues they face and prepare them to be students.  When these needs go unmet, such students can act out severely and really upset a whole school environment.  If this organization, founded by a psychiatrist, has found a way to fill this need, I'm in favor.
Here, also, is a blog post by teacher Larry Ferlazzo, called "Mixed Feelings About 'Turnaround For Children'." I wonder, like Larry Ferlazzo does, why the DOE doesn't build the capacity of its own teachers and counseling staff, through additional hires and hybrid roles, to do this work internally.
Back to the question of non-teacher observers. On the one hand... my guess is that these outside observers, trained to use CLASS, are measuring the effects of the intervention program itself.  I've often said that data collection cannot reasonably be added as a duty for teachers on top of everything else we do.  So hiring outside people could be a decent alternative.  
I also wonder, are these observations also used as part of teacher evaluations? Is this one of the "multiple measures" being implemented in addition to testing data?  My understanding is that in turnaround schools, principals have the right to dismiss teachers quickly. I'm a little hazy on whether principals must use due process once the initial "restructuring" takes place. If so, I'm worried that observations done by individuals with no teaching experience would be used to determine who is effective and who is not, and that would be neither fair nor accurate.
Would we ever see outsiders with no experience in the field evaluating other types of professionals' work? Can you imagine doctors or lawyers being observed by, say, me with a little training and a rubric?  I highly doubt it. I'm hoping that the data used from these observations is purely for the organization to assess its own work.  Then, it's still not ideal (as the organization has stated), but probably won't be doing any damage to practicing teachers either. 
In Nocera's article, I learned that Turnaround for Children has been meeting with officials in Congress and the White House about its work and, we can assume, the possibility of extending it to schools across the country.  This could be a very good thing if the organization is really building the capacity of schools to meet the psychological needs of traumatized students. An independent evaluation of the organization in 2008 suggested that the positive impact was strong, but that Turnaround needed to "put more emphasis on improving the academic environment in the classroom" (also from Nocera's article).  I imagine this is where data from the CLASS becomes important, and where the observations would need to be conducted by impartial outsiders. 
I think I've turned around my own assessment of Turnaround For Children and the work of Dr. Cantor.  I would just caution the organization, and others that are being called on to work with teachers to improve schools, to remember that teaching is highly skilled, professional work. If we don't treat teachers as professionals, we'll never have the schools we want and that students need. Every step toward real transformation must be taken with this in mind. Otherwise, it's easy to have the best intentions, but undermine the very people you need to carry out the change. We will never move forward that way.

A Reminder: NY PERB Section 209-a

NYPERB: New York Public Employment Relations Board

(Public Employees' Fair Employment Act)
Civil Service Law, Article 14

Improper Employer Practices; Improper Employee Organization Practices; Application 
1. Improper employer practices. It shall be an improper practice for public employer or its agents deliberately (a) to interfere with, restrain or coerce public employees in the exercise of their rights guaranteed in section two hundred two of this article for the purpose of depriving them of such rights; (b) to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any employee organization for the purpose of depriving them of such rights; (c) to discriminate against any employee for the purpose of encouraging or discouraging membership in, or participation in the activities of, any employee organization; (d) to refuse to negotiate in good faith with the duly recognized or certified representatives of its public employees; (e) to refuse to continue all the terms of an expired agreement until a new agreement is negotiated, unless the employee organization which is a party to such agreement has, during such negotiations or prior to such resolution of such negotiations, engaged in conduct violative of subdivision one of section two hundred ten of this article; (f) to utilize any state funds appropriated for any purpose to train managers, supervisors, or other administrative personnel regarding methods to discourage union organization or to discourage an employee from participating in a union organizing drive; or (g) to fail to permit or refuse to afford a public employee the right, upon the employee's demand, to representation by a representative of the employee organization, or the designee of such organization, which has been certified or recognized under this article when at the time of questioning by the employer of such employee it reasonably appears that he or she may be the subject of a potential disciplinary action. If representation is requested, and the employee is a potential target of disciplinary action at the time of questioning, a reasonable period of time shall be afforded to the employee to obtain such representation. It shall be an affirmative defense to any improper practice charge under paragraph (g) of this subdivision that the employee has the right, pursuant to statute, interest arbitration award, collectively negotiated agreement, policy or practice, to present to a hearing officer or arbitrator evidence of the employer's failure to provide representation and to obtain exclusion of the resulting evidence upon demonstration of such failure. Nothing in this section shall grant an employee any right to representation by the representative of an employee organization in any criminal investigation. 

2. Improper employee organization practices. It shall be an improper practice for an employee organization or its agents deliberately (a) to interfere with, restrain or coerce public employees in the exercise of the rights granted in section two hundred two, or to cause, or attempt to cause, a public employer to do so; (b) to refuse to negotiate collectively in good faith with a public employer, provided it is the duly recognized or certified representative of the employees of such employer; or (c) to breach its duty of fair representation to public employees under this article. 
3. The public employer shall be made a party to any charge filed under subdivision two of this section which alleges that the duly recognized or certified employee organization breached its duty of fair representation in the processing of or failure to process a claim that the public employer has breached its agreement with such employee organization. 
(b) Within ten days of the receipt by the board of such petition, if the board determines that a charging party has made a sufficient showing both that there is reasonable cause to believe an improper practice has occurred and it appears that immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage will result thereby rendering a resulting judgment on the merits ineffectual necessitating maintenance of, or return to the status quo to provide meaningful relief, the board shall petition the supreme court, in Albany county, upon notice to all parties for the necessary injunctive relief or in the alternative may issue an order permitting the charging party to seek injunctive relief by petition to the supreme court, in which case the board must be joined as a necessary party. The board or, where applicable, the charging party, shall not be required to give any undertakings or bond and shall not be liable for any damages or costs which may have been sustained by reason of any injunctive relief ordered. If the board fails to act within ten days as provided herein, the board, for purposes of review, shall be deemed to have made a final order determining not to seek injunctive relief. 
(d) Injunctive relief may be granted by the court, after hearing all parties, if it determines that there is reasonable cause to believe an improper practice has occurred and that it appears that immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage will result thereby rendering a resulting judgment on the merits ineffectual necessitating maintenance of, or return to, the status quo to provide meaningful relief. Such relief shall expire on decision by an administrative law judge finding no improper practice to have occurred, successful appeal or motion by respondent to vacate or modify pursuant to the provisions of the civil practice law and rules, or subsequent finding by the board that no improper practice had occurred. The administrative law judge shall conclude the hearing process and issue a decision on the merits within sixty days after the imposition of such injunctive relief unless mutually agreed by the respondent and charging party. 
(b) Within ten days of the receipt by the board of such petition, if the board of collective bargaining determines that a charging party has made a sufficient showing both that there is reasonable cause to believe an improper practice has occurred and it appears that immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage will result thereby rendering a resulting judgment on the merits ineffectual necessitating maintenance of, or return to, the status quo to provide meaningful relief, said board shall petition the supreme court in New York county, upon notice to all parties, for the necessary injunctive relief, or in the alternative said board may issue an order permitting the charging party to seek injunctive relief by petition to the supreme court, New York county, in which case said board must be joined as a necessary party. Such application shall be in conformance with the civil practice law and rules except that said board, or where applicable, the charging party shall not be required to give any undertaking or land [sic] and shall not be liable for any damages or costs which may have been sustained by reason of any injunctive relief order. If the board of collective bargaining fails to act within ten days as provided in this paragraph, the board of collective bargaining, for purposes of review, shall be deemed to have made a final order determining not to permit the charging party to seek injunctive relief. 
(d) Injunctive relief may be granted by the court, after hearing all parties, if it determines that there is reasonable cause to believe an improper practice has occurred and that it appears that immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage will result thereby rendering a resulting judgment on the merits ineffectual necessitating maintenance of, or return to, the status quo to provide meaningful relief. Any injunctive relief granted by the court shall expire upon decision of the board of collective bargaining finding no improper practice to have occurred or successful challenge of the said board's decision pursuant to article seventy-eight of the civil practice law and rules. The said board shall conclude the hearing process and issue a decision on the merits within sixty days after the imposition of such injunctive relief unless mutually agreed by the respondent and charging party. 

It's Legal To Fire A Woman For Being too Attractive

It's legal to fire a female employee because of her "irresistible attraction"

DECEMBER 27, 2012
The Employer Handbook
By Eric B. Meyer on December 27, 2012 7:00 AM |  | Comments
Cue music.
Last week, a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court held (here) that it was ok for a male boss to fire a female employee -- a model employee -- out of concern that he would eventually succumb and do things with her that could jeopardize his marriage.
That has to be gender discrimination!
The boss replaced the fired female employee with another (presumably less tempting) female. This suggests to me -- as it did the court -- that having the hots for a particular female employee (versus females in general) motivated the firing decision. (Of course, had the actor displayed a pattern of canning female employees because he feared sleeping with them, it may be a different story).
Additionally, although not a focus of the opinion, the same person hired the female employee as fired her. In many courts, the "same-actor" defense can be used to show that if one person does the hiring and the firing -- especially over an abbreviated period, it's unlikely that he is biased against [protected class of hired/fired employee].
Here, the boss -- actually, the boss's wife (she found the text messages) -- wanted the employee gone because her "irresistible attraction" threatened the boss's marriage. Absent sexual harassment, the subsequent adverse employment action is not actionable. Unfair? Yes. But, anti-discrimination laws are not fairness laws. They are only implicated when the employer discriminates based on an employee's protected status; not when an employer treats a particular female employee different than it would other (less alluring) female employees. Absent sexual harassment, that single termination based on a set of feelings towards that particular employee (albeit motivated by the boss's penis), even if unjust, by definition, does not violate the law.

UFT Raises UNITY Salaries, Uses Members' Dues For The Holiday Parties

UFT Members: start a petition in state legislature to end mandatory dues payment to Union bigwigs!

Teachers union spends millions from membership dues on parties and conferences

  • Last Updated: 6:25 AM, December 31, 2012
  • Posted: 1:54 AM, December 31, 2012
  • LINK
At least their union dues are working overtime.
While city public-school teachers have gone without a new contract or regular pay raises for three straight years, their union, its staffers and political cronies have been living large off their union dues, a Post review found.
Included in the United Federation of Teachers’ $166.5 million in spending last year was a hefty $33.4 million in salary for union staffers — a slight increase from the year prior.
More than 90 staffers earned six-figure salaries between July 2011 and June 2012, the records show — including President Michael Mulgrew, who took home $275,000.
FRUITS OF LABOR: UFT President Michael Mulgrew pulled down $275,000 running the $166 million teachers union.
NY Post: Chad Rachman
FRUITS OF LABOR: UFT President Michael Mulgrew pulled down $275,000 running the $166 million teachers union.
The union, which bumped its income from membership dues by $3 million in 2012 — to $129 million — spent nearly $1 million just on training for union staffers at the Rye Town Hilton in Westchester.
The union also spent more than $1 million for one company, Lackmann Culinary Services, to cater food for its various meetings and events.
That feasting didn’t even include the pasta payout of nearly $18,000 to Ravioli FAIR Caterers in Brooklyn.
An additional $1 million was spent at splashy conferences and events at the New York Hilton, the Helmsley Hotel and The Waldorf Astoria, according to labor filings submitted to the federal government.
The union also bankrolled dozens of dining events across the city at places like Russo’s on the Bay — where a single night’s expense tab ran over $21,000 — and at Antun’s in Queens.
A separate bash at the end of the school year ran more than $7,000 at Moran’s bar and restaurant in Chelsea.
Even the bill for promotional tchotchkes — like tote bags and bandannas bearing the UFT logo — ran into the six-figure range.
“We are proud of the work we do advocating on behalf of the children and teachers of New York City,” Mulgrew responded when asked about the largesse. “It takes a lot of money to resist the attempts of Mayor Bloomberg and his allies to undermine our public schools.”
The UFT’s political allies — mostly opponents of charter schools and of school choice in general — were also particularly well-fed in 2012, records show.
The group that succeeded ACORN, New York Communities for Change, has become virtually a subsidiary of the UFT — receiving nearly $400,000 for at least the second straight year.
Among the services it performed was the organizing of parents to oppose charter-school siting within public school buildings.
The former head of ACORN, Bertha Lewis, even got $17,500 for the new group she’s heading — the Black Institute.
Also getting a piece of the UFT pie this past year was the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network — which got $50,800 in contributions.
The New York chapter of the NAACP, a union ally in the fierce battle over school closings and charter schools, received $42,200.
The union’s coffers grew this year largely because its membership expanded by nearly 20,000 people — to 182,000 members — with most of the newbies coming from the day-care sector.
Union dues also crept up to semimonthly payments of $49.39 — compared with $48.74 in 2011.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Randi Weingarten's Misguided Lament

I dont get it. I really dont.

Effective educators are led - and rely on - the UFT and NYSUT to defend their rights at U-rating appeals and in 3020-a, and then are stunned when the Reps (UFT) and Attorneys (NYSUT) dont deliver.

We all remember the many times that a member questioned this loyalty when he/she tried to call the representative/Attorney to discuss a hearing, find out what to do after getting the result of 3020-a and it was not a good one....and there was no answer from 52 Broadway, etc., etc. At the bottom of the re-posted article below, retired UFT member Norm Scott cites the recent Delegate Assembly for not allowing a vote on teacher evaluations. In 2008, the result of the arbitration on Article 21G was that the right to grieve material that was unfair or false in a personnel file was taken away from members, but no other right. What other right would be more important than to grieve false claims?
Randi Weingarten in Washington DC

Drop-out Nation: "From where Weingarten sits, teachers with whom she agrees believe in doing more than just be consumed with” testing, competition and measurement rather than on teaching and on sustaining and scaling what works” — or what she really means, holding those in education accountable for performance, expanding school choice, and using objectively-measured student achievement data in providing more-honest and valuable evaluations of teacher performance." From Betsy Combier: NYC educators and UFT members do not like Randi Weingarten.

Randi Weingarten’s Misguided Lament (or Why the Voices of Teachers Aren’t the Only Ones that Matter)

December 29, 2012
A conceit among education traditionalists is the idea that the “voices of teachers” are the most-important — and, in many cases, the only ones that matter — when it comes to structuring American public education. Partly based on the belief that supposed experts in education (including principals and superintendents) should be the ones to make decisions in schools and districts, as well as driven by the efforts of National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers affiliates to maintain their declining influence (as well as maintain the grand bargain of sorts between the unions and its members that drive NEA and AFT revenues), traditionalists tend to argue that the perspectives of teachers are the ones that matter most. So teachers should be the lead decision-makers in education (and in the minds of the most-radical, the only people who should make decisions at all).

The latest version of this argument came courtesy of AFT President Randi Weingarten, in an e-mail response to a piece by Thomas B. Fordham Institute research czar Michael Petrilli naming Karen Lewis, the notorious and tragedy-politicizing head of the union’s notoriously bellicose Chicago affiliate, as “Education Person of the Year” for rallying the more-radical of traditionalist forces to her side during the union’s strike action earlier this year. Taking a bit of offense at Petrilli’s statement that reformers should use Lewis’ challenge as an opportunity to win teachers over to systemic reform, Weingarten declares that Petrilli and others should “change course” and “try listening to what Karen and the Chicago educators are saying about how to improve schools”. Why? From where Weingarten sits, teachers with whom she agrees believe in doing more than just be consumed with” testing, competition and measurement rather than on teaching and on sustaining and scaling what works” — or what she really means, holding those in education accountable for performance, expanding school choice, and using objectively-measured student achievement data in providing more-honest and valuable evaluations of teacher performance.

Weingarten continued railing against systemic reform isn’t all that surprising. After all, the AFT (along with the NEA) have lost influence because accountability, choice, and teacher quality reform efforts continue to shine light on the failed policies and practices they defend. But Weingarten’s argument that reformers should listen to teachers is based on the false notion that the school reform movement pays instructors no mind. More importantly, her view is driven by a conceit about the expertise of teachers that isn’t even close to reality.

Here’s the thing: Reformers listen to teachers all the time. In fact, a driving force of the school reform effort is the belief, based on three decades of data, that high-quality teaching is the most-critical aspect of building the cultures of genius that that helps all kids succeed in school and life. Making teachers real players in shaping what happens in schools and districts is as critical to doing that work as overhauling teacher evaluations and launching performance-based pay plans. Considering that the vanguard of the movement includes such teacher-driven outfits as Teach For America, Teach Plus, and TNTP — as well as organizations such as Educators 4 Excellence (which succeeded in winning seats on the governance board of the AFT’s Los Angeles affiliate) — reformers give plenty of regard to the views of teachers, especially those who are dissatisfied with how their views are represented by NEA and AFT affiliates. This isn’t to say that reformers have always done a good job in reaching out to teachers incorporating those perspectives; the Chicago strike made this clear. But to say that reformers have ignored (or even demonized) teachers, especially when one looks at the record, is to be intellectually and factually dishonest.

Certainly reformers may not pay as much mind to the views of NEA and AFT leaders as Weingarten and her allies may like. But one can actually ask this question: Why should they? After all, Weingarten and her colleagues have shown through their deeds that they are more-concerned with the concerns of the dwindling numbers of Baby Boomers within the rank-and-file (as well as the perspectives of retired teachers who no longer work in classrooms) than with addressing the concerns of younger, more reform-minded teachers who now make up the majority of teachers in classrooms. It is hard to take Weingarten’s arguments about “listening” to teachers seriously when her own union continues to defend quality-blind seniority-based policies such as Last In-First Out layoff rules (which protect longtime veterans at the expense of younger teachers in the ranks), and affiliates such as that in New York City structure voting rules to ensure that retirees and Baby Boomers are better-represented in leadership than younger teachers. The fact that the NEA and AFT also ignores those longtime veterans who also want to revamp and ditch aspects of traditional teacher compensation — and that the two unions fight vigorously to keep in place laws that force teachers to either join NEA or AFT locals, or pay union dues to them no matter their preference — also belie claims about wanting reformers to listen to the views of teachers. If anything, reformers may do a better job in attending to the views of teachers than the old-school unions that supposedly do the job.

As with the oft-rehashed posturing by traditionalists that reformers “bash” and “demonize” teachers, the claim that reformers don’t listen to teachers is based on the unwillingness of traditionalists to admit these facts: That there are laggard instructors in our classrooms who shouldn’t be there. That America’s ed schools are doing an abysmal job of recruiting and training aspiring teachers. That the traditional teacher compensation system, focused on rewarding teachers based on seniority and degree attainment, is ineffective in spurring student achievement fails to reward good-to-great teachers and keeps laggards in classrooms to continue educational malpractice. And that keeping things as they are is too costly for students, families, high-quality teachers and taxpayers alike.

Meanwhile Weingarten’s statement fails to keep this important matter in mind: The perspectives of teachers aren’t the only ones that matter — or even the most-important — when it comes to overhauling American public education.

For one, there is the simple fact that American public education is a collection of systems financed by taxpayers and voters of all types. These taxpayers, who are also the customers and clients of schools and districts, have the right to play roles in how districts and schools serve their children. This includes companies, who are dependent on districts and schools to provide high-quality education to the men and women who will run their C-suites and staff their operations, as well as venture capitalists and other investors who are looking to back the next generation of entrepreneurs and builders of economies. It also includes governors, legislators, mayors, and city councilmembers, whose long-term fiscal prospects in an increasingly knowledge-based global economy is dependent on highly-educated young men and women.

Most of all, it includes families, whose children they love attend schools and districts, and whose learning they entrust to teachers and school leaders. The views of these mothers, fathers, and caregivers — especially those from poor and minority backgrounds — have long been condescended and ignored by American public education. But considering the failure of schools and districts to provide children with high-quality education, families (and others) can and should no longer just leave education decision-making in the hands of others. They must become active players in shaping education for their children, ask tough, thoughtful questions about what is being taught in classrooms, demand information on the quality of the teachers working in classrooms, and play stronger roles in shaping the overhauls of traditional district schools (and in the operations of charter schools serving their kids).

Sure, the views of teachers are important. But the views of those who pay the bills and entrust the futures of their children to districts and schools are even more important. Considering that districts and schools have been their children (and taxpayers) for at least two generations, simply trusting teachers just isn’t good enough. Which, in turn, hits upon another reality: That not every view of every teacher is worthy of consideration.

For one, the view that the views of teachers matter most is based on the false notion that they have acquired expertise that those outside of education don’t have. This ignores the reality that teachers often don’t really know what their colleagues do because they often work as solo practitioners in classrooms with little interaction with colleagues outside of teachers’ lounges. The fact that many teachers come into the profession with little in the way of subject-matter competency and training in classroom instructional methods — a fault that lies largely with the failures of the nation’s university schools of education (who are aided and abetted by the NEA and AFT) — also means that not every teacher has the expertise needed to offer a thoughtful view on policies and practices.

Certainly as famed psychologist Daniel Kahneman has noted in Thinking, Fast and Slow, those with hands-on knowledge are likely to have a more-comprehensive view on what can and cannot work. But Kahneman also points out that expertise can only be gained in stable, predictable environments where professionals can learn from prolonged practice and lots of feedback. Those aren’t the circumstances in which many teachers — especially those working in massive failure mills such as Detroit and Philadelphia — are toiling; so it is unlikely that many teachers have acquired enough expertise in the first place. And considering the low-quality of subjective classroom observations that are the norm for traditional teacher evaluation systems, the state laws and collective bargaining agreements governing teacher performance management discourage school leaders from providing more-ample feedback, and that the use of objective student test score growth data is just coming into play, few teachers have gotten the kind of feedback needed to build such expertise in the first place.

(This fact, by the way, explains why the peer review method of evaluation touted by traditionalists is not an effective alternative to performance-based measurements based on objective student test score data. Teachers are more-likely to base their evaluation of peers on their own subjective biases, giving thumbs up to those who fit their view of what teaching should be than on whether they are actually effective in improving student achievement. It is also why subjective classroom observations by school leaders also tend to be ineffective.)

These facts hit upon a much more important point: The “experts” in education (including many teachers) really don’t know what they are doing. After all, it is the decision by experts to push ability-tracking and the comprehensive that have led to the low-quality teaching and curricula to poor and minority students that is a culprit behind the nation’s education crisis. It is the work of experts that has led to such practices as the overuse of suspensions and expulsions, and the overdiagnosis of learning disabilities (especially among young black men, whose reading deficiencies are often diagnosed as being special ed problems). And thanks to experts, we have a system of teacher training that, as former Teachers College President Arthur Levine and others have pointed out, has been ineffective in recruiting and preparing aspiring teachers for classrooms.

An over-dependence on experts who aren’t does not make for smart reform. This isn’t to say that the perspectives of high-quality teachers aren’t critical in advancing the overhaul of American public education. It is. The key is listening to good-and-great teachers (as well as school leaders) who bring strong mastery of their profession to the table.

In fact, one of the dirty secrets in education is that those very voices are the ones that are often marginalized within cultures of mediocrity and failure that are often the norm in districts and schools, thanks to policies that fail to reward and recognize good-and-great teaching, place bureaucratic obstacles to fostering this work among colleagues, and protect laggards from losing their jobs. The plights of legendary math teacher Jaime Escalante, famed instructor John Taylor Gatto, are just the most-visible examples of what happens when good and great teachers either shine too brightly, or challenge the views of laggard teachers and school leaders who would rather hide in plain sight.

This is why overhauling how we evaluate and compensate teachers, as well as revamping how we recruit and train school leaders, is so important. Performance-based evaluations based on value-added analysis of objective school data allows for districts and schools to recognize and reward those teachers who are doing good and great work. This, in turn, helps districts retain those teachers and, along with other efforts, build cultures of genius that make life better for children and teachers alike. It is why more districts should copy comprehensive evaluation systems such as D.C. Public Schools’ pioneering IMPACT regime, as well as use the lessons about the importance of high-quality feedback and performance management in evaluating principals and other school leaders. And when we bring strong school leaders into buildings — and give them the power to hire, fire, and reward teachers — we are helping good and great teachers gain the backing they need to do their best for our kids.

There is no question that everyone — including reformers — should pay attention to the perspective of teachers who work in our classrooms. But the views of our good-and-great teachers should matter more than those of colleagues who don’t make the grade. More importantly, the views of teachers cannot be the only ones that predominate in education decision-making. We need everyone to play their part in transforming our super-clusters of failure into systems fit for the futures of our children.

A NYC educator comments:

Teachers in the classroom today have very little voice. I know, have seen (Ithrough mentoring and intervisitations) and work(ed) with great teachers. I have also seen a handful of poor teachers (most of whom move on). The great teachers have gone through teacher education institutes for five to six years or more. They come in new and grow as does anyone in any profession. I have had little concern for the Teaching Fellows, usually older people who change career. Most of them want to teach and find their niche as a second profession. They become good to great teachers. Those who come in through TFA are another story by and large. They usually have another agenda going and it is not to be a career teacher. I have not had the occasion to work with E4E folks, but was not very impressed with their thinking in conversations recently at a rally in City Hall Park. All of us, veterans and newbies, have had our creative voices silenced with the advent of the common core, poorly written text books, scripted learning materials and test prep. The "art of teaching" is barely seen these days. That is demoralizing for teachers who have been around for 25 years and for those who come in with a fresh sense of enthusiasm and a lot to offer children.

Now as to administrators: I have only seen a handful in my 30 years of teaching (20 in the NYC public school system) who were/are great or good even. I can count on one hand the excellent administrators I have met (and I have been in a lot of schools). They were usually the ones who stayed in the classroom for 20-30 years and worked their way up. They were the ones who didn't forget what it was like to be in a classroom. They were the ones who gave support and advice, but also gave you space to teach and grow in the profession without dictating your every move Today most administrators have either not been in a classroom or were in and out within a few years. They walk into classrooms and do not have a clue as to what they are observing, let alone know how to help or rate a teacher. They use pat evaluation forms for everyone, often just reiterating what they saw. Then they try to give suggestions which are not helpful or useful. Randi Weingarten was barely in a classroom She probably couldn't spot a great teacher or a potentially great teacher if she tried.

In order to lure people back to teaching and administration- people who are experts and want to be in the field - the system, the stakeholders have to make it worthwhile to come in. Salaries and benefits that respect the professionals we are will be enticing; that goes without saying. but respect for what well trained teachers do, how they relate to their students (not their clients) and allowing the art form to flourish is what will make people want to become educators again.

I find this article demeaning to teachers as individuals and to the profession. I am all for a relationship with the parents and community, but if parents can't "trust" their children to those who are educating their children then we have a problem. Education is not a business (although the "reformers" would have us believe this).Education is a social service that provides children with an academic, artistic and social/emotional experience. Children grow and learn at various rates. They are human beings, not products that we (teachers) make and turn out like cars on a production line. We do need to be listened to by the society at large who has ignored many of the needs of its people and ultimately its children by allowing poverty and segregation to continue to exist; denied or delayed assistance to those most needy. There have been erroneous errors and mistakes, but by and large teachers have the best interests of their students in their hearts. We are often not heard when we ask for money for supplies and books, smaller class sizes for our learners and needed interventions; learning environments that are child and parent friendly and enough staff to relate to the needs of every child.

If students are happy, flourishing at his/her own pace and wants to go to school each day, then whatever term you want to label a teacher "good" or great" (we are individuals to with various talents) we are doing our job, the job we trained for and wanted to do. We do know what we are doing and what we want - just listen to instead of bashing us

From retired teacher Norm Scott:

There is much irony in this article. That groups like E4E which bans any dissenting view gives teachers more of a voice. And Randi arguing for teacher voice when she and her crew deny rank and file teacher voices all the time -- like at the recent Del Ass where they argued against allowing teachers to vote on any eval agree even though it is a contract item and required by UFT by-laws.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Jerry White: Michigan's New Right-to-Work Law And Bankrupty of Labor Unions

I think that New Yorkers should stop paying dues to Unions until reform leads to protection of rights in collective bargaining and due process hearings. 

 Michigan’s right-to-work law

13 December 2012
Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed into law a so-called “right-to-work” bill, making Michigan the 24th state in the US to adopt the measure. The law bars labor contracts requiring all workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Promoted by right-wing forces, its basic aim is to undermine the ability of workers to collectively fight in defense of their interests in opposition to the employers.
The inability of the United Auto Workers and other unions to mount any serious opposition to the legislation demonstrates the bankruptcy of these organizations. They long ago ceased to fight for the interests of their rank-and-file members or the working class as a whole.
The UAW, the Michigan AFL-CIO, the Michigan Education Association and the other unions are incapable of mobilizing workers. They have spent the last three decades working to suppress and betray workers’ struggles and impose the demands of the corporations for one round of wage and benefit cuts after another. They have collaborated in the closure of plants and mass layoffs, leaving former industrial centers like Detroit devastated and impoverished. The UAW agreed to a six-year strike ban as part of the wage-cutting contract dictated by the Obama’s Auto Task Force in 2009.
The UAW once had over 1 million members and as recently as 2004 had 650,000 on its membership rolls. Today it has a membership of about 380,000.
Workers do not look to these anti-democratic, sclerotic organizations, with their legions of six-figure-salaried officials and joint union-management slush funds, as instruments of struggle. They hold them in deserved contempt.
The executives who run the UAW and the other unions oppose the right-to-work law only because it threatens the flow of dues that sustains their apparatuses. They couldn’t care less about the rights of workers, and are no less hostile to the class struggle than those who pushed the bill through the legislature.
Where do the union dues go? To providing funds for the Democratic Party and the bureaucrats’ own affluent lifestyles. Meanwhile, young workers in UAW plants are forced to work for poverty-level wages of $15 an hour, endure back-breaking speedup, work ten- and even 12-hour days with no overtime pay, and watch as “their” union reps police the shop floor on behalf of the bosses.
With the new law not going into affect until April—and at workplaces only after the expiration of current agreements—the UAW bureaucrats at Solidarity House and officials at union headquarters all over the state will work overtime to push through new concessions contracts to lock in their dues income for the next several years.
Just one day before the passage of the right-to-work law, the UAW hosted President Obama at a Detroit-area factory and cheered his plans to slash and ultimately dismantle Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. In his speech, Obama criticized the right-to-work law on the grounds that the UAW had demonstrated its usefulness by collaborating with the government and the auto companies in slashing wages and benefits and returning the US auto industry to profitability.
The collapse of the trade unions is the outcome of the reactionary political perspective upon which they were based. The UAW arose out of massive struggles in the 1930s, which began with a rebellion against the old labor organizations of the American Federation of Labor.
To establish the new industrial unions, workers had to carry out sit-down strikes and general strikes that paralyzed entire cities. They had to battle company thugs, police and the National Guard—and thousands paid with their lives.
The great tragedy of this movement was that it remained under the control of a right-wing, pro-capitalist bureaucracy, which from the earliest stages worked to subordinate the newly organized unions to the corporations, the Democratic Party and American imperialism. In the 1940s, the socialists and left-wing militants who had led the sit-down strikes were purged from the UAW in the anti-communist witch hunts carried out by the union bureaucrats.
It did not take very long for these organizations to begin their decline, which coincided with the first signs in the 1950s and 1960s of the end of American postwar economic hegemony. By the 1970s and 1980s, the growing global integration of production and finance undercut the nationalist perspective on which they were based.
The unions had no answer to the domination of the world economy by giant corporations, which made it possible for the capitalists to exploit a global labor market and transfer production to low-wage countries. Their only response was to go from pressuring employers to improve the wages and conditions of workers to pressuring the workers to improve the competitiveness of the corporations by means of layoffs, wage cuts and speedup.
The unions repudiated any form of independent struggle and adopted the corporatist policy of union-management “partnership.” This went hand in hand with the promotion of economic nationalism to pit US workers against their class brothers around the world.
The result of this process is the transformation of the unions into labor syndicates. They have become businesses that seek a cut in the profits sweated out of the workers. The UAW is today a major holder of stock in the Big Three automakers. Its income is tied to driving up the profits and stock prices of the companies at the expense of the workers.
What conclusions must be drawn?
It is not a matter of reviving these corrupt and reactionary organizations, as proposed by the various pseudo-left allies of the union bureaucracy such as the International Socialist Organization.
New organizations, rank-and-file committees of struggle independent of the UAW and the other unions and based on an entirely new perspective, must be built. The guiding principle must be the unconditional defense of the jobs, living standards and working conditions of all workers, not what the corporate bosses and their political mouthpieces say they can afford.
Such committees must fight for the full industrial and political mobilization of the working class. They must reject the “Buy American” nationalism of the unions and coordinate their struggles against the global corporations with workers throughout the world.
Most fundamentally, the working class needs a new political perspective and political party. Workers are confronting not just this or that rapacious boss, but an entire economic system in the US and internationally—the capitalist profit system—which, in order to satisfy the needs of the ruling elite, requires the spread of social misery, poverty, war and the most brutal forms of exploitation.
The issue is not fighting for better terms of exploitation, but ending the system that is based on exploitation. In opposition to the two parties of big business, the working class must build its own mass party to fight for the socialist reorganization of economic life on the basis of human need, not the accumulation of private wealth. We urge workers to join and build the Socialist Equality Party as the new, revolutionary leadership of the working class.
Jerry White