Sunday, April 12, 2009

Riddle Me This

How do you know when the UFT has done something useful?

When the press excoriates them.

The City Council held a meeting on charter schools, and the UFT was there in force, distributing cards to council members with questions to ask about charter schools. The Post rails that the questions about charters were "sharp", as if that's a negative thing. It's a GREAT thing. Someone should be asking the tough questions about charters rather than accepting the biased pronouncements of Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, and Gotham Schools.

The only negative quote the Post managed to find was from Simcha Felder, a councilmember from Brooklyn who has his head so far up Bloomberg's ass that a dentist could work on both of them at the same time. Said Simcha: "You couldn't get by without (the UFT) handing you a card." Again, this is GREAT. Finally, the UFT doing exactly what we pay them 80 million dollars a year for--to lobby for us.

Let's face it--charter schools suck. They are an educational gimmick that work only on a small scale by syphoning off the best students with the most motivated parents. They then claim success without ever having to show that they can achieve the same results when they have to accept students with disabilities, behavior problems, and parents who don't give a damn. Of course, politicians generally love charters because they give them a chance to say that they are doing something and weaken support for unionism at the same time.

Far from being embarrassed by this, as the Post claims we should be, we should all send letters of thanks to Randi for finally getting something right. We should encourage her to show up at city council meetings in person and hand out those cards herself. Let's face it--Felder and the NY media aren't really upset because unions show up at meetings, they are upset because they absolutely hate it when anyone questions their goofball education ideas.

So, in a rare gesture for this blog, I salute Randi and the UFT for doing the right thing. Keep it up. Let's start fighting to make all schools great.


Under Assault said...

I agree. I didn't mind RW feeding the council questions.

But she's still a collaborator, selling out the members in bits with each contract. That's because she thinks of us as her minions, not the highly educated professionals most of us with any seniority are.

I bet she'd be fighting a whole different fight if we were a bunch of lawyers or CPAs.

Mr. Talk said...

Woodlass, you're absolutely correct. RW thinks that she can play both ends against the middle by starting her own charter schools. but the truth is that you can't be both for and against charters. It looks to me, and probably most of the press, that the UFT favors charters and is out to get a piece of the pie. This is unforgivable.

She needs to come out strongly against charters once and for all. And she needs to demand that 4% per year lockstep increase before Bloomberg says there's no money or threatens layoffs. I'd happily take a 0% increase in exchange for the restoration of the 2005 contract. Somehow I think we'll do worse than either of those options.

Unknown said...

 I am a veteran teacher in Houston seeking a dialogue with Teach for America teachers nationally regarding policy positions taken by former Teach for American staffers who have become leaders in school district administrations and on school boards. I first became aware of a pattern when an ex-TFA staffer, now a school board member for Houston ISD, recommended improving student performance by firing teachers whose students did poorly on standardized tests. Then the same board member led opposition to allowing us to select, by majority vote, a single union to represent us.

Having won school board elections in several cities, and securing the Washington D.C Superintendent's job for Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp's friends are pursuing an approach to school reform based on a false premise: that teachers, not student habits, nor lack of parent commitment or social inequality, is the main cause of sub-par academic performance. The TFA reform agenda appeals to big corporations who see our public institutions as inefficient leeches. This keeps big money flowing into TFA coffers.

The corporate-TFA nexus began when Union Carbide initially sponsored Wendy Kopp's efforts to create Teach for America. A few years before, Union Carbide's negligence had caused the worst industrial accident in history, in Bhopal, India. The number of casualties was as large as 100,000, and Union Carbide did everything possible to minimize its responsibility at the time it embraced Ms. Kopp. TFA recently started Teach for India. Are Teach for India enrollees aware of the TFA/Union Carbide connection?

When TFA encountered a financial crisis, Ms. Kopp  nearly went to work for the Edison Project, and was all but saved by their managerial assistance. The Edison Project sought to replace public schools with for-profit corporate schools funded by our tax money. Ms. Kopp's husband, Richard Barth, was an Edison executive before taking over as CEO of KIPP's national foundation, where he has sought to decertify its New York City unions.

In 2000, two brilliant TFA alumni, the founders of KIPP Academy, joined the Bush's at the Republican National Convention in 2000. This was pivotal cover for Bush, since as Governor he had no genuine educational achievements, and he needed the education issue to campaign as a moderate and reach out to the female vote. KIPP charter schools provide a quality education, but they start with families committed to education. They claim to be improving public schools by offering competition in the education market-place, but they take the best and leave the rest.

D.C. Superintendent Michelle Rhee's school reform recipe includes three ingredients: close schools rather than improve them; fire teachers rather than inspire them; and sprinkle on a lot of hype. On the cover of Time, she sternly gripped a broom, which she presumably was using to sweep away the trash, which presumably represented my urban teacher colleagues. The image insulted people who take the toughest jobs in education.

TFA teachers do great work, but when TFA's leadership argue that schools, and not inequality and bad habits, are the cause of the achievement gap, they are not only wrong, they feed the forces that prevent the social change we need to grow and sustain our middle class.. Our society has failed schools by permitting the middle class to shrink. It's not the other way around. Economic inequality and insecurity produces ineffective public schools. It's not the other way around.

Ms. Kopp claims TFA carries the civil rights torch for today, but Martin Luther King was the voice of unions on strike, not the other way around. His last book, Where do we go from here?, argued for some measure of wealth distribution, because opportunity would never be enough in a survival of the fittest society to allow most of the under-privileged to enter the middle class.
Your hard work as a TFA teacher gives TFA executives credibility. It's not the other way around. Your hard work every day in the classrooms gives them the platform to espouse their peculiar one-sided prescriptions for school improvement. I would like a dialogue about what I have written here with TFA teachers. My e-mail is

NYC Educator said...

Good point about their being right when the press excoriates them. And you know they're dead wrong when the press praises them, as they did after the 05 contract.

NYC Educator said...

However, I think it was stupid for them to have been so blatant about handing out the cards. Everyone tries to get their point across, but they certainly could have been more subtle about it.

jw said...

Jesse, you're putting up this comment all over. It looks like spam. Is it?