Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mr. Mulgrew? This is Opportunity Knocking...

I've heard from a few teachers and administrators who were stunned by the re-calibrated math and ELA scores. They wonder how we could have done so poorly. Let me set everyone straight. The scores did not go down; the bar was raised to where it should have been all along. Raw scores this year are about the same as last year. All that's happened is that the state stopped gaming the scores to make itself look good.

As expected, Mayor4Life and Joel Klein have wasted no time at all in spinning this year's test scores to make themselves seem less culpable. If they succeed, you know who will be scapegoated--teachers. But this was not a failure of teachers--this is a breakdown of honesty in a corrupt system that banked everything on test scores.

Rather than letting BloomKlein rewrite the narrative to their own advantage, Michael Mulgrew needs to seize this opportunity to step up and change the way things are done. He can prove--using that very data that BloomKlein so used to love--that the gains under the billionaire mayor and lawyer chancellor were all smoke and mirrors. Mulgrew took a stab at that, saying “The city desperately needs a real instructional strategy to improve our schools. As it starts to put one together, I hope that this time the mayor and the chancellor listen to people who know something about education, including the teachers who actually spend their days helping kids learn.” Sounds OK, but instead of letting the city set the agenda and hoping we get a seat at the table, we need to be proactive and set the agenda ourselves. You can bet that parents are angry about this chicanery by the city and state, so we can channel some of that anger to our benefit. Here's the agenda that Mulgrew needs to lay out, at least as I see it:

  • It's time for Klein to be fired. His programs and agenda have led to scores that have flat-lined for the past 4 years of more. His tenure has been an abject failure. It's time for an educator to take the reins.
  • We need a new evaluation system led by teachers. Until and unless the city and state can prove their numbers are genuine and reflective of the job done by individual teachers, test scores should play no role in the evaluation process.
  • Let's demand an end to new charter schools in our city. Charters have underperformed city public schools and their drop this year was worse despite cherry picking their students and guiding poor students out.
  • Dump all the unproven teaching systems that have handcuffed teachers and kept students back. It's time for America's Choice, Teacher's College, Everyday Mathematics, and Impact Math to go.
  • Give teachers the opportunity to develop a curriculum that works for their school within the framework of the standards.
  • De-emphasize test prep and return to teaching the basics, including thinking skills.
  • Demand an end to mayoral control, which has been an unmitigated disaster.
That's all that crosses my mind at the moment. Feel free to contribute your thoughts.

Opportunity knocked once for Mulgrew when he assumed the role of UFT president with a 91% mandate, and he refused to answer. It's knocking once again, but this time he needs to seize the opportunity and make a real difference for the teachers he represents and the children of New York.


Esteban Rodriguez said...

I like that list. Especially this one:

"Give teachers the opportunity to develop a curriculum that works for their school within the framework of the standards."

Non-educators have held the reins on policy decisions for far too long. They choose to assign blame to teachers for their own failings. They choose to ignore the input of teachers, parents and students.

Teachers, parents and students must take the lead in setting education policy going forth.

Pogue said...

He needs to start a campaign to put an end to this Bloomberg/Klein fallacy. He needs to do it with and through everyday teachers from all ethnic backgrounds and all ages. The general public needs to know that teachers are struggling and doing their best at an incredibly tough job. They also need to know that teachers do not support a test-heavy curriculum for students. The connection to teachers needs to get closer as the belief in billionaires' nefarious policies need to be driven away.

ed notes online said...

"He can prove--using that very data that BloomKlein so used to love--that the gains under the billionaire mayor and lawyer chancellor were all smoke and mirrors."

You are missing an essential gambit of UFT policy - to join BloomKlein in bragging about high scores and try to give teachers credit.

The UFT was there with Klein when he "won" the Broad Award. They have used the phony scores to jump on the merit pay bandwagon.

Ed Notes warned them a decade ago that they would be left holding the bag when scores go down.

I mean if yo are calling for teachers to be paid more for scores going up then logic holds there could be calls for reducing salary when scores go down.

To expect Mulgrew to go counter to UFT policy is misleading people into thinking he has the power, will or smarts to turn the Titanic when shavings from the iceberg are already cooling the drinks in the dining room.

I urge the same mantra for Mulgrew as for Randi - watch what they do not what they say.

Michael Fiorillo said...

On issues that matter, Mulgrew is little more than an appendage to the HR department of the DOE. Much of his time is spent figuring out how to play the membership and get it to go along with Bloomberg/Klein-inspired schemes that will ruin public education and teaching as a career.

The UFT is no longer an independent, worker-led organization. At it's best it functions as a kind of ombudsman for DOE teachers; at its worst, it is complicit in their professional destruction.

Anonymous said...

You are correct I could not agree more. I have just one objection to your agenda. Keep mayoral control as the next mayor will most likely be a person that the teachers will support and if Klein is gone and a true educator replaces him, then Mayor Bloomberg will be a lame duck in every respect.

NYC Educator said...

Actually, what Mulgrew is planning is a trip to DC with Joel Klein to pitch the NYC Race to the Top plan, the one that will finally fire NY teachers for the test scores of their students.'s awfully nice of him to cooperate, again, when we have no contract and the current offer is zero. He certainly looks reasonable.

For thanks, the News and the Post think more teachers need to be fired.

All that cooperation is really paying off.

Unknown said...

We need to comment and challenge anywhere we can the Obama Duncan BS! What we are witnessing is the logical problem of putting all the accountability eggs into unfair testing. The gaming of the tests by state and city school district chiefs has been going on for quite a while in Illinois and Chicago. Logical that states will game the test scores. They bought the NCLB Testing treadmill and now have to cover their butts. Time for a recall!

ed notes online said...


You are missing 2 essential points.

First that the next mayor will be one that teachers will support. Where does that idea come from? Anthony Weiner is totally for the ed deform movement. Scratch and you will see so is Bill Thompson. But even here if you watch the move to make Bloomberg's girlfriend Diana Taylor a serious contender for mayor we could see a 4th term coming.

Second point is that putting a "true" educator in charge will make a difference. Marcia Lyles was a supposed "true" educator and was a lackey. They can find plenty of those.

WE must end mayoral control to stop the tyranny of one person controlling the schools. The UFT will waffle and sniffle but will never go for ending mayoral control because it is in their DNA to keep power in as few hands as possible, always holding out the hope that one day they will get a mayor they can influence. But given their record do you think that influence will be in the interests of working classroom teachers or in the leadership's narrow interests?

L. Dingle said...

No surprises for this former NYC educator. The standardistas promised that the standards would ensure everyone would pass the tests. Doesn’t matter if the tests are dumbed down -- if the standards were taught, the kids pass. What happened then, what with all the mandated, teacher-proof, standards-based curriculum falling flat?

And is anyone really surprised that, with teacher pay being tied to test scores, that the testing goal posts will be continuously moved to ensure that no one will ever really achieve the impossible goal of 100% literacy by 2015 and they will be forced to pay for that elusive success?

It’s a shell game and teachers are destined to fail. We lost the chance to strangle this monster 20 years ago and now it has grown to gargantuan size and will not be tamed.