Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
First is the E4E website itself. It's certainly nicely done, as it should be--it's powered by Media Mezcla Campaign Engine, which provides tools for politicians to run campaigns. I wonder how two low-salaried teachers managed to put up a website using expensive software that politicians use in their campaigns? A suspicious person might infer that these two fine newbie teachers somehow managed to hook up with powerful, moneyed pols, but we all know that couldn't be, could it? In any case, one of their goals is to join the "debate" on how to improve schools, apparently by eviscerating them. Toward this end, they have a blog that does not accept comments. So much for debate.
A bigger bone to pick with E4E is that they brainlessly list two contradictory goals on their "Declaration" page, to wit:
- Reestablishing tenure as a significant professional milestone through the use of a comprehensive teacher evaluation system and
- Eliminating the practice of "Last In, First Out" for layoffs
Perhaps these two don't understand that tenure is already a significant professional milestone. A teacher must produce results for three years, and can be fired for any reason whatsoever before that time frame elapses. How E4E plans to make tenure more rigorous remains unclear; it seems to me that getting fired for any reason is already pretty rigorous. Perhaps E4E would like those who fail to attain tenure to be drawn and quartered or slammed in the iron maiden.
What the E4E crew fails to get is that eliminating seniority for layoffs effectively renders tenure meaningless. What good is tenure when you can be fired any time the mayor declares a fiscal crisis? Fiscal crises happen in NYC with greater regularity than ethnic street fairs. Let's see how far tenure gets you when your principal hands you a pink slip and sends you skidding down the street on your hindquarters.
Of course, none of this probably matters much to the E4E crew. I doubt their ultimate ambition is to be great teachers. More likely, they want to be the Grand Wizards of education--superintendents or better. If layoffs were based on the ability to brown nose and kiss Joel Klein's wrinkled ass, these two would have jobs for life.So the E4E crew get awarded a pair of matching dunce caps. Which, when you think about it, look kind of Klannish, which seems to fit.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
But if you ask that question of Florida teachers, they will all have an answer for you: Yesterday. That is when the teacher's unions in Florida, in conjunction with parents and concerned citizens, kicked the ass of the Republican controlled Florida state legislature by forcing Governor Crist to veto a bill that would have made drastic and draconian changes to teacher compensation and effectively ended tenure.
They did it the old fashioned way--by rolling up their sleeves and protesting. A quarter of Miami-Dade teachers participated in a sick out. Governor Crist received 120,ooo phone calls and emails opposing the bill, to about 3000 in favor of it. They made it clear that Gov. Crist wouldn't be elected dog catcher if he signed the bill.
And the teachers won. I can only imagine how good they feel.
I can only imagine it because it doesn't happen in NYC. What I remember most over the last eight years is our union giving up seniority transfers, sending us back to lunch duty, extending our day, giving up our rights to file meaningful grievances, and standing idly by as the Rubber Rooms and ATR ranks swelled. We sit without a contract and without the even pattern raise that has been given to all other unions.
There was a slight glimmer of hope yesterday for NY teachers as well, when the closing of Rubber Rooms was announced. Still, there has been nary a word said about the bill introduced to the New York State Legislature that would allow layoffs of senior teachers and base retention on test scores, much as the Florida bill aimed to do. One early sponsor of the bill has already dropped out, but that's just not good enough. We should be picketing the offices of assemblyman Jonathan Bing and state senator Ruben Diaz, bombarding them with phone calls and emails, and generally making their lives miserable for trying to screw us over. The UFT should seize this opportunity to let NY politicians know that from now on, they'd be wise not to scapegoat teachers or try to erode our hardfought gains.
As Brutus once famously said in Julius Caesar, "There is tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." The tide is in, Mr. Mulgrew. Your troops are ready. It's time to lead.
After Randi's hideous tenure as our leader, we need to become a more radical, focused union. I hope we aren't all standing in the unemployment line a year from now saying "Et tu, Mulgrew?"
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Seniority: The bill currently in Albany to do an end run around seniority worries me. I don't think it has much of a chance of passing, but we are moving in that direction. Young teachers don't seem to care much about seniority, mostly, I would guess, because they don't see themselves in the system for an extended period or they think this law would never apply to them. Personally, I think it's nothing more than a money making scheme for the city and state--a way for them to hire teachers on the cheap and make sure that pensions never have to be paid in the future. There's an interesting conversation going on about this at NYC Educator's blog, where Miss Eyre came out in favor of proactively changing the system before the legislature changes it for us. I totally disagree with her; seniority should be sacrosanct. We could easily garner the support of every union worker in the state, because let's face it--if teachers lose seniority, every other union member in the state is in jeopardy.
Florida: Who'd have thought that Charlie Crist, a Republican for God's sake, would veto a bill that would have eroded seniority rights, tenure, and introduced merit pay based on test scores? He got 65,000 calls and emails opposing the bill, and only 3000 in support. In addition, Miame-Dade teachers staged a sick out, showing that they mean business. Why the UFT can't take some serious action when it so obviously works?
Principals: If seniority was taken away, would you want to have your future determined by a leadership academy principal like this one? Another reason to fight tooth and nail to keep it.
Rubber Rooms: I'm glad they are gone, but the devil is always in the details. I'm taking a wait and see attitude on this one. The UFT has been bested in so many negotiations with Bloomberg that it's embarrassing.
Negotiations: Why are we negotiating AT ALL? Again, I'm glad we are getting the rid of the RRs, but shouldn't this have been part of contract negotiations? Why are we giving the city ANYthing while they are holding our raise hostage and threatening to lay off 8500 of us?
The Law: If any lawyers can help here, I'd appreciate it. Seniority for layoffs is not just a matter of state education law, it is also part of our contract. Can the state simply overturn a collective bargaining agreement by passing a law? It's been a long time since I took a law class, but I kind of remember that a contract is pretty tough to break when both sides willingly entered into it.
UPDATE! Found Via GothamSchools, it appears one of the cosponsors of the bill has dropped out, because the he believes the contract clause of the constitution bars states from interfering with current contracts. So if I figured that out, why didn't the UFT lawyers?
Layoffs: If a teacher is one year away from retirement and gets laid off, wouldn't that person be entitled to a full pension anyway, considering that for 24 years that person worked under a contract that pretty much guaranteed them a full pension as long as they didn't do anything to get fired? Would the city have to refund some or all of the pension money paid in? What about the additional 25/55 funds that were voluntarily given under current layoff rules? Wouldn't the city have to give those back? Would those laid off be entitled to their jobs as soon as hiring restarted?
Relief: Read some hilarious detention slips here.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
I was thinking of writing a post about cheating today, when it struck me that the words cheating and teaching are perfect one word anagrams. That must mean something. So I put on my investigative hat (the red one) and plugged the word teaching into an anagram server. Here are some of the telling results:
Change It ("it" referring to the answers)
Acing The (as in Acing the Test!)
Ace Thing (see above)
Get A Inch (ahead of your fellow teachers!)
Cat Hinge (OK..they all don't make sense)
You see the pattern? We're being told to cheat! I knew ever since NCLB became law that cheating was the way of the future, because one of the goals of NCLB was to have every student reading at grade level by 2014. I remember laughing heartily the first time I heard that. "The only way that will ever happen," I recall thinking, "is if we all cheat or make the tests so easy my dog could pass them." Well, the tests have gotten about as easy as they can get. To test that theory, I put a number 2 pencil in my dog's paw. He gave me an insulted look and chewed up the pencil. Which just shows you. So the only thing left is cheating.
I starting thinking about cheating during test prep the other day. At least four students that day asked me to define words for them, including words that were choices in the multiple choice section. When I told them I couldn't do that because it was part of the test, they all gave me a look just like the one my dog had given me, only without so many teeth. One child even stared chewing his pencil. Yes, they seemed insulted and perhaps even shocked that I would not give them the answers. Imagine that! What kind of teacher am I, that I won't help my students achieve and be the best they can be!?!
This is where we are headed, of course. With tests dumbed down, merit pay for students and teachers, and the push to tie employment to test scores, it is inevitable that cheating will become more widespread than it already is. If a teacher has perhaps half his or her salary riding on a single test, or may get the ax if little Johnny forgets what an inference is, the pressure to cheat will be too much for many. I doubt that politicians mind at all; increased test scores are always good for them.
So, will I succumb to the temptation? Will you? Before you say you'd never do such a thing, let me inform you that one anagram for "Joel I. Klein" is "Eek! I'll Join!!"
What does that tell you?
Postscript for the nerdy among you: In researching this post, I discovered that if you put the word "anagram" into the Google search box, it will say Did You Mean: nag a ram?
Friday, April 9, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Hopefully, this outpouring of support will strengthen Mulgrew in the upcoming battle against the demands of the state in the RttT battle. This should also strengthen his resolve in our continuing contract dispute with the city.
Mulgrew is now duly elected, and out of Randi's shadow. He can either follow in her footsteps or work to take back public education from the billionaires who hope to see it fail. I hope he chooses the latter course.
Ed Notes explains what is at stake. Even if they don't win, a good showing by ICE/TJC will serve to light a fire under Unity and Mulgrew.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
I'd like to address an argument for seniority that I rarely hear, but it warrants discussion. I believe that ignoring seniority as it exists now would ruin education in the future, and here's why.
Klein's reasoning is simple to follow. He wants new, cheaper teachers who he can replace as soon as they show any signs of independent thinking. In that way, not only can he control how and what is taught, he can do it on the cheap. And he can forget about ever paying those expensive pensions, as no one would ever make it to the 27 years of service they'd need to retire. While this would certainly work to save money in the short term, it would be a disaster in the long term.
What is the lure of teaching? The opportunity of working with kids is a large part of it, but there are many other considerations that make teaching a worthwhile career. It offers job security, more time off than most jobs, and a chance to retire in a reasonable amount of time (7 more years than police and firemen, but less than the usual 30). In exchange for those perks, you must get a master's degree plus 30 credits, you spend a good amount of your personal income on supplies, you work in a less than ideal environment, and you get to be a highly educated bathroom porter five time a week. Most teachers--career teachers anyway--feel these things to be a trade-off we can live with, even if we don't always like it.
Now, let's take away seniority. Klein gets his way, and teachers can be laid off at any time, virtually guaranteeing that whenever there is a fiscal crisis, teachers who get paid the most get laid off first. Who would want to be a teacher under those circumstances?
You'd need to get an expensive bachelor's degree, and then devote a lot of time, energy, and money into getting that master's degree, all the while knowing that your own hard work is putting you ever higher on the salary scale and thus closer to the guillotine. No other school will hire you with those credentials and that salary, either, so in a few years, your career will be over. You'll have virtually no chance to ever make it to that 27 year retirement, even though you will pay 5% of your hard earned money into it as long as they keep you around. You'll never get very high on the salary scale because when you do, you'll be axed and you'll have to start at the bottom of some other profession.
Almost no new college graduate would want to start their working career in a job that will almost certainly be a dead end. With the security and the retirement gone, all you'll get as a teacher is far less money than in the private sector and some potty patrol, which is not a skill you'll need in your next career. Yes, you'll still get summers off, but like most new teachers you'll need to take a job in the summer just to make ends meet.
A lot of new teachers don't remember the bad old days when the DOE couldn't recruit anyone. They went to foreign countries to try to get bodies to stand in front of classrooms. That's where we'll be when seniority disappears and no one wants to be a teacher anymore.
But that's probably what BloomKlein wants. If they can make the public schools bad enough, they'll have a reason to ask for a boatload of new charter schools that they can bestow on their friends like Eva Moskowitz, who makes four times the top teacher salary.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
If you feel the need to throw stones as me, please do it in the comments section.