Friday, February 11, 2011

A Cavalcade of AssHats

Just when you thought no one could take the crown of Asshattery away from Ruben Brosbe, up pops a contender extraordinaire. Her name is Michelle Costa, and she is an A4E who works at Aspirations Diploma Plus High School. I give her name and school in the interests of the free flow of information, not so you can send her nasty emails at her DOE address or call her scab when she walks by. Those things would be wrong.

Michelle wrote a piece in The Brooklyn Paper telling us that senior teachers should be fired before her (not in so many words, but you'll get the drift). She starts off by telling us that she did not get into teaching for the money or vacation, but for the kids. This, she seems to believe, separates her from other teachers, who only took the job so they could collect vast wealth that they could use to hobnob with Mayor4Life in Bermuda every weekend. Her technique of telling us what she is not is actually quite good--I taught that opening technique to my 8th graders last week, so we know she on top of her writing game.

She spews much of the usual A4E drivel--let's get rid of U rated teachers and ATRs, and then find a way to get rid of ineffective teachers, who Ms. Costa can apparently identify in her own building by osmosis or something. Not much new here.

I took the liberty of looking up some data on Ms. Costa (A4E people LOVE data) and I have one question: Why is it that people who can't teach their way out of a soggy lunch bag are always the ones who call for senior teachers to be fired? First we had Michelle Rhee, who claimed she moved her students from the 13th to the 90th percentile, when she clearly did no such thing. Then we have our old pal Ruben, who scored a pitiful 41% on his TDR report when compared with other brand new teachers. Now Ms. Costa steps up to the plate and calls for getting rid of teachers based on quality when her own school just scored an F on the city's report card. See for yourself.

Now, you may say that Ms. Costa can't be directly blamed for her school's pitiful scores, but there are only 261 students there, so she must have taught quite a number of them herself. And reform people, such as Rhee, Duncan, and Obama, whose water Ms. Costa gleefully carries, are clearly in favor of firing all the teachers in a failing schools and replacing them en masse. They did this in Central Falls, RI and they'd do it again if they could get away with it.

In all fairness, I'm sure Ms. Costa considers herself a wonderful teacher in spite of the dismal failure of her school and her students. Nevertheless, her school was rated F, and we'd have to say based upon that that her own rating should be unsatisfactory. Her combined rating, therefore, earns her a big F-U.


Tim said...

"A Cavalcade of AssHats" has become, in my mind, the new gold standard in blog post titles. Great post, too. -@tbfurman

Anonymous said...

OMG, you are awesome! Your blogs against all the Asshats in the nation are getting better and better.

That combined rating of F-U, fantastically outrageous.

Thank you for making my day.

Anonymous said...

Just what I needed after a Ruben sandwich.

Jeff Kaufman said...

I am one of the few tenured teachers at Aspirations High School. Most of the school is staffed by younger, less experienced teachers like Ms. Costa. However while I totally disagree with her arguments (I have posted my comments on her article) I find your article less than helpful. Don't buy into the Mayor and Chancelor's rating game. Our "F" rating was largely based on our acceptance of high school dropouts who didn't make graduation was not Ms. Costa's or my fault. Criticizing Ms. Costa for this bogus measure is no different than blaming an ATR for an excess or a whistleblower on a "U" rating.
We need to stand together to fight those forces that attempt to separate us.

Anonymous said...

@Jeff Kaufman: while I appreciate your call for solidarity, Costas herself is perpetuating the fatal divide, leading me to believe that she is somehow being egged on or compensated by the deformers of education. Of course, there is no way to judge her effectiveness by the methods currently in vogue. That is not the point of the criticism. Costas is standing up for the bogus data, even though she may fall victim to it. But on some level, she knows she's safe - A4E doesn't advocate for effectiveness either on the teacher or on the administrator level, or for that matter, on the political level. What they advocate for is the at-will dismissal of tenured teachers like you to make way for a brand spankin' new generation of inexperienced high-turnover inexpensive "teachers." It would not surprise me if Costas has an administrative job lined up with Broad or Gates some day as a reward for spewing the nonsense. You point out that the school's F was not her fault. It wasn't yours, either. But if there's a hypothetic layoff on the horizon, do you think she will stand up for you the way you're standing up for her?

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I think Mr. Talk was talking satire. I agree with the last post; she would never stand up for you. She and A4E are the enemy.

Anonymous said...

To Anon @9:22 a.m.

I agree with your comments. I do understand Jeff's defense about the progress report grade, which we all know is an unfair grade to close schools and fraught with inaccuracies.

However, I feel, as a veteran teacher, that we need to throw the very, cold water of reality in the faces of those very naive E4E promoters and explain to them that they're being exploited. The ed deformers found a way to destroy unionism by using them. I truly feel that E4Es do not realize the damage they're doing to themselves and not to the veteran teachers.

I will never forget, in the beginning of my teaching career (22 years ago), how veteran teachers helped me to develop my lessons and how to execute it, show me the various techniques that were effective in classroom management, how to deal with difficult administrators, the importance of union involvement, the importance of collegiality, and the most important thing - respect for one another's profession.

What truly bothers me the most is the fact that any changes to the seniority rule (LIFO) will eventually pit E4E with another E4E because one of their own E4E member will have a year or two in the system and that teacher has to be laid-off.

The E4E members are very narrow-minded and self-serving. They live, see, and make decisions for the moment without any regards to working with everyone so that our profession can be respected.

My advice to the E4Es: don't close doors by fighting to change the seniority rule because your energy is being channeled in the wrong direction.

Mr. Talk said...

Jeff, I don't know how regularly you read this blog, but I do a lot of satirical stuff, and this is one such piece. I'm on record many times as being against using TDRs, report cards, VA, and other data driven measures of teacher evaluation. They are statistically invalid, easy to manipulate, and show only a small portion of a teacher's (or a school's) true value, if that much.

Michelle Costa is a proud member of E$E, which means that she supports the elimination of tenure and seniority. It also means she supports the use of meaningless data to make career-ending decisions on educators of long standing, such as you and me. Based upon her membership and her article, she would clearly throw both of us under the bus in order to keep her own job. That is what I object to most.

A sword cuts both ways. If Ms. Costa would like to get rid of teachers based solely on data, then it appears that there is precious little data to support her keeping her job.

For the record, I do not support closing schools based upon bogus report cards. I do not support ANY layoffs, including Ms. Costa. I reject the idea that quality teaching can be measured accurately, and I reject the idea the VA data should be used to make career decisions.

Despite her offensive positions and affiliations, I would fight for Ms. Costa to retain her job and not be laid off. I seriously doubt she would do the same for you or me.

Anonymous said...

@Mr. Talk from Anon9:22. Admirable. Sometimes we forget that the strength of a union is oftentimes measured by how willing we are to stand up for the rights (not necessarily the actions or opinions) of our weakest links. I am utterly appalled by A$E and their narrowly-focused, ill-advised positions. The very same criteria that they wish to use to push out the generation above them will be turned on them and used against them as well. Most of us will enjoy the show with a sense of Schadenfreude that we believe is justly and richly deserved, but we have to remember that we have to protect even the scum to keep the whole pond from being drained out.

That being said, I doubt Costas and her ilk will ever look to us the way she does to the likes of Rhee. Do they even realize the hand they are playing in destroying the next generation of public schoolchildren?

Anonymous said...

I was laid off back in the 70's as was my sister. Mine only lasted two weeks, we had lists in those days and they needed my in secondary school. My sister was out for a year and half. She went back to school to retrain for another license.
The point is that we did not complain. Rules of seniority were rules of seniority and it was the most fair. They were part of the contract as was hall duty and lunch duty. You sucked it in and did it.

Anonymous said...

@6:45pm. I was "excessed" from my position in a middle school at the beginning of my 4th year in the system. I happen to be in a license area that is in perpetual shortage, and at the time, my position was almost entirely supervised by Central Office, although I reported to and was supervised at the building level by the administrators at the school. It was explained to me that the complex hierarchy of seniority meant that I had to go first, even though there was someone else in the building who had less time in the system. I believe it had to do with the fact that when she entered the system, she already had a license, and started from Day One in that license area. Even though I had been there longer, my license was not officially awarded until my second year. There was nothing to be done, and like you, I accepted it. I was lucky because I simply transferred to another school and was never on the ATR roster. I actually ended up liking my new position more than the one I had left.

Like you and your sister, I adjusted. Seniority has been a time-honored method of considering positions when there are no certain objective criteria by which to make decisions. Costas doesn't get it, her friend Ruben whats-his-name doesn't get it, but some day, when they are older and more experienced in whatever field they end up in, they will suffer from the same discrimination that they are so passionately advocating now.

CA Teacher said...

Chiming in from California.... (love this blog and read every post).

I've been teaching elementary school for about 25 years now, and like those above, remember my early years of lay-offs and/or being moved around the district like a chess piece according to enrollment needs. It never once occurred to me to question the fairness of that system, or think for a moment that someone more senior than I should be laid off. I was the new kid, I was not vested, I was young enough to still think the world was my oyster and I might do something else anyway, and oh well, things work out. Who at 24 or 25 years old would normally think otherwise? It's one of your first "real" jobs out of college and if you're lucky, you are still a windblown seed. I don't remember even paying attention to the performance of my colleagues, and viewed these "older" teachers (they were in their 30s at the time) to be my mentors, my big sisters. They took me under their wing and showed me the ropes and the tricks and I loved them for it (still do).

The point I'm getting at is these young folks who are sucked into the anti-union, E$E scene are "his majesty the baby" come to the workforce. For 20 years now, the middle to upper-middle class has been raising their children to be very entitled, very adored, very indulged and brought forth with a lot of "concerted cultivation" (see Annette Lareau's book).

Is it any wonder that regardless of the rationale, these very young workers would have no compunction expecting older, established workers (with families to support, and community ties, etc.) to roll over for them? I mean their parents have been doing that for years haven't they? And to be clear... I realize this is not true of ALL twenty-somethings, but it sure seems to jive with the parenting practices I've been observing since the early nineties.

Think about it.

Anonymous said...

For those who want to start the Schadenfreude now of all the A4E, here's the tune.

Anonymous said...

Also, for anybody who wants to stand up for teachers in A$E who are writing in so many different sources right now, one has to ask how they are getting so much press in so many different media sources right now. I also question how much their writing is a product of their own thoughts vs. talking points fed to them in a coordinated media blitz pushing their agenda. Yes, they add A$E to their byline, but, they write their articles from the view point of just another regular teaching expressing their opinions rather then young teachers getting ready to quit teaching for more lucrative positions at educational "reform" organizations.
It's easy to advocate for various ways to fire teachers and destabilize the job when you already have a your parachute packed and ready to go. It's rather selfish when you are pushing others out the plane who don't have that parachute.

We all know Mr. Talks 2 favourite "teachers" jumped ship after sucking up to Klein, do you have any doubt that Ruben and other A$E'ers are going to follow suit next year and use their 3-4 years of teaching in urban schools on their resuming to get higher paying jobs helping dismantle public education in the name of "reform". Rhee paved the way, their just following...

Anonymous said...

@2/12 11:48: the Schadenfreude clip was hilarious. I never would have thought that someone could make a song out of that word.

ed notes online said...

I've been following the story at Aspirations through Jeff since he got there. Jeff has been fighting the good fight at Aspirations HS in our interests and winning over some of the E4E people. It was Michelle Costa who invited Jeff to the E4E event even though he didn't sign the pledge.

I give some credit to the principal for being willing to hire Jeff given his notoriety as a strong union guy. I'm hoping we can bring our GEM film into the school to show the E4E crowd there what Real Reform and the Real Reformers (many of the same generation as the E4E crowd) look like.

Jeff has gotten me to look at most E4E people, other than the paid ring leaders who know exactly what they are doing as "they know not what they do." But they will find out. GEM will do some reaching out at some point - and see if they are up to a real dialogue.

Anonymous said...

Now that E$E came out with their plan for laying off teachers...It's clear that it's time for Ruben and Ms. Costa to leave the job. Ruben, a 4 year teacher,already admitted that he sucks. E$E claims that they can tell if a teacher will be great within the first four years. Then they state that, "a teachers learning curve grows steeply during the first 4 years, then plateaus." Well, that does it for Ruben and Ms. Costa...they didn't meet their own group's standard.