Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Am Translate

Parent/Teacher conferences were held citywide today in middle schools, and while mine was mostly uneventful, there was one story worth noting.

A woman came in to see me, and tagging along with her was an ESL student who speaks very little English. I invited them both in and asked them to sit.

I frequently get ESL parents in to see me who speak little or no English, so it was a relief to me when this boy, named Ling, said to me, "I am translate." So I started telling Ling what to tell his mother.

"Ling does most of his homework and is learning well," I said.

Ling dutifully translated, and the mom nodded.

I continued. "Ling should be working harder on his projects, though."

Again, a translation and a nod. This went on for about five minutes. Finally, the woman stood up, bowed, and left with Ling.

I waited a moment for the next parent to enter. To my surprise, Ling came back in the room, and this time, with a new woman in tow.

"Who is this?" I asked.

"This my mother," said Ling.

"Who was the woman I spoke to a moment ago?"

"I am translate," said Ling. Well, I couldn't argue with that. It never even occurred to me that the first woman wasn't Ling's mom. I still don't know who she was, but at least her child is doing well. At least, that's what Ling says.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

David Padarathski--Backstabber of the Year

In a school system as big as NYC's, it is a daunting task to figure out who is the biggest douche, especially now that Cathie Black is gone. Bloomberg, of course, remains a perennial favorite, and his pet chancellor, Dennis Walcott, is right behind. A number of the Asshats4Education, including Evan Stone, Sydney Morris, and Ruben Brosbe rank right up there, as well. What these folks have in common, however, is that they all have either left or never participated in education, and have chosen instead to use their public platforms to denigrate the teaching profession.

More heinous than these douches, IMO, is the backstabber. This is the teacher who is actively engaged in teaching and yet publicly skewers his peers. Ruben was the biggest backstabber until he fled teaching when he realized it was hard and he would once again be denied tenure. But Ruben is small potatoes compared to the new champion turncoat, David Padarathski.

In today's Daily News, Mr. Padarathski thrusts his dagger into already distressed teachers and twists. You see, this turncoat extraordinaire scored high on the TDRs that were recently released, and decided to talk with the Daily News about it. Instead of being humble, or pointing out that the ratings have a margin of error as high as 87 points, or crediting all the teachers who came before him with helping bring his students along, Padarathski seized the opportunity to besmirch his fellow teachers:

“I teach with passion and I love my kids,” said Padarathski, who has taught in city schools for 24 years. “Those who are skeptical [of the ratings\] — maybe they have something to hide,” he added. “I think they are not working to their fullest potential.

You see, if you don't get scores like Mr. Padarathski, you obviously don't teach with passion, and you hate your kids.You also aren't working very hard.

I hope Mr. Padarathski's peers at PS 289 shun this pariah for his self-serving, loathsome behavior. I doubt a person like him has many friends, but if he does, I hope they spit on his shoes tomorrow. On second thought, perhaps not, as he would probably just shine them and admire his flawless reflection.

On a bright note, another teacher who scored high, one Rebecca Victoros of PS 122 chose a different path. When asked about the TDRs, she said:

“There is so much involved in the job that I can’t see one measure deciding whether you are a good teacher,” said Victoros. “Someone could get a zero and still be a fantastic teacher. I’m sad for those teachers.”

Thank you, Ms. Victoros, for showing class and respect for your colleagues. David Padarathski could learn a lot from you.


Friday, February 24, 2012

TDRs, Part Two

If you thought the release of two year old TDR data today was bad, just wait for the sequel.

The new teacher evaluation deal struck last week will rate teachers ineffective, developing, effective, or highly effective. While the UFT and DOE have yet to iron out all the details about how and when the deal will take effect in the city, you can bet on one thing: these ratings will be used to further humiliate teachers. Imagine your name in all the daily newspapers, with the word "ineffective" next to it.

If you're thinking "No problem. I'm a good teacher. There's no way I'll be rated ineffective", then think again. The UFT has already agreed to a cut score of 65 to be rated ineffective, and it's all too easy to get below that number.

Leo Casey, apologist for the UFT's failed negotiations for as long as I can remember, makes the case that good teachers will get most or all of the 60 points that are allotted for classroom observations. This is nonsense. Remember that the test scores will come out well after most of the rest of the evaluations have been completed. As such, principals have a stake in fudging those numbers even for the best teachers. Imagine giving a teacher a full 60 points, and then finding out later in the year that the teacher's test scores only netted 5 points out of 40. You might think that teacher would be given a passing score of "developing" for getting a 65, but in truth the teacher would be rated "ineffective" because "Teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective assessments must be rated ineffective overall." Your principal is not going to want to explain to his superiors why he gave you a perfect score on evaluations when your students scored poorly.

A much more likely scenario is that principals will fudge the numbers, giving even their best teachers a score of, let's say, 45 to allow for improvement and recommendations. If that's the case, you would need to score 20 out of 40 on the test score portion of the evaluation--in other words, a good teacher with excellent evaluations would need to score in the top HALF in order to avoid being rated ineffective.

Of course, if you are not a favorite of the principal, you might get a 30 out of 60 on observations, in which case you would need 35 of 40 points on test scores to avoid being rated ineffective.

As you can see, it will be pretty easy to be rated ineffective under the current system. And that is the point. If Bloomberg can rate 10-20% of teachers ineffective, he can do several things:
  • Fire senior teachers, like he's always wanted to.
  • Push for and like get a merit pay system, like he's always wanted.
  • Make sure that no one entering the system will ever get a pension again (who will be able to go 30 years without being targeted?)
  • And most importantly, he can shift the blame for his failed tenure as the "education mayor".

That blame, of course, will fall entirely on YOU, dear teacher. You are the one whose name (and perhaps picture, if the Post can get hold of it) will be besmirched, while Bloomberg claims credit for having run laggards like you out of the system.

And when that happens, remember who sold this piece of shit to you: Leo Casey. The man who also sold you 37.5 minutes. The man who told you it was a good thing that teachers could no longer grieve letters to the file. The man who told you how wonderful it would be now that we have eliminated seniority transfers and you could get a job through the "Open" Market. The man who sold you the entire 2005 contract that eviscerated our rights now wants to sell you the new teacher evaluation system.

This is the man selling you TDRs, Part Two.

I'm not buying it. I hope you don't, either.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

TDRs To Be Released Friday

EDIT: TDRs will be released Friday, not today, as previously reported.

The only question about today's release of Teacher Data Reports for 12,500 teachers is: Who will get the data out first? While the teacher-bashing Post would seem a good bet, New York Times Schoolbook seems to be straining at the leash, with up-to-the-minute coverage and even a place where teachers can add comments to their numbers.

I'm sending kudos out to GothamSchools, which, as far as I can tell, is the only news outlet refusing to release the data. That's merely a gesture, of course, because the data will be plastered everywhere. Nevertheless, I thank them for their journalistic integrity in this matter for refusing to join the teacher shaming parade.

In a real twist, even Bill Gates came out in favor of teachers today, with an op-ed in the Times calling for the city to use whatever data they have to help teachers rather than publicly humiliate us in the papers. How bad have things gotten when Bill Gates is the person defending teachers?

I've already discussed my numbers and the reasons I believe they are garbage, so I won't go into that here. But I would like to send a word out to my colleagues:

Don't get obsessed with your numbers. You know how hard you work. And only you know the challenges that your particular population of students presented to you. If you know that you're doing your best for your kids, that's what should matter. Don't let the bullies at Tweed define you. Teaching is an incredibly challenging and complex profession, and most of us in this city are doing wonders every day under far less than ideal circumstances with minimal support. Bloomberg wouldn't last a day in your classroom, nor would most of those people who bash us on a regular basis.

Be proud. Your reward is in the faces of your students when they comprehend something for the first time. Nothing in your TDR can offset that.

Friday, February 17, 2012

We Are The 87%

There's plenty of stuff on the blogs and the news about the new evaluation deal, so I won't add my $.02 to the discussion just yet. I will say that I can spot only one clear winner here--UFT chapter leaders.

According to the agreement, the union can intervene on behalf of 13% of teachers who are rated ineffective if they believe the rating is due to principal harassment. That means whenever a CL, a delegate, or someone vocal in the union gets a poor rating, the UFT will almost certainly claim principal harassment and get that person cleared.

But what about the rest of us--the 87% that won't get such protection?

Well, you're just out of luck. We are the 87%.

To my mind, anyone who gets a rating of ineffective unfairly is, by definition, a victim of principal harassment. When an admin targets a senior teacher because of salary concerns, or a younger teacher because he or she didn't spit shine the principal's car to enough of a mirror finish, that is harassment. But we won't be protected. That honor will be saved for your union rep. Unless, of course, said rep is not a member of the Unity caucus run by the current UFT leadership.

We should never have agreed to a deal unless ALL teachers are protected from principal harassment. Instead, we've guaranteed that CLs are safe. Personally, I want my CL to feel the same pressure as I do so he'll fight for me just like he would for himself. Now that his job is secure due to this agreement, I'm not sure that will happen.

So if you want to make teaching a career, you'd better run for Chapter Leader, and make sure you run on the Unity slate. Otherwise, you're just a sitting duck like the rest of us.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Teacher Data Reports to be Released

Bloomberg finally got his way. Teacher Data Reports (TDRs) will, apparently, be released, according to NY1. Let the public shaming of teachers begin.

Now that teachers will be rated from ineffective to highly effective, you can bet those rankings will become public, as well.

It seems the court ruled that despite the fact that the data sucked, it was nevertheless public information.

The only bright spot to come out of this is that we might get to actually see some of the data on our favorite teacher bashers, like Ruben Brosbe, Sydney Morris, and Evan Stone.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Walking in Obama's Comfortable Shoes

Remember when President Obama said, "If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself — I’ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America"?

So far, we're gotten a lot of talk, but no walk.

Enter Dennis Kucinich. Cooper Tire workers, 1100 of them, were locked out. Kucinich got out his walking shoes, marched on down to the union hall, and talked to the workers.

Mr. Kucinich says he wants to thank the workers for taking a stand.
"As a result of you taking a stand, now the company is saying they want to talk. Now that's progress," said Mr. Kucinich.
Mr. Kucinich says the Cooper lockout as well as a year old one in Sandusky is a dangerous trend in America.
He claims it's an attempt to crush the rights of the worker to negotiate for fair wages and benefits.
"Absolutely, workers here are helping to create wealth. And if you create wealth, why shouldn't they get a little more. That's all they're asking for. Not asking for the store," said Mr. Kucinich.

That's how easy it is, Mr. Obama.