Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Remember - Bloomberg Said He Wants To Fire Half Of All New York City School Teachers

The various newspapers in the city are covering the DOE/UFT impasse over a new test score-based teacher evaluation system as if an intransigent union is protecting "bad" teachers from being held accountable by a fair, objective process.

As I posted yesterday, this new test score-based evaluation process is anything but fair or objective.

It is riddled with error, arcane and complex beyond belief, and has already been shown to tar excellent, highly effective teachers as "ineffective."

Of particular concern is the test score-based value-added system the city uses to see which teachers have "added value" to their students that has "wide margins of error and gives judgments that fluctuate — sometimes wildly — from one year to the next."

In one state that has already put this kind of "accountability" into place - Tennessee - both the intended and unintended consequences of this test score-based evaluation system show just what havoc it will wreak in New York State public schools if it comes to fruition here.

Tammy H. Lovell, a third grade teacher in Franklin, Tennessee, explained some of the problems in The Tennessean:

I have no problem with a plan that requires all teachers to be evaluated annually. However, the state’s current plan has too many flaws; in their haste the state’s legislators implemented it before it was properly thought through, causing teachers, administrators and even students undue amounts of stress and anxiety.

Let me give two examples of what I mean. First, the plan greatly increases the time required to create and plan out a lesson without adding value to the children’s educational experience.

I recently completed my announced instructional observation. I chose a lesson that I would normally do, using materials that I already have and regularly use. Even under those circumstances, I spent at least 20 additional hours writing up the lesson, making sure that I covered all the indicators in the rubric. I know other teachers who spent more than 30 hours.

The lesson was no better for my students than what I would have done otherwise. In fact, it was probably worse. Remember, I teach 8- and 9-year-old children. Because I had to include all the elements on the checklist — rather than choosing the ones appropriate to that particular lesson — I’m afraid they might have been overwhelmed. Choosing two or three things, and doing them well, would have been better.

Second, the plan evaluates many teachers based on the performance of students other than their own.

For example, in third grade the students take TCAP, a standardized test. For the test to effectively measure a child’s learning, you have to compare it to that child’s performance on a similar test from the previous year. But third grade is a “baseline” year; there are no tests for kindergarten through second grade. So K-3 teachers and a whole lot of others (high school teachers, those who teach related arts like music, band, art, physical education and the like) have to be evaluated based on test scores for kids and often subjects we don’t teach.

I chose the fourth-grade social studies scores, even though I don’t teach it. Oh, and the fourth-grade teachers are using eighth-grade test scores. Makes sense, right? Seems that things like this should have been a little better considered before the plan was required for everyone.

The new evaluation system in Tennessee is so badly designed that politicians in both parties are calling for it to be reviewed and changed.

So far, the governor has refused calls to do this, though he has appointed an education reform group led by former Tennessee senator Bill Frist to review the system and see if changes need to be made.

The ostensible reason for all these new evaluation systems is that there are hundreds of thousands of "bad teachers" out there in the country who need to be fired so that every child can get an excellent education.

Mayor Bloomberg said just that last November:

“Education is very much, I’ve always thought, just like the real estate business. Real estate business, there are three things that matter: location, location, location is the old joke,” Bloomberg said. “Well in education, it is: quality of teacher, quality of teacher, quality of teacher. And I would, if I had the ability – which nobody does really – to just design a system and say, ‘ex cathedra, this is what we’re going to do,’ you would cut the number of teachers in half, but you would double the compensation of them and you would weed out all the bad ones and just have good teachers. And double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students.”

As the mayor acknowledges, he currently does not have the ability to fire as many teachers as he wants.

But as these new evaluation systems that are rigged against teachers go into place all across the country, more and more districts are going to have that option.

Indeed, that is what this fight is all about.

As Michael Fiorillo noted in a comment at Gotham Schools, this evaluation fight has NEVER been about improving public schools or education outcomes for children:

The RttT funds relating to teacher evaluations are not and have never been about benefitting students, but reconfiguring labor relations in the schools. Along with school closings and reorganizations, they are part of the assault against laws and contract provisions that govern tenure and seniority, are intended to give supervisors more levers for purging seasoned teachers and denying tenure to new teachers, and ultimately lead to the ed deformer's wet dream of a constantly churned, at-will and compliant labor force that will meekly implement the power and profit-driven mandates of the 1%.

If the so-called education reformers REALLY wanted to improve education for children, they would follow the suggestions of Tammy H. Lovell, the teacher from Franklin, Tennessee:

If you really want to improve education, then go volunteer in a local school. If your business wants to make a difference, then donate money for new technology or more books in the classroom. If you want every single child to show a year’s gain, then help to make sure every single child has enough food, a warm place to sleep, access to health care, parents with a job and a safe place to play.

I am busy trying to make a difference, and I could use some help.

But many (if not most) of the so-called education reformers who promote teacher accountability through test score-based value-added evaluation systems aren't looking to improve education.

They're looking to bust the unions for good, completely open the public education sector up to for-profit companies, replace a unionized workforce with a meek, compliant non-unionized one that can be fired at any time for any reason, and cash in on kids just the way they have cashed in on so many other things.

In fact, two of the most famous of the reformers - former chancellor of New York City, Joel Klein, and former chancellor of Washington D.C., Michelle Rhee - are both in the process of cashing in on reform (Klein here, Rhee here - notice how both are awash in Rupert Murdoch's money - Murdoch himself stands to make billions off education reform initiatives. )

The tabloids and the Times are doing the bidding of the 1% in this battle by framing the teacher evaluation fight as fight between education reformers who want accountability for teachers to improve education for kids and an intransigent teachers union looking to protect teachers who are afraid of accountability.

What this fight is really about is a corporate education reform movement putting the "awe" part of the Shock Doctrine into place to finish off privatizing one of the last truly "public" institutions in this nation.

Before they can complete that goal, they have to gut the work protections teachers currently have and put into place a system that allows them to fire teachers at will.

Bloomberg already told us he wants to fire half the teachers in New York City.

This test score-based value-added evaluation system will be the mechanism that allows him to do just that.

Corporate education reformers like Murdoch, Klein and Rhee will then move in to pick the carcass of the public education system clean.

The unregulated education management organizations, the for profit charter companies, the test providers, the test prep companies and the online education and tutoring providers will take their chunks too.

Somewhere, Milton Friedman is smiling.


  1. When the education carcass is being picked, don't forget Gates.

  2. Milton Friedman would be smiling, but he's currently preoccupied in Hell, listening to an endless audio loop of the screams of people being tortured in the aftermath of the coup engineered by his pal, Pinochet.

  3. Good post; but we don't have to go to Tennessee to see the absurdity of these systems. Check out the analysis of NYS' ridiculous teacher eval system by Carol Burris in the WaPost here:

  4. Nicely done. Very clear explanation of what "reform" is really about and how we know.

  5. Thank you for this great post. Says a lot that needs to be said in a very succinct, clear manner. Spot on and well done!

    Now, a question: When are the majority of (incredibly subservient, vastly silent) NY teachers going to lay this rotten egg at the doorstep of all those responsible for it?

    Such as:

    * President Barack Obama and his administration

    * GOP and DEMOCRATIC politicians who, in bipartisan unity, promoted and passed the laws that mandate this evaluation nightmare/joke...

    and our...

    * Dem-tethered unions, the UFT, as well as NYSUT.

    Yes, NY unions caved, as did other unions nationwide, who submitted their MOUs (along with their backbones) to armtwisting politicians to win RttT's unhelpful, paltry grant (pssst! Actually, to neoliberalize this workforce, in step with the rest of the nation, which is why Wall Street's hedge fund operatives were funding and pushing it with gusto, with a big megaphone from our corporate-tied media).

    Unfortunately, many - though not all - unions are guilty of caving and carrying water for the pushers of this dreadful evaluation policy, to help get it passed thru legislatures across the land, leaving teachers in the dust.

    This is the same policy which UFT president Michael Mulgrew had previously stood 'strongly' against... until the UFT's Dem brethren in Albany ordered him to fall in line, at crunch time, for that odious Race to the Top win, May 2010. And, shamefully, he did just that, along with Ianuzzi, the NYSUT's president. The Obama bipartisan reform sweep also got NYC a huge raise in the charter school cap, another 'line in the sand' that Mulgrew did a 180 on. Randi Weingarten, his mentor, worked overtime pushing these "reforms" to unions across the nation, after leaving the UFT to head the AFT.

    So where is the collective voice of outrage from NY teachers? Those who remain willfully ignorant or apathetic in the face of this outrageous policy and the selling out by those who are supposed to be their advocates, also bear responsibility for their acquiescence, their silence.

    Strange bedfellows at that doorstep, but there are notable differences: Unlike those who pushed this insane evaluation policy upon them, it is the teachers who, because of it, now must struggle to keep their jobs and their sanity - They stand virtually alone at that doorstep in their role as DOORMAT - to bear the brunt of the crap/fallout of this odious evaluation scheme.

    Is this what paying dues is for?

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