State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia called on teacher educators across the state Thursday to train future teachers who can rise to the challenges inside struggling urban schools.
"Right now, we have schools across this state that are chronically failing, and we need to have great teachers that will rise to the challenge of moving into those schools and supporting those children and communities," she told a crowd of more than 100 who had gathered in Saratoga Springs for the annual conference of the New York State Association of Teacher Educators and the New York Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
Her message came just one day after these very schools testified before state legislators that they're bleeding teachers as they enter a new school year with more pressures than ever before. Under the state's new receivership law, 144 schools across 17 districts were labeled struggling or persistently struggling and given one or two years to turn things around or risk losing local control to an outside receiver approved by the state.
Between the short time frame to demonstrate improvement and the higher stakes around teacher evaluations this year, teachers are fleeing struggling schools for schools where things aren't so bad, officials said Wednesday at a hearing in Albany.
"We're in the process now of looking for teachers who have that heart, who really want to be in and support kids in urban settings," Elia said Thursday.
To do that, though, New York has to return to a position of respect and reverence for the profession, she said. As the state's population ages and teachers retire, New York will face a teacher shortage if it doesn't, she added.
"We need to really elevate teaching as a profession and articulate the importance of teachers across the state and what they do every day to support our students," she said. "There are many challenges in our schools across the state, and our teachers are going to be the ones who are going to make any change in what happens in those classrooms. We have to be very focused on supporting them, so that they can support our students for success."
We've been over this before, but let's do it again one more time since the message doesn't seem to enter that thick skull of Elia's.
Saying you want to "elevate the teaching profession" while simultaneously doing all you can to de-skill, de-professionalize and terrorize teachers in the system is not going to "elevate the teaching profession" nor help you find those teachers to work in "struggling schools."
Given that 50% of a teacher's rating is now based upon test scores, given that a teacher can be fired after two years of poor APPR ratings based upon test scores, given that students in those struggling schools often have low test scores and given that you, the governor and the Regents Chancellor are always blaming teachers for all the ills in the system, why would anybody in their right mind a) go into teaching at this juncture and b) teach in one of those "struggling schools"?
Here is a Perdido Street School reader on the toll the current "Blame Teachers" reform agenda has on the teaching profession Elia says she wants to "elevate":
More broadly, who'd want to become a teacher anywhere? I don't teach in a struggling school (though its close) and the decision to come in to teaching ranks as the biggest mistake of my life. Financially, psychologically, etc. A toll is taken on the psyche when your profession is labeled as the reason for almost all the negative issues going on in our society, relentlessly, no matter how ridiculous. The volume of it and the incessant nature makes one a bit twitchy. It was a stupid call. At least working at amazon, you are probably paid well for the few years you survive....and then you can go get another job.
The thing that isn't talked about so much, and should be, is that when a teacher is drummed out, for any reason really, they will never teach again in public school. It's an established, formalized, institutionalized, fully-legal blacklisting. So a public school teacher falling under the hatchet of reform faces a much steeper slope out of unemployment than does, say, a corporate person who gets fired. As always, the "accountability" and "disruption" on the corporate side is always somehow lighter than they want to impose on the public side.
A fired teacher is DONE....the one thing they have prepared and trained for is no longer something they can tap on in their job search. (Unless they go to work at a desperate private school that will pay them like $19k a year.) Even admin....they leave or get booted somewhere, they get to become admin somewhere else (see Elia). No deep institutional, legal blacklisting for them! Even principals, AP's, Directors, etc in my district who have been let go for deep incompetence always get another job in Admin by the next school year in another district.
So that's a thing and it matters. For teachers, our options become way way way limited after being fired. We are the ultimate tightrope walkers...no safety nets.
James Eterno posted how teachers at his phasing out school were mostly rated "developing" and "ineffective" but all "magically" got "effective" ratings once they moved on to other schools that weren't being phased out:
In April the ICEUFT Blog published a piece in which we publicly admitted that for the 2013-14 school year state data showed that 88% of the teachers at the phasing out Jamaica High School were rated either developing or ineffective. At the time we stated sarcastically that we must be "the worst teachers on the planet." The blog also said these ratings were meaningless.
We concluded the post by making a not so bold prediction that for 2014-15, when teachers from Jamaica were sent to other schools where the student populations did not have as many needs as those at the phasing out Jamaica, we would see much better teacher ratings.
The data is now in for 2014-15 and another ICEUFTBLOG prediction has come true. This year there were no adverse ratings from the 2013-14 Jamaica teachers who were still in the school system. We were perfect. That is correct. 100% of the teachers who were at Jamaica in 2013-14, who became rotating Absent Teacher Reserves or were assigned to a school in the 2014-2015 school year, have been rated either effective or satisfactory. The only people who didn't receive these positive end of the year evaluations were the three who were fortunate enough to have retired.
How is it possible that we went from 88% of us receiving adverse ratings to 0% in just a year? We were the same teachers.
I am so sick of these educrats and politicians claiming they want to "elevate" teaching while they simultaneously pursue a conscious agenda to do the exact opposite.
Elia claims she wants to give these "struggling schools" more time and money to turn things around.
Alas, the receivership rules shoved through by Cuomo earlier this year and passed by the Heavy Hearts Club in the state legislature do not allow for that.
Same goes for the APPR teacher evaluation systems that rates teachers based upon 50% of student test scores - these systems have to be in place by November 15 or districts lose some funding.
We keep coming up against these arbitrary deadlines created by politicians and educrats (think Race to the Top) that are designed not to improve anything but simply put an ultimatum down and give the people running the system the opportunity to blow stuff up if their ultimatum isn't accomplished.
Elia can claim she wants to "elevate the profession" all she wants and say how she needs "great" teachers to teach in so-called "struggling schools," but the truth is this - any teacher who goes to teach in a "struggling school" risks a low performance rating (even NYCDOE Chancellor Farina knows this) and two years of a low rating and you're done for life, tarred as a "bad teacher."
Try working again as a teacher after you've gotten two "ineffective" ratings and been fired by your district after they pursued 3020a incompetence charges against you.
Education reformers like MaryEllen Elia have brought us this kind of environment and no matter how many times she says she wants to "elevate teaching," it's quite clear she and her fellow reformers want to do the exact opposite.