I'm just getting to the issue of that study on teacher evaluation being sponsored by Bill Gates in partnership with the UFT. At the bottom of it all is the neoliberal agenda.
We're certainly not surprised that they are in bed together. Bringing business practices to the classroom is part of the neoliberal agenda. And coming up with a way to measure teachers - for the purpose of weeding out certain types, like the ones who teach humanism and democratic principles instead od test prep - is a basic tenet. Neoliberals see democracy as an alien concept. Thus schools need dictators. As do unions.
We've been connecting the UFT to the neoliberals for a generation, especially since Al Shanker signed onto it in the mid-70's when the budget cuts hit deeply into the ranks, followed by his jumping on board the Business Roundtable's "independent" study, A Nation at Risk.
Unity Caucus is trying to play this as somehow being good for teachers. "Let's have a seat at the table." Just like the UFT/AFT had at the origins of NCLB. Nice job.
James Eterno put up an informal poll on the ICE blog, How Should Teachers be Evaluated?
There have been 25 comments so far. A Unity flack is wondering why James doesn't sign up. "Try it before you criticize Unity all the time." These cloying games by Unity ignore the basic fact: They are the enemy. Of course Ed Notes and ICE and so many other teacher blogs see through the games they play.
Unity flacks and the leadership play the bait and switch game as cover for the real agenda. New UFT President Michael Mulgrew responded to a teacher:
Almost all of the "reform" ideas that are being discussed both here in NYC and nationally are ideas that are brought from people who are outside of the classroom. I felt it was imperative that we engage in research that truly looked at what happens inside of a classroom and worked with teachers as the main part of the research. It is a way that allows us to control what happens in our profession instead of waiting for those on the outside to pound us with their ideas when they have never walked in our shoes. [The full letter from the teacher and his full response is below.]
Does anyone think the UFT/Unity Caucus leadership represents what happens inside a classroom?
Mulgrew's original letter to teachers claimed the study was "being conducted by independent third-party researchers." Sure. Just like The New Teacher Project's attacks on ATRs were viewed by the NY Times as "independent" studies. I'll bet someone has a dog in the race. And I bet there's some Gates money going to flow to some elements at the UFT. I mean, where could Gates buy a better partner to peddle his junk?
Mulgrew also said:
we all recognize that the work of teachers must be measured in ways that are fair and valid. Nationally, current measures of teaching rarely take into account the full range of what teachers do (no single measure really can), or the context in which they teach. The Measures of Effective Teaching project, on the other hand, begins right in the classroom and will explore an array of teacher measures: video observations, surveys, and student growth. It will compare these measures to each other, and to nationally recognized standards, and it will look at their inter-relatedness. It will be informed by actual teacher practice.
Measured, Mike? What if we measured the performance of the UFT leadership over the past decade? What the UFT is covering for here is the concept that we need ways to measure teachers quantitatively. A major plank of the neoliberal agenda to privatize education is to quantify students and teachers. Do we see this occurring with other jobs? Police/fire/ lawyers/ doctors/politicians? Imagine saying that we will never bring down crime rates until we improve the performance of the cops? Or cut the number of fires unless we get higher quality firemen? Or win a war without better soldiers? Why not set up charter police stations and alternative military? Wouldn't the war go better if there was some competition? Shouldn't Afgans have some choice in the army they get to come into their villages? Shouldn't they be able to chose from competing organizations as to which missile get to kill their children? Come on, they need choice.
Here are a few words from the introduction to a book sent to me by former teacher Louis Bedrock: Capitalizing on Disaster: Taking and Breaking Public Schools by Kenneth J. Saltman:
In education, neoliberalism has taken hold with tremendous force, remaking educational common sense and pushing forward the privatization and deregulation agendas....the shift to business language and logic can be understood through the extent to which neoliberal ideals have succeeded in taking over educational debates...
The "TINA" thesis (There is No Alternative to the Market) that has come to dominate politics throughout much of the world has infected educational thought as omnipresent market terms such as accountability, choice, efficiency, competition, monopoly, and performance [outcomes] frame educational debates. Nebulous terms borrowed from the business world, such as achievement, excellence, and best practices, conceal ongoing struggles over competing values, visions, and ideological debates. (Achieve what? Excel at what? Best practices for whom? And says who?)
The only questions left on reform agendas appear to be how to best enforce knowledge and curriculum conducive to individual upward mobility within the economy [education only has the goal of preparing for jobs, not as productive citizens in a democratic society - something neoliberals really abhor] and national economic competition as it contributes to a corporately managed model of globalization as perceived from the perspective of business.
This dominant...view of education is propagated by.. Thomas Friedman...and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation...[add Broad and a horde of others.]
Saltman bases his book on Naomi Klein's "Disaster Capitalism" but focuses on education as he lays out the nuts and bolts of it in his intro and then zooms in on 3 examples: New Orleans, Iraq and Chicago. I will post more as I read more.
Now, I've said it time and again that the only force capable of organizing resistance to these attacks are the teacher unions. And they've punted.
Why does the UFT go along with the people who have been aiming the blame darts at the very people the UFT is supposed to represent? There are a few explanations, which we'll get into another time in depth. But for now I will list two reasons: 1) the UFT basically agrees with neoliberalism and 2) what I often refer to as the "Vichy mentality" - if we don't cooperate with the Nazis they will destroy all of France, especially Paris, so we cooperate with the idea of preserving what we can." I am not equating this to cooperating with Nazis, but as a way of thinking the UFT engages in. For a while they called it the New Unionism - we'll cooperate with management - or Randi's favorite word, "collaboration." Pretty interesting since collaborators in WWII got their hair sheared off - or worse.
Here is the letter from teacher (T) to Randi, who forwarded it to Mulgrew, followed by Mulgrew's response, followed by an excellent post by Marjorie Stamberg.
I was wondering why the UFT is collaborating with the Bill Gates foundation in collecting data on how to establish an effective teacher. Over the past few years all in the name of educational reform, Bill Gates has undermined public education by opening up charter schools, he even went as far as opening up charter schools in public school spaces essentially taking over the school and displacing public school teachers. So with the growing number of schools being closed and then reorganized and ATR and senior teachers being harassed, it's no wonder why a growing number of teachers are becoming disenfranchised and only see our union as a dues collecting machine.
There are many good reasons but I have referred your email to the new President, Michael Mulgrew. -Randi
Thank you for sending your concerns. As you have so rightly stated public education is under attack but more importantly to me our profession is under attack. The research project that we are entering into is one that starts and ends inside of the classroom. Almost all of the "reform" ideas that are being discussed both here in NYC and nationally are ideas that are brought from people who are outside of the classroom. I felt it was imperative that we engage in research that truly looked at what happens inside of a classroom and worked with teachers as the main part of the research. It is a way that allows us to control what happens in our profession instead of waiting for those on the outside to pound us with their ideas when they have never walked in our shoes. As for the Gates foundation they are funding the project but please don't confuse them with chancellor. When Gates finished the small school project they determined that it was not a success and that curriculum and school supports were more important than a school structure which was very ethical considering that the small school movement originated with them.
Greasing the skids: UFT participation in a teacher evaluation studyMarjorie Stamberg to ICE-Mail listserve:
Any "teacher measurement project" funded by the Gates foundation should start ringing alarm bells. What on earth is the UFT doing participating in this "study," as UFT president Mike Mulgrew just announced?
The UFT's "participation" reminds me of the" time-motion" study guy coming to the factory assembly line, and you're asked to help him out as he measures arm movements and clocks your bathroom breaks so they can use it for speed-up. No way.
What makes an effective teacher? We do not accept the premise that individually evaluating teachers' "techniques" is relevant to improving education. The whole emphasis on "teacher evaluation", tied to students' test scores, is part of the corporatization of American education.
The UFT Teachers Center is an excellent resource that works with teachers to be more effective in the classroom. They do some excellent PD, workshops, cooperative modeling and team-teaching. This is NOT what the Gates foundation study is about.
We need good professional development, and we are committed to teachers' lifelong learning, and use of the most modern technology and methodology in the classroom. But that is very different from what is going on here.
The education "business" aims to "cut costs" in the classroom. Beginning in the 1980s, nationwide the education budget as a percentage of the GNP was sharply reduced. These corporate chiefs wanted to get more bang for their buck. This means attacks on teacher tenure, getting rid of senior teachers to drive salaries down to the level of teaching fellows. It means, not "spending time" in the classroom on enrichment activities, on general topics, reading, discussion that goes anywhere except how to pass standardized tests so kids can be useful for the employers. Now, it means the proliferation of charter schools which by getting rid of union contracts sharply increase teacher time, and regulated salary increases.
How do you "measure" a good science teacher? I've seen superb science teachers teaching high school kids in the Bronx, without a science lab, without the most minimal equipment, standing up on a chair in the hallway and dropping a ball to demonstrate gravity! If you want to measure what makes a good science teacher, how about giving him or her a decent science lab and then comparing the results before and after? If you want to help kids learn, have decent equipment in every high school, smart boards in every classroom, give every student access to computers that don't belong in a junkyards.
Coming from Mike Mulgrew, as with Randi, this offer to "collaborate" on a "teacher measurement" paid survey is typical of how they now operate. Instead of just saying "no", and opposing something outright, they cooperate with it and try to "make the best of a bad situation." Then we're stuck with the bad situation, and they say, "Well, it could have been worse."
The same thing happened when seniority transfers was given up in 2005. Instead of holding on, they traded it for a raise and the result ...... up to 2,000 teachers now in the Absent Teacher Reserve.
The answer is a union leadership that demands massive new investment in school facilities, training, and resources. Can't do it because of the economic crisis? Wrong, this is exactly when they ought to be investing. They find trillions to "rescue" the banks. Right now, a quarter of NYC schools don't have gyms, and 70 percent don't meet state requirements for hours of physical education' Of all schools in the Bronx, 22 percent don't have outdoor physical education activities at all?
Where are the art and music teachers? In the ATR pool or on the unemployment line.
The Labor Notes article on organizing charters in Chicago posted on Norms Notes.