Friday, August 26, 2016

Driving Down Teacher Salaries: NYC Teacher Erik Mears Unravels Ed Deform

I hope that TFA proponents will grow to regret their snobbish belief that graduating from a good college and interviewing well are better qualifications for teaching than ... actual qualifications and experience..... Public school teachers' relationship to charter teachers is thus analogous to the relationship between US auto workers and Mexican autoworkers.... Erik Mears, Truthout, Education Reformers' Core Beliefs Are Objectionable
I came across this piece on Truthout by NYC teacher Erik Mears who brings an interesting perspective to teaching. A West Point 2003 graduate, he spent five years in the army through 2008.

Education Reformers' Core Beliefs Are Objectionable

Monday, 22 August 2016 00:00 By Erik Mears, Provocations Blog | News Analysis


America's corporate education reform movement has been a marketing success. Reformers have popularized slogans that promote a radically new public school system; one where tenure and bargaining rights are abolished or severely degraded; where CEOs and administrators, who may have backgrounds in business, politics or public relations rather than education, make hiring and firing decisions; and where data-based accountability -- necessarily driven by test scores -- perpetually imperils schools, tenure- and union-less teachers, as well as students who must conform to onerous protocols and codes of conduct under charter school contracts.  Reformers' slogans such as "demography isn't destiny" and "poverty is no excuse" have been ingrained in the minds of all who follow education issues -- and have apparently been successful in advancing their agenda. But ironically, while reformers' slogans are well known, their core ideas around such reformer bedrocks as Teach For America, charter schools, and educational expertise are so objectionably elitist that they are unutterable.
Erik devolves ed deform down to its economic basis -- to drive down teacher salaries and undermine the teacher unions. Erik boils down ed deform into 3 "unalterable beliefs".
EM: Unutterable belief #1: Though we cannot destroy teachers' and students' rights through democracy, we can destroy them through charter school proliferation.
thanks to high attrition, low unionization rates, and the built-in power of administrators over teachers in charter schools, the prospect that public school teachers should earn better overall compensation (pay, pension, and benefits) than their counterparts, whose employers often need not even offer pensions is not merely likely, but as good as an accomplished fact.* As is teachers' in union-less, CEO-commanded, charter regimes working unhealthy hours. For teachers who work superman hours, with less pay, overall compensation, and job security, Geoffrey Canada is no longer waiting....
* Little hard data that compares long-term, overall compensation of public and charter school teachers exists, perhaps because charter schools are relatively new, and because few teachers have survived pension-worthy, full careers in charter schools...EM
Norm comment:
The economics behind the ed deform movement are an often neglected area of analysis. There is a trillion dollars or more, in neo-liberal terms --  to be unlocked - or freed - made available to the private sector. What is the biggest single expense in education? Teacher salaries which I've heard account for 70% of ed expenses. If the average teacher salary can be knocked down the money "saved" can flow to the private sector.

The highest teacher salaries are in unionized school systems, with a massive chunk going to the big urbanized areas. By setting up a competing system of charters where teachers are not unionized, the local union loses a member for every charter school teacher hired and over time the union is weakened.

In the meantime have scuzzballs like Moaning Mona Davids and Campbell Brown try to attack teacher tenure rights in the courts. As I pointed out in my last post, the weakening of teacher tenure is connected to all this --


Charters are forced against their will to match the unionized public schools teachers' salaries even though they really don't match salaries in the sense that charter teachers have no rights and can be made to work many longer hours without compensation, in addition to not offering pensions (no charter school teacher will ever last long enough to get a pension anyway). We could use an analysis of the state of teacher salaries, attrition etc in the heaviest charterized cities.
EM: Wherever democracy is endangered or people are disempowered, charters flourish. Even in some of our largest, most liberal cities, such as Philadelphia (with 28% of its students in charters), and cities in bright blue states, such as Albany, New York (27%), charter school saturation is sky-high. Moreover, any elite education reformer who argues that charter school numbers should be kept low, in any city or state, is a rare one, given that prominent pro-charter groups aspire to the elimination of all caps on charters. Ultimately, whether elite reformers actually want to improve American education is arguable, given that two major Stanford studies showed that charters perform slightly worse or the same as public schools. But basic economics, and the words and actions of elite reformers tell us that they definitely want a hostile takeover of public schools, to the extreme detriment of the pay, benefits, and dignity of teachers. 
Norm comment: Erik here touches on the elements of the hostile takeover -- making sure the public has no say - and the major instrument is often mayoral control of the schools and control over the mayor by deformer forces but in cases where the deformers can't get that they resort to battles over the school board and when they can't get that they buy the governor (see one Cuomo) and state legislatures. The fact is they often lose when the public gets to vote.
Unutterable belief #2: Uncertified graduates of elite colleges perform better in the classroom than experienced and certified teachers.
Erik then takes on the idea that teacher experience must be minimized. Erik doesn't go here but  -- if you are going to cheapen the labor costs then teaching must be turned into a "turnover" temp job where experience is minimized. But since experience does make a real difference in so many ways, the deformer logic must then turn teaching into an easily programmed job, rigid classroom rules and top-down decision making so you can plug any teacher into any job at any time. Voila -- testing and test prep curricula.

Erik uses the TFA example:
TFA members were now competing with newly certified teachers for good jobs in a new economy. And in places such as New York City (where I teach), teachers with decades of experience have been routinely "excessed" -- thanks to school closures and austerity during the Bloomberg years -- and hence turned into permanent, itinerant substitutes. Yet NYC principals continued to hire TFAers, thus effectively replacing the "excessed" veteran teachers for them.
The way that TFA has publicly accounted for its new role of competing with experienced teachers is unsettling for advocates of teachers as laborers. TFA uses dubious statistics to argue that their graduates actually perform better than experienced teachers -- as measured, of course, by the be-all end-all metric of standardized test scores. For a debunking of TFA's major statistical claims, consult the work of TFA veteran Gary Rubinstein.

From my own experience, the very notion that a first-year TFA'er should outperform an average experienced teacher is counterintuitive.... I can only hope that in time, I will gain the wisdom, experience, and freedom (aided by tenure protections and a pension) to answer such questions in a way that conduces fair and enlightening teaching,  

if you've gained experience in and knowledge of actual classrooms, chances are you lack the sort of TFA-style arrogance that would compel you to embrace the radical reforms that the elites want.
Having actually taught would be a logical necessity for running a school or a school system. Not in the world of ed deform.
Unutterable belief #3: Experience and training in business and management trumps experience in education and the arts and sciences.
 There are thousands of teachers and administrators in major cities who have decades of teaching and leadership experience, speak multiple languages, and have National Board Certifications and doctorates. That they are being passed over in favor of inexperienced ideologues for the highest positions in education is on one hand, unfair. But it is also dangerous because it enables a fantasy-ideology to dominate education and exclude real wisdom.
Here are links to the full piece on Truthout

Education Reformers' Core Beliefs Are Objectionable

Monday, 22 August 2016 00:00 By Erik Mears, Provocations Blog | News Analysis

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