Saturday, January 26, 2008

UFT Delegate Assembly Run Like 3 Card Monte Hustle

Guest Column by

Mary Theresa Lynn, Delegate from Newcomers High School

The January 16 Delegates' Assembly compels me to write to you:

Who wouldn't agree that the city's current mandatory testing policy is a nightmare? At the January 16 Assembly, The UFT Resolution on Assessment-Related Paperwork and Data Collection seemed like a good idea--until I closely examined the wording of the first WHEREAS (emphasis mine):

"WHEREAS, the data generated by these tests and assessments can be useful to teachers as a tool to enhance teaching and learning, the collection, collation and interpretation of this data can be time consuming and require specific skills, technology and resources often not available to teachers...."

Unless we agree that "test-prep" is now synonymous with "learning," which is just what the highlighted section of the resolution implies, we should find this clause in the resolution most disturbing. These tests are not reliable and the data generated by them is not useful to teachers and certainly not conducive to learning. In fact, these tests have had a disastrous effect on both teaching and learning.

I immediately raised my card to call for a friendly amendment to the resolution to omit the offensive clause. However, Randi seemed determined not to see me. In fact, she deliberately filibustered until my raised arm went numb. When I took my arm down to switch my card to the other hand, one of her minions called the resolution to a vote, even though at least two of us still wanted to voice our opposition and were still waving our cards frantically. A staffer who had seen me with my hand up from the start and had even approached me to politely wait for her to finish her rant stood nearby, but as I yelled, "Point of order," I was drowned out by Randi's, "Let's call the question. All in favor raise your cards" and the amens of others who were eager to move on after her filibuster. I was artfully--but very intentionally--ignored. She dodged my objections and steamrolled on.

My biggest concern on this one is that we will be "hung by our own words" somewhere down the line. Basically, the wording of the resolution that passed gives credence to the DOE's tests as "tools to enhance teaching and learning." What a public relations fiasco for us if proponents of high-stakes testing get their hands on the UFT's own words! How could the UFT validate these tests when we know the disastrous effect all of this test-prep has on teaching and learning?

Randi seemed like she was in an awful rush to call this one to question--she even started the meeting on time for a change, no doubt to leave room for Hilary's "surprise" call--which means she was well aware of the wording, and eager for others not to notice it. As a first-year delegate, I was surprised that there was so little vocal opposition to the wording of this resolution. And obviously, I was disappointed that the "Artful Dodger" had, once again, dodged her opponents. Her tactics at these meetings are becoming increasingly deplorable. Sometimes I feel like I'm being hustled in Three Card Monty.


Anonymous said...

Let's try to really appreciate what the leadership has done once again.

Personally, I love this phrase "the data generated by these tests and assessments can be useful." Note that what it doesn't say. It doesn't say that data is always useful, it doesn't even say that it is ever useful; it says it _can_ be useful.

Too bad the whole resolutions wasn't quoted. Parsing it would be loads of fun. Even this brief quote demonstrates the art of saying absolutely nothing in such a way that other people can read into that nothing and come away with exactly what they want to.

Now you may read into it collaboration, other's cooperation, I am sure the most fervent anti-union people will say they the union sleaze are just lying about cooperation and collaboration. Who knows what the union zealots came away with.

Look at this this way. There are some tea leaves left in the bottom of the cup. One fortune teller sees a bright future, another sees doom and gloom. In the end the tea leaves are still tea leaves, and the future still becomes the present, but one's attitude certainly does effect the whatever actually happens

Regarding this development my questions are
- What is the larger context of the resolution?
- What sets of conflicting goals are being addressed here?
- What's Mike Mandel up to?
- What's the spin?
- What's the counter spin?

Folks take care of yourselves.
Folks, get your resumes in order.
Improve your career options.
Don't get too vested in any job.

Take notice: The sun rises and the sun sets.

proofoflife said...

It seems to me the UFT is in the habit of using words and phrases that are completely vague and open to subjective interpertation.I recently had a conversation with a district rep. that argued teachers are required to put a task card and standards on every bullentin board. My point was that the contract explicitly states format can not be dictated ,and in my mind task cards, rubrics, and standards are a part of the format. My adminstrators have recently started to collect lesson plans every other week. The UFT's " Know Your Rights" publication explicitly states that lesson plans cannot be collected on a regular basis. My adminstrator and district rep. argued that if they collect it on a Monday one week and on a Tuesday the following week then it is not being collected on a " regular basis". This to me is absurd. It is my interpertation that no one has to hand in a lesson plan. If the purpose of plans are for the use of the teacher, and if you are not in danger of receiveing a "U" rating then why the hell should you have to hand them in? The contract says plans should be availabe on request,and should reflect what you are teaching on a given day .In my opinion they can be written on toilet paper as long as they are aligned with your lesson.Therefore, it doesn't surprise me that the resolution implies that the collection of data from assessment can promote learning. Or that assessment in and of itself is a form of teaching or learning. I interpet these words to mean that once a student is assessed the data can be used to allign instruction depending on the needs of a given student. That being said, we are now expected to give indiviual instruction to the thirty or more students in a class based on the data. I agree 100% that " you can't fatten a cow by weighing it." This resolution is just another example of the unrealistic demands put upon us by the Bloom Klein thugs!

Under Assault said...

"... so little vocal opposition" - not only to the wording of this resolution, but to what RW rams through with her dubious practices (breaking Roberts Rules, lengthy remarks, juggling the order of the agenda, etc.)

Unity encourages politeness and discourages controversial, oppositional and radical thought. The D.A. is filled with extremely educated people, but they don't for the most part steep themselves in the politics of education, so they're not as alert as they should be. They will buy into issues that are not in their best interest. The place feels more like a library than a union meeting hall.

It reminds me of Thomas Frank's book What's the Matter with Kansas?, which asks why the Republican party gained so much ground over the past three decades amongst the working and lower-middle classes despite its successful campaign to "engineer their exclusion" (as Scialabba says in The Nation).

I feel the DA is being manipulated to engineer our exclusion as well. We're just being taken for a ride.

Anonymous said...

Aren't we missing the point here that although Mary Theresa Lynn had raised her card, the 1000 of us were happy to see it go through. Sorry but changing the "whereas" part of the resolutions isn't the most crucial thing.

ed notes online said...

So the point is: even though a majority (and using the 1000 number is a joke since the room only holds 800+ and all the seats aren't filled) - is that someone has something to say and they should be shunted aside even if a minority point of view?

Since Unity clearly has 80% of the DA and must vote as a block, why hold the meeting in the first place?

I guess you are also in agreement with Weingarten's ignoring the new motion period too (it just seems to be part of all Roberts Rules meetings) since clearly most Unity people aren't interested in new motions from the small group of people who might bring them up.