Monday, April 7, 2008

March Delegate Assembly Notes...

... removed at the request of the author. Contact Teachers for a Just Contract for a copy:

I preserved the comments:

NYC Educator said...
It sounds surreal. The whole 55/25 thing was touted as a great victory if only we would accept the 05 contract with the sixth class, the longer day and year, the permanent building assignment, the inability to grieve LIFs, the right to unpaid suspension based on hearsay evidence, and essentially giving back every single professional gain we'd earned since I began teaching.

And we were told the reason we didn't even get cost of living for that was our noble refusal to reduce rookie salaries.

Then we found we also had to take merit pay. And then we found that we would indeed reduce rookie salaries by 1.8% for up to 27 years.

And no one told us that NYSUT has a 55/25 bill with no penalty for anyone either.

That Ms. Weingarten and her patronage mill would support the "for profit" designation and merger is simply unconscionable. Her remarks that she does not know what will happen indicate the obvious--she doesn't care what will happen.

No wonder she thinks leading the largest teacher union in the country is a part time job.

Socratic method:
I don't understand the objection to merit pay. Can someone please explain it? It seems like merit pay is a good way to get more money into the hands of the good teachers, and out of the hands of the people who you say shouldn't have ever been granted tenure.

Socrates, I teach in Florida where there is merit pay. Here, It is based solely on children's tests scores and gives an unfair advantage to the teachers in better areas or with the "top" kids.
It is unfair!
We need to unite for additional funds for ALL teachers!

Anonymous said...
If there is merit pay, why would any teacher take a chance and teach a difficult class? It's much easier to go to a wealthier neighborhood where virtually all the kids will pass and say how brilliant you are as a teacher.

Socrates :
Well, those are two very narrow notions of merit pay. If merit pay were based on more than just test scores, and if the part that was just based on test scores was based on gains rather than absolute scores, you'd see everyone signing up to teach the lower classes in the poorest neighborhoods.

ed notes online
1. Name some factors beyond test scores.
2. If based on gains - kids learn at different rates. Or attendance factors? Or some special ed kids? Or disruptive behavior problems? What about losses - say a kid is absent 100 days - should the salary be cut?
3. As we've pointed out - it is not whether a school is good or bad and whether merit pay will attract teachers to a school -- what about all the private school and Catholic school teachers in NYC who are lower paid -- just go to a public school and get higher pay and more benefits - few seem to do it. Why not if money would attract these teachers (who must be superior because I bet their scores are high)?

Socratic Method
1. Rubric-based principal evaluations, peer evaluations, and/or 3rd party evaluations. I'm sure smarter people than I could come up with lots of others.

2. I'm not recommending that any one factor constitute the entirety of the merit-pay evaluation. And nothing will be exactly perfect and free of defects, but just about anything will be better than the current system. The system could be fine-tuned, but yes, special ed kids probably learn slower, so adjustments to the amount of gains required for a bonus could be made. Plus, if the evaluations listed in #1 came back really positive but the group of kids happened to be particularly hard to move, the other measured factors besides the test scores should reflect that.
3. Merit pay isn't the whole answer, but it's part of the answer. Discipline needs to be improved, for sure, but great teachers can handle just about any discipline problem, so do what it takes to attract such people to the toughest schools. I'll tell you what doesn't attract such people: the knowledge that they'll have to toil away next to someone who does no work but gets more money by account of them being older.

ed notes online
It's not only not a partial answer, it is a negative. Smater people thanyou HAVE NOT been able to come up with something - what's been holding them back?

So private and Catholic schools give merit pay?

What's better than the current pay system - which by the way is in operation for the police force and many other municipal services - do you think you will be safer if cops get merit pay?

Try an experiement. Lower class sizes in a bunch of places and pay merit pay in another. The merit pay kids might even score higher on the narrow high stakes tests. See which group of kids get the broadest based education with the most knowledge.

And are you talking about a serious chunk of change like they are giving principals for getting high scores? how is that merit system working out by the way? Ask principals behind closed doors and many of them laugh.


  1. Why are you engaging with this Socrates guy? He's disingenuous and most likely a shill.

  2. Socrates is no more dangerous than all the other ed reform shiils - Joe Williams, Rotherham, etc. But his game of trying to play NYC teacher is the new wrinkle. Clearly he is not - and we know that for a number of reasons - but the kind of things he puts out there are exactly what we hear Manhattan Institute meetings or PEP meetings from Joel Klein.

    His recent arguments against class size in which he cites research that when checked prove to be not exactly honest or clear. Luckily we have a crew of people out there who can check into the research.

    The engagement is useful in that it flushes out all their arguments and allows us to develop more clear cut responses that the usual "from the gut teacher response."

  3. I do indeed appreciate that you don't just seek to shut down commentary that doesn't match your viewpoint. Our country is great because of dissent, not because of uniformity of thought. That's why, specific viewpoints aside, I have a lot of respect for the agitating that you guys do. Would that everyone could fight so passionately for that which they believe.

    I am, however, disappointed by your insistence that I am not a NYC teacher. I know that seems to help your case in our disagreements, but even if it were true - it's not - it would not speak to whether my viewpoints are right or wrong. Even non-teachers can have good ideas on education once in a while. Indeed, you are no longer a teacher, yet you feel pretty qualified to comment on the state of education, no?

  4. I don't really care and I think you should put your ideas out there in an honest way. The sophistication of your agruments and your knowledge of issues is what I enjoy about our debates. But I know the NYC teaching world for 40 years and a guy like you wouldn't and couldn't remain hidden for so many years, especially with your attitudes towards the union. Other teachers who work with other teachers have commented privately as to the language you use that is so out of context for a teacher. Plus, there are other more technical reasons.

    But besides all that, you provide a great service. The only way we can defeat your ideas is through open debate. And you make us stronger. Come to a Teachers Unite forum and stay anonymous. There was one teacher at the last one who expressed your views - a 4 or 5 year teacher I believe and he said he will be back. So you would have compnay.

  5. I need to know exactly where our union needs to go to make things happen for NYC children. We've agreed to work a longer year and longer day. Given up seniority transfers. Allowed ourselves to be suspended without pay on accusations. Agreed to work 22 years to reach top pay of 100k. Agreed to a watered down version of merit pay. Agreed to have teacher evaluation based on standardized tests. Our union even agreed to open Green Dot Charter Schools. Where else do you think Randi should go to help NYC children?
    I understand Soc’s argument about the lazy tenured teacher. I for one would refuse to work with my class if I knew the schmuck next door didn’t do a damn thing with his class and made 50k more than I did. Oh wait, did I just base my opinion on a stereotype? How narrow minded of me…

  6. That opinion isn't based on a stereotype on my part, it's based on experience. I teach down the hall from a guy who undoubtedly makes more than I do but doesn't even bother to try to teach his class.

    What more does the union need to do? How about giving up the antiquated seniority and tenure provisions that do nothing but protect bad teachers, and allowing for some sort of differential pay for the highest-performing teachers?

  7. Good to see you back in action DP. I think I know that schmuck next door to you. Imagine the law firm where the young whipper snapper works 25 hours a day and makes 10% of what a partner makes. Must drive them crazy - but one day they will get to the golden carrot. It takes you only 22 years to reach nirvana. A little bit of merit pay -- maybe a few hundred bucsk is what you need to keep you motivated.

  8. As for whether a guy like me could remain hidden... well, I am not terribly hidden, except online, and I happen to get along with my union rep pretty well, though I don't like some of the things she does. I'm sure there's plenty that I do that she doesn't like, but we have a good relationship. That makes it easier to dissent without retribution. I also don't spend much time fraternizing with those teachers who complain about ed reformers, Klein, etc., all the time, so if my jargon's a bit off, that may be why.

    My principal's not quite as fond of me as the union rep is, but then again, that feeling is mutual. Maybe one day I'll wind up in the rubber room.

  9. Thanks Mr. Ednotes. Still active in my school getting people to be proactive.

    Speaking of experience, let me relate what my first year of teaching was like. I taught a child anger management skills so when he threw a chair across the room, he should aim away from innocent children. Another child when he pooped in his pants, should not fling it at his classmates. As odd as it sounds, I reprimanded my class for making fun of their classmate who had captured roaches for pets. Show and tell quickly became obsolete. I also had lessons on personal hygiene, clean clothes, tying shoe laces and just simply be good citizens in our community. Never mind I had 36 children my first year, 34 officially on my roster.

    In todays environment I guess I would be teaching to the test so I wouldn’t lose my job… my tenure… my career…

  10. I can't imagine why you would teach to the test when you have so many other important things to cover, like maybe teaching your child not to throw that chair at all. For me, it was teaching one particular student not to throw textbooks in through the window from the hall because it was hurting the kids who dared to sit in their desk. Then in my second year it was spending months wondering why one of my students would act up so much when I spent so much time with him after school. Turns out he couldn't read. Yep, I was a pretty bad teacher if it took me months to figure out that he couldn't read. My only half-defense is that he had some pretty well-developed coping skills that prevented his illiteracy from being discovered.

    What's great is that now that I have a better sense of how to handle these issues - more consistency, more patience for the book-thrower, and better literacy instruction and early diagnostics for the other - I also have very little need for test prep. My kids learn in class, so they do well on the test. I'll give them a few testing skills that their suburban counterparts are taught, but I'd rather read Mark Twain with my kids than have them fill out bubble sheets all day.

  11. The difference between the law firm partner making more money than the associate and the tenured teacher making more money than the newbie is that the partner can be fired at any point - including the present - if she or he does not meet his or her targets. Once they're tenured, teachers can't be fired if they put their feet up on the desk and take a 20-year nap.

  12. I bet partners arent' fired either. Maybe make less. And doctors have to kill their wives in public to be fired.

    In fact people with their feet up can be fired - by the kids who will kill them.

  13. Well, unlike teaching, where tenure is very easy to achieve, becoming a partner is quite difficult, and requires real, measurable performance. The only skill required in becoming a tenured teacher in a place like NYC is the ability to breathe both in and out.

    In fact, here's a story to slam-dunk my point home, in which a single law firm fired more partners in one day than the amount of teachers NYC has fired in the last three years:

    If you don't want to read it, here's a telling quote: "...'de-equitization' has become one of the most popular buzz words in law-firm management."

    Imagine a day when "de-tenurization" became a buzz-word in the DOE. That would cut down on the teachers who nap while the kids play cards.

  14. Aren't many areas of the country de-tenurized? By your count, these places should have better "results" to use your term. Bet they don't.
    The biggest fear teachers without tenure have is that of speaking out about some of the dumb things they see admins doing.

    And by the way, tenure was abolished for NYC supervisors years ago and teachers say the level of admins is worse than ever.

    The tenure issue always turns out to be a straw man and people like you use sophistry - you are a socratic man after all - to distract from the real issues. You certainly do not address the "non-tenured" and non-union states as a comparison.

  15. Why is it that you suppose that education is so much less of a profession than those that hold their employees accountable? If you want education to be seen as a real profession you have to allow educators to be held to standards. Lawyers don't hide from evaluation behind the protective veil of a union.

    You're confusing correlation with causation. So a few Southern states are not unionized/don't have tenure, and they don't have good schools? Well, states across the south, unionized or not, don't do well on national tests. I'm not suggesting merit pay or the elimination of tenure as panaceas, I'm suggesting them as two of many necessary remedies for the current crisis in education.

    Of course we can't eliminate tenure without addressing the problem of capricious principals. Part of doing that must entail the improved evaluation of principals. That sort of leadership, in time, inevitably produces bad results, and if principals were assessed on their school's results, they would have an incentive to treat their good teachers well, and to develop or get rid of their bad teachers.

    The answer is not less accountability, but more.

  16. I never considererd teaching a profession and was never treated like a professional. Why compare us to lawyers, who control their profession - and our "profession" too, by the way - ie. Klein and Weingarten.

    You give us no power or control. Partners in a firm vote in their leadership. Turn the schools over to us and then let's talk accountability. Until then it's another unionized job.

    Many lawyers are rarely accountable. And what about doctors? Are you holding them accountable for outcomes? I know people in the med field and there's a hell of a lot of malfeasance. I don't see all the people concerned about the achievement gap all that worried about the poor medical care so many of these kids receive.


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