Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Teacher Letter on New Yorker's Biased Aricle on Rubber Rooms

Laura Castro does a pretty good job here exposing the biased New Yorker articles on the rubber room and ATRs. Paul Simms wrote a biased follow-up commentary on Steve Brill's original article, which Ed Notes critiqued , Laura mentions the point about the ease with which the rubber room could be emptied if Klein only hired enough arbitrators, something the biased press doesn't raise and if they do, they accept Klein's "union obstructionism" argument. "Could this be because Bloomberg wants a wedge issue in his showdown with the union" Laura asks? It's more than a wedge. Klein loves the runner rooms, which are his creation, intentionally, so he could get articles like Brill's to create outrage . He'd rather spend that money as an investment in anti-teacher PR. And it works like a charm. Of course the fact that many people in rubber rooms are exonerated or are there for reasons such an argument with the principal gets buried in the avalanche. The union, afraid of attacks - and they get attacked anyway for doing little - does not make even close to as good as stand as Laura does.

Dear Editors,

Paul Simms article "The Rubber Room" in this week's New Yorker zeroes in on what appears to be an Achilles heal for the teachers' union, but fails to ask important questions. It thereby exhibits disturbing bias. For example, if the "rubber room" is a disgrace, why doesn't the city spend additional money hiring arbitrators, so cases don't wait years to be concluded? And why not give rubber room teachers desk jobs as in other cities? Could this be because Bloomberg wants a wedge issue in his showdown with the union? Simms never asks. (Not until the last page, in fact, do we hear that the 600 teachers accused of incompetence or malfeasance are in a system of 87,300 teachers - the largest school system in the country.)

The salient issue here is not the so-called rubber room, however, or even the union, but that the article pushes the overall Bloomberg/Klien agenda without consulting progressive educators for a different perspective. Simms appears to scoff at Democratic lawmakers in Albany for not renewing mayoral control of the schools more quickly, and apparently accepts without question the Bloomberg administration line on student achievement and improved graduation rates. Nowhere in the article is it mentioned that there have been serious concerns that mayoral control has left parents out of the educational equation. Nor does the article mention testimony by Ann Cook (Performance Assessment Standards Consortium) at the mayoral control hearings in Albany that, alarmingly, students of color have been dropping out of public school at a higher rate under Bloomberg/Klein.

Simms' article concludes by touting Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's decision to deprive states of stimulus money if their schools do not attach teachers' pay to their students' standardized test scores, and laments that New York may loose money on this account. Yet the article never questions the popular dogma that continual testing of children is the answer to good education. (If standardized testing is really so conducive to learning, why is it, one wonders, that students in New York's elite private schools, whose graduates grace the halls of Ivy League colleges, don't take city or state tests – not even the Regents??)

I hope that The New Yorker will balance this article with one that probes the issues of education from a more progressive point of view. This would include investigating the issue of standardized testing by interviewing some of the country's leading progressive educators – like Linda Darling Hammond, reputedly on Obama's short list for Secretary of Education, or Ann Cook of New York's own Performance Assessment Standards Consortium. As an educator, I challenge The New Yorker to bring to light some of the successful alternatives to standardized testing right here in New York's schools and to ask whether the educational dogmas de jour adhered to by Bloomberg/Klein, and even Duncan, really serve our children.


Laura Castro

Brooklyn, NY 11218

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And where should this money for more arbitration cases come from? Should it be taken from the Police? From higher taxes? Throwing money at education, in this form for arbitration, is the problem. Money should be spent on GOOD teachers and on the kids. Not on bad teachers or lawyers.