Here is another in our "UFT/AFT as Vichy collaborators" series:
I hope no one was surprised that Randi Weingarten today made it clearer than ever that she was an education deformer. Now some people have been fooled by her successor's phony militancy - there is a UFT election coming - and Mike Mulgrew has to look more militant than Weingarten. Well, it wouldn't take much.
What people must understand is that the AFT and UFT are one - the UFT totally controls the AFT and Unity Caucus controls both organizations. And both Weingarten and Mulgrew are creatures of the caucus. So do not expect Mulgrew to distance himself too far from Weingarten's statements today, though the dance he will make around it should be fun to watch.
Some reactions to the speech from teacher Marjorie Stamberg and parent Leonie Haimson:
Randi Weingarten is slated to give a speech in Washington today, accompanied by Obama's education secretary Arne Dunacan, where she will "unveil new approaches to teacher evaluation and labor-management relationships, and discuss a fresh approach to due process."
Meanwhile, a column by Bob Herbert in today's New York Times reports on an interview he had with the AFT president over the weekend in which she reportedly said "standardized test scores and other measures of student performance should be an integral part of the evaluation process." She also reportedly "is urging school administrators to observe teachers more closely and more frequently," and if teachers "did not measure up, they would be fired, whether tenured or not."
I don't usually comment on individuals, because the real problem with the labor movement is not this or that misleader but a union bureaucracy that is beholden to the Democratic Party and more generally to the interests of capital. But I'll say flat out, this is a crass betrayal of the teachers Weingarten claims to represent and an attack on the students we educate. Instead of fighting the teacher union bashers she is outrageously joining them.
Hooking teacher evals to student test scores is wrong -- for kids, for teachers, for everybody EXCEPT the privatizers, corporatizers and union-busters. This opens the door to massive victimization of teachers, as we are already seeing in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
We can't be surprised by this, since the union has had an experimental "voluntary" program on this for the past year, and since they tried to shove it down our throats with the so-called "bonus pay." I also expect this is one of Bloomberg's demands in the current contract bargaining that the union leadership is most likely to cave on. The UFT bureaucracy has been opening the sluice gates on this for some time, as with the introduction of school-based "merit pay.".
How is linking teacher evaluation to student scores on standardized tests wrong? Let me count the ways:
1) Teachers are already pressured into doing endless "test prep" which is a different animal than teaching. Can you fill in the bubble sheet or can you think? Endless test prep is bad for kids -- stressful, repetitive, and what does it teach?
2) Teachers are not responsible for how kids come into the classroom, their past learning experiences, their personalities, their diverse and amazing lives. We are dedicated, tireless and do our best to teach every student, using multiple methods, reaching every child. However, we must not be scapegoated for how this translates on bubble sheets!
3) For example, English language learners and special needs students may learn at a different rate, taking longer to process the information. That's a good thing; they are learning.
4) Hooking teacher evals to test scores necessarily means the low performing students will be pushed out of schools. Why? You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. Even the most dedicated, tireless teachers will feel pressured to find positions in schools where kids get the highest scores --- it will be an economic reality if their jobs and raises depend on it.
5) Ergo --- the student dropout rate will increase, as it already is doing despite the attempts by the DOE to mask this by taking them off the roles as "transfers." Public education for all will continue to be whittled away; we will go to a system of higher education for the "elite" and McJobs for everybody else.
6) Am I making this up? The National Center for Education and the Economy, a Clinton-era think tank which Mayor Bloomberg says inspired his education program, published a 2006 report (financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) that said that in order to meet the manpower needs of businesses, public education for all should only go up to the 10th grade.
7) This is racist, it is segregationist, and along with the push for charter schools it is "educational colonialism." It is of a piece of the program to close 20 schools in our city to make room for the charters. Jonathan Kozol has written powerfully that our schools today (50 + years after Brown v. Board of Education) are "American Apartheid) are more segregated than ever.
8) Corporatization, privatization, turning the schools into test prep academies; treating education like a business, not a process of teaching and learning. This program is designed to meet the needs of capitalism, not kids.
9) This program is coming from the top; not just Bloomberg/Klein, but Arne Duncan and Barack Obama. Thus, just to stand up for the democratic program of public education for all, integration of schools and "equal opportunity" we need a break from the Democrats and Republicans and a struggle for an independent class struggle workers party. It can't be done "piecemeal."
10) More information on this viewpoint can be read in "Class Struggle Education Workers." I invite you to check it out
Leonie writes to her listserve
FYI, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences have said in their comments on Race to the Top that the research on tying value-added test scores to teacher evaluation is too unreliable to be used at this point, and that:
At present, the best use of VAM techniques is in closely studied pilot projects. Even in pilot projects, VAM estimates of teacher effectiveness should not be used as the sole or primary basis for making operational decisions because the extent to which the measures reflectthe contribution of teachers themselves, rather than other factors, is not understood.
If you want to know what we think of the Race to the Top, you can check out my posting here or Patrick's (Sullivan) here.