Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Randi Races to the Bottom: Don't Expect the UFT to Rise Above

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

Randi Weingarten announced that linking test scores to teacher evaluation is acceptable to the AFT.

I just learned that she will be on "To the PoInt" today, a nationally syndicated call-in radio show about these proposals. In fact, I was due to be on the show to give the parent perspective on this show, about the Race To the Top grant program coming out of the Obama administration, and just learned I was bumped off by her.

No surprise there. When are any parents listened to at the national level -- or even locally?
The program will be aired live from California, starting 3 PM our time; to hear this live and call in, go to http://www.kcrw.com/schedule and click on listen live.

The show will be aired later tonight on WNYC at 10 PM..

Articles about Randi's announcement are here; (USA Today, Washington Post) and here (Times) . The WaPost article is below.

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.

http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2009/08/comments-on-race-to-top-proposal.html and



Angel Gonzalez said...

AFT and UFT. Weingarten and Mulgrew. They work aggressively to please their corporate bosses to ensure that their locals become or remain collaborationist company unions. Their yellow spineless adoption of neoliberal privatization anti-working class policies & action expose their rears to our members more and more everyday. Their $300K+ salaries keep them living high-off-the-hog like the fat-cats they meekly criticize. How can they decry the exhorbant Charter CEO salaries when their obscene pay, double pensions & more, as "union" CEOs their wages and decisions unaccountable & non-transparent to the members.
Just like the government is responsible for the deplorable state of education so are these do-nothing company union fat-cats! We pro-real union activists need to recognize that our sell-out AFT/NEA & locals, generally, are also for the current sad state of education & the profession.
Let's build those bottom-up democratic militant social justice locals and build a rank & file movement that will challenge these "union" bosses. Let's learn the lessons from the militant teacher unions/locals of Puerto Rico (FMPR), Mexico and anywhere else we can find them. The upcoming Tri-national Conference in Montreal might be a place to share experiences and perspectives.

Wikipedia:"A company union (also know as a business union ...) is a trade union which is located within and run by a company or by the national government, and is not affiliated with an independent trade union ... Company unions were outlawed in the United States by the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, due to their use as agents for interference with independent unions, but company unions were and are common in many other countries. Some labor organizations are accused by rival unions of behaving like "company unions" if they are seen as to have too close and cordial a relationship with the employer, even though they may be recognized in their respective jurisdictions as bona fide trade unions[1]."
Let's build now the rank & file caucus organizations, locally & nationally, to defeat these phoney decoys that will never be instruments of struggle for our schoolworkers or communities. It is alot of work but we the "union" members must take up little by little all the issues that impact on us and build the necessary fight-back union organization.

Anonymous said...

I'm still reeling from the information that I read with respect to teacher's evaluation connected to students' grades. How can the union in good conscience allow this process to be placed in the hands of administrators who will use it as a machete on a teacher's career. Having this type of evaluation is nothing else but the sword of Damacles. Imagine if this type of evaluation were to be used on a policeman/woman: Since crime on your beat didn't go down and there's not enough law-abiding citizen in your neighborhood, you're terminated.
Correction Officer: Since there are more criminals in your cell block and these are repeat offenders and you've have not helped them to reform, you're terminated.
Firemen: Since you did not do enough fire prevention workshops in your neighborhood and the last fire caused the death of 5 people, you're terminated.
Doctors: Since the medication you prescribed to your patients did not help them and you changed their medication several times and it still has helped them, you're terminated.

If I'm going to be evaluated based on unpredictable and out-of-my-control factors which might lead to my termination, then that type of evaluation should be applied to all civil service employees, not just the teachers!

It's unfair; it's biased; it's politics!

Anonymous said...

All this "education reform" has nothing to do with improving education. It is all about adults on a power trip. Randi was always a power seeking slimeball. She knows which side her bread is buttered on and she will do anything to help herself stay in a position of power.

Anonymous said...

It is of no surprise to see Weingarten and company selling the teacher profession and public education out.

But we need to take advantage of this selling out.

We have to learn from history, first was the AFL. The AFL we know organized by Samuel Gompers, organized skilled workers only, that is the upper strata of the working class, the strata that is directly tied to US imperialist and corporate interests, during the so call called labor day parade, they March with the large cranes on eighteen wheelers, with american flags all over the place. These workers are Republican, Pro Bush, Pro Reagan. This what Gompers organized. He also broke up the union by trades, today for example we have four-five unions in one school. In the 1930’s a big push to organized unskilled workers and down and deeper workers (although they left out black workers, in many instances). The CIO came into being, in opposition to the AFL. Later on the CIO sell out leaders, purged the left and united with the AFL to form the AFLCIO.

The NEA was the only national teacher union in existence it was also a very reactionary union. In the early 1960’s the UFT took up many struggles that the NEA refused to take up. Such as collective bargaining and pretending to be for civil rights, won the support of some questionable black leaders. The UFT and the AFT came into being because the NEA was totally bankrupt.

Today the AFT-UFT wants to do away with tenure, pushing for merit pay, are joining the bang wagon and following the money trail for charter schools, destroying public education. The UFT long ago became a business union, promoting insurance companies and insurances etc. They have also become a company union, a false union collecting dues and playing the dirty US politics, in bedding with politicians, corporations, special interests. Always being faithful to the powers to be.

The election for President of the UFT, could be an opportunity to begin the organization of a real union representative of its members. For honest forces and progressive politics, democratic forces, the true defenders of public education.