Sunday, May 23, 2010

Preparing Teachers in Your School For UFT Officials Invasion

I'm receiving emails that the invasion of UFT officials to spin the teacher evaluation agreement (under the guise of talking about the budget cuts) is beginning.

I know the drill. They will come and talk and talk and talk, maybe leaving 5 or less minutes for questions. Don't let them get away with it.

Prepare the people in your school by handing out a list of questions based on some of the issues raised below.

Ask them why delegates, the exec bd and the membership no longer get to vote on contract modifications.

Make 'em sweat for their money.

The UFT is now soliciting opinions on Teacher Eval Agreement....
...and chapter leader John Elfrank responds

1. NEGATIVE: It’s a foot in the door for using Standardized Tests and Merit Pay.

2. NEGATIVE: The new system claims to eliminate what the UFT describes as a totally subjective system. Yet, seven of the eight criteria are the same. The UFT says the addition of an eighth criterion (test scores) changes everything. Can’t we find less subjective criteria other than standardized test scores? It’s gonna count for 40%! The UFT says it “limits the influence of state tests on teacher performance evaluations”, it actually INTRODUCES state tests into teacher performance evaluation. Anything less than 100% is a “limit”.

3. NEGATIVE: Since there’s still much that has to be “negotiated” the agreement will only lose some of what appeal it does have. For example, 40 of the eval will be test scores% for starters.

4. NEGATIVE: There are no specifics about how peer review would work, how test scores will be used.

5. NEGATIVE: The contract is NOT enforced now regarding Art. 8, so why should we assume the UFT will enforce what is in our best interests regarding this agreement? For example, if the UFT doesn’t want a “gotcha” system, why doesn’t it challenge the informal observations put in our files and used to U rate us? Read Teaching for the 21st Century… You’d never know it was meant to apply to our members. It was supposed to eliminate the “gotcha” observation.

6. NEGATIVE: Lead Teacher wannabes will compete with their colleagues, not cooperate. After all, it’s who ranks at the top that will get the lead teacher gig.

7. POSITIVE: is that if negations fail the old system remains in place, as would be expected with a contract.

8. POSITIVE: Growth model assessment seems to be the best model if you have to go with standardized testing.

9. POSITIVE: Teacher improvement plan looks like it will be specific and transparent. Again, depending upon what is negotiated.

These negotiations need to take place in full view of the membership in order to invite member feedback. Secret negotiations are only meant to keep the membership in the dark .

BOTTOM LINE: Teaching to the test will take on a new urgency. Gone will be creative pedagogy. Close the Teacher Centers, they’ll be a waste of money. We will all be in the test prep business.

John Elfrank-Dana
UFT Chapter Leader
Murry Bergtraum High School

Under Assault said...

NEGATIVE: No parity. Some teachers will be judged on tests, others not. (They'll use as yet unspecified other kinds of rubrics for them.)

NEGATIVE: What about people like Guidance Counsellors? Are they going to rate them on how well the kids keep their appointments? That's about a useful as any of these other criteria in difficult learning environments.

Leonie posted these thoughts:

After year one, all teachers in all grades will be subject to these value-added assessments; implying that there will have to be new state tests as well as new local tests in all subjects and all grades.

o Year one: 20 percent student growth on state assessments or comparable measures for teachers in the common branch subjects or ELA and Math in grades four to eight only, and 20 percent other locally selected measures that are rigorous and comparable across classrooms;

o Subsequent years before Regents approval of a value-added model: 20 percent student growth on state assessments or comparable measures for all teachers, and 20 percent other locally selected measures that are rigorous and comparable across classrooms;

Art, music anyone?

I would expect that all these new tests, as well as teacher time (or State time) scoring them, in every grade and subject, will cost far more than the $700 million that is the maximum amount that NY State could get from RTTT.

I also love the following:

. The regulations adopted pursuant to this section shall be developed in consultation with an advisory committee consisting of representatives of teachers, principals, superintendents of schools, school boards, school district and board of cooperative educational services officials and other interested parties.

Once again, parents are omitted from being mentioned among the key stakeholder groups to have any voice in this system.

After all, it’s only our kids.

Wonder if charter schools will be subject to the same regime.

And Leonie raises these questions the UFT should have raised, but didn't:

The Times article does not say whether the test score component will be based upon one year or several years value-added.

One year’s increases or decreases in test scores are statistically meaningless at the school level; as shown by the volatility of the NYC school grading system; and they are even more unreliable at the classroom level.

Not to mention the complexities of attempting to control for all the demographic and school factors outside a teacher’s control, such as peer group factors, class size, overcrowding, special needs population, and the student’s pre-determined course of learning, based on all their previous years’ educational experiences. (As the class size research shows, smaller classes in the early grades lead not only to greater gains in those years, but a whole different trajectory of learning in future years.)

All of which explains why the National Academy of Sciences has said emphatically that basing teacher evaluations on value-added test scores is not ready for prime time.

What is clear from the NY Times article is that NYC public school students will be subjected to yet an additional set of “local tests”; which will mean millions of dollars to develop these new tests, millions of student hours spent taking them, and millions of teacher hours in scoring them.

In addition, I predict that the DOE will want to give these new local tests both at the beginning of the school year and the end, to sharpen up their “value-added” per teacher component.

And most likely, more NY teachers will even more try to flee from classrooms and schools with high-needs students, the exact opposite of what the federal government, state and city say they are trying to achieve.

Wouldn’t you?

More testing, less learning.

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