I write to you today not as a disgruntled ex Unity delegate but as an educator who’s first and foremost concern has always been to ensure that poor Black students receive the same education and opportunities as students of means. I am glad that I do not have to ignore what I know to be right to support UFT leadership and follow my team leader as delegates were told on in June. Make no mistake about it, as a UFT/Unity delegate, there is no voting other than the way one is told to vote. The UFT/Unity delegation works very hard to get their way on everything at the conventions. By packing the committees with their people and having a contingent of delegates ready to line the microphones, it is an orchestrated effort to enforce their way. Trust when I say delegates follow along for many reasons, none related to education or any common sense education reform. Now they are poised to lead us further down the path of the quick fix in education which will allow the achievement gap to flourish not close.
Since taking control of public schools in New York City, Bloomberg has had one goal in mind. He wants his legacy to be the man who solved the problems in public education, specifically closing the achievement gap between Black and White. He had only 8 years to accomplish his goal he set out on quick fixes, not once doing what was necessary to truly close the achievement gap. He identified teachers as the problem, and in turn, closed large high schools, created test requirements for promotion and advocated for charter schools. Now with an additional four years in office he has been given the opportunity to continue and influence more people.
Any rational educator in NYC knows his tests are the new word for social promotion. One can score a Level 2, enough for promotion to the next grade without even reading a question on the 6th grade ELA and 7th grade Math Exams. Yet UFT leadership has stood beside Bloomberg and declared social promotion has ended.
To truly close the achievement gap Bloomberg and his followers would have to acknowledge poverty and those disadvantages associated with it that affect children’s ability to learn. Children in poverty enter school far behind in their exposure to reading and language than their advantaged counterparts. These deficiencies persist throughout their lives in public school as schools have traditionally not provided the necessary resources to bring children of poverty to the level of their peers in the early grades. To remediate for this, in elementary school, would require the kind of tax money; no urban district has yet been willing to spend.
We come to this point today where many states have passed legislation tying test scores to teacher evaluation. Now the AFT wants to officially make it union policy to support this. There are 2 major problems with this.
The first is when administrators/teachers are rated or paid based on test scores and credit accumulation they will reach those goals by any means necessary, as I have seen firsthand for many years. The second problem is the way in which the UFT justifies their actions. The UFT says that the observation/evaluation system is broken. They negotiated the rules yet somehow it is not working.
It is not working because the UFT have allowed Bloomberg/Klein to run roughshod over our contract specifically Article 21D. I requested information from the Department of Education (DOE) under the Freedom of Information Law, as to the amount of U-Ratings for the past 30 years and how many were sustained and overruled. I expected to see a huge increase in both U-Ratings and the number sustained under Bloomberg/Klein. It is unfortunate that the DOE has yet to find the information from May when I made the request.
It is also unfortunate that the UFT has also failed to secure this information. Despite the UFT Delegate Assembly passing a resolution regarding U-Rating appeals in 2007 the UFT has never followed through. The resolution says they will seek applicable data from the DOE, canvas members and analyze the information. I have not seen any evidence this was done. Email to UFT officials went unanswered.
If the UFT were to admit the contractual language has been abrogated they would have to do something. By ignoring the fact that our U-Rating appeals under Bloomberg/Klein have been sustained at an unprecedented rate, they have perfect justification for their resolution on testing and teacher evaluation. They may continue to convince the membership the system does not work and therefore having a percentage of your evaluation based on tests is a great advance. I have seen firsthand the tyranny of the observation and rating system under Bloomberg/Klein, carefully orchestrated under the guise of supervisory discretion. I am a chapter leader and I have received U-Ratings and according to the UFT I should be happy that 40% of my evaluation will be based on test scores? Oh and with new categories instead of just Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory.
I want what I have always wanted since setting foot into my first urban public high school 12 years ago. Essentially to provide students in poverty with the education and tools they need and to guarantee they have the same education and opportunity I had in my public school experience. Mostly I would like to see public education live up to its responsibilities to educate all equally. In ten years in the south Bronx I have not seen it, nor have I seen Bloomberg or Duncan suggest they will do anything to secure this right. I have seen each blame teachers and advocate for tests as measurement of student progress and more incendiary, teacher effectiveness.
The UFT/AFT has caved to this educationally unsound pressure time and time again and need to be stopped. We should be following Diane Ravitch and the NEA, not a union that has consistently worked with power to sell out the students and teachers, the majority of whom live in poverty, of New York City.