Monday, August 23, 2010

What Role Did Randi Play in LA Teacher Head Waiver on Teacher Evals?

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten met with district and union officials during a visit to Los Angeles this week. She has been in favor of revamping teacher evaluations and has helped negotiate contracts that use test score data as one of multiple factors in instructors' reviews.

Yes, add LA to the Randi sellout tour. (I need a photoshop person to change 2009 to 2010 - and beyond.)

We received a few emails this weekend on the reactions in Los Angeles to the LA Times threat to publish the names and student scores of teachers as a means to identify what they are terming ineffective teachers in the narrow sphere of high stakes testing.

One email was titled "Et tu Duffy" referring to reports that LA Teacher union president, who had initially called for a boycott of the LA Times, was wavering on the willingness of the union to accept test scores as one of the factors in evaluation teachers.
United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy told hundreds of his members Friday night that he is "ready, willing and able" to create a new evaluation system for instructors that is "good for kids and fair for teachers." He indicated this might mean using student test scores as one measurement of teachers. Duffy, who has steadfastly said he opposes the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers, appeared to soften that stance...
Here is another email titled "There she goes again" from a disgusted NYC chapter leader puts the blame on Randi Weingarten. 
I just sent you an article from Saturday's LA Times that says Randi met with the union pres. there and convinced him to start evaluating teachers on value added measures. I don't know if he called off the boycott of the LA Times for publishing the names of those teachers, but it seems likely they will. This is depressing. Hardly anyone is fighting back.
I put up the articles on Norms Notes: LA Teachers union agrees to reopen talks on evaluations
LATA Union election coming 

In the backdrop of all this is an upcoming union election in LA early next year. I put up some interesting info on Norms Notes with analysis of the upcoming elections by Andy Grigg.
Los Angeles Teacher Union Election Update

Duffy election in 2005 gave us hope

Many of us were cheered when AJ Duffy was elected as part of a reform movement, one of the early signs rank and file teachers were having enough of the assaults on their profession, even as far back as 2005. He won re-election 3 years later by a wide margin, though voter turnout was extremely low (contrast that to extremely high turnout in Chicago a few months ago.)

AJ Duffy is term limited and a new president will be anointed next year. He will have served 8 years.  Supported by a few influential reform minded caucuses who backed Duffy for president, he was not exactly in the same place as these more CORE-like groups. But they gained many seats as part of the union.

My visit to LA in July 2009
I gained a bit of insight into the LA situation when I went out there at the end of July 2009 to meet with activists from 5 cities. A bunch of bonds were formed. (Many of us reconnected in Seattle at the AFT convention earlier this summer -check my archives from July 6-13, 2010 and beyond for numerous reports. There wasn't a big contingent from LA in Seattle because they are mostly NEA, but we did see a few people.)

That we met for 3 days at the LATA headquarters - think 52 Broadway - was remarkable. Even more remarkable was that Duffy wasn't aware we were meeting there until the 2nd day and he came into the conference room to say a few words. He seemed uncomfortable. In NYC where Unity controls the whole enchilada, such a scene would be inconceivable.

Duffy heads a coalition group called United Action. One of the leading caucuses is PEAC (Progressive Educators for Action - the most CORE like group) but not powerful enough to take power by itself. Duffy is not part of PEAC, which has led to some tensions. PEAC was the group behind setting up the meetings we had.

I got to hang with some great PEAC people during my visit and they seem to have an extensive network. I learned that Julie Washington, who was a PEAC caucus member would be a leading candidate to replace Duffy. She is currently a VP. She did not attend any of the July meetings.

An important point - there is a coalition without one caucus in control as happened in Chicago. We heard about the tensions that existed between Duffy and some of the forces that made up the leadership. I asked why PEAC didn't run its own candidate and they said they didn't feel they were strong enough to win on their own.
Did CORE learn a lesson in LA?
Chicago's CORE, then barely more than a year old, sent a strong 6 or 7 person contingent to LA. We got to meet Washington DC's Nathan Saunders and Candi Peterson, who I knew from blogging. There was a rep from San Francisco and three of us from NYC (including an ICEer and TJCer and Teachers Unite). The LA crew numbered over 15.

The sessions were intense and serious concerning the attacks on public education.

After the conference ended I spent an entire day with 4 leading CORE members. We were invited to breakfast at one of the most active teachers in LA and we chatted about many issues. We may have touched on the idea of forming coalitions vs. running as a caucus, an interesting choice groups have to make.

Remember. At that point the idea of CORE actually winning the election on their own was a glimmer. They had a choice I imagine - with 5 caucuses running - to unite in a coalition with one or more of them. They could have made a deal with Debbie Lynch who was much better known than Karen Lewis and I bet there was some gnashing of teeth in some quarters of Chicago when they went out on their own. In retrospect, they made the right decision.

Where will LA teachers stand?
Will PEAC go the same route in LA? There are already 3 candidates for president. Julie Washington as a PEAC member had also grown close to Duffy I was told. So there may be some tensions out there. Will the attack by the LA Times on teachers force them into a more radical mode or make them capitulate. This election will tell a lot about the state of mind of the rank and file teacher in the urban schools under assault by ed deformers.

What up for NYC?
After the recent UFT elections, anti Unity activists here in NYC have been analyzing and rethinking the traditional caucus situation. I can't tell where things are going but plan to have some analysis of my own - something I have been planning to do since the election ended in April but haven't had time.

1 comment:

Fred said...

I understand the need to make teachers accountable, but letting the performance of their students on standardized tests determine their competency will just make the teachers teach to the test, and students won't really learn anything.