Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NEW Caucus on Why Vote NO

7PM. Isn't it time for bed?
Running out of cell charge but will try to do another Rockaway Update when recharged as a bunch of stuff happened today to inch us forward.
Still working off my phone so can't do fully linked report.
Our comrades in Newark are still battling to keep another Randi contract off the sell-out tour list.

First, a tweet

@NEWCaucus: Check out the latest piece from Jersey Jazzman on the proposed contract in Newark. The Jazzman rightly takes the... http://t.co/jaFjQPrp

Followed by:

11 November 2012

Newark Education Workers (NEW) Caucus

Why We Need to Vote No

As rank-and-file NTU members, we realize that moments of meaningful union democracy are rare. Typically, union leadership decides on its own what is in our best interests as teachers, clerks, aides, and clinicians. In times of contract negotiations, union leaders represent us at the negotiating table and try to win the fairest contract possible given the perceived limitations of the times. For some, this top-down, service-style unionism appears to have worked in the past. Though, for others, the lack of bottom-up, democratic input into how our union works, what our union fights for at the negotiating table, and where we are going as a union and as a working class profession has been a source of understandable concern. These concerns have increased over the last five years as we have witnessed the dismantling of public education in Newark and elsewhere across the country.

Yet, on Wednesday, we have one of those rare chances to make our rank-and-file voices heard on what direction we think our union and our schools should be moving in over the next three years. Unfortunately, the contract agreement reached between our state-controlled district and the NTU does more to hurt public education than it does to help fix our schools, our union, and our city. For this general reason, and the three specific ones stated below, NEW Caucus urges all NTUers to vote no on the proposed contract.

First, the proposed contract centralizes power in administrators and the superintendent, especially in regards to the yet-to-be-finalized evaluation system. Peer review, touted as a victory by AFT and NTU officials, only provides a non-binding advisory role for us, an essentially non-enforceable power when one examines the details of the contract. Selection criteria and management of peer evaluators is completely in the hands of the superintendent. All decisions about the quality and content of our evaluations is in the hands of building administrators and the superintendent. Without a real balance of power in the peer review process whereby NTU members have an actual voice in who our peer evaluators are and the ultimate fairness in our evaluation's content and quality, we open up the possibility of subjective and flawed evaluations being used to withhold our increments and even takeaway our tenure if we receive two years of negative evaluations.

Second, the proposed contract treats teachers like undignified donkeys, not like the dignified working class professionals we already are. This carrot-and-stick, reward-and-punish approach is accomplished through the unproven and ideologically-driven system of merit pay. As a pay scheme for teachers, merit pay experimentation has never worked since the first time it was tried in the 1920s. There is not a single study that exists which shows merit pay improves teacher or student performance. Further, it forces teachers to compete with one another and opens us possibilities of favoritism through the subjective aspects of the new teacher evaluation system while discouraging a meaningful culture of educator collaboration inside schools. Additionally, with the data systems currently under construction to track student growth and the "value-added" by teachers, merit pay could be determined by a yet-to-be-decided percentage on student test scores, possibly 50% if the NJDOE has its way. This presents big problems because test scores have been shown to be an unreliable factor of student progress with statistically significant margins of error. Moreover, standardized tests do nothing to account for social and economic factors that lay outside the control of teachers. By all objective measures, then, merit pay is not a fair way of compensating Newark teachers for their dedication and hard work inside the classroom.
Norm Scott

Twitter: normscott1

Education Notes

Grassroots Education Movement

Education columnist, The Wave

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