Tuesday, August 27, 2019
School Scope for Aug 30: Bits ‘n Pieces
School Scope: Bits ‘n Pieces
By Norm Scott
I got a call from Gail at Fios that my monthly bill was going up but the good news was that for about the same cost I could have five premium movie channels I will barely watch instead of the three I currently have that I don’t watch. I told her my problem was that with Netflix I had so many choices I often wasted so much time trying to choose I ended up just watching the Yankee or Mets game. I took the deal anyway because I can’t resist a “bargain.”
So, as I come to what will be the final School Scope of the summer, I face the same problem: I have so much to write about I can’t choose. So I’ll take a brief shot at a few of them and leave it to interested readers to follow up.
My last two columns were about the test that some elite NYC high schools use as sole admission. While I don’t support the entire structure behind standardized tests and all the baggage they bring to the educational table, I won’t take the position at this time that they shouldn’t count at all – just that other factors should be taken into account, including creating a diversified school environment for all students which will benefit everyone. That means having some flexibility so that if a student scores a one point below another don’t assume that the other student is one point smarter. I scored very well on standardized tests to become a teacher but certainly wasn’t a better teacher than colleagues who scored much lower (our scores were posted on the seniority lists and some of the best teachers had the lowest scores). In other words, don’t take a narrow view of the concept of merit. Speaking of which…
Teacher Merit Pay Dies in Newark and Denver
We heard this summer of the death of the much vaunted merit pay for teachers in Denver and Newark pushed by the ed deformers with a lot of help from former UFT and current AFT President Randi Weingarten which negates the charge that it was the teacher unions that killed them. For years Randi campaigned for teachers in numerous cities to accept contracts with merit pay. At the time I termed that “Randi’s Sellout Tour.” In Newark, then mayor Cory Booker took the $100 million bucks Mark Zuckerman gave him and wasted it on this and other scams. Good riddance hopefully to him as a serious candidate and to merit pay. While capitalism may teach a logic that these schemes should work, the reality is that they don’t work in education and cause harm because the only way to judge “merit” is based on student test scores. I knew every trick in the book on how to inflate test scores and could have been a rich teacher. I know there are many rabid capitalists out there who doubt me and consider the way teachers are paid based on years served as socialism. Of course police, fire, sanitation and just about every other public worker don’t work on merit pay. Go out and do some research.
Speaking of capitalism and socialism, I’ve been doing a little bit of thinking given that this is the first time that the concept of socialism is being discussed in a serious way since the 1930s. Polls show that over 40% of young people think favorably of socialism, which has caused panic among right wingers and Republicans, which pretty much boils down to the same thing. Witness last week’s distorted and hysteria-filled (and hilarious) letter to The WAVE attacking socialists and branding Democrats as socialists. As if here are no failed capitalist systems. But that is the way Republicans think so I don’t hold it against them. The reality is that the leadership of the Democratic Party are just as nervous over the insurrection from the left in the party they have owned which is why they are pushing Biden. There is much confusion over what exactly “socialism” means and I was using this column to explore the differences last summer. I get the feeling that The WAVE doesn’t want too much talk on that issue so check out my blog for that discussion.
When you examine the presidential candidates considered most “left” (despite polls showing their ideas have a lot of public support, Sanders and Warren, there are differences. Bernie has always been a socialist and brands himself as a democratic socialist, which means bringing elements of socialism through democratic means by convincing enough people that society needs a serious makeover. Warren proudly calls herself pro-capitalism, as long as it is not allowed to run amuck with the “greed is good even of we have to burn down the Brazilian rain forest and make the earth inhabitable one day” crowd.
Norm burns with ambition – to blog at ednotesonline.com.