“Free at Last, Free at Last,” Teachers Muse on the Last Day of the School Year

“…DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.

The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage is to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating these persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Firth Amendment.”
(Read full decision: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-307_g2bh.pdf)

At three o’clock this afternoon a huge sigh will surge across the city – the sigh of 75,000 teachers as an extremely difficult school year ends – ironically – to reverse TS Elliot, not with a whimper, but with a bang.

The Supreme Court struck down DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, and, additionally, essentially affirmed the same-sex marriage law in California.

Strangely, yesterday the Court negated a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, ruling that the “pre-clearance” section of the law has outlived its applicability since the conditions that applied in 1965 do not exist today. For example, the redistricting that was required by the 2010 census requiring states to seek “pre-clearance” before new lines could be finalized; baring new legislation this will no longer be a requirement in future re-drawing of voting district lines.

While many of us cheer one decision and bemoan another we can look hopefully to the future.

On the education front a new Mayor and a new Chancellor: the end of twelve years of flawed and punitive policies. In the last few years the Mayor grew increasingly frustrated and flailed away at teachers and the teacher union; few of his policies dealt with improving teaching and learning, the core of art of teaching.

A hundred plus million dollars a year to maintain a pool of teachers excessed from schools due to school closings, losing students and/or funding or teachers returning from leaves. The actual purpose is to create support for legislation to force the layoff of teacher excessed from schools – an attack on “last-in/first out” seniority rules, an attempt that never gained traction.

What the Department calls Fair Student Funding (FSF), actually weighted student funding, changes the way school budgets are constructed, under the FSF formula teachers are counted at their actual salary – “punishing” schools with higher salaried teachers; around the country Weight Student Funding formulas use average teacher salary.

The Mayor refused to settle the teacher evaluation plan (APPR), costing the city $250 million dollars – the eventual plan imposed by the Commissioner is, to be polite, unwieldy. The APPR plan is so complex, filled with so many moving parts that it will cost the system an enormous amount of time, sound and fury signifying nothing. (full Shakespeare quote: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”)

The results of the State ELA/Math grades 3-8 tests will be released in July, and, everyone is predicting sharp declines. The just-released English Regents exam results are striking – a principal reports the passing rate moved from 90% to 75% simply because the State decided to change the scoring bands. Multiple reports from teachers complain about the same scoring band issue.

Teachers will scatter to the winds – traveling across the nation, attending institutes, those who can afford it hop a flight to Europe or Asia (remember cheap charter flights and when the dollar was a strong currency – now it takes $1.30 to buy a Euro and $1.50 to buy a pound) and for many only a week off before the grind of summer school, everyone worries about the year ahead and their APPR “score.”

The teacher evaluation law is so dense that hardly a soul understands it and those that will have to implement the law are overwhelmed with the complexity.

View a Power Point of the “Enhanced Growth Model“: – after a thorough close reading you will, of course, be tested.

View the State Education summary of the Commissioner’s APPR Plan for NYC.

Teachers leave thinking if my kids don’t do well on “the test” my job will be in jeopardy?

Principals leave thinking how the hell am I going to observe everybody four or five times a year and actually do my job?

Parents leave thinking will my child’s future depend on the results of two weeks’ worth of tests in April?

Top Tweed staff doesn’t leave, they spend the summer planning for the implementation of an unworkable teacher evaluation plan, and, worrying about their own future, who will be the next chancellor?

My advice is simple: find a beach and a beverage of choice, bike, climb mountains, maybe a summer romance, or, at least read a romance novel, unwind, decompress, don’t worry about things out of your control. Give yoga a try, start that exercise regimen, that diet you’ve always wanted to start.

Be a reflective teacher: what worked, what didn’t work so well, what do you want to try next year?

The one unchangeable, the one guarantee: kids don’t change, in two short months the smiling faces will be seating in their seats, eagerly wanting to soak up knowledge…

Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.
Andy Rooney.

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2 responses to ““Free at Last, Free at Last,” Teachers Muse on the Last Day of the School Year

  1. First let’s take a deep breath. Nobody except fellow professional knows how much of a teacher’s body and soul goes into teaching. We have the most trying profession. If a doctor makes a mistake the mistake is literally buried and not seen again. If a lawyer makes a mistake the mistake goes to jail and the lawyer doesn’t see him/her again. However if we make a mistake guess who we see the very next day- our mistake. In addition every student takes home a piece of the teacher every day. However the teacher must have many more “pieces” to give the next day. So after we’ve had the time to decompress let’s do what we expect, encourage, support, and enable our students to do. Let’s LEARN! Ask what are the priority skills, techniques, or strategies that need improvement in order to be more effective. RELAX, REFLECT, AND RECHARGE!

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  2. The four most devastating policy changes of the Bloomberg years:

    1: Gerrymandering students-if they want a school to succeed they load it up with higher achieving kids-if not, the incoming and transferring kids are all challenged.

    2. Closing schools and opening new ones without experienced staffs, and failing to support closing schools students. Those kids will forever suffer from the third class educational opportunities they had.

    3. Discriminating against experience-by charging the actual cost of an employees salary to a building employing them. This is blatant age/experience discrimination and should have resulted in a lawsuit both by parents whose kids were denied the services of such staff, and by the UFT and CSA showing age bias.  Along with this is the ridiculous promotion and defense of 30 day wonder teachers who announce they are only in for two years, and installing wet-behind-the-ears, no experience, no nothing, Principals. These Principals can do NO wrong (actually they commit incompetent and/or atrocious acts which are swept under the rug).

    4. Making kids take increasingly numerous tests and being tested on standards they weren’t taught the material for, and moving the “finish line” for a successful result.

    That’s my top four-but a more expansive list is easily written.

    The common denominator: destruction of the Public Schools, and their public support. All to make it viable for profit, “charter”, or private, or sectarian, or religious schools.

    Where will the USA be in 25 years without the melting pot?

    And–no summer vacation this year. All persons of good intention need to get working to elect a Public School friendly Mayor in NYC, and keep score on our Governor.

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