It always starts with a woman
I was a young firebrand complaining that the union leadership wasn’t militant enough; Lenore, that woman, challenged me to come to a union executive board meeting, I became addicted (to the meetings, not Lenore, who became a close friend)
Al Shanker, Jules Kolodny, Dave Wittes and the other founders of the UFT; debating, arguing, haggling: should the union take a position on the war in Vietnam, would taking a position destroy the union (the union conducted membership plebiscite – members voted not to take a position); should the union sponsor sending members to work registering black voters in the South (yes), should the union organize supervisors (no, by a single vote), I sat at the feet of union icons, and learned.
As a union rep I learned “to agree to disagree,” to work together on issues as well as to battle over others, to maintain mature labor-management relationships.
Unfortunately John King skipped over the learning steps
King is brilliant with a list of degrees from prestigious universities; he lacks a degree from the university of “hard knocks.”
As Commissioner of Education he intellectually overwhelmed a majority of the Regents, and probably the governor; at times duplicitous, at times arrogant, he jumped onto the (de)form bandwagon: the 770 million in Race to the Top dollars, the Common Core State Standards, the rapid adoption of new Common Core tests, a teacher evaluation plan, new untested higher standards for prospective teachers, one “big idea” after another forced down the throats of increasingly uneasy Regents and overburdened teachers and principals.
Then, the house of reformy cards tumbled.
As anger grew, among teachers, principals and superintendents, among parents, among legislators John King was sacrificed, aka, fired. The governor, angered over teacher support for his primary opponent decided to punish teachers, bubbling anger became a tsunami.
Angry voters results in nervous legislators.
The Democrats in the Assembly sent a message; they refused to reappoint the two most senior Regents and appointed four new Regents, all clearly independent, all committed to change, although “change” is hard to define.
Over the next two weeks the Regents will have an opportunity to rebuild trust.
The much ballyhooed teacher evaluation legislation based on multiple measures including student tests scores was a chimera. In the last year of the former “S” or “U” system in New York 2.8% of teachers received a “U” rating, in the first year of the new plan only 1.6% of teachers were rated “Ineffective.” In the first year of the plan outside of New York City 51% of teachers were rated “Highly Effective.” The teacher scores were statistically unstable; errors of measurement were 20, 30 and 40 percent. At the Education Learning Summit three of the four experts trashed the use of Value-Added Measures.
The governor imposed a new system, a Matrix that blended teacher observations and student performance measures.
In the two months since the budget passed a maelstrom has swirled across the state.
The Regents have an opportunity, a window to rebuild trust with the community.
Acknowledge the American Statistical Association, (teacher impact on students test scores ranges from 1 to 14%), local negotiation is far more meaningful than plans imposed by the state, to the extent possible allow labor-management negotiations to create plans, and, in the first year, minimize the role of the outside evaluator, ask a technical committee to review research and the evolving data and recommend emendations, explore the use of portfolios to assess certain categories of students. Make sure that teachers are not “punished” for teaching the poorest kids, English language learners and students with disabilities.
The governor will trash the plan, his influence has waned, his approval ratings are nose-diving, and his “Preet Problems” continue to grow. The NY Post and the NY Daily News will squeal.
The Regents have to begin to build trust, to show school staffs and parents that the “blame the teacher, blame the parent” days are in the past.
There is a high level of suspicion, the newly appointed Commissioner, who does not take office until 7/6 has been sharply criticized before day one on the job.
Let’s get past teacher evaluation and begin to address the core conundrums: we know that geography, to a large extent, determines destiny (see just released maps here).
We know that English language learners struggle in schools across the state, except in the schools supported by the Internationals Network (see NY Times article here)
The Regents and the new commissioner must begin to deal with the wide range of issues: let’s begin working together: let’s agree to disagree as well as work together to create a student-centered school system across the state. Equitable school funding, deep poverty, new immigrants and undocumented minors, the challenges are daunting.
Listen to Joan Baez: Deportees