People ask why I started this thing. Aside from the vast power and riches that come to one from writing an education policy blog, it was a matter of sanity: I was literally yelling at the radio almost every day. I felt like my grasp on reality was slipping every time I read the Star-Ledger op-ed pages: how could the editorial board of the state's largest paper get education so consistently, embarrassingly wrong? It's actually possible this blog saved my marriage, as Mrs. Jazzman was growing increasingly sick of my dinner table ranting.
Jersey Jazzman, in the end, is an exercise in preserving my mental health. In an innumerate, illogical world that shuns critical thinking, I always know I have a place to throw opprobrium at the reformy folks who so richly deserve it.
This week, I thought I'd look back at a few highlights from the last five years. Let's start with the post that is likely the first statement of the entire thesis of this blog, from December of 2010. I think this is the first time I made the explicit connection between advocating for "reform" -- charter schools, test-based teacher evaluation, eliminating tenure, merit pay, vouchers, etc. -- and justifying the underfunding of schools. It's also one of the first times I cited Bruce Baker, intellectual godfather of this blog.
More throwbacks to come...
Bruce neatly dispenses with the notion that the LAT's vaunted Value Added Modeling (VAM)-based approach is appropriate for high-stakes decision making like who gets laid off. So I need not comment on that.
I'll also skip past the disturbing bias that pervades this sorry excuse for journalism. I've dealt before with the complete lack of ethics the LAT has shown in this entire affair - an affair of their own creation.
Instead, let's focus on how the LAT completely refuses to question the premise of the entire article:
The issue has gained momentum as tens of thousands of teachers nationally have been dismissed without regard to their abilities and research has established that veteran instructors on average are no better or worse than their less experienced colleagues.Um, excuse me for pointing this out, but:
From Washington state to Arizona to Rhode Island, seniority-based cuts have turned some young teachers against their own unions and fueled efforts — mostly unsuccessful thus far — to revise seniority rules. In California, two bills failed this year in part because of opposition from the California Teachers Assn.
At L.A. Unified, outgoing Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said he believes it is time to consider other factors besides seniority during cutbacks, including performance measures such as attendance and parental feedback. He said he favors capping the number of layoffs at a single campus — an approach similar to that proposed in a pending legal settlement involving Liechty and other schools. [emphasis mine]
SHOULDN'T WE BE ASKING WHY WE ARE LAYING OFF SO MANY TEACHERS IN THE FIRST PLACE!?!?
Where in this article is there any questioning of why the students of LA should have to suffer from fewer dollars allocated to their education just because they happen to be going to school during the Great Recession?
What does it say about us as a society that we can continue to find plenty of money to fight wars of choice that have no clear end in sight while simultaneously accepting cuts in education with a yawn?
What does it say about our commitment to democracy when the very wealthiest are richer than they've ever been while teachers are laid off by the thousands?
Talk like this is normalizing the defunding of education, and it should not go unchallenged. In fact, I would argue that any discussion of VAM or merit pay or charter schools or unionization or pension reform or whatever should always start by challenging the notion that we have to cut that amount of money available to our schools.
Because, as I've pointed out before, the 'formers keep giving away the endgame. The LAT makes quite clear where they want this to head:
Far fewer teachers would be laid off if the district were to base the cuts on performance rather than seniority. The least experienced teachers also are the lowest-paid, so more must be laid off to meet budgetary targets. An estimated 25% more teachers would have kept their jobs if L.A. Unified had based its cuts on teachers' records in improving test scores.Translation: Keep the CHEAPER teachers. They're just as good as the more expensive ones.
Well, what happens when the word gets out that you will never make more teaching in your first few years than you will in your last few? Does that sound like a career for the best and the brightest?
Oh, you want to keep paying them more as long as they're good? Great! But you want a great teacher in every classroom, right?
So where are you going to get the money for that?
Folks, when it comes to the 'formers, we're really down to two choices:
A) They haven't thought this through.
B) They are willing to throw up incoherent arguments to mask their real agenda: cutting funding for education.
If anyone has an alternative theory, let's hear it.