I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sometimes, I Just Don't Understand My Union

OK, I understand that every Republican presidential contender would be far, far worse for teachers and schools than Barack Obama - despite his mealy-mouthed acquiescence to the corporate reformers. But why did the NEA have to endorse him right now? Doing so makes it look like Obama and Arne Duncan are being rewarded for their fealty to charter schools and standardized testing.

I guess I can live with this; maybe NEA senses Obama needs the money early. Lord knows I do not want President Bachmann or President Perry or President Romney setting national education policy in 2013.

What I really can't understand, however, is why NEA would pass a resolution that both supports and doesn't support using standardized testing for teacher evaluations:
The National Education Association just approved a policy statement on teacher evaluation theoretically permitting use of standardized-test scores as one measure of teacher performance—but the union's leaders underscored that no existing standardized tests currently meet the criteria for inclusion spelled out in the policy.
The move was urged by the union's leaders as a way of putting forth a coherent vision for the place of evaluations in promoting teacher effectiveness. It amends all the union's current resolutions dealing with teacher evaluations, support, and due process.
As Teacher Beat reported earlier, the union's board of directors put many qualifications on the use of test scores in teacher evaluations even before delegates got a whack at the proposal.
In introducing the proposal, NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle made it clear that the NEA's main focus is on teacher improvement. "The decision is whether we will define a truly high-quality evaluation and accountability system that honors our profession," she said.
No, the decision was whether you will open the door to using a demonstrably failed method to evaluate teachers. And guess what? You've swung that door wide open. Because it doesn't matter how many caveats you add to the proposal; you're buying into the premise that a testing system COULD be created that will evaluate teachers fairly:
"Unless such tests are shown to be scientifically valid and reliable for the purpose of measuring both student learning and a teacher's performance, such tests may not be used to support any employment action against a teacher and may be used only to provide nonevaluative formative feedback."
Well. That is an order of magnitude different from the original policy proposal, and rather a high bar to meet. The union's own president, after all, told me recently he doesn't really believe a standardized test can serve both purposes.
Then why even suggest the possibility?!?! The language could easily have been changed to:
SINCE such tests have been shown to be scientifically invalid and unreliable for the purpose of measuring both student learning and a teacher's performance, such tests may not be used...
It's like saying; "Until cigarettes are shown not to cause cancer, people shouldn't smoke them." No, no NO! Don't give away the possibility that cigarettes might not cause cancer - we know they do. You should never give up a premise you know to be false.

This is going to come back to bite us later. Gates or Broad or NCTQ or the Manhattan Institute or the LA Times will, sometime soon, come out with some phony-baloney study that "proves" that some new, wacky testing regime is "fair." It won't matter whether or not it is, because the media will simply report that "experts differ" on such things. And they will point out the NEA is all for standardized testing if it's found to be fair and reliable, and look: Marguerite Roza and Rick Hess says it is, so it must be!

When are we going to finally understand that we are in a war, and that the stakes for the corporate reformers are very, very high? We should not be giving one inch to these people. We've got to be smarter, or they will destroy the teaching profession and, consequently, our entire education system.

No comments: