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

Thursday, December 6, 2012

StudentsFirst: Wrong About Newark AND Chicago!

I knew this would happen: the corporate reformers finally got a union to give in on merit pay bonuses, and now they want to shove them down everyone else's throat:
Teachers in Newark just OK’d one of the nation’s most progressive collective-bargaining agreements. It rewards great teaching and treats educators as true professionals, whose effectiveness in the classroom makes a big difference in the futures of their students.
It’s the first contract in New Jersey to reward highly effective teachers — particularly those teaching hard-to-staff subjects or serving in high-needs schools — with higher pay, and the first to end the traditional system of compensation in which longevity alone determines salary increases. It puts “merit pay” in its proper context: not as a driver of test scores, but as a tool to focus limited resources on our most valuable teachers, so that they stay in the classroom.
Count on a piece by StudentsFirst, published here in the Rupert Murdoch-owned NY Post (according to Steve Brill, Murdoch is a big backer of SF - it's probably much easier to control the narrative when you control both the message and the messenger) to misrepresent what happened in Newark.

The Newark contract calls for bonuses, but there is no mechanism for determining who will get them. Inevitably, the system will rely at least, in part, on student tests scores; because this method is so prone to error, many teachers who deserved the bonuses will not get them. There's also a severe danger of using observations in a way that gives them phony precision, simply to meet the needs of the merit pay system.

Further, the Newark contract does not "end" the use of longevity in compensation: pay scales are used in both tracks of the contract, and one track for teachers with advanced degrees will still grant pay solely on seniority and degrees earned.

The notion that merit pay won't drive test cores is a complete fantasy. Reports from around the country on current merit pay and test-based evaluation systems clearly predict test scores will become the focus of instruction in Newark. It's only logical: teachers teach the test when the test tests teachers. Besides, we all know that believing in merit pay is like believing in fairies.

And this "most valuable teachers" nonsense has got to stop; ALL teachers are valuable. Any idea that we can identify the "irreplaceables" with any sort of precision is demonstrably untrue. Teachers who take the hardest students are the ones who will pay the price under this line of thinking.

Finally: the Newark contract is only possible through the use of private monies (specifically, Mark Zuckerberg's grant to Newark's schools). This is a one-shot deal; this contract can't be replicated unless you can get another big pile of private money for merit pay bonuses. And there's no guarantee the money will be there in a few years anyway; that's what happened in Washington, D.C. under Michelle Rhee.

Given all this, it's clear that the Newark contract is not a model for the rest of the country. But StudentsFirst doesn't want you think about any of this:
American Federation of Teachers head Randi Weingarten was instrumental in brokering the agreement. That means the AFT — and its affiliates, such as New York’s United Federation of Teachers — can no longer treat automatic tenure and lockstep longevity pay as sacred cows in future contract negotiations, such as the ones our next mayor will face early on.
The progress in Newark stands in stark contrast to the backward steps taken in the nation’s third-largest school district, Chicago.
Reeling from a bitter teachers strike, Windy City school officials just announced that, starting next year, the district would put a moratorium on closing failing schools. Not because they’ve eliminated failing schools, of course — but rather because school closings cause “unnecessary disruptions to students, parents and schools.”
Disruptions? What about the unconscionable failure to educate children that will persist in many of the schools that will now stay open?
If SF had bothered to actually to look at the results of Chicago's school closing policy - started under our current SecEd, Arne Duncan - they would have found that it has been a failure. No surprise: New York's school closing strategy under Michael Bloomberg has also been a disaster.

The solution to "failing" schools isn't closing them; it's fixing them. Unfortunately, the privatizers don't have the time or will to gather the resources necessary for a comprehensive, broad-based education reform plan (those plans have the added disadvantage of gaining teachers union support, which looks bad politically for many of these folks).

Folks like this say they want collaboration - but they only want it on their terms. They want unions that are compliant and docile. They don't want anyone pointing out that their schemes don't work, aren't working, and have never worked. They want a labor movement that acquiesces to their demands, no matter how detrimental they are to teachers, students, or families.

They didn't get that in Chicago, and it drives them crazy. They live in terror that Chicago is the future of teachers unions - not Newark.

Let's make sure we work to make their nightmares come true.

1 comment:

ad77 said...

Here's a op-ed piece from the washington post on self-proclaimed ed reformer Smarick: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/class-struggle/post/is-big-disruption-good-for-urban-school-districts/2012/12/04/0aef7cd2-3e76-11e2-ae43-cf491b837f7b_blog.html

We find it interesting as Smarick takes pride in his leadership of disruption-is-good for education charge.

Ask anyone at the NJ DOE about his "disruption".