I’m reposting my friend Jonathan Halibi’s blog post. The IEA also uses push polls rather than democratic debate at our Representative Assembly to justify decisions. Although we are not permitted to see the results. And I have never been polled.
– By Jonathan Halabi. Jonathan is a New York teacher and union activist. He blogs at JD2718.
My union e-mails me surveys. The right way to get member sentiment is to let chapter discussions happen, filter up from Chapter Leader to District Rep to the leadership on the 14th Floor of 52 Broadway.
Unfortunately, that chain is weak or broken. There are schools without Chapter leaders, chapter leaders who do not meet with their chapters or meet without discussion, chapter leaders who do not pass on information to their District Reps, DRs who do not solicit member thoughts from CLs, DRs who ignore schools where they do not get info, DRs who are afraid to share negative information with the 14th Floor, and times when 14 does not hear what some DRs are saying.
But even though it’s not the right way for a union to listen to members, certainly not to listen to chapter leaders, I fill them in. Last week I got a letter from Michael Mulgrew (well, signed by him, not actually from him, see below) asking me to fill in a survey that would just take 15 minutes (it took me more).
I was tooling along, answering what borough I was in and what I taught last year (I filled in for the year before, because of sabbatical), when I got to THE QUESTION.
So I could check Community School, since some of the ideas of providing services make sense, but I really don’t know full details. The others are just plain unacceptable.
Plus, what do they mean by:
“…there are a number of schools that have been struggling for many years to raise student achievement….”?
We know that there are schools in poor neighborhoods where kids don’t do as well. And we would like to help more kids succeed. But “student achievement”? That’s what Cuomo, Rhee, Gates, Duncan etc call test scores. Do we really want our union to use “Klein-speak”? And do we really want our union to focus on test scores? This sort of language is embarrassing.
In fact, the whole question accepts the premise that if a school’s scores are low, the school must be bad. Didn’t the delegate assembly reject exactly that premise just two weeks ago? Isn’t the battle against that very premise part of the battle to preserve public education?
I decide to skip the question.
Nope. They won’t let me leave it blank.
I try to check off “Community School”
Now we have another problem. They are serious about choosing two. I know what they want. They want me to push “more PD” – but teachers used to hate PD. And most NYC teachers still do. And I don’t think PD fixes schools. The best PD is voluntary, and out of the building. NYCDoE Professional Development is top down, and supervised. In some schools it’s gotten better, but it’s still neither what most teachers want, nor what most teachers need. And what is that “external support”? And why are they asking teachers who are not in those schools about what teachers in those schools should have to go through?
Finally, I try clicking “proceed” with just “community school” checked off, and despite the warning it lets me move on.
But what is the union going to report? That most teachers want community schools and PD? Or, more honestly, given this limited list of options…
Where are the other options?
Where is “smaller class sizes?” Where is “more funding for after school activities and sports and clubs?” Where is “remove problem administrators?” Where is “more help, less rating?” Where is “repair our buildings?” Where is “build more schools?” Where is “allow principals to hire the best teachers without being penalized for preferring experience?” Where is “Other?” Where is “None of the above?”
Push polling doesn’t really fit with respecting teachers’ voices.