“Teachers now have a real voice in the United Federation of Teachers, and that voice will not be silenced.”

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AFT President Randi Weingarten and her UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

-Arthur Goldstein posted on his blog NYC Educator

I’m sure Michael Mulgrew is happy to hold on to his job for another three years, and I congratulate him on his victory. I’m not at all sure he will be happy to see MORE/ New Action on the UFT Executive Board. And I’m sure that a lot of Unity members are not happy at all.

But the smart ones ought to know better. We are activists, and we are the real deal. If you don’t believe that, why have we decided to forgo the easy route? It would be a whole lot easier, and a whole lot less time-consuming to just join Unity. We could be up for union jobs and go to conventions. What’s better than that?

What’s better than that is an activist union. What’s better than that is being represented by people who do this work every day. What’s better than that is having people who have experienced the Danielson thing speaking for us. The last time Michael Mulgrew was judged by the Danielson rubric was never. And that’s not a dig, but a fact.

Now you may say, hey, NYC Educator, that may be true but there are hundreds of chapter leaders and teachers who go to these conventions. They’re working in schools and they know what’s going on. And you’re right. But what difference does it make what they know if they’ve actually signed an oath to do whatever the Unity Caucus tells them to?

Change is hard. But a union needs to work for its members. And that involves moving out of the comfort zone from time to time. You can’t move forward if you live in an echo chamber filled with people sworn to utter only good news. And from my vantage point, close to the ground, I see teachers suffering under the weight of idiotic rules and laws that leadership has consistently supported. I see an unfair and unreasonable evaluation system, easily manipulated by crazy supervisors. I see teachers crushed under the weight of ridiculous mandates that help neither them nor their students.

Michael Mulgrew doesn’t see that, because he has an army of people sworn to report that this is the best of all possible worlds on a daily basis. Michael Mulgrew can believe that the Open Market transfer system is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but who’s gonna remind him of the thousands of teachers trapped in the ATR, living without hope of a classroom, and looking forward only to the light at the end of the tunnel–retirement. Who’s gonna remind him of the teachers discontinued for no good reason, their careers and futures ruined? Who’s gonna remind him of what working teachers feel each and every day of their lives?

We are, of course. And whatever Unity stalwarts may believe otherwise, this can and will only strengthen our union. Even with this small crack of light in the Unity Cone of Silence, only one out of four working UFT members found it worth the time to return their ballots. We are teachers. We are role models. Are we fostering a generation that believes voting to be a waste of time?

We can do better, and we need to show membership that we will do better. There needs to be some sliver of truth facing our leadership, and for now, that is us. We will endeavor to work together to improve our union and the education of the 1.1 million students we serve. We will reach across the aisle and try to cooperate.

Is that how Unity wants to do things? Only time will tell. But real teachers now have a real voice in the United Federation of Teachers, and that voice will not be silenced.

 

The in box: Jose Vilson on Why the NY Times is asking me to validate myself.

Jose Vilson’s blog:

Not sure if you’ve heard, but, against their own wishes -ahem-, the NYC Department of Education is releasing their infamous Teacher Data Reports, a set of papers ostensibly compiling a teacher’s student scores on English and Math scores from 3rd to 8th grade to determine their effectiveness, normalizing scores for effects like poverty and growth. For anyone that finds this as absurd as I do, you’ll know that not only is there a huge margin of error on using such a report to determine teacher effectiveness, it’s so narrow and limited that parents probably won’t get much information about the teacher they seek. If anything, it might obfuscate the debates that happen in principal offices and households when kids vouch for their teacher, but adults with no understanding of pedagogy point to the scales and rebuke opponents.

I said itTwiceDiane Ravitch said it. Bill Gates said it. Yet, they’re being released in papers large and small.

Almost every outlet has salivated at the chance to put these reports out (except for Gotham Schools). At first, I thought we would just see the yellow rags like the New York Post and Daily News post these, as they proliferate the bad teacher framework. I’m sure the other media outlets like the Village Voice or Manhattan Times has some intention to do something with these reports, but by the time they do, the bomb will have already dropped on our industry.

However, the one rag that considers itself the vanguard for objective journalism is the New York Times. While I’ve shared my disappointment with one of their events in the past, I still understood their role in pushing forth the news of the day and the voices they’ve highlighted from Bob Herbertand Charles Blow to the inimitable ones, Stephen Lazar and Arthur Goldstein. I still read the Times a fair amount, and even when I disagree, I also get that they often set the table for certain discussions.

Thus, believe me when I say how disappointed I am in the fact that they’re asking teachers to justify their reports to them.

Go to Jose Vilson’s blog for the rest of this great post.

“Leave the kids, take the cannoli.”

Great column by NY teacher, Arthur Goldstein in Gotham Schools.

Nowhere is that shortage more profoundly felt than at 250-percent-capacity Francis Lewis High School, where I teach. New kids walk in every day, and with nowhere else to go, and no one new to help, it’s 35 in this class, 40 in that one, and battle your next-door neighbor over that much-coveted extra chair on a fairly regular basis.

To preclude such occurrences, I went to the American Arbitration Association this spring and grieved 34 classes that were in violation of the teachers union contract. We won the grievance, and Boss Tweed was ordered to correct its violations.

Two weeks later I counted over 60 oversized classes. Needless to say, I was not pleased. But when you deal with the bosses, that’s the way things go. Sure, they were ordered to comply. But why should they? What’s the upside in complying with agreements that don’t directly benefit their inner circle? Weeks ago, Lewis requested centrally funded ATR teachers to help cut class sizes, and thus far Tweed has sent precisely one.

The Bill Gates bait and switch. If you feel like somone is watching you, it’s because they are.

Arthur Goldstein is a teacher at Francis Lewis High School in New York. He writes for GothamSchools. His latest column is on the Measures of Effective Teaching program paid for by Bill Gates.

A young woman from the program came to our school and told our teachers that the study was actually examining newer ways to observe teachers. Traditionally, said she, there’ve been only a few ways to accomplish this. The most popular is the traditional observation, in which a supervisor sits in the classroom and writes up the results. She also cited peer observation, and the notion of test scores being used to determine whether or not lessons are effective.

However, she said, this new study had an entirely new element — the panoramic camera. This camera, specially designed, could observe not only the teacher, but also the students. Are they engaged? Do they understand? Are they texting their girlfriends during the final exam? Should we grant tenure to the teacher in question? Perhaps the camera could tell all, if only they could get it to work properly (there have been issues, and they’re apparently working on a newer version).

Teacher talk: Fighting for space in Bloomberg’s New York schools.

I know this is weird, but GothamSchools.org actually prints the views of (hold on to your hats!) a teacher.

Arthur Goldstein, a teacher and UFT chapter leader at NY’s Francis Lewis High School, writes about the impact on traditional schools as charter share a building.

Overcrowding comes to city schools for various reasons. In my school, our reputation makes kids want to come, we have magnet programs like JROTC that attract kids from near and far, and there’s never been a cap on enrollment. Neighborhood schools like PS 123 don’t get the opportunity to grow and expand because other schools are simply placed into whatever vacant spaces they may have. In fact, as Juan Gonzalez reported, space they’d actually been using was commandeered by a charter school chain. It now appears Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy will be taking that space permanently.

PS 123 has gone from an F-rated school to a B-rated school, and you’d think that would merit some encouragement from the Department of Education. You’d be mistaken. Rather than expand upon the progress they’ve made, the building that houses PS 123 has become a civics lesson for all who teach and study there—a newly designed two-tier education system. 55 years ago, Brown v. Board of Education stated, “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” At PS 123, separate educational facilities can be found within the same school building.