Thursday, October 18, 2012

New York State's Teacher Devaluation System : A Great Cost Cutter for Privatizers

I think I'd like to thank those of you who happen to be of weak heart for your tepid support and wish you well as you seek out your next career in real estate, Longaberberger basket sales or toxic waste disposal as it appears shit is about to get real here in public school land.

Why Mr. Crowley, we've all heard the tale of the kid in your 7th grade class who asked Mrs. McCarthy what the word "cynical" meant whereupon that young pedagogue turned and pointed an accusing finger at yours truly and said Mr. Crowley is what you'd call "cynical" but now what ? Whence cometh this latest bank of  your imagination's cumulonimbi ? Well now that I'm done speaking to myself in third person, I always wondered how that worked, let's start with the most obvious :

The state's new teacher devaluation system in working better than Katie Campos and John King could have ever hoped. It's as if they met with the Wyrd sisters on a blasted heath somewhere and dropped an eraser, an apple, an ABC poster and a school bus sweater into the boiling cauldron of the fates and the hags did all the rest. The new formula has competent, professional educators, the very people you wish your own kids would get as teachers doubting themselves, second guessing their very life's work. I've read words of bewilderment on Facebook from people whose rapport with kids, methodology and dedication are unswerving. I see them asking why,out of nowhere, 10 or 15 years into a career the NYSED apparatchiks appear hellbent on finding a way to denounce them  as incompetent then fire them.

Why DOES New York State's Education Department appear hellbent on firing teachers who've had nothing but positive evalutions and good results considering what they are up against in the urban district where a lot of us teach? Well let's just cut to the chase shall we ?  NYSED's leadership doesn't know a fucking thing about public schools. John King hasn't even taught in one and his Tariq Assiz, Miss Campos, has never even taught. ANYWHERE! So, if they aren't about public schools even though they have the 2 most important education jobs in New York State, then what ARE they about ? Easy answer - Charter Schools.

And what are charter schools about ? Corporate Privatization and PROFIT. Why do corporatists loathe unions the way they do ? Because unions insist that the corporatists share some of their profits with the workers who make them so much money. Teacher's unions are reputed to be vastly powerful entities especially by the enemies of unions who are forever bemoaning the power of unions and especially teacher's unions because they all know anyone who goes into education is a sap and deserves to be mistreated and underpaid and should have to go begging for their job every September in a fair world. So what better way to undermine a teacher's union than with a wholly capricious and unreliable system that can arbitrarily create lemons out of Golden apples with a few quick tweaks and some clever value added and maybe even some test scores of kids who come to school 6 days a year. Once they get their Devaluation on they can start flinging great teachers out left and right and replacing them as capitalists do with cost efficient models. Oh ? And where would these come from ? 

Well there's always the do good legionnaires of TFA who can be bought cheap and treated like shite because  a lot of them are doing their TFA service for their resume anyway, not unlike Paul Ryan's photo op at the Soup Kitchen where he attempted to present himself as a man o the people but in reality bullied his way in and tried to use photos of himself in an apron washing all ready washed pots and pans as evidence of his true affinity for the downtrodden which his budget aims to trod even a little further down.  

So get the devaluations flowing then New York City can rear up in all of its wrong headed Bloombergian stupidity and declare that they no longer should have to rely on colleges to certify their teachers, that they can do that all by theyselfs. Their Leadership Academy is doing such a bang up job cranking out Principals from parent facilitators - unless you count the Principal who had a teachers 3020A'd on the charge that the teacher put a curse on her  house - I am sure they can spin some more silk purses out of the multitude of sow's ears currently languishing in ed. privatization madrassas like TFA. 

The amazing lie of the corporate privatizers is that they believe it's GREAT TEACHERS who are the main ingredient to an excellent education. Yet at every turn they seek to devalue the great teachers we all ready have and replace them with greenhorns, burnouts, fuckups, hacks and resume writers who think a year or two of teaching will give them gravitas or people cred on their law school application. For every corporate privatizer out there who tries to tell you how much they believe in great teachers I have the same one fingered response.  They believe in PROFIT not PROFICIENCY and that's why at every turn they seek to denigrate teachers and their unions, demonize hard working dedicated professionals and when all is said and done their only true goal is to CUT COSTS and maximize profits. For all of their sappy blather about "the children" and "struggling schools" and "taking care of children not adults" they are nothing but bald faced and shameless liars. Good teachers cost money which they know very well but shitty teachers will work cheap and take all the abuse and extra work you can heap on them. They are also GREAT for the profit margins. I hope we're all on the same page to protect our profession because the more I read the clearer it appears that the corporate privatization game is oiled, well funded and loaded up with more lies than a single's bar. Between Bloomberg's newest Super PAC, the Box office flop Wont' Flush Down and even the Buffalo News' own Jan Brady, columnist Denise Jewell Gee now trying to goad mayor Squarepants to flex his muscles with some school interference, it seems we can't even read a report of the Common Clowncil's meeting without hearing they are 4 square in favor of the ChameleonCharterGroup's hostile takeover of Waterfront and East High. You know I got into it with an Elmwood Village Charter supporter in the comments of Buffalo Rising a few days back and after the charteroid trotted out some wrong info about the multitude of free and reduced lunch students at the school my refutation was not allowed into the mix. What really stunk too was I was using the Buffalo News' own charter cheerleader Mary Pasciak's words to point out that EV Charter was in fact no where near comparable to other public schools in the amount of lower income kids attending. I guess that's why we start blogs. 


  1. 3rd grade in the burbsOctober 18, 2012 at 10:11 PM

    When I read that two of the Buffalo Common Council members voted to give Chameleon East HS and Waterfront I couldn't believe it. My disbelief quickly turned to, "Let them have those schools" and then see how quickly you lose all input whatsoever. But just as quickly, I said they cannot just hand those schools over to the priviteers. As I was following last night's school board meeting in the News, Chameleon was again brought up. I believe it is Kennedy that is pushing to meet with Chameleon and he was saying, "They're for the kids'" or something to that effect. Are we in Buffalo so podunk that we are dazzled by anybody who shows up in his Sunday best clothes and slicked back hair? David Hannum said it best, "There's a sucker born every minute." Have these people on the Council or the School Board never heard the saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."?
    I have also been reading about NYC's latest brainchild to certify its own teachers. This is really spiraling out of control. The more I read, the more I believe that the maneunerings by the privitizers are so entrenched and convoluted that we really don't have any idea how bad it really is. The whole world is denouncing bullying and yet it is bullying teachers and public education to the nth degree. And this is accepted by everyone.
    We were talking at lunch today about the "next" career just as you mentioned. One music teacher wanted to be a Walmart greeter (until I told her that the Waltons are one of the top three financial contributors to the privitization movement). For myself, it will be working in the bulk department of a local grocery store. All I will have to worry about will be if those bins are empty or full.
    I gave my first secure pre-assessment in math yesterday (of course, my students have already been assessed to death by the unsecure assessments we have to give). It was probably the longest 30 minutes my students experienced. There were tears, sighs, and frustration. Not everyone finished. It was a tough test by eDoctrina. You are all experiencing the same things with your students and it is killing us because we are the ones who truly care about these kids. And if I hear one more administrator tell us one more time, "Play the game, next year it will be better," I may scream (and you'll hear me in Buffalo). This is not a game. It is a full blown assault against us and we are getting more than a little testy and we are taking it personally.

  2. Try finding out the salary of the CEO of EDoctrina who happens to be the Principal/Superintendent of Charter School for Applied Technonlgies, he calls himself one of the brightest minds in education. But as the head of a charter, and we all pretend to agree charters are public schools he has managed to hid his salary from public scrutiny. My kids are opting out of all this bullshit. That Board member is no doubt mccarthy, a privatizer sleeper cell all of his own. Word has it he got campaign money from Dumbocrats for Ed Reform to help get elected. We used to have a joke when I taught at Burgard about the final step in the administrative certification process when they siphon out half your brain and all of your spine, It appears they're now taking the balls as well as administrators are the biggest chickenshits going aside from a standup few statewide you can count on one hand. They all run scared and cower as these endless buckets of pure horseshit are dumped on their heads and ours. It's truly shameful.

  3. An open invitation

    Community Health Center
    34 Benwood Ave.
    Buffalo, NY 14215
    Monday, October 22, 2012
    6-7 PM
    The Chameleon Charter School group is holding another one of their required "public hearings". From the length of the meeting, it does not seem as if they are looking for public input. I am sure they will fill the audience with their supporters. All public school advocates should try to show up to one of these farces. It is educational to see these arrogant know-it-alls in action.

  4. Sean,
    This week my principal walked up to me and handed me a piece of paper. Before I knew what it was he told me to burn it. That it was meaningless, and not to think twice about it.
    What it was was my growth score and rating according to the great state of New York. I had a growth score of 0. Zero. And I was rated “ineffective”. Ineffective? As if I could have stayed home all of last year and my students would have done just as well. Last June, my former principal rated me highly effective. I have 14 years’ worth of positive, glowing evaluations sitting in a file in my drawer. How does that happen?
    I thought twice. I thought three times. And, frankly, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. It has made me second guess everything I do.
    I was, and am, devastated. I never thought a word on a piece of paper could hold so much power over me.
    This is my fifteenth year teaching in Buffalo. In fact, I student taught right next door to you. And when I returned to teach full time at that school, I was again, right next door to you. Every one of these past fourteen school years, I have brought work home during the week and on weekends. I have done research and planned lessons and gathered materials every summer with money from my own pocket. Every one of those school years I had kids who were challenging. Who didn’t see the value of an education. Whose home lives are worse than we can fathom. But every day I did the very best I could for all of them. And now according to NYS, I am not good enough.
    A teacher is all I ever wanted to become. NOT because of the summers off. Not because of a union. Not because of a pension. While those are benefits of being a teacher, I chose to become a teacher the right way, the hard way, because I LOVE to work with kids, and love to watch when they learn something new, or when they finally understand how to do long division, or when they ask about why something is the way it is, and I am able to explain it in a way that they can relate to.
    I am now someone who is weighing their options. I love what I do as a teacher, but I’m not really allowed to be a teacher anymore. I’m more of a trainer. Do this. Do it again. Do it better. I am beginning to see my kids (and yes, they are MY KIDS) as a number on a scale from 1 to 4. Gotta get those 2s to become 3s. Need more 4s. Oh, great! The new kid is a 1. At least it’s after BEDS day. Cynical? You betcha. Maybe there is something out there better than this for me.
    Well, what the great state of New York doesn’t know, and most likely doesn’t care about, is that one of my kids took both the Math and ELA assessments while an INPATIENT AT BRYLIN for mental health issues. And that another student was beaten by her father with a belt across her eyes an hour before she sat for the ELA exam. And she still took the damn thing!
    I’m so sick and tired of being beaten down for being a teacher. For caring for other people’s children more than some care for their own. Teaching is a great job. THE ABSOLUTE BEST! But it has become a thankless profession. Everyone who has ever set foot in a school now thinks that they know how to run one better than people who have studied and worked and researched how to teach. They know better than the people who do it every day. Forget the fact that the only schools they ever set foot in were private ones, far removed from the harsh reality of poverty, enormous class sizes, school-issued warmed over breakfasts and lunches that don’t cost the kids a penny, a complete lack of supplies or support from home. You know as well as I do what I’m talking about. They see numbers and scores. Low ones and they wrongly blame the teacher. They don’t see children. They see data. Data lies and can be manipulated.

  5. When I walk into my classroom every morning I see children who are homeless and living with relatives because they can’t find a landlord who will accept Belmont. I see students who come to school without as much as a pencil. (And I went out and bought every single supply on our list this year right down to hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes for one of my students.) I am not telling you because I want anyone to say how “nice” that was. I’m telling you because other people need to know that if I did it, there are countless other teachers who have done the same thing. I see students who come to school starving and asking for seconds at breakfast because the last meal they ate was lunch the previous day. I see kids wear the exact same clothes all week long. I see kids walking in shoes that are literally falling apart. I see children who look like they do not have running water in their homes they are so filthy and smell so bad. I see children whose parents are on drugs, or have disappeared and left them at grandma’s without anyone knowing where they’ve gone. And the truly ironic and amazing thing is is that I am at a really good school. I can only imagine how bad children in other schools have it.
    I didn’t become a teacher to get rich. I did not become a teacher because it would look good on a resume. I became a teacher, I am a teacher, and I hope to stay a teacher until the day I retire because working with kids makes me happy. I’m not happy anymore. My students are not happy anymore. I just pray for the day that all this teaching to the test , testing and evaluating, and data collecting shit goes away.

    Sorry this was so long, I had to break it up to leave my comment :-)

  6. Wow.
    To 3rd Grade and Julie:

    Your words are very heartfelt and powerful. Everyone reading this blog can relate personally to your experiences.
    I attended the BTF meeting last night. There is an overwhelming feeling of incomprehension and dread that has been caused by State Ed's lack concern for teachers.
    Julie: your Principal's statement regarding your HEDI "ineffective" score highlights the lack of leadership in our district. To tell you to "burn it and not think twice" is irresponsible. That document will be a serious detriment to your teaching career in this current "reform" environment. Until our admins stand up and protect the staff that they know to be competent, we are doomed. Your Principal may be a nice person but very spineless, like the rest of them.

  7. This is a post from the News last spring. Those who don't know very much about tests amd measurment should take a look.

    "Dirty little secret - These tests cannot be used to make the comparisons the state, districts, etc. are making.
    In order to compare individual students from one year to the next, or improvement, or lack thereof, from year to year at a particular grade level, the individual tests need to be normed. Norming a test is a long, tedious, multi- year process that requires a sampling that demographically corresponds to the population about to be tested (ex. 50% males, 50% females, etc). Norming is not only long and expensive, it compromises the test security itself, since it is given beforehand to large numbers of sample students. Schools, teachers, etc. could simply save these sample tests and drill prospective test takers in advance.
    In order to make the judgements that we are currently making each year's test would have to be EXACTLY, PERFECTLY EQUAL in difficulty (NOT JUST SIMILAR) to last year's test, and the year before, and the year before, etc. Go ahead, try to make just two perfectly equal tests! Bet you a year's pension you can't do it! Yet NYS is trying to tell us they are doing it year after year. These current tests are similar in appearance and difficulty to past years', but any "gains" or "losses"may simply be attributed to the test being slightly easier or harder.
    Remember too, these tests measure "Proficiency". "Proficiency" does not equate to " grade level". Grade level is the 50%ile on a normed test. "Proficiency" has no statistical meaning. "Proficiency" means anything anybody wants it to mean. It can mean one thing in NYS and something completely different in Iowa. It can mean one thing in 4th grade and something completely different in 8th.
    How do I know this? 30 years teaching reading."
    LOREN EASTMER, OCALA , FL on Tue Apr 3, 2012

  8. Peg ( frustrated and angry) :(October 19, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    How many schools are under the management of the Chameleon CMO ? I can't imagine that they have the hutzpah to have Waterfront and East High be their first customers. Things are just so crooked sounding...the whole mess is unbelievable!
    Some principals have stood up, but not from Buffalo that I know of.The teachers had better start looking out for themselves too. Huge numbers, like in Chicago, are what we need to put up any road blocks to these charlatans.

    I feel sorry for all of you who are subject to the fools in the state and federal legislatures with their devastating mandates. My 4 teacher-kids and grandkids are in the trenches with you. Keep writing and sounding off. Get the others where you work to join in the fight.

    It's a good thing that we have you Sean. Thanks for your" Loud Blogs"