Last week, my tiny, local school district (with a $114,018,788.00 annual budget) held a rally to protest Gov. Cuomo’s education reform proposals which include tying teacher evaluations to student test scores. Student test scores will count for between 40% and 50% of a teacher’s evaluation.
Gov. Cuomo also proposed “sweeping education reforms that would impose stricter teacher evaluations, extend the period of time to earn tenure, expand charter schools and boost state oversight of failing schools,” along with “an education tax credit for donations to public schools or scholarship funds that aid students in parochial schools.” As you can imagine, the New York State teachers unions oppose every last bit of Gov. Cuomo’s reform plan with a fiery, emotional rage.
The local media took notice of the rally, and it was widely covered on television and in print. Unfortunately for the teachers union and its fellow travelers, the media’s reaction didn’t go exactly as planned. Yesterday, the local daily newspaper published the following editorial:
Teachers, What Are Your Alternatives to Cuomo’s Plan?:
The teachers mostly say that what’s happened isn’t all their fault, that kids come to their classes already deficient in basic academic skills. They say the Common Core curriculum and testing regimen is a heartless and inaccurate way to measure school success. They want local control of schools to be emphasized, with the state, and Cuomo, functioning primarily as a money conduit.
They did a great job of saying what they’re against. But aside from wanting more money from the state, what exactly are they for?
If the answer is the status quo, does that mean they’re OK with the presence of 15 failing schools in the city of Rochester? As we have noted throughout our Unite Rochester campaign, inequities in our city schools work to the detriment of the entire region.
So consider this a challenge to local teachers and their supporters: We know what you oppose. Tell us what reforms you support, and we will publish them on this page.
We’re eager to hear specific ideas that will preserve teacher employment rights, while acknowledging the need to more easily remove bad instructors, to end the appalling inequity between urban and suburban schools and to devise a fair, sustainable teacher evaluation system.
This isn’t just about the teachers. Cuomo is the one who put this subject on a war footing, arguing that billions in school aid won’t be forthcoming if teachers refuse to come up with an (sic) reasonable evaluation system.
The governor has pointed many times, including during his visit to the Democrat and Chronicle Editorial Board in February, to the apparent ridiculousness of a teacher evaluation system that had 95 percent of state teachers rated effective or highly effective in 2013-14 while two-thirds of students lack proficiency in math or English.
Teachers know the system is flawed, but they oppose changes that would put more weight on student performance on state tests. Cuomo wants just that.
The D&C (yes, it’s a horrible nickname, but it’s the one Rochester came up with) is a liberal newspaper, one that’s grown shriller and shriller as its readership (and quality) has shrunk. It’s not exactly the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post or Fox News. As one would imagine, the very liberal teachers union leadership was shocked to be called out by what they assumed would be a sympathetic local media.
Thus, the local teachers’ union president determined a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part, and he was just the guy to do it.
Local School District Union President’s Response:
As the lead organizer of the rally and forum at [Local School Name] in [‘Puter’s Town] on Thursday, I welcome your challenge to respond to your characterization of the rally and forum as a wholly negative event, critical of the governor and offering no solutions.
First, I must correct the factual errors in your editorial and point out its faulty premise.
Participants in the rally and forum were not “mostly suburban”; parents, school board members, administrators, and teachers from 40 school districts from all over the region were among the over 2000 people present. Rural, urban, and suburban communities were together in concert. You ask for “collaboration and cooperation of disparate forces” in your editorial but you fail to recognize that Thursday’s rally epitomized that approach.
You characterize the event as lacking in positive ideas, yet the premise of your editorial is the need to “begin, at long last, the recovery of America’s troubled school system” and to seek a “solution to saving our schools.” The D and C has swallowed whole hog the big lie that America’s schools are in crisis. The key theme of the rally and forum this week was Public Schools: the Essential Institution. Our positive message is that our public schools are working, remarkably well. Our public schools are governed by elected school boards, community leaders who work tirelessly to provide opportunities and growth to children under strict requirements of financial accountability and transparency. Parents in every school district in our region partner with their local schools and manifest pride and satisfaction in the education of their children. What better measure exists to validate the excellence of our public schools than the achievements of our graduates and the satisfaction of their parents, our key clients?
Some of the best public schools in the country – by any measure – are right here in the Rochester area. In the D and C’s relentless narrative of crisis and gloom, you refuse to acknowledge this fact. An inconvenient truth.
You imply that defending public education against an attack from our own governor requires that public educators develop a plan of reform. You have fallen for the old “When did you stop beating your wife” fallacy. Public schools – as must every American institution – must improve, but the starting point is the needs of children, not the self-serving political rhetoric of the governor who has called our public schools a “monopoly.” If the governor calls the public library a monopoly or local governments monopolies or the state police a monopoly, should these essential institutions defend themselves?
Turning directly to your challenge, I ask the D and C what you have done to address “the presence of 15 failing schools in the city of Rochester [sic]” It is true that I as a teacher for 37 years in [‘Puter’s Town] have done nothing to address directly the needs of students attending the RCSD. I have – with joy and love – taught Urban/Suburban students who have come to my classroom. I have supported my teacher colleagues in the RTA and am so proud of them for all they do every day. But community problems have community solutions. Do you think that a teacher in [‘Puter’s Town] or a superintendent in Greece should solve the problems of our city community? What could possibly be more patronizing? I suppose you believe that your UNITE Rochester campaign and your support for Urban/Suburban have made you a champion for the needs of the students in the City of Rochester. As long as your newspaper calls children and their teachers failures day after day, the chance of the RCSD becoming the school district you want it to be is nil. You support Urban/Suburban – it is an admirable band-aid – but you don’t acknowledge the toxic premise that underlies it: that children in the City of Rochester have only one chance for a quality education and that is by taking a bus to the suburbs. If your newspaper wants real change, let’s begin by reversing that toxic premise: the Rochester City School District must flourish and that success begins by building on the many outstanding students and teachers currently working in the city schools.
So you want ideas to “end the appalling inequity between urban and suburban schools”? So do I. My five grandkids live in the city and are [and will be] attending city schools. The number one way we can end the inequity is to create demographic equilibrium between urban and suburban districts. Your newspaper can be instrumental in accomplishing this by relentlessly promoting the City of Rochester as a wonderful place to live and raise a family. When the % of college educated parents in the RCSD is the same as the % of college educated parents in a suburban or rural district, then we will see an end to the inequity. Other cities have done it, but maybe they believed in their city a little more than our region believes in ours? I hope not.
You want a “fair, sustainable teacher evaluation system”? We had one. It involved a principal or another administrator directly observing a teacher in the classroom. This principal or designee knew the students in the classroom, knew the community, knew the teacher and his/her dedication and commitment or lack thereof, and made a specific judgment regarding that teacher’s need to grow and develop. This system has been partially destroyed by the current system and will be completely destroyed by Governor Cuomo’s proposal. Evaluation will be removed from the local principal’s portfolio. This will be disastrous for teaching, but even more disastrous for parents who rely on the school principal as the leader of the community/neighborhood school.
So you want to “more easily remove bad instructors”? Teachers in our schools are “at will” employees for at least the first three years of their careers. They have no rights and can be asked to leave their jobs at any moment without a reason provided by their supervisors. It is ironic in terms of your comments about the city schools that the RCSD and the RTA have one of the most rigorous teacher induction programs in the country. The simple truth is that we cannot afford to dispose of teachers because there is not a large supply of outstanding teachers waiting to jump in. The real crisis in education is retention of excellent teachers: thousands are dropping out of teaching within five years, dispirited and discouraged. We have to develop great teachers and three years is plenty of time to determine if a teacher has what it takes to keep growing and developing into a master teacher over time. It is my experience as a leader of the [‘Puter’s Town] teachers for over 25 years, that tenured teachers who are not meeting with success every day in school leave or are counseled out. When a district brings charges against a teacher, the teacher usually resigns. The “bad teacher” bugaboo is an urban legend; of the hundreds of thousands of teachers in New York, a small handful of problem cases are at risk to become the representatives of a noble group of selfless professionals. We cannot let that happen.
The message at the rally and forum on Thursday was almost entirely positive: teachers were out in force to say how much we love our profession, how proud we are of our current and former students, and how much we are willing to fight to preserve community schools led by elected school boards.
There’s so much wrong with the union president’s response, ‘Puter will take it up in a separate post to follow. ‘Puter will also, unlike the union president, put forth a proposed plan for teacher evaluations, tenure reform and pay structure.
God help us all.
Always right, unless he isn’t, the infallible Ghettoputer F. X. Gormogons claims to be an in-law of the Volgi, although no one really believes this.
’Puter carefully follows economic and financial trends, legal affairs, and serves as the Gormogons’ financial and legal advisor. He successfully defended us against a lawsuit from a liquor distributor worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid deliveries of bootleg shandies.
The Geep has an IQ so high it is untestable and attempts to measure it have resulted in dangerously unstable results as well as injuries to researchers. Coincidentally, he publishes intelligence tests as a side gig.
His sarcasm is so highly developed it borders on the psychic, and he is often able to insult a person even before meeting them. ’Puter enjoys hunting small game with 000 slugs and punt guns, correcting homilies in real time at Mass, and undermining unions. ’Puter likes to wear a hockey mask and carry an axe into public campgrounds, where he bursts into people’s tents and screams. As you might expect, he has been shot several times but remains completely undeterred.
He assures us that his obsessive fawning over news stories involving women teachers sleeping with young students is not Freudian in any way, although he admits something similar once happened to him. Uniquely, ’Puter is unable to speak, read, or write Russian, but he is able to sing it fluently.
Geep joined the order in the mid-1980s. He arrived at the Castle door with dozens of steamer trunks and an inarticulate hissing creature of astonishingly low intelligence he calls “Sleestak.” Ghettoputer appears to make his wishes known to Sleestak, although no one is sure whether this is the result of complex sign language, expert body posture reading, or simply beating Sleestak with a rubber mallet.
‘Puter suggests the Czar suck it.