"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Massachusetts Teachers Should Repudiate Union Prostisuit, Paul Toner

MTA president, Paul Toner, is trying to buy his way to the front row of the Oligarchs' feeding trough.  The deal to introduce an unscientific and pedagogcally-brain dead test score tied teacher evaluation scheme represents a betrayal of teacher, student, and parent interests for the benefit of Toner's own career aspirations.

Massachusetts teachers should send Toner and other union prostisuits a clear message by voting down the corporate approved plan.  From SouthCoastToday.com:
The first thing a union leader must remember is to protect members from injustice. It is, apparently, the first thing Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, forgot.

At flashpoint is Toner's position — the rank and file have not voted on it — that using test scores from the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System is a legitimate measure of a classroom teacher's competency.
Diane Ravitch, a former proponent of high-stakes testing and an assistant secretary of education under George H. W. Bush, speaks to this highly volatile and controversial position in her recent book, "The Death and Life of the Great American School System."

"The problem (is) the misuse of testing for high-stakes purposes, the belief that tests could identify ... which students should be held back, which teachers ... should fired or rewarded, and which schools should be closed — and the idea that these changes would inevitably produce better education," wrote Ravitch. She goes on to say, "... testing (is) not the problem. If testing inspires a degree of loathing, it is because it has become the crucial hinge on which turns the fate of students and the reputations and futures of their teachers."

One of the problems with using the MCAS as a measuring stick of teacher effectiveness is that MCAS, in the opinion of many critics throughout the commonwealth, is a flawed instrument. A list of its debits is long and includes being unfair to limited-English-speaking, minority, special education and poor kids. Essentially, Toner has surrendered before the real battle has been joined. And how does he justify such blatant appeasement?

Get out ahead of education reform, see the national trends, be proactive about the inevitable changes sure to come in the state education board's new evaluation policy regarding teacher evaluation. These are all talking points for a union leader who has, consciously and without consensus, performed an act of self-immolation. The power brokers who inhabit superintendent's offices throughout the commonwealth must be chortling with glee at Toner's willingness to plead no contest to this hot-button issue of tying test results to teacher evaluations.

American Federation of Teachers President Thomas Gosnell wisely rejects the linkage between testing and teacher evaluation for those he represents, predominantly in the inner-city areas such as Boston, Lowell, and Lawrence. Does Gosnell simply have a better grasp of what constitutes education reform? Or is it possible he has the best interests of kids and his membership at heart? Perhaps he is not looking ahead to his next job, climbing the money ladder to a more cozy seat at the table of local and national power brokers.

Unfortunately, Toner's preemptive strike affects SouthCoast teachers, who are not members of the AFT and the enlightened leadership of Gosnell. Their membership is MTA and in Fall River and New Bedford, especially, the fallout from MCAS has placed a burden on educators, and now, Toner has deepened the chasm.

It is one thing for the MTA president to assert a position that improves the education of students and improves the process of teacher evaluation, but quite another to capitulate on principles, undermining the people he was elected to represent. . . . .

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