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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Newark Teachers: Reject Weingarten's Betrayal of Teachers

Everywhere AFT's lead lawyer goes to "help" negotiate for teachers, she leaves a wake of destruction for the profession.  But, then, that is what she is paid to do, as she works off her debt to Bloomberg and the plutocrats for making her president of AFT in the first place.

In Newark, she has now added to her impressive list of betrayals by cutting a deal with Cory Booker and the Facebook chief twink to offer a meritless bonus pay plan that has a demonstrated failure record in New York, Chicago, and Nashville, where paying teachers for higher test scores did not raise test scores.  What it can do is end job security for teachers and create an endless stream of temporary pedagogical sharecroppers that school CEOs can manhandle in their corporate reform schools.

Weingarten and her traitorous lieutenant, Joseph Del Grosso, are telling teachers this is good deal because they are ones who can apply the lipstick to this pig.  In other words, teachers will be given the  detailed checklists developed by the corporate reform schoolers to score their colleagues.  What the membership does not know is that the checklists provide no leeway for professional discretion in evaluating a teacher based on a what a small cadre of corporate crackpots consider good teaching.

If Newark teachers ratify this contract, they will have proved themselves as stupid and/or desperate as Weingarten believes them to be.  Newark teachers need to consult with their Chicago colleagues for their next steps, dump the traitorous Del Grosso, and run Randi Weingarten back across the Hudson River before they tear up this contract and start over.  Once they allow their pay to be determined by test scores, years of work will be unraveled overnight and their profession will be further denigrated.

Newark teachers need to stand up and say what is good for students in order to earn the respect of their communities.  This is not good for students, and parents will view ratification as a cheap sellout by teachers more interested in cash than caring, compassion, and collaboration.

Story from the NYTimes:           

By NEWARK — On one side of the table was the union firebrand Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. On the other was the state education commissioner handpicked by Gov. Chris Christie, who became a star among fellow Republicans for aggressively taking on public employee unions.

During months of intense and late-night negotiations for a new teachers contract for the chronically troubled Newark school system, the parties settled on what they believed would be a landmark compromise.
At the center of it was merit pay — the idea of paying teachers based on performance that has long been a flash point between critics of teachers’ unions who believe it would increase accountability, and union leaders who fear that performance would be based on test scores rather than the subtleties of classrooms.
Though Ms. Weingarten had criticized what she calls “merit pay schemes,” she and the other union leaders agreed to embrace the concept in exchange for a promise that teachers would have a rare role in evaluating performance, declaring it a way to rebuild respect for a $1 billion school system that has bled students and money to the suburbs and, increasingly, to charter schools.
Joseph Del Grosso, the leader of the local union who was jailed for striking 40 years ago, has been telling his members that approving the contract will turn them into “heroes.”
But suspicion tends to run high in this New Jersey city, long rived by politics of race and class. Many teachers worry that the bonuses will never appear. And a faction has staged an insurrection against union leaders, saying the contract will weaken job security and pit teacher against teacher.
“This is how they will break our union,” said Renee Pulliam, a high school special education teacher in her 24th year in Newark.
On Monday, the city’s 4,700 union members are scheduled to vote on the contract. Both sides say they cannot predict the outcome, but either way, what happens here will echo among teachers’ unions across the country.
If the contract is approved, it could prompt other districts to push for pay-for-performance, by suggesting that merit pay is no longer so symbolic a fight among the rank and file.
Newark’s deal itself was prompted by recent changes to the state’s tenure laws that were once considered unthinkable. And both sides insist that this deal could be a model for union-management collaboration, giving teachers a voice they have often felt was denied in reform.
If it fails, beleaguered union leaders could take it as a new sign of strength in contract negotiations — similar, some teachers said, to the example of the Chicago teachers’ strike last month.
From novices to the most senior, Newark teachers would remain among the highest paid in the nation, earning average raises of more than 13 percent in the three-year contract. But teachers evaluated as “ineffective” would have to improve before they could earn the raises that under previous contracts have come automatically every year.
Teachers could earn bonuses of $5,000 if they are evaluated as “highly effective,” and an extra $5,000 if they agree to teach in the district’s lowest-performing schools, or an extra $2,500 for teaching subjects like math and science that have a lack of qualified teachers. The money for bonuses will come from the $100 million gift that Mark Zuckerberg, a co-founder of Facebook, pledged to the city in 2010.
As the union has mounted a push to pass the contract, Ms. Weingarten has insisted that the bonuses are not strictly “merit pay,” wanting to avoid the impression that the union sold out on a long-held principle.
The local president, Mr. Del Grosso, worries less about semantics. “I’ve always found it strange that any union, when it heard the word ‘pay,’ would reject it,” he said in an interview.
In presentations to members last week, Mr. Del Grosso argued that the contract would affirm teachers as professionals, like doctors or lawyers.
“The doctors take away another doctor’s license, lawyers disbar lawyers,” he said. “Why shouldn’t teachers be the judges of their own peers? My doctor tells me he gets bonuses, lawyers at law firms get bonuses. Why shouldn’t teachers?”
But at the first meeting last week, teachers challenged Mr. Del Grosso, calling him a “liar” as he tried to argue the merits of peer review.
“I’ve been a distinguished teacher for years; I’ve bought kids clothes,” said Donna Tollinchi, an eighth-grade math teacher, still shaken outside the meeting, at a performing arts center downtown, where she confronted Mr. Del Grosso. “For them to turn around and say I don’t deserve my salary?”
Some teachers, speaking anonymously out of fear of retaliation, argued that few will actually get the performance bonuses — not because they are ineffective, but because the system has had a way of wasting money fast. Others worried that even peer evaluations could be unfair.
And even supporters of the contract acknowledge that there are about 650 teachers — those with more seniority or advanced degrees — who will lose the potential to earn as much as they did under the old contract. Those teachers could opt for a separate salary scale that pays somewhat more generously but does not offer the potential for performance bonuses.
Branden Rippey, 41, a high school history teacher, is one of those.
“I’m opposed to the principle of merit pay, and losing money to a new contract,” he said. The proposal, he argued, would just pave the way to staff the schools with young Teach for America teachers, “who get six months training and don’t work for more than 3, 4, 5 years.”
He is among a coalition of union members who held their own meetings last week, urging their colleagues to vote no, oust Mr. Del Grosso and choose new leaders to negotiate a better deal.
“I can’t believe I have counted on this union to negotiate all this time,” said Ms. Tollinchi, the math teacher. “This is the best they can do?”
Supporters of the contract reply, bluntly, yes. (Trying to emphasize their respect for the teachers’ union, and its autonomy, the Newark schools superintendent, Cami Anderson, and the state commissioner, Christopher Cerf, have declined to comment on the contract in advance of the vote.)
Governor Christie recently warned the city that it will see a significant cut in state aid next year. The state is struggling with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and lagging economic growth.
Given the alternatives, is it not better, Mr. Del Grosso asked, to be known as the union that embraced change?

“I’ve heard the people who call the Facebook money ‘blood money,’ ” he said. “But if I don’t take the money, I wonder who will get it.”

1 comment:

  1. Sharecroppers are already legitimized, as I can personally attest, having been one for about 17 days. And in this district there has been no hullabaloo regrading the creation of this particular servant in the field of these lords.