Why I Think the UFT Should REALLY Fight “Advance” (Part 1)

November 29, 2013 — 8 Comments

by Megan Moskop

Teacher/UFT Delegate

M.S. 324 Patria Mirabal, Washington Heights

On Wednesday, November 20th, the MORE caucus brought our Resolution for an End to the New Evaluation System (Advance) to the UFT’s Delegate Assembly. I came to the meeting prepared to present our resolution and ask that it be placed on the agenda for our December meeting. Below are the words I prepared to motivate our resolution if called upon. Stay tuned for my personal account of what happened at the meeting. 

In our last Delegate Assembly, President Mulgrew asserted that “We are losing teachers at a faster rate than ever before. The evaluation system is exacerbating the problem.”  For this reason, and many others, we know that Advance is detrimental to our profession. Our fellow teachers wouldn’t quit at such alarming rates if we as the governing body of their Union show them we’re fighting for them, by REALLY FIGHTING this evaluation system.

As a union of educational leaders, as elected delegates to the largest AFT local, we can’t just make concessions and tweaks to a broken system that fuels what we’ve termed (in the agenda’s resolution 1) “a destructive testing mania.”  Resolutions 1, 2, and 3, already on today’s agenda [to ban standardized testing in grades K-2, to create more options for local measures within advance, and to protect lesson planning freedom] are a step in the right direction, but they are not enough.

We must completely denounce the bureaucratic mess that is “Advance.” It undermines our professional judgement, jeopardizes our academic freedom, rejects our expertise, and eliminates our classroom autonomy.  Furthermore, it pushes our schools to spend precious time on paperwork, and takes focus away from our essential responsibility to educate the next generation of citizens.

Our leadership has been calling for new curriculum and more support.  Since we are good educators, we deeply value GOOD curriculum and GOOD professional support.  Right now, however, those things are NOT what we need. We don’t need new systems that are hastily shoved into our hands.   What we NEED is a good system within which to work and grow.  We deserve a system that enhances our work instead of undermining it.

For-profit interests, who, unlike us, did play a role in creating Advance, often paint teachers as a problem to be fixed. We are not a problem, and as long as we go along with this broken, demoralizing system, we implicitly agree that teachers, not poverty, not inequality of resources, not failing systems, not inept bureaucracies, that TEACHERS are the problem to be fixed in our education system.

We must stand together in opposition to this system of evaluation, which reinforces the corporate-fueled notion that our teaching, and our CHILDREN are standardized products to be quantified and measured.

Unlike corporate education deformers, this delegate assembly was never given input into the creation of Advance, so now, before it is too late, we must give our input by rejecting it vehemently along with the dozens of chapters and over 1,000 individuals who have signed this petition.

On behalf of our colleagues and our communities, it our OUR JOB to fully reject “Advance” and push for the creation of a collaboratively created evaluation system that demonstrates respect for our skill and our judgement as educators.

It is not enough for us to whine about waiting for curriculum and to ask for minor adjustments to a system that is fundamentally flawed because it rests on the assumption that bad teaching is the problem in the American education system.

Therefore, I call on the delegate assembly to  (reading from resolution) resolve that the UFT should mobilize teachers, parents and students towards a repeal of the Education Law 3012c and the new evaluation scheme.

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8 responses to Why I Think the UFT Should REALLY Fight “Advance” (Part 1)

  1. 

    That’s the speech I would write….. were I that articulate. Covers all the bases yet does so concisely. That’s no simple task. Eagerly awaiting part 2.

    Thinking out loud: w/ Megan’s permission ( and MORE Steering’s. of course), seems to me the speech as written would make an excellent community/school-outreach tool while we wait for the publication of next newsletter. School mailboxes for those of us who have access to them; hand-outs in front of schools and at events for those that don’t.

    Ties together what we were doing in the fall ( petitioning around Advance) w. what we’re doing at present and the gnarly publishing and distribution problems are super-minimized ( i.e. we can just print it out.)

  2. 
    Teach for Revolution! November 29, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Thanks for this Megan!

    I joined MORE precisely because our party has the courage and combative spirit to fight for an end to the insanity of the corporate driven takeover and destruction of public education.

    We need combatants, not collaborators like Mulgrew and Unity.

    Keep up the great work!

  3. 

    I wish this was this simple. We need to build alliances in the legislature and then move for sane and reasonable change. While we can all support many of the sentiments here, we know that not calling for explicit solutions only supports the negative perception that our profession has.

  4. 

    I think our task is to educate the masses about the variables that hinder achievement. We all are aware of the teacher variable, but so many others need to be addressed and without fear of political correctness. We are not blaming the ” Victim” when we posit the following: socio-economic status; peer pressure, lack of role models; difficult communities to navigate; students’ deviant behaviors; oversized classes, and parental mistrust of a system they believe had failed them. Of course, there are more reasons for education failure such as betrayal of an oppressed culture or neighborhood, but unless we are brutally honest, pedagogues will always be blamed for this deeply and profoundly troubling education dilemma in America. There is nothing wrong with being evaluated, and we ought not take the attitude of ” How dare they do this,” for it is precisely what the Capitalists want us to do. Then they would say, ” I told you that teachers are only concerned about their jobs and could care less about students.” That said, all the fancy new scholastic programs will fail unless we get back to basics, unless our government institutes anti-poverty programs ( look at the 1970s and achievement gaps), and unless we stand together as a profession that welcomes scrutiny. Thank you for your time, Dr. John Marvul.

  5. 
    real time educator November 29, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    In response to this prepared, but not heard resolution, I must call to everyone’s attention the fact that “Advance” is the implementation of the current administration of the DOE. We all know that the implementation of the new teacher evaluation system has been done with many errors, but to say that we have to do away with it is ridiculous. We can not throw out the baby with the bath water! The UFT has the right idea when they resolve to tweak certain parts a bit at a time. This leadership understands that first, the teacher evaluation system is a law and second, we can not just suppose as a union to start from scratch knowing how ignorant that will make us look. We have the ability to renegotiate with the new administration which will take over in just days! I am one of many that trusts our leadership to lead us in the right direction.

  6. 

    As a member of delegate assembly I wonder if the writer of this blog hears the same Presidential report I hear. I wonder if they get the same UFT emails that inform the membership that the UFT is filing grievances over Advance. If anything the UFT is looking to solve the issues we are having with real solutions so this State mandated evaluation is fair.
    The writer of this blog should be concentrating more on keeping us United then divided. Instead of attacking UFT leadership they should be standing with the leadership over these concerns and appauding the UFT for standing if for the membership and filing these grievances.
    It is unfortunate that the DOE is attempting to destroy an evaluation that was intended to increase support but this DOE is on their way out. The New Evaluation has the potential to increase professional development and make evaluations about improving our pedagogy. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water, let’s improve this system so we can actually move forward not backwards.

  7. 

    I just read your post and I’d like to add my voice to what is now the New Teacher Evaluation System.

    I have been an ATR since the September 2011 school year. Since that time, I as an ATR, Traveling Teacher, have gone from school to school, week to week, in total 64.

    Last year, I was observed by a “Field Supervisor”, who was given a caseload of ATRs in my district. As an ATR, you are either “S” or “U” rated. The Field Supervisor called the school where I was traveling and gave me 3 hours notice. I was supposed to teach a lesson, showing pacing, differentiation, the CCSS, using a format of my choice.

    So, thank god that I had these kids two days earlier and I was given the kids that I really like and who loved me as an educator and cool person with a legal background. I had three hours to prepare so I prepared a lesson on primary and secondary sources because I knew that the students needed to do research for a term paper. So, I copied a lesson plan that I had written weeks ago, I put into the lesson all of the necessary CCSS for my subject area, made numerous copies of the sources, collated, stapled and organized them.

    So, while she is entering, some of students are in the class. The rest are trickling in after the late bell. I had a pacing list on a white board, had two copies of my lesson plan, and all documents in piles on the side of my desk. On the chalk board, I had already put up my EQ, Aim, Do-Now, had the mini lesson ready to go, had the group lesson, an individual practice assignment, enrichment for those who finished quickly, and exit slips.

    I stood in front of the class telling them that they needed to get ready for class with their notebooks, for them to look at the Aim and Do-Now, I explained what exactly we were going to do and what they were going to learn as a result.

    While I was taking attendance, and getting ready to move forward, one of my students, who I liked very much, gestured to me. I went over to her. She whispered to me, “who is that white lady?” I told her that she was my supervisor. Within seconds the girl turned her chair around and said, and I quote: “Let me tell you mother****s something, you have to get your f’ing notebooks out, get started with the Do-Now, don’t talk unless she, meaning me, asks you a f’ing question. Get all your work done. No B***S***! You got that! And with her eloquent speech, I got to teach my lesson, they got to learn, the ATR Field Supervisor complemented me on the lesson, calling me an “Excellent Educator”, gave me an “S” for the year. With that, I stood in the same place that she had left me, as she exited the door. I just breathed and thanked god that it was over.

    That said…I was just force-hired at a school that I did not want to work at. When the principal asked me to work at the school I told him that it would not be a good fit for me, the traveling alone was too much, and the kids are horrible.

    After traveling to the school that force hired me, a week earlier, I was sent to Stuy. It was a good two days. On Tuesday of that week, I received an email saying “You’ve Been Hired!” It went on to say that I was hired, was being plucked out of the Traveling Pool, and would be working there starting on the Thursday of the same week that I was to be at Stuy.

    I immediately called the Union. I called Amy, Alice, Mike Sill, who told me that he would research the problem and get back to me. I called friends in the Pool, and was told that because this was a provisional hire, that I had to agree and sign a contract with the principal. On Wednesday, while still at Stuy, Amy Arrundell called me back and asked me if the position was in my license area, in my district (which for all folks who are H.S. teachers in Manhattan, all of Manhattan is our school district). I said yes, and she said, in a very nasty, matter of fact way, “there’s a vacancy in your license area, you have yourself a job.” I was stymied. I spoke to friends that entire day, before I had to go to the gallows–the force hire school.

    I remember crying and crying, my husband consoling me and telling me you do what you can and that’s all that you can do. Everyone I know said the same thing. However, my fellow provisional hires told me that I had to sign a contract or it would not be official.

    So, for ten days I have been at this school. My first day, Thursday, I was given bubble sheets and a classroom of “my own”. The room was filthy, the cabinets were so disgusting that you could not put anything in them. The desk was also gross and too had to be cleaned. The kids had peppered the floors with all kinds of candy wrappers, bags of garbage from their breakfasts, and lunch, bottles of left over ice teas and juices were also left in the corners. Books were everywhere. The place needed a face lift.

    The whole time I’m in the classroom, and thinking what a terrible predicament I was in, all I could think to do was turn on my heal, and leave the school, get on the train and go home. But, I did not. Now, I’m not brave, so if anyone is thinking that I did the right thing for staying, get that out of your brain, now!

    The first group of kids, through the fifth class did nothing. I took attendance and I could barely get their attention. After all, I was to be their fifth teacher in a succession of a ATRs since September. The students were used to doing nothing at all. Really. They were given worksheets to fill out and put into their folders, and that was largely what was done for 2.5 months.

    When I arrived, they looked at me as they would a sub and ignored what I said. So, I took attendance, and sat there thinking to myself, OMG, what am I to do. So, I made small talk with some of the kids that really wanted to learn, as well as some kids that remembered me from the week that I had traveled to their school. The next day, Friday, went the same way.

    I was at my wits end because I was not given instructions as to who I had in my classes, if anyone was taking a regents exam, what grades did I have, which global was I teaching and to whom, who had IEPs, who were my ELLs and ESLs, who were my emotionally disturbed kids and so on. Never once did the principal have a meeting with me to talk about how to write a CCSS Lesson for all of my classes, because I did not know how to differentiate, with all of these kids who were labelled 1s.

    For three days, I shot off emails to the principal. My first meeting was about how I should “condense” (his word not mine) 2.5 worth of formal global lessons into one week. Yes, you read it right, one week. I was agog and could not believe that this was possible, only because it was impossible. I don’t care who you are, consolidating that much work into a small number of days was not going to happen.

    The next meeting with the principal was one where I wanted him to address how to write lesson plans, IEPs, ELLs, ESLs, emotionally disturbed students and so on. I also wanted to present my students with a class contract that included a ban on electronics in my classroom, the responsibility of bringing school supplies and so on. He proceeded to give me handouts on common planning meetings and PDs that take place Monday – Thursday. I had to also ask him to put me on the email list for any meetings or announcements, fire drills, etc. that I needed to know about. As for cell phones, he told me to first ask the student to put it away, and if the student refuses to write out a referral. He also wanted me to know that classroom management had a lot to do with the lesson. This is ed-speak for, if your students act out, it’s because your lesson is not fun or rigorous. Yes, that is really what this man was saying to me.

    I contacted the union rep at 52 Broadway who is my direct contact person, with all of my concerns, including the force hire issue, condensing 2.5 months of lessons into a week, an injury that will require surgery ( I put off for two plus weeks so that the kids would have a consistent teacher) because of a rotator cuff tear, the need for a co-teacher while I am away ( because after telling the principal that I needed surgery and four to six weeks of PE, he told me that before returning, I would have to write all of the unit and daily lesson plans).

    The union rep only addressed the lesson planning, not the issue about signing a contract to work there. He also spoke to the principal about my upcoming surgery and my need to be out for 4-6 weeks.

    I shot another email to the principal. This time, we met with one of the social studies teachers. In the meeting, the principal asked the SS teacher if he knew what the school’s focus was this year, with regard to the Danielson Framework. The teacher didn’t know and the principal got hostile. I could see the vein pulsing on the side of his head. The teacher than went on to say that I would not have to write a unit lesson on what the students had missed, for me to start with the Scientific Revolution and work from there. The SS teacher also said that he would show me his unit lessons and lesson plans later in the day, the principal told us that we would be excused from the PD for that day. When I went to see the teacher, he said that his lesson plans were on his computer. He went on to say that he would give me copies of his lesson plans the next day, and we went to the PD. The next day, still no lesson plans, then we had off for Thanksgiving.

    I still do not have lesson plans that I have written for my classes. I did manage to pull a unit plan off of the internet which helped me great deal. It had the CCSS embedded, the E.Q., the Aim, Do Now, differentiation, etc. So, I’ve used this to help guide me. However, even after bringing the kid’s folders home, going to skedula.com, going to aris and aris learn, I am still lost. I have not had time to sit down and read all 34 IEPs, or find out from the ELL/ESL teacher how to include these students in my lesson plan. I have no idea about real enrichment for my three upper level students. Out of all of my students, there are 3 that I see are above average.

    I have all of this going on at the same time. Two weeks ago on a Friday, I gave the kids a quiz am, this is a test measuring tool that is longer than a quiz, but shorter than an exam. The AP and P came by my room towards the last 5-7 minutes and asked me to step out of the door. I did. I was asked why my students were talking. I didn’t think that they were referring to the students who choose to do nothing, which is 96% of my students. I though they were referring to the three girls and one boy who had finished. So, I said, they are talking because they are finished and I gave them some down time. The next questions from the AP was how long had I planned the lesson for. I said 37 minutes. She told me that I needed to plan for the entire 46 minutes. I wanted to tell her the vast majority of students, 10 percent, who do get to class on time, are on task. The rest, who may or may not do the work, ask me what to do after 25 minutes have elapsed. I told her that I awaited her visit on the following Monday. She never showed for the next three days.

    So, I have the kid’s folders and I see that 96% have worksheets in their folders that are either partially finished–not enough for a grade, or not finished an just a name in the name section at the top, or just 10-12 worksheets just inside taking up space. These same kids, 89% of them received a passing grade. Many of them had more than 5 absences, some even had double digits and still passed, despite the evidentiary materials in their folders.

    Now, my name appears on their transcripts showing that I gave out their first cycle grades. I did not. I was not yet force hired.

    As I sit here writing to you all, the day after Thanksgiving, all I can think of is how am I to undertake this very large assignment. I know that there is very little that I can do to get to these kids. It’s really so very late in the semester. The seniors in my first period class were given packet that I spent $110 copying for them. Yet, they do not do it, and tell me not to bother them. They are slated to take the January 2014 Global Regents exam. The other four global classes are supposed to receive instruction in global 3 & 4.

    I have tried ten days of instructions only to find that I have wasted my time. The three kids that I focus on, one more, a fourth is now coming on board after two phone calls to her mother, do the work, but really don’t want to be there. Almost all of the kids tell me that my class is meaningless to them since the school is phasing out, so they don’t care. I have to compete with cell phones daily. Kids are taking photos for their Facebook page, outside the room during class time, I have the curling iron on and hair being done in class, I have a girl painting her nails, I have kids playing games on their phones, I have kids shouting at each other the entire class period–over whether the window should be up or down, I have boys talking about sexual activity, I have kids telling each other that I am a white bitch, it goes on and on and on.

    I have yet to have a conference with the principal about the New Teacher Evaluation. He has given me a large xeroxed copy of the Danielson Framework and I have signed up for a training this coming week.

    Yet still, I don’t know what to do. I am tired, and beat down, and get no help from anyone really. My union rep onsite is a nice guy, but I’m told mostly to write referrals. I will be writing referrals for days, weeks and months to come. There is no culture at the school. There are no consequences. The kids do not look up to authority. The goal of my students is to get a passing grade. I tell them that if they do nothing, they will get nothing. In their minds they tell themselves that they are going to pass. In the minds of my seniors they believe that if they want to pass the regents exam in January, that all they need to do is to believe they will pass.

    In my estimation, there is always a solution to every problem. I just hope that my force hired is something that can be overturned. I can’t possibly have to stay in this institution of Mayhem.

    Ugh! Yikes! OMG! WTF! I need a lawyer.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Why I think the UFT should REALLY fight “Advance” (Part 2): Speaking Up at the Delegate Assembly « Movement of Rank and File Educators - December 4, 2013

    […] you read my last post, you know that I came to the November 20th UFT delegate assembly ready to speak in favor of our […]

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