By Jia Lee, MORE/New Action’s UFT Presidential Candidate and Chapter Leader: The Earth School
Mike Schirtzer, MORE/New Action’s UFT Executive Board Candidate and Delegate: Leon M. Goldstein H.S.
We have to radically rethink the way we have these conversations. We have been told that teachers must be held accountable and that experience does not equate to good teaching. These are both myths that were never supported by facts, rather by the intention to fire teachers en masse, as if we were somehow to blame for the country’s refusal to deal with structural inequality. First, let’s start by reclaiming the language from corporate and political reformers who have never spent a day in a public school classroom. In New York City, schools have diverse needs: we teach students who come from multiple backgrounds, with more native languages than anywhere in the world, and many with academic challenges. If we start from the premise that teachers, students, our backgrounds, and our learning styles are all very different, then logic will dictate that we can not have one, catch-all, standardized way to evaluate teachers. Sorry Danielson rubric! Let’s take take it one step further. The idea that teachers need to be evaluated supports the “bad teacher” narrative. There is no proof that teachers are the problem, but there is plenty of evidence that other factors such as poverty, lack of resources, and failed top-down educational policies affect our students. Who decided that we MUST have teacher evaluations? Teachers were never part of this conversation!
We were told that years of teaching do not equal good teaching, yet, we beg to differ. In our profession over 50% of new teachers will leave before reaching the 5 year mark. Any classroom teacher knows that if you can survive those first few years, then you must have done something right, you must be good and you must love your profession. It is time we move away from the terms “evaluation and accountability” and start emphasizing “collaboration and mentoring”. Evaluations are meant to be punitive, they are not there to better our educators or to help our students. Several administrators have told us that the orders coming down from district offices is not to give too many fours. This alone proves the invalidity of the system.
Here are our proposals:
- End alternative certifications: Every teacher should be mandated to student teach for one entire year under the guidance of an experienced teacher, with daily support.
- Strong mentoring- Every teacher should have four years of active mentoring. This may be in place now on paper, but it is not fully implemented. They will have common preparation time, ensure that mentors and new teachers are compensated with a period off and/or per-session. This will also serve as the professional assignment/C-6 in high schools for both members . They should observe each other teach and share helpful feedback.
- Inter-visitation and collaboration: Like the so called “Finnish model”, this will be the main part that replaces the current flawed system. There will no longer be top-down Professional Developments. Instead, all teachers will work together to develop units, assignments, activities, and common themes. Teachers will have inter-visitation, which is not peer review. They will visit each other’s class, observe and share thoughts afterwards. There will be no review, nor grade; just a conversation. This will ensure discussions are productive and solidarity and trust is built among each other.
- Administrators- Must have 10 years experience minimum and a real C-30 process made up of PA/PTA parents, UFT chapter leader and members , and Student Government members at the high school level, that will interview and select educational leaders for our schools. Experience counts!