Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How we got in this mess

Teachers, their unions, and others all want to know how we got into this educational mess.  Dianne Ravitch spends day and night defending educators from the "reformist" voices of Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan and the like, who argue for the use of  student achievement in teacher evaluations.  The reformists say we need to look at the "value-added" that a teacher brings to the classroom.   My union (along with others), cries foul, and goes here there and everywhere to testify.  They regurgitate claims that value-added modeling used to measure student achievment gains is huey.  And they take up the fight against movies made by directors who know more about global warming than education.  But why?   Why has this turned in to an all out war on education?  How did we get here?   Why are we still here?

Clear the air, and you'll realize this  fight is one that should have been over long ago.    The real fight is over seniority based rules that pay the most tenured teachers more money than the most effective teachers.   The same rules call for new teachers to be fired before the least effective teachers.    They are calls for reform that have fallen on deaf ears for many, many years.  They are calls for reform that were ingored.  But they are rules that could have been, and should have been, addressed by the unions themselves.   Had simple but thoughtful reforms been made or even attempted, the foundation upon which "reformers" built their castle would have fallen into the sea.  But like an old stubborn mule, the unions, led by the eldest teachers that control their ranks and benefit most by the imposition of the rules they defend, refused to change.

The result, is a fight that never had to be.   A fight that has now morphed itslef into an us vs. them fight over the use of testing.  We're fighting over the rediculous standardized test data that was released to the public by a newspaper more concerned with selling a few papers than fixing education.   We're fighting over the relaibility of value-added modeling- a topic about which most teachers and politicians and common folk care to know very little.   We're fighting over the merits of movie directors and chancellors of education.     It's a fight that never should have happened.   But it's a fight on grounds where the unions- and Diane Ravitch-  stand a much better chance of winning.   

Don't be fooled by what you hear and read today.   The real fight is over seniority.

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