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Restructure this

January 28, 2007 pm31 7:39 pm

Bloomberg and his chancellor are restructuring again. What are they doing? Why are they doing it?

The New York City Department of Education is involved in a campaign of disorganizing the school system, generating failure, generating demoralization.

Structure

Four years ago the 5 high school districts and 30 odd local districts and the chancellor’s district and (what else) were replaced by 10 Regions .

Last year a way was offered for schools to get out of the regions: Empowerment. The name is intentionally misleading. In return for a little extra control over some local issues, and one fewer meeting each month, schools lost DoE support and had to contract for services. Salami-style, empowerment was the first slice of privatization.

The new proposal marks an acceleration of the same. The regions are being collapsed into 4 theme-based regions (whatever that means) to provide support, and more schools are being forced into empowerment. A new option – finding a ‘partner’ to provide services (for public consumption: “partner;” internally “vendor”) is a quicker route to privatizaion. See Leo Casey’s post on Edwize for more details and some response.

(Below the fold, more on Reorganizing Schools, Reorganizing Personnel, Curricular Issues, Conclusions, and Response) ————>

Reorganizing Schools

Bloomberg’s Chancellor continues to break up big schools without any serious examination of what has happened in the schools already broken up. (They have issued at least one dishonest press release). Their goal? Probably a complicated combination of disorganization of the system in general, breaking up large and easily organizable concentrations of teachers, and giving the appearance of doing something (anything). The UFT supports a mix of large and small schools, but opposes the way the DoE is doing it. We were too slow, and we assumed good faith where we should not have.

Reorganizing Personnel

With the multiplication of schools (more, smaller) there are many more principal slots, and many of these are going to Leadership Academy candidates. Non-teachers and untrained teachers are being placed in charge of our schools (and “empowered”) This is dangerous.

The “Region” reorganization of ’03 and the current reorganization, have flipped knowledgeable staff from office to office (or out on their behinds), or encouraged retirement. Those sitting there now are more likely to hold their positions for their loyalty than for their skills and abilities.

The “Free Market Transfer” system combined with new school openings (and closings), and the current system of ATRs have introduced extra (as if we needed more) instability into the system. There are few schools where even a large core of teachers has worked together for an extended period. Part of the new plan is also to charge schools the actual cost of teachers’ salaries (for new teachers, not incumbents). This will lead to even more discrimination against senior teachers. (and is another piece of the framework supporting privatization).

The heavy reliance on Teaching Fellows exacerbates the problem. I know plenty who are making a career out of teaching, but most leave even more quickly than non-fellows. The average years of service is now 4 1/2 (?) and probably falling. These guys are churning personnel.

Curricular Issues

The last major curricular change was the adoption of mandated reading and math texts (2002?). But in 2003 several Regions brought in “The Workshop Model” (a required method of delivering instruction, in all classes, at all times) and others brought in (was it called the Point of Entry Model?). Teachers were forced to use their Region’s selection. There was harassment over seating arrangements (checkerboard in one region, U’s in another, Brooklyn kids learn different from Bronx kids?), bulletin boards, etc. Also, there’s a privatization issue. An Australian company was brought in to provide coaching to teachers. Does anyone know the size of that contract?

(as a minor, positive, aside, Math A and Math B are being phased out, Algebra, Geometry, Trig, in. This by New York State. And a likely negative: the DoE has mandated Prentice Hall’s NYS Math A, Math A/B, and Math B books. These are really PH’s Algebra, Geometry, and Trig books, with a few pages of special NYS material. I bet PH tries to put new covers on, and replace the old NYS pages with a few new ones, and get a massive book order from the DoE, which probably has no problem with the concept.)

Conclusions

The New York City Department of Education is involved in a campaign of disorganizing the school system, generating failure, generating demoralization. They are encouraging rapid turnover at all levels. They are privatizing around the edges, and getting bolder.

At Tilden they altered the ground to generate failure so that they could shut it down. They planned this. It was no accident.

What are they planning for the system as a whole? Breaking up into small, semi-private units? Bidding the whole thing off? The public anti-tenure statements are nothing compared to fighting with myriad small companies over tenure issues. Look already at how hard it is to get a grasp of the abuses by many small-school principals.

And what of the kids? The weakest, without the protections inherent in public education, will they be set adrift? Auctioned, vendue-style, to the lowest bidder?

This is a two-pronged attack: public education in NYC and teachers in NYC are under fire.

Response

Randi Weingarten sent a 2-page letter last week to all UFT members. (I can’t find the text on-line). She identifies the neoconservative philosophy Bloomberg’s chancellor is operating with. She raises many of the issues in this post, with good emphasis on stability. Also worth reading is her testimony at the City Council. (detailed) Leo Casey’s Edwize post is linked, above. This is all good stuff, and a good start.

But here’s the part of Randi’s letter about our response:

So we have our work cut out for us. Starting this week, we will educate the public about the pitfalls of the new reorganization. We will explain what tenure is and is not. We will try to shift the agenda back to what our students really need: teachers who have the professional latitude to individualize instruction; safer schools; more parental participation; less emphasis on testing; and CFE funds for smaller class sizes and proven programs. And next wekk, work on CFE goes into high gear with Gov. Spitzer’s budget.

Good public relations is, well, good. And important. But we are not going to win the battle of the talking heads. “Reasonable” pundits will discuss pros and cons of a set of proposals that have no “pros.”

I know it sounds like a broken record, but to fight these battles we need to be stronger. And our strength, as a union, comes from the potential for our members to act in concert. As long as we are not united, we remain weak. Our union, the United Federation of Teachers needs to reorganize, to rebuild chapters, to involve all of our members, even minimally, in the life of the union. We need to reach out to new teachers and get them involved, to welcome them in, or at least positively reach out to new teachers who are anti-union and move them to neutrality. We need chapters that meet; chapters that know how to act in concert, even for small, non-confrontational things. We need more support to struggling chapter leaders, and more resources in the hands of our field staff (and for those field staff who get into the schools every day, Bravo! we need more, much more. )

Finally, if we can send staff into every school to discuss a contract proposal, we can do the same for a reorganization that threatens to affect us in much more drastic ways.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 23, 2007 am30 2:15 am 2:15 am

    I shudder to think about the implications of businessmen, who possess no understanding about what it takes to educate a child, enacting their corporate-minded philosphies to restructure — or do they mean reorganize? — education.

    Were the ideal business model to fall into place, schools might end up like little Walmarts, using unskilled laborers to “teach” and paying them very little to implement expensive educational programs that aren’t necessarily best for kids.

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