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Why I oppose the “Methods of Effective Teaching” project

September 16, 2009 am30 7:40 am

A letter came to all UFT teachers a few days ago. It was from new President Michael Mulgrew, and asked if they would like to participate in a research project. Over the course of two years they would be videoed and observed (not for the purposes of rating) and their test scores would be looked at (ditto). Teachers would get a little money up front, more at the end, for a total of fifteen hundred.

This “Methods of Effective Teaching” project would then look to develop “multiple measures” – using knowledge of “best practices,” subjective observation and test scores. It is bankrolled (in part or in full? I’m not sure) by the Gates Foundation.

And at Monday’s Exec Board, a resolution that the UFT support this project was put forward. And I said “nay.” Why?

1. Form. The letter to members had already gone out. And just days earlier. Why not get approval first?

2. Who. One day some Gates money might get put to good use in education. But damn straight, it makes me nervous. Especially after his last foray into New York City: breaking up large high schools in the Bronx and Brooklyn, causing disruption that persists 10 years later, with no sign of abating. They know the name is a problem, too. That’s why they have taken steps to use a name that does not include “Gates.”

3. What. Test scores to rate teachers. We have a system in place where this is not done. We have legislation in place (that apparently sunsets? but we should get it renewed) that protects us against them. We know, or we should know, what a mess they will make. We should doubt seriously that they can work better than good, professional observation.

They (DoE) needs better principals, principals who can look at a lesson, understand what they are seeing, and suggest things to do better. Principals who can work with, train, and improve teachers. But don’t blame teachers for the DoE hiring marginal principals.

When you go into a class, you get an immediate sense of what’s going on. With content expertise, even moreso. If principals were master teachers, as they should be, this would proceed fairly normally in 95+% of all cases.

The system we have can work. It should work. It is the DoE’s fault it doesn’t work. Don’t blame us.

And we have lots of reason to believe that the bad old DoE will abuse test scores. They already do (see Progress Reports). And that given extra chances to abuse teachers, they will. (See ATRs, New Teachers)

So I say no to rating teachers with test scores. And I voted no on “multiple measures” that include test scores. And I voted no on Gates. And I objected to voting on something that has already been adopted.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. preaprez permalink
    September 16, 2009 pm30 2:55 pm 2:55 pm

    Good votes.
    The whole Gates theory of teaching improvement is goofy.
    Want to be a great painter? Figure out what Picasso did and do that. Science? Observe what Einstein did and replicate. Writing? Study William Faulkner and do everything he did.
    When you have money to give away, any piece of crap theory will seem to have cred with somebody. But for the union to buy into this?
    What a shame.

  2. Chaz permalink
    September 18, 2009 pm30 10:07 pm 10:07 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more, especially about Principals being master teachers.

  3. September 20, 2009 am30 11:38 am 11:38 am

    And don’t forget that Gates surreptitiously funded that “Keep it Going NY” campaign–the one that further reemphasized the widely accepted falsehood that this mayor has somehow improved education in NYC.

    The notion that he wants to help us, or our kids, is beyond ridiculous.

  4. September 27, 2009 pm30 10:08 pm 10:08 pm

    When I read just the first few lines of the letter sent to me, I trashed it. I couldn’t believe that the UFT would stoop so low, like I don’t know what they’d do with whatever “finished” product there was. The idea that teaching is this monolith of strategies says lot about the respect for the teaching profession and its intellect / creativity. Thanks for this JD.

  5. val permalink
    October 14, 2009 am31 10:52 am 10:52 am

    I was one of the teachers that came in 1985. I retired from teaching in 1990. Why? The Principals were crazy.

    The other reason. They would take up my valuable time with stupid research projects. Folks getting their Doctrate should not infringe on the good will of teachers. And every year it would be a different teaching method, that did not work. Mastery Learning – what a crock. Helping someone write their doctoral thesis again with the results.

    What works. The old fashioned discipline and strong expectations. Stop infringing on the students of NYC and their poor overworked teachers with stupid theories

    My son goes to a private Christian school that even in Kindergarten had consequences for good and bad behavior. Basic curriculum that is reasonably challenging.

    Sad that after 20 years, it is the same bs keeping Public School kids from achieving


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