Opine I will

I am an elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

Another nice mess you’ve got us into..

Oliver Hardy is well know for looking at Stan Laurel, who appears clueless, and with a frustrated tone exclaims, “another nice mess you got us  into!”

Nothing could be more fitting, than Ollie’s words when I look at the predicament  teachers all across New York State are in right now.

This past week the following  statement of American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten following passage of the teacher privacy bill by both houses of the New York Legislature had heads spinning. She stated,

 “This bill restores balance and ensures that educators no longer will live in fear that evaluations and teacher rankings based on unreliable data will be splashed across the media and sensationalized by those interested in undermining public education. And it helps ensure the effective use of teacher evaluations to improve teaching and learning, and allows parents and teachers to work together to build strong public schools for all New York children.”

 New York State United Teachers President Richard C. Iannuzzi said,

“The governor and Legislature did the right thing by stopping the media from distorting and disseminating evaluation results,” Iannuzzi said. “This bill accomplishes that goal and preserves the purpose of evaluations, which is to provide opportunity for continued growth and improvement.”

Who are they kidding?? Teacher’s all across the state are suppose to celebrate legislation that allow, evaluations based on junk science, and may determine their future livelihoods, to be released to parents as a good thing?

Let’s keep in mind, this legislation was quickly negotiated to fix a much greater threat. The courts already declared that these evaluations can be released to the media, and something needed to be done. So in that light, it could have been much worse. But to celebrate this as a win, is akin to the South declaring a victory during a skirmish in the closing days of the Civil War. This isn’t a win, it’s a tourniquet. It may stop the bleeding temporarily, but once gangrene sets in we’re doomed.

 The way I look at it, our unions (we) negotiated ourselves into this nice mess.We negotiated a deal that allowed teachers to be evaluated using junk science.

Even though there is no evidence that supports Value Added Measures as a means of calculating teacher effectiveness,  we agreed to it.

We negotiated rubrics that will be used in teacher evaluations, yet many of these rubrics are untested.

We agreed to test and re-test models to measure our own effectiveness.

We stood by, while our students were subjected to 90 hours of testing.

We’re embracing the Common Core Standards as a means to magically make our students college and career ready.

We dare not exclaim Race to the Top, is really a race to nowhere, because politically we must remain loyal until November.

We stand by while charters eat away at public education, and even at times support our own charter schools.

So here we are, standing arm in arm with Governor Cuomo, praising his acumen in negotiating this deal. Forgetting that his tax cap policies have caused thousand of teachers all across the state to lose their jobs. Forgetting that his education commissioner is a pro charter advocate. Forgetting that his flawed teacher evaluation plan is nothing more than an attempt to circumvent tenure. Here we are standing there.

Yeah, another nice mess you got us into!

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10 thoughts on “Another nice mess you’ve got us into..

  1. Can you tell I’m annoyed?

  2. Michael Paul Goldenberg on said:

    Seems to sum things up accurately. And I suspect that what happened in NY isn’t unique nationally by any means, or if it is, won’t be for long. For all the knee-jerk bad-mouthing of unions by various political forces, seems to me that teachers’ unions are doing a lovely job of selling out their members, either a bit at a time or in large chunks. I won’t claim to know the internal thinking at the leadership level, but for them to come out with the silly statements you cite, they almost certainly have to be playing at the game of preserving their own jobs for as long as possible, rather than taking the fight to the anti-teacher, anti-union forces.

    I’m neither a tenured teacher nor a union member (though I was the latter during the two years I taught in a public district). And from what I see as a consultant in both public schools with unions and charter schools without unions, national teachers’ unions have played a defensive game for the most part, trying to slow down their own destruction rather than fighting aggressively for something truly sensible and fair. If I’m right, the outcome in the end will be a total defeat. It reminds me of the Math Wars in no small part: the anti-progressives, who were a small but well-funded, well-organized, and highly-aggressive minority, beat NCTM, NCTE, NCSM, etc., because the latter didn’t take the opposition seriously, and then, when they realized how powerful these groups were becoming, played defensively from there on in. In my view, they’ve now lost any ground they might have gained 20 years ago or so, even if they believe the Common Core represents a victory and many of their anti-progressive opponents believe (correctly, on my view) that the Common Core represents a clear and present danger. Until the mathematics education groups mentioned above get the stomach for a real fight (which seems highly unlikely at this point), I believe that things will continue to slip out of their grasp until they wake up one morning to discover that progressives have no voice at all in K-12 mathematics policy, content, assessment, etc. They will have “brilliantly” strategized themselves into irrelevance and oblivion.

  3. I’m afraid that you may be spot on with your prediction of total defeat. have your read my post “Frightened to the Core”? https://rlratto.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/frightened-to-the-core/

    • Michael Paul Goldenberg on said:

      Yes, and have shared it widely.

      My sense is that we can’t rely on these sorts of organizations. It’ll take an alliance that includes parents, teachers, administrators, and activists who understand the differences among what the deformers pretend is education, the dead-head teachers, publishers, etc., have passed off as education for decades, and meaningful education. Of course, I operate with the perspective that there are a lot of flavors of the latter and that neither the old status nor the new (deform) offers anything of the kind.

  4. Unfortunately, that’s not the worst of it. It will not be very difficult for parents to leak info to the tabloids, or match teacher names to redacted data. It’s impossible for me, at least, to imagine that won’t happen.

  5. Gloria on said:

    You are right on and the only thing I’d add is that if the educators around the state and in NYC where I teach continue to sit still and take it, then we all lose. But there is an alternative to sitting back and allowing our union leadership to ratchet up the “sell-out” job even higher then they’ve already done. We need to join with the parents who are already organizing against the high stakes testing. (See Change the Stakes – http://changethestakes.wordpress.com/ ) And we also need to join with other educators who are saying that the current union leadership stinks! Join with MOREnyc, Movement of Rank and File Educators, the Social Justice Caucus of the UFT. Check out our mission statement at: http://morecaucusnyc.org/mission-statement/ , come to our summer events and lets make the positive changes that we know our students need.

  6. Old Quote on said:

    two things to provide our kids with a proper education… get rid of the teachers unions, and get rid of federal control of education. ps. I am a 61 yo product of the FL public education. I was in a FL school in 1968! And have had 4 kids and some grand kids in the systems since then. The unions and the Feds have ruined the education of our kids.

  7. Not my point at all. Unions need to be stronger, feds responsibility should be to ensure a level playing field

  8. Pingback: Time to play offense « Opine I will

  9. The October 25, 1979 issue of the New York Law Journal contained the decision of the NYS Supreme Court, Kings County, in Blecher v. Board of Education, City of New York. Justice John A. Monteleone stated:

    Petitioner brings this article 78 proceeding to reverse, annul and set aside the order and determination made by respondents on May 30, 1979 and for an order requiring respondents to supply the documents requested.

    By letter dated March 5, 1979 petitioner made fourteen requests of respondents for documents and records in their possession pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) as set forth in Schedule A of said letter (Exhibit A).

    By letter dated April 20, 1979 respondents denied seven of the fourteen requests (requests 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13 and 14) on the ground that “no such list” is kept and three of the fourteen requests (requests 8, 9 and 10) on the ground that the documents sought were “privileged personal data.” (Exhibit B)

    By letter dated May 3, 1979 and pursuant to section 6 of the Uniform Rules and Regulations for All City Agencies Pertaining to the Administration of the Freedom of Information Law (“Uniform Rules”), petitioner appealed to the Secretary/Counsel of respondents the denial of the requests made. (Exhibit C)

    With respect to respondents’ claim that “no such list” is kept in denying requests 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13 and 14, petitioner pointed out that the original requests were for an opportunity:

    “To review and copy all records that are in the custody, control or possession of the Board of Education or its employees, servants, and agents thereof that relate or refer to, or when appropriate, constitute or pertain in any way to the inquiries set forth on Schedule A annexed hereto…” (emphasis supplied)

    Petitioner also pointed out in said letter that the respondent Records Access Officer’s response of “privileged personal data” was wrongly asserted for requests 8, 9 and 10
    since section 89(2)(c)(i) of FOIL clearly states:

    “Unless otherwise provided by this article, disclosure shall not be construed to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy pursuant to paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subdivision:

    i. when identifying details are deleted

    By letter dated May 30, 1979 (Exhibit D), the respondents denied petitioner’s appeal stating:

    “The Public Access to Records Officer has provided information to substantiate the denials of access on the basis of lack of existence of such lists in the forms requested. (Items 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13 and 14) and personal and privileged data. (Items 8, 9 and 10).”

    Respondents have failed to furnish the information sought under the items requested which are the subject matter of the denial contained in respondents’ letter of May 30, 1979. Petitioner contends that the determination of May 30, 1979 by respondents with respect to her FOIL requests was and is illegal in that they wrongfully and in disregard of law denied her requests for records within their possession, custody and control.

    It is petitioner’s position that she is entitled to access to documents and records that contain the information sought even if the Board never compiled a “list” of the information specifically requested. In support of her contention she cites the case of Gannett Co., Inc. v. County of Monroe, 59 AD2d 309 which permitted “access to those lists and documents which specifically identified employees…” holding that such a result was consistent with the Legislature’s declaration “that government is the public’s business and the public, individually and collectively and represented by a free news media should have unimpaired access to the records of government.”

    Petitioner’s requests were not for a specific list or lists but for records as set forth in Schedule A attached to her initial request which are reasonably described. (see Dunlea v. Goldmark, 85 Misc. 2d 198, mod. on other grounds, 54 AD2d 446, aff’d 43 NY2d 754)

    It is petitioner’s contention that respondents’ assertion of “privileged personal data” is wrongfully set forth and the respondent board must produce the documents requested under request numbers 8, 9 and 10 which are as follows:

    8. All letters Mrs. Wolfe has written in the last ten years which evaluated or commented on a teacher’s ability or fitness to teach.

    9. Please supply copies of all complaints, either formal or informal, filed against Mrs. Wolfe with the Board of Education, the Commission on Human Rights for the City of New York, or with the United Federation of Teachers in the last ten years.

    10. Please supply all correspondence pertaining to the letters or complaints referred to in inquiries 8 and 9.

    The cases interpreting both the old and new Freedom of Information Law authoritatively indicate that the respondents must afford petitioner access to the requested documents. The new Freedom of Information Law is broader and more liberal than the previous Law in that, instead of authorizing access to certain enumerated records, permits access to all government records other than those specifically exempted (see Montes v. State of New York, 94 Misc. 2d 972). Under the Freedom of Information Law (section 84), the Legislature set forth its reasoning in enacting the Freedom of Information Law:

    “The Legislature hereby finds that a free society is maintained when government is responsive and responsible to the public and when the public is aware of governmental actions. The more open a government is with its citizenry, the greater the understanding and participation of the public in government…

    The people’s right to know the process of governmental decision-making and to review the documents and statistics leading to determinations is basic to our society. Access to such information should not be thwarted by shrouding it with the cloak of confidentiality.”

    Section 87(2)(b) P.O.L., provides that records are exempt from disclosure if they would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under section 89(2) of FOIL. Section 89(2)(b) defines an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy as:

    “i. disclosure of employment, medical or credit histories or personal references of applicants for employment;

    ii. disclosure of items involving the medical or personal records of a client or patient in a medical facility;

    iii. sale or release of lists of names and addresses if such lists would be used for commercial or fund-raising purposes;

    iv. disclosure of information of a personal nature when disclosure would result in economic or personal hardship to the subject party and such information is not relevant to the work of the agency requesting or maintaining it; or

    v. disclosure of information of a personal nature reported in confidence to an agency and not relevant to the ordinary work of such agency.”

    The objections provided by subdivisions i, ii, iii and v are not relevant to the objection interposed by respondents. (see Montes v. State of New York, supra)

    a) Two conditions must be satisfied before the exemption provided by iv applies:

    There must be…

    (1) Disclosure of information of a personal nature when disclosure would result in economic or personal hardship to the subject party and

    (2) such information is not relevant to the work of the agency requesting or maintaining it.

    Both clauses must be applicable in order to make the section operative and that when records are relevant to the ordinary work of the agency, this exemption does not apply (see Gannett Co., Inc. v. County of Monroe, supra).

    Evaluations of teachers and criticism of their ability or fitness to teach are certainly relevant to the work of respondents (information sought by request 8 of petitioner and are discoverable).

    The complaints made regarding this principal and the correspondence relating to same are also discoverable (Walker v. City of New York, 64 AD2d 980; Farrell v. Village Board of Trustees, 83 Misc. 2d 125; Pooler v. Nyquist, 89 Misc. 2d 705). These cases clearly indicate that complaints, reprimands and evaluations contained in a personal file are “final determinations”, not exempted by section 87(2)(g) of FOIL.

    Evaluations, complaints and correspondence thereon are all either final determinations or documents leading to such final determinations discoverable under FOIL (Pooler v. Nyquist, supra; Westchester Rockland Newspapers, Inc. v. Mosczydlowski, 58 AD2d 234).

    Accordingly, the petition is granted. The determination of respondents dated May 30, 1979 is reversed, annulled and set aside. Respondents are directed to give access to petitioner for the documents and records requested and to make them available for inspection and copying at petitioner’s expense.

    Submit judgment.

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