Mayor4Life, Michael Bloomberg, shocked the education world with his State of the City Speech in which he laid out his highly distorted vision of how he will change the New York Public schools, starting in the 2012-13 school year. Behind his proposals were two themes: Keeping the $58 million dollar RTTT funds that the State is withholding and destroying the teachers' union. For the Mayor4Life this is his last chance to be taken seriously since next year will be his last year in office and "lame duck" Mayors have little power and influence as the Mayoral candidates ignore any controversial measures that can "piss off" the voters. Therefore, it is important for the Mayor4Life to show his failed legacy as the "Education Mayor". Up to now his education legacy has been all "smoke and mirrors" with flat student academic achievement, a large income/racial academic achievement gap, warehousing problem students in schools that he targets for closure only to see the small schools he championed eventually fail, and alienate school staff & parents with his "top down approach" of education reform that does not work. I could include the wasteful technology and consultant services that cost the City billions of dollars (Citytime) but you get the message.
The Mayor4Life has come out with an unworkable and poorly thought out education plan that includes the following items:
- Change the 33 transformation/restart schools to the turnaround model which requires that 50% of the teachers be removed from the school and end up as ATRs. This is estimated to be 1,750 teachers and an additional $60 million dollars that the City would have to pay for teachers in the ATR pool. This will make the total cost of maintaining the ATR pool $100 million dollars or more. According to the union this cannot be done without their approval.
- Give teachers who are rated "highly effective" for two years a $20,000 bonus. Notice, it's not a pay increase but a bonus so that it is temporary and does not affect the salary schedule. Moreover, who will pay the teacher the extra $20,000? The City, the DOE? or more likely will it come out of the school budget? If it is the latter, what Principal would give a teacher "highly effective" for two consecutive years if the money comes out of their budget? By the way doesn't Bloomberg know that all the studies ever done show that merit pay does not work?
- Give the top 25% of college graduates $25,000 for student loan reimbursements if they last 5 years in the New York City Public Schools. Good luck to that. By the way who pays for that as well? Further, with 3,000+ ATRs roaming the schools, how can the City waste all that experienced talent while bringing in untested "newbie teachers". Wouldn't' you want your child to have an experienced teacher rather than a "newbie" who has a steep learning curve ahead of him or her? I certainly would not want my child to be the guinea pig with a "newbie teacher" who may never master the teaching profession.
- The cost for all the Bloomberg proposals would be $100 million for the ATRs, $250 million for the "highly effective teachers" and another $100 million for student loan reimbursement for the "newbies". That means that the Mayor4Life is proposing to spend $450 million dollars to get the $58 million dollars from the State and he considers himself a financial genius?
- Add 50 more Charter schools and increase the network for them. Who pays the cost? The City will and that is more money that will siphoned off from the Public schools to the 1% who runs these Charter school networks.
Back to the 33 restart/transformation schools. Will bringing in new teachers change the student academic outcomes in those schools? The answer is no. You cannot just rearrange the deck chairs and expect things to change for the better. The answer lies with the students. If you have the same type of students coming into the schools and the system continues to fail to provide wraparound services to these students such as family and community support, one to one tutoring, and adequate support services, how can you expect improvement? Moreover, not imposing a "zero tolerance policy" on student discipline is a recipe for failure. Changing the teaching staff in a school and doing nothing more as the Mayor4Life is demanding is the same thing as putting a bandage on an internal ulcer. it may look from the outside that you are treating it but in reality it does not cure the ulcer.
Most telling are the responses by UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Principals President Ernest Logan to Gotham Schools about the Mayor's education proposals.
The Mayor seems to be lost in his own fantasy world of education, the one where reality doesn’t apply. It doesn’t do the kids and the schools any good for him to propose the kind of teacher merit pay system that has failed in school districts around the country. As far as the ‘turnaround’ model goes, the Mayor knows perfectly well that under state law these kinds of initiatives have to be negotiated with the union. If he’s really interested in improving the schools his administration has mishandled, he will send his negotiators back to the table to reach an agreement on a new teacher evaluation process.
At first glance, in the public eye, the Mayor’s remarks about schools may seem reasonable, but when you dig down, you realize how many of his proposals do little to help struggling schools. These schools are likely to continue struggling, not because 50% of the educators are supposedly incompetent, but because of the DOE’s student enrollment policies that place students who are over-age, under-credited, in temporary housing or dealing with involved special education needs in schools that are said to be low-performing. We must stop this kind of warehousing and give these children what they need to succeed.
Hopefully, when the city presents this plan to us and explains it fully, we will have fewer concerns.
In summary, changing a school's staff will not significantly change student outcomes and if it the same type of students go to the school, the academic achievement will, at best, remain unchanged and probably get worse. To my union. "stay firm and don't let the Mayor4Life lie and bully you in giving up teacher "due process rights".