Thursday, December 24, 2015
The "Gotcha Mentality" Still Applies To Far Too Many Schools.
During the Bloomberg Administration the DOE changed from a somewhat benign overlord to an organization that targeted teachers for termination. especially veteran teachers while shifting funding from the schools to the central bureaucracy. This effort was spearheaded by Chancellor Joel Klein and his Deputy Chancellors, one being Eric Nadelstern who's policies saw the creation of the useless and money-sucking Children First Networks and Principal autonomy while pushing far too many failed Leadership Academy graduates into schools with mostly disastrous results.
Unfortunately, the Bloomberg Administration was not interested in the students, despite the slogan "children first...Always". While the DOE Central Bureaucracy became bloated with more lawyers and accountability experts, the schools were being increasingly shortchanged for funds and necessary resources. Worse, was that class sizes were rising every year and that resulted in New York City having the largest class sizes in the State. Finally, the Bloomberg Administration put in the "poison pill" called the "fair student funding" that fundamentally changed hiring practices in the system and discriminated against veteran teachers. Add to this the hiring of many non-educators at the DOE who bring with them their pet projects and highly paid consultants and the result is that the schools are starved from the resources they need to improve academic achievement.
All this was supposed to change when the "progressive" new Mayor, Bill de Blasio, put in a career educator as Chancellor, Carmen Farina. However, Carmen Farina was once a supporter of the Bloomberg agenda and was Deputy Mayor under Chancellor Joel Klein before being forced out and replaced by Eric Nadelstern. Unfortunately, Carmen Farina was not the solution as she retained many of the Bloomberg policymakers at the DOE and this translated down to the hostile classroom environment and the continuation of the "gotcha system".
In far too many schools, the school administration is not collaborative but adversarial. They will "pop in" without notice and in your worst class, just to get you. This is not collaboration but confrontation and makes teachers not want to go to school, change schools, or simply quit. How is that good for the students? Moreover, when the teaching staff believes that the school administration is out to trap them, teacher morale plummets and many teachers will no longer give that extra effort and do just enough to get the administration off their backs. These same schools hold teachers solely accountable for student issues, being discipline, cellphone usage, or attendance, while taking no responsibility themselves. The result is a climate of fear and an "us against them" mentality. Not a good way to become a successful school..
On the contrary, a successful school is a collaborative school where the school administration and the teaching staff are on the same page. These schools will work with the teachers and give them notice that they are coming in to observe them and usually ask them which class would they like to be observed in. This collaboration makes the teacher fell appreciated and will work that much harder to show the administration that their confidence in that teacher was warranted. No wonder these schools never need to recruit "quality teachers". Their reputation of being fair and supportive attracts talented teachers who don't need to continuously "look over their shoulder" fearing the "gotcha system".
An example of schools that use the "gotcha system" goes like this. One teacher hired in his content specialty to teach Regents courses, was also given a couple of elective courses to complete his schedule. These classes consisted of unmotivated seniors who just wanted to do a worksheet and socialize, many of them didn't need the course and was simply a fill-in to a schedule. The administration, knowing full well these two classes were behaviorally, and academically an issue still observed the teacher in these classes rather than the content specialty he was hired to teach. That's what I mean by the "gotcha system". A collaborative school would be observing the teacher in his content specialty not in an elective course that is not fair or even appropriate.
Unfortunately, the "gotcha system" is alive and going strong and until the DOE leads by example and encourages schools to appreciate their teaching staff, nothing will change from the Bloomberg years.