Tuesday, January 22, 2008

DOE's Secret Plan for Merit Pay...Without the Pay!

by Marjorie Stamberg, GED Plus, D79

Naturally they had to do it in secret.

Today's front-page New York Times article has caused quite a sensation. It may not have swept the nation, but it sure shook up the world of education in New York.

The Times revealed that that the DOE has a program in which 2,500 teacher in 140 schools across the city are being evaluated on the basis of their students' test scores.

Did you know about this? Of course not. Becaue they've kept it under wraps.

"The move is so contentious that principals in some of the 140 schools participating have not told their teachers that they are being scrutinized based on student performance and improvement."

There are actually 280 schools participating in the program. In 140 schools, teachers are being measured on how many students in their classes meet basic progress goals. In a second group of 140 schools, principals are "subjectively" evaluating teachers, to see how the results match up!

This is really fishy--it flunks the smell test. It proves what we have been saying all along, that the "school-wide bonus pay" is just a wedge to open the way for Mayor Bloomberg calls "performance pay." If these programs go through, it will be a mortal blow to the union and put every teacher at the mercy of the principal or higher-up.

The Time's article saw the connection of these secret program to school "bonus pay" as well. "A new bonus program for teachers and principals, as well as the letter grading system for schools unveiled last fall are all linked to improvement in schools."

The Times said that Randi Weingarten and the UFT knew about this secret program for months and said nothing to the teachers! In a quote, Randi said she could not reveal it because she was told "confidentially" by the DOE and did not know which specific schools were involved. She said she "had grave reservations about the project and would fight if the city tried to use the information for tenure or formal evaluations or even publicized it." (So now it's public--I wonder what she's going to do?)

It's even more outrageous: The secret program is being administered by Chris Cerf, who is deputy schools chancellor. Cerf was hired by the DOE last year. He used to be head of the Edison Schools, the largest for-profit outfit in the country. The Edison schools made an attempt to open up shop in NYC a few years ago, but was defeated by a campaign of the UFT and concerned parents. So Bloomberg and Klein hired Cerf to be deputy chancellor. It's called privatization from within.

So, this brings us to the vote underway in GED Plus on "school wide bonus pay." We are being told by the D79 UFT reps that this is free money, and "why turn down $3,000 for work you would do anyway?"

We have argued that this money ain't free, it's a bribe, it's divisive and it blames teachers for the dire situation of students in NYC. We said, "It's letting the camel's nose in the tent." Well, it's hard to picture Joel Klein as a camel, but more than the nose is now in the tent!

This just underscores how important it is to vote down bonus pay.

But we should all ask our UFT reps what they knew about this secret plan and when they knew it.

As members of the UFT executive board, and as district UFT reps, were they informed about the existance of this program before today? Did they know about it when they were asking us to be part of this agenda? Or did Randi keep it from them as well?

They can't duck this one.

Teachers throughout the system, in every single school, should ask the principals of their schools whether they are part of it and have been secretly evaluated.

Now Randi has a statement out (on the UFT website), calling the secret program misguided and claiming it is in contradiction with the "committment...to collaboration and working together.. in the School Wide Bonus Program." No, there's no contradiction--this is all part of the same program and the UFT leadership has acted as enablers.

Hopefully, there is so much outrage now that we, the 130,000 members of the UFT, can stop this privatizing, corporatizing anti-student union-busting now.

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