Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The UFT's Standardized Test

I will preface this post by saying this is not intended to be a pro vs anti teachers’ union piece. The intention is to get some feedback on some things that dawned on me recently, during the New York City/United Federation of Teachers negotiations regarding teacher evaluations....

In case you are unfamiliar with the situation, here it is in a nutshell:
  • The New York CIty Department of Education is under Mayoral control.
  • The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) negotiates directly with the Mayor and Chancellor on all teacher contract issues.
  • New York State set a deadline to install a teacher evaluation system in order to qualify for upwards of $400 million in combined State and Federal RTTT aid.
  • The UFT and the Mayor disagree on the time frame and metric for a standard teacher evaluation.
  • The talks break down, the deadline was missed. NYC is now out $400 million in education funding.

So, here’s my thing. The UFT rallies support for teachers. They support their members and don’t feel the evaluation system is fair. They feel there is too much emphasis on standardized test scores in the teacher evaluation process...

… so, there’s the rub. While they have spoken out against the idea of standardized testing, they haven’t exactly been vehement. A lot of sabre rattling, maybe. But nothing substantive. Until it comes to how those standardized tests impact a teacher’s evaluation.

Now, let’s look at teachers in the UFT. We all take the same standardized test to get a job. We are all automatically enrolled in the UFT once the NYC DOE hires us. We all are paid on the same standardized scale. Seems there is a lot of standardization within the UFT, and it seems to suit them just fine.

My question is, can a representative body such as the UFT be okay with standardized testing for students, standardize the teacher pay and evaluation system, yet only have a problem when the results of such testing will, potentially, negatively impact the teacher evaluations? Can they do this and still, legitimately, appear to be advocating for anything but job security?

As I see it, wouldn’t the UFT be doing a more genuine service to both teachers and students if they put their emphasis on changing the use of standardized testing in general, rather than just concerning themselves with how it impacts teacher evaluations? If they rally against the testing process in general, the evaluation system will become a different conversation.

In watching these negotiations I feel like the UFT is solely concerned with the teachers (I get it, they are a union, they are concerned for their members). I just find it disingenuous that their argument acquiesces on testing and is only concerned with how it impacts a teacher’s evaluation.

I suppose I feel the UFT should be advocating for the students as much as the teachers, after all it’s a symbiotic relationship, isnt it?. Am I wrong? Is the UFT right in not fighting the testing in general (ala Seattle & Chicago) and only concerning themselves with how the results impact members?

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