Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gates, et al Funding Union Insurgency in UFT? ME4ME Workshop Today to Focus on School Organizing

NOTE: Must Read: Jeff Kaufman's take down of  E4E lies, distortions and outright manipulation and dishonesty at the ICE blog (and reproduced below the fold). Jeff, who works in a school full of them, termed them ME4ME - which I am changing to the more appropriate ME$ME. 

If you have an ME$ME person in your school, copy and print Jeff's statement for them because most of them know not what they do. OF course, instead of exposing them like Jeff does, Mulgrew chooses to meet with them.

Insiders in the UFT are buzzing about the upcoming challenge being presented by E4E - Educators for Excellence. This will be the first time in history that Unity will face an opponent fueled by billionaires who will pay for a high end ad and PR campaign and other goodies - there are already 4 organizers, with more to come. (They seem to be doing something similar in Los Angeles.)

As we reported (Don't Miss Educators4Excellence Party - Thurs, Feb. 24 at "The American Conference Center," 177 Prince St. on the 2nd floor), today ME4ME is holding an organizing training workshop that they are billing as:
Come join E4E to learn how to become a better advocate for kids.  E4E is hosting a two hour grassroots training event to help give you the advocacy tools you need to maximize your impact for kids.
Of course this has nothing to do with kids but is all about the adults who are funded by Gates and DFER. What they are advocating for "kids' is an end to LIFO, which will keep the adult ME$ME members in a job.

Our sources are telling us today's grassroots training is about chapter organizing with a plan to prepare for chapter leader positions in the spring 2012 elections in preparation for a challenge to Unity in 2013. The platform will be a very simple one issue campaign: getting rid of LIFO.

Now keeping LIFO alive as a hot issue is dependent on layoffs or the threat of layoffs. With Bloomberg's threat this year, ME$ME is out of synch in terms of election seasons. In my conspiracy tinged world, if Bloomberg doesn't get LIFO ended by this summer, the layoff threat will disappear until next year.

And when a ME$ME member runs for chapter leader, expect the word from the DOE to go out to the principals to grease the skids for them. Of course as a one issue group they will not be interested in protecting the rights of the members in their schools and will be suck-ups to the principals.

So how could they win a chapter leader position? Easy. Many principals run their own candidates who get elected because the chapter is afraid to elect a person who will stand up (believe me, I went through this in my school where the principal had a core of 5th columnists nipping at me for being an aggressive CL.) But in this case, they will have protection from the very top of the DOE.

And watch when they run in 2013 - bet their literature gets some "help" getting into most of the schools. Unity will no longer have a lock on the mail boxes. If ME4ME wasn't such a slime ball operation, it might bring a smile to my face.

ME$ME will attack Unity on their vulnerability when it comes to democracy, even using some of the points made by the opposition for years. Unity will use this as an opportunity to vilify other opposition groups if they run on a platform criticizing Unity as helping ME4ME. Except for New Action, of course. They have no purpose other than to be a stalking horse for Unity in exchange for 8 Executive Board seats. The issue will be whether Unity thinks it is an advantage for them to have New Action on the ballot.

What of the other opposition groups - ICE and TJC? They will be placed in an interesting position. With a lack of resources they would have to in essence battle ME$ME and Unity (and New Action). Is it worth it in an election they cannot win or even make much headway? It will be interesting to see where this goes.

What about a new group like GEM? I know that Unity sees GEM as a possible opposition group but so far GEM has focused on the bigger issues of fighting the ed deformers in the battle to save public education - one of the mantras of GEMers is that they have to do it since the UFT is not. But is that a platform for an election? My guess is that at this point GEM is sticking to the ed deform struggle. Another point is that GEM has been working with parents groups and some of those alliances do not always dovetail with an inside UFT strategy.

Since GEM has been organizing young teachers who are of the same constituency as ME$ME, GEM might take on the battle with them since they squarely fit into the ed deform category.

One thing is sure, ed notes will be there to report on these fascinating developments.

Add On
Accountable Talk has done some great work on ME$ME:  An Asshat By Any Other Name

Jeff Kaufman made some important comments on that post in defending his school:
I agree that the e4e (me4me) crowd are self-absorbed anti-union types but the name calling and divisiveness must end. What turns a me4me into a all4all are experiences where they must call upon their colleagues, Chapter Leaders or Union for help. Our "f" rated school was not based on was based on graduation rates in a second chance high school. Costa will learn that the DOE in concocting this measure did nothing but assure that our school will close despite our teaching. The struggle must be against all misdirected and irrelevant measures included me4me's "taking ability into account for layoff purposes."
Here is his ICE Post, which by the way is another link missed by Gotham Schools (What Makes Gotham Schools (and What Does Not). Gotham posts a link when Evan or Sidney fart.

“White Paper” on a Roll: How Ed Deformers Distort the Record on Seniority Layoffs

by Jeff Kaufman
On February 14, 2011 Educators 4 Excellence, a mouthpiece for the current movement attempting to reverse the current law on seniority based layoffs issued a press release announcing what they termed a "first research-based proposal" contained in a "white paper" entitled, "Keeping Our Best Teachers: An Alternative to Seniority-Based Layoffs."
As our Union remains conspicuously silent on this issue, preferring to argue against the need for layoffs rather than the method, it is time to take this piece of alleged research apart to see what supports their recommendations and whether these recommendations truly support their main thesis; that seniority-based layoffs hurt students and cause some of the "best teachers" to be terminated.

The format of the "white paper" is fairly straight-forward containing an introduction, an explanation of the current system and recommendations.

The Law

The law on seniority-based layoffs requires all layoff decisions to be based on total seniority including substitute and paraprofessional service within license. The literature dealing with layoff scenarios misses this point. Not surprisingly so does the "white paper"." When a layoff decision is made the DOE can layoff certain licensed teachers and hold back on other licenses. Thus hard to staff licenses like special ed or ESL might be totally spared layoff or high school teachers might be laid off before junior high or elementary school teachers. Education Law Section 2588 already gives the DOE the discretion to choose which license and how many teachers to lay off.

The impact of this discretion is nowhere assessed or even discussed. Yet the "white paper" concludes in its introduction that the impact of a layoff would be greatest felt in schools with a large percentage of newly hired teachers which they conclude are more often concentrated in the lowest income communities.

The "white paper's" Introduction

In order to save our schools from being torn apart (their words, not mine) the E4E deformers recommend that layoffs be based on Chronic Teacher Absentees, Principal Evaluations and being assigned to the Absent Teacher Reserve Pool.

"These categories are clear indicators of teacher performance and student achievement," the paper claims. Yet the next paragraph cautions, "In the absence of a more comprehensive system, our framework is a better way to conduct layoffs because it protects great teachers."

This tautological expression undergirds the thesis of the paper. We can't really know who the best teachers are but somehow by laying off by measuring teacher absence, principal evaluations and the fact that you are an ATR will avoid terminating "great teachers."

The introduction continues by asserting that based on a study done last year by the Calder Urban Institute demonstrates that "most of the teachers who would be laid off in a seniority-based system would be substantially more effective than even the best teacher laid off using a value-added system, or a system that includes teacher effectiveness." Does this mean that value-added systems don't measure teacher effectiveness?

Despite the inartful wording of the "white paper's" introduction the Calder Urban Institute (a collaboration of mostly southern university ed researchers who defend Waiting for Superman and most of the ed deformer agenda) claims, as the E4E paper does that seniority-based layoffs will cause effective teachers to be laid off. But how did they determine effectiveness?

The Calder study used 4th and 5th graders from New York City and the "value-added" model that has been demonstrated to be inaccurate and misleading to determine teacher effectiveness. A bit more academically responsible than the E4E crowd Calder states its assumption right up front, "assuming readily available measures of teacher effectiveness actually measure true teacher effectiveness, an assumption to which we return below, the differences between seniority and effectiveness based layoffs are larger and more persistent than we anticipated."

The distortions and inaccuracies continue as the "white paper" claims that the diversity of the teacher ranks would be adversely affected by seniority-based layoffs. The paper claims, without support, that "over the last decade, New York has hired many more African-American and Latino teachers to better reflect the population of city students." Seniority-based layoffs will, they claim, cause these newer, minority teachers to be laid off disproportionally. The fact is that minority hiring has dwindled in New York City and other areas served by programs such as Teach for America. No analysis is offered to support this proposition.

What is cited is the recent Los Angeles school system case as evidence of adverse racial impact. Again inaccurate and misleading. The case has been settled in which racial impact, by law, is permissible to be taken into account in protecting certain parts of the school district from layoff. The settlement is a creature of a completely incomparable set of circumstances. The types of abuses cited by the plaintiffs have not been documented in New York City.

The Recommendations

The first recommendation is based on teacher attendance. The "white paper" suggests that absent teachers be divided into 3 tiers in which teachers absent 15 percent or higher (as measured over the previous and current school year) would be in the first round of layoffs. Tier 2 would be at 10 percent and Tier 3 at 8 percent. They exclude absences with doctor's notes and calculate that at Tier 1 for the last 15 months year you would have to absent 41 days to meet the threshold. At an average of 3 days per month it is unimaginable that a teacher, without a doctor's note, would not have been brought up on charges, placed on disciplinary probation under our new time and attendance contract provisions or otherwise separated from employment.

The "white paper" again confuses teacher effectiveness and student affect by citing a New Teacher Project paper that supports their thesis. (The New Teacher Project was founded by ed deformer poster child Michelle Rhee who recently was caught in her own teacher effectiveness misrepresentation when she admitted that her resume could have been written clearer when it suggested she magically caused her own students to increase their test performance from the 13th percentile to the 90th percentile).

The study cited as well as this "white paper" mysteriously neglect to mention a New York City Department of Education study, written just prior to Bloom/Klein in which absenteeism did not correlate with student performance. Other studies have demonstrated that there are more effective ways of dealing with teacher absenteeism including disincentives (termination, fine and other discipline) and incentives (buying back unused sick time).

The next recommendation involves using U ratings in layoff decisions. They support this proposed layoff criteria on the broken U rating system claiming that only 2% of the teachers get U ratings. While 2% is still 1600 there is reason to believe that this number is understated. However sine UFT and DOE statistics don't include terminated employees (both tenured and probationer) and teachers who voluntary resigned with U ratings the number is probably much greater.

The broken U rating system, however, in impeccable logic, supports the decision to layoff because, according to the "white paper," when principals give U ratings they must really mean it since they give it so infrequently. Then they take the next illogical step; if they really mean it then the teachers must really be bad. This is absurd and the very reason that seniority-based layoffs were codified into law.

U ratings are given for a variety of reasons many of which do not involve teacher quality. Political, economic, personality differences and age discrimination reasons are just a few.

U ratings rarely lead to teacher termination for tenured teachers due to the subjective nature of the teacher assessment by the principal and the incompetence of DOE administrators and attorneys. Just like students poor teachers can be taught and with the right mentoring an incompetent teacher can be taught to be competent. A U rating has nothing to do with teacher competence. Seniority based layoffs ensure that illegal and inappropriate discriminatory practices are not perpetrated in a layoff situation.

The last recommendation and my personal favorite is the layoff of ATRs who have not found a permanent job in 6 months. The chauvinism and condescension toward ATRs is evidence of the "white paper's" true mission; the destruction of the collective bargaining system as we know it.

While the ICE/TJC members of the Executive Board when the 2005 contract came up for a vote were the only ones to vote against the contract on the Board and tried to warn the membership of the dangers of this provision (just skim this blog's early entries) the fact is the membership approved of the contract after listening to the lies of union officials who promises this would do away with bumping and the open market was a much fairer way than seniority in determining teacher placement.

In the aftermath of the creation of the ATR pool we have seen overt age discrimination in the attempt to cause more experienced teachers to quit or retire. ATRs fill full teacher programs and are not hired due to the heavier financial burden they place on shrunken school budgets.

When a contract creates an economic disincentive to hire a teacher it is outrageous to insinuate that the teacher's failure to obtain a permanent position is due to incompetence. As schools close ATRs are created. While there was an agreement at one point that recognized the economic disincentive to hire experienced teachers this agreement was never fully funded and totally expired last December.

Additionally the ATR system was established as a result of collective bargaining, where teachers and the DOE traded economic and non-economic demands. What did we give up for the ATR system? Should we permit the DOE to circumvent the collective bargaining process by an end run through the legislature?
And who says ATRs are incompetent?

The "white paper" is replete with inaccuracies and misstatements. It is sad that a group of teachers, who they themselves might, in the future, be U rated, excessed or be absent buy into the ed deformer argument that old is bad, young is good.

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