The Big Appall

The Big Appall

New York’s teachers unions do their best to do what’s worst for kids.

A new study was just released by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO), which compared academic achievement in traditional public schools (TPS), charter school networks (CMOs), and independent charters in New York City. The report found that students in their second year in CMO-run schools demonstrate 46 additional days of learning in reading and 103 additional days of learning in math. The gains for independent charters were superior to TPS, but not by as wide a margin.

Around the same time the CREDO report was released, the New York City teachers union and the New York State United Teachers filed a lawsuit claiming that new standards, which allow charter schools to certify their own teachers, will water down the quality of educators in charters. The proposed changes, authorized by the State University of New York’s charter school committee, stipulate that teachers could be certified after taking 160 hours of classroom instruction and doing 40 hours of teaching practice, rather than going through the endless process required for TPS teachers, who ultimately must receive a master’s degree to teach in New York.

This brings back sad memories of my wasted time in ed school where I learned less about teaching than if I had hung out on a street corner shooting craps. As documented here, a great majority of my time in ed school was spent learning about things like sociocultural identities, institutionalized discrimination, and anti-racist math. And that was in the 1980s – before the touchy-feely, politically correct, emotion-based progressive weltanschauung had fully engulfed the academy.

The value of a master’s degree on teacher quality? As Harvard researcher Tom Kane puts it, “Paying teachers on the basis of master’s degrees is equivalent to paying them based on hair color.” The progressive Center for American Progress reports that teachers with master’s degrees “are no more effective, on average, than their counterparts without master’s degrees.”

Charters want to change the standards in part because many schools are short on teachers, as well as believing that they can train teachers better than ed schools. Turns out that New York City TPS are also facing a bit of a shortage, but the unions and other establishmentarians, of course, won’t allow anything innovative. Their solution is to open the flood gates by unleashing the so-called Absent Teacher Reserve  – 800 or so teachers from schools that closed or whose jobs may have been eliminated. But many of them are incompetent, have checkered pasts and have sat around for years because no principal wants to hire them. Firing them, however, is next to impossible because of their union. So they sit around, doing nothing, but still collect their paychecks and get yearly raises. Now principals will be forced to take these 800 undesirables and put them to work.

Just a few examples of teachers who will soon be back in the classroom:

  • In her last permanent job, a science teacher did not bother to regularly enter students’ grades. She gave one student in her earth science class a grade of 83 percent, despite the fact that the girl had never come to school. Administrators who observed her classes often found students talking, listening to music on their headphones, or even sleeping.
  • Francis Blake worked in a Bronx elementary school, where he was disciplined for incompetence, insubordination and neglect of duties; he had been caught sleeping in a classroom when he was supposed to be helping with dismissal.
  • Felicia Alterescu, a special-education teacher, has been without a permanent position since 2010. She received a string of unsatisfactory ratings, was disciplined for calling in sick when she actually went to a family reunion and had been arrested on harassment charges.

Adding insult to injury, both Blake and Alterescu are at the top of the salary schedule. While not working, they still manage to rake in $113,762 every year. But paying them not to teach is still preferable to subjecting innocent children to them.

Fed up with business-as-usual in New York City, some 200 students and their parents rallied on the steps of City Hall last month to bring attention to a hidden tax that is costing Big Apple high school graduates an estimated $63 million annually. The “Remediation Tax” affects 21,000 New York City college students who have graduated from city high schools but are unprepared for college-level coursework.

“The Remediation Tax is real, it’s regressive, and it’s being levied on the poorest New Yorkers. Once again, it’s poor kids who are forced to bear the burden of a system that is failing them. Unfortunately, Mayor de Blasio is not doing anything to help and is even making it worse,” said Derrell Bradford, Executive Director of NYCAN .

With 800 Absent Teacher Reserve teachers about to flood the system, there is little cause for optimism. But hey, at least they all have master’s degrees!

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

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