Friday, February 26, 2010

The DOE Wins Again

I want to build a little bit off of my last post about how public perception is clearly not on the side of the UFT or city teachers. To do so, let's take a look at a story that ran in the Times last Tuesday. The lead of the story reads:
"The Bloomberg administration has made getting rid of inadequate teachers a linchpin of its efforts to improve city schools. But in the two years since the Education Department began an intensive effort to root out such teachers from the more than 55,000 who have tenure, officials have managed to fire only three for incompetence."
Notice anything?

What immediately jumps out to me is that the story is premised on the idea that our system is chock full of inadequate teachers, but that the city has "managed to fire only three", presumably because the union protects those bad teachers and keeps our school system so mediocre. Quite a premise.

An alternative premise might be that in a system of 55,000 teachers, only three were officially deemed to be incompetent. Everyone gets an A on their progress report!

My sense is that the truth lies somewhere much closer to the middle. Speaking from my own experiences in the classroom, there were some really great teachers, a lot of decent ones, and a few duds. I imagine that bell curve breakdown wasn't unique to my school.

Ultimately, the reality of the situation is a little beside the point that I'm trying to make. The point I'm trying to make is that the DOE has so completely overwhelmed the UFT's arguments on these issues that the New York Times - the "paper of record" - has totally bought into the DOE's side of the debate. You can imagine how this story played out in the Post. The mind boggles at the possibilities.

One other point worthy of note. By my count, the article says that 431 teachers who the DOE thought were incompetent are now not teaching. The vast majority of them apparently left the system after they learned that they could face charges. Assuming that our goal is to remove bad teachers (and I tend to think that's not such a bad idea), the 431 number is a much higher one to broadcast. But then, if that's your lead, how can you use it to show how obstructionist the UFT is?

The bottom line is that the argument seems to have been won. The DOE staked out the terms of the debate and then stomped the UFT. The sad part is that the teachers have barely fought back.

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