Monday, July 23, 2012

Dennis Walcott’s Stand for High-Quality Teachers and Children

RiShawn Biddle on Dennis Walcott's bold step today:

Few traditional districts have been as reform-minded as New York City under the mayoral control of Michael Bloomberg. From shutting down more than 100 failure mills and dropout factories, to allowing principals to keep laggard teachers from working in their schools, the mayor and his array of chancellors (including the legendary Joel Klein) have succeeded in turning the district around from being a Superfund Site of American public education. Although the Big Apple still struggles in providing all children (especially young black men)  in every corner of the city with a high-quality education, the district has reduced the percentage of functionally-illiterate fourth graders (as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress)  from 53 percent in 2003 to 39 percent in 2011, and improved graduation rates and has shown a willingness to not be servile to the American Federation of Teachers local that had long held the city under its proverbial thumb.

So the announcement this morning by current schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott that he would institute a series of teacher performance management policies if the AFT affiliate doesn't agree to allow the district to use New York State's new teacher evaluation system was definitely not surprising. But it was once again heartening to see a school leader move to advance reform and be willing to take a union far too concerned with defending the interests of even the worst-performing of its members at the expense of children.

…Walcott has essentially forced the AFT into a rhetorical (and tactical) corner. If the union continues to oppose using the new evaluation system, it puts itself in the awkward position of talking out of both sides of its mouth. It can't continue declaring that it wants teaching to become more-professionalized and then oppose efforts by New York City and the Empire State to do just that. On the tactical end, if Walcott goes ahead and begins dismissing teachers and buying them out, the union will then have to play by his ground rules (or accept an even worse deal) once it relents and strikes a bargain (and it will).

But for New York City taxpayers, Walcott's moves would not only help improve the schools for which they pay a pretty penny, it would also get rid of laggards who collect sweet perks in exchange for riding the proverbial pine (and keeping out of classrooms). Currently, the city pays $100 million annually to keep 800 laggards out of classrooms (some of whom were not teaching since the days of the infamous rubber rooms); buying those teachers out would be better from both a fiscal and teacher quality perspective. For the city's high-quality teachers, Walcott is effectively stating that they should be able to teach in schools with professionals who are their equals and not deal with those who don't deserve tenure. And for Big Apple kids, Walcott's declaration (and that of his boss) that low quality teachers shouldn't be allowed to continue educational malpractice is an important stand for ensuring that all kids get the good and great teachers they deserve. All in all, not a bad move at all.


Dennis Walcott's Stand for High-Quality Teachers and Children

May 17, 2012 No Comments by RiShawn Biddle

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