NY State Teacher Debate: Professionals or Bureaucrats?

By Mark Anderson

The American people have rightly lost confidence in their elected leaders; ideology appears to trump fundamental necessities of governance.

Here in NYC, I have similarly lost confidence in both Mayor Bloomberg and UFT President Michael Mulgrew to represent my interests, nor those of my students.

A lot of money is currently in jeopardy due to the standoff between the UFT and the Mayor over teacher evaluations. As with recent skirmishing in our nation’s capitol in the face of the “fiscal cliff,” it bears questioning as to how such matters of consequence could be allowed to come down to the wire due to grandstanding and partisanship.

The Mayor’s attitude on a recent radio broadcast was cavalier:

“If we can’t come to an agreement, it’s going to be very painful,” Bloomberg told host John Gambling on his weekly Friday radio show. “But the city’s certainly not going to sign on to any agreement that isn’t a real evaluation agreement, and one that can be monitored by the public.”

What is a “real evaluation agreement,” according to Bloomberg? Apparently only one that releases a teacher’s ratings to the public.

Mayor Bloomberg seems more concerned with ostracizing teachers than with creating a system of evaluation that will promote growth oriented professional learning environments and student achievement.

On the other side, we have UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who penned an incensed letter to the Mayor:

The Department of Education’s demonstrated inability to manage the school system correctly has led us to have serious concerns about getting anything constructive done with you.

Who can blame Mulgrew for having “serious concerns” about getting anything accomplished with a Mayor who compares his union to the NRA? But Mulgrew’s righteous beginning is subverted by what follows:

Two and half years ago the state decided to change this year’s standardized tests to the Common Core standards and since then you have done nothing to create a curriculum based on the Common Core. You have now left teachers in a horrendous situation where they are scrambling to try to get material appropriate for these new tests to teach their children.

I don’t know about other teachers, but I shudder to think of what kind of curriculum the NYC DOE would “create.” That’s the last thing I want to see happen, when the opportunity is here for curriculum to be developed from the ground up by classroom teachers.

How should teachers be viewed? Are we professionals, scholars, and experts of our content areas and capable of growth through reflection and collegial feedback? Or are we mere public employees, clamoring for our administration to tell us how and what we are to teach?

I’d prefer to be viewed as a professional educator that is part of a vibrant, dedicated community of professional learners and scholars. Unfortunately, that perspective is not something that seems to be shared by either of the elected officials that would purport to represent me.

They seem more interested in winning out against their political opponents. It’s the rest of us who will lose.

Mark Anderson is a 7th and 8th grade Special Education teacher in the Bronx.

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Comments (4)

  1. Larry Hobson

    Without question teachers are professionals and as professionals they should be open to input by professionals of Industry who have spent a lifetime applying Core curriculum and have valuable experience at “what works and what is a waste of time.

    Mr. Larry

    • Larry,

      Teachers are definitely open to input. But there doesn’t seem to be many “professionals of industry” who have spent a lifetime teaching, nor is there any “Core” curriculum that has been yet agreed upon.

  2. gordon chan

    I guess teachers are considered to be an NFL coach. If students do not perform, it must the the coach. Students do not have to be self-motivated.

  3. Lesley Hagelgans

    I agree with you that teachers are professionals capable of building their own curriculum to successfully teach the Common Core. However, there is a segment of the profession so programmed to wait for the administration to tell them what to do this task seems overwhelming. Many teachers integrated the Common Core last year or this year; those teachers who are struggling need to reach out to others for resources. There is no need to reinvent the wheel at this point. But, I do think you raise an interesting research topic: do students perform better in districts where the Common Core Curriculum comes from the top down or in districts where the Common Core Curriculum is more organic and created by the very teacher (hopefully in collaboration with others) who will deliver the material?

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