Do Not Blame the Teachers

TimesLedger Newspapers

In his State of the City address, Mayor Michael Bloomberg made education reform the cornerstone of his administration’s final two years. The 12th-richest person in the United States continues to believe the take-no-prisoners approach that made him a success on Wall Street will work well in the public school system.

Bloomberg has proposed a plan in which the city would close and reopen 33 of the worst-performing schools, thereby removing up to half the teachers. The schools are eligible for federal funding, but to get that the city and the United Federation of Teachers had to agree on a teacher evaluation system by Dec. 31. That did not happen, and unless the city can move quickly, it will lose that money.

The mayor announced a plan in his address that is an end run around the union. He repeatedly took aim at the teachers union and proposed raising the salary of the best teachers by $20,000 and luring top college graduates with student-loan repayment.

We are in favor of raising the salaries of the best teachers, but we are troubled by the disrespect the mayor continues to show the UFT. We are troubled by the decision that teacher evaluations would rely heavily on test scores.

Standardized test scores are not a fair measure of a teacher’s value. Most of the Queens schools on the list of low performers are in the borough’s poorest neighborhoods with students coming from at-risk families.

Even at the better schools teachers will begin spending most of their time preparing students for standardized tests. The test scores will rise, but this should not be confused with education.

There are teachers who are killing time until retirement. They stopped teaching long ago and should be shown the door. And there are teachers who would benefit from retraining.

The city Department of Education should welcome input from the UFT. The union is a partisan voice that should be heard in any discussion involving teacher performance and pay. Most important, the parents of students must be heard.

Bloomberg is a successful executive, but if he wants to be an effective mayor on the education front, he needs to learn how to listen.

Reader Feedback

Buddy from Bronx says:
In regard to poor teachers in the New York City school system, I believe there is one aspect of the problem in which few are recognizing. A supervisor/manager in the NYC DOE has 3-5 years in which to determine whether a teacher belongs in the classroom, requires further development, or should be removed. Mayor Bloomberg believes fifty percent of the teachers should be let go. Interestingly, due to the high turnover rate in the profession, the Mayor and the DOE are responsibile for hiring most of the teachers presently within the system. Additionally, the DOE is given up to five years to pinpoint a "dud" in the classroom and have the teacher removed. Why is the union getting the blame for something that is actually fully in control of the Mayor and the DOE? It is they who are: 1) responsibile for the hiring; 2) responsibile for the direct supervision and training of the new employee; 3) have the power to deny tenure to the teacher up to five years.
Therefore, it is possible that the problem for employees that should not be teaching lies more with the hiring, training, and supervision policies of the DOE. They need to look at the hiring process not blame the union. Can we imagine any business organization having at the minimum up to three years and, if necessary, up to five years the ability and power to determine whether to keep an employee or advise the employee to find another career, but not doing so?
Jan. 21, 2012, 11:48 am

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