Sunday, October 6, 2013

UFT's Casey, Moment of VAM Realization Before Duncanism's Onset

 *Leo Casey, pre-the education Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of our time
Truly, the education field is stuffed with blind loyalty to one program of action or one line of thought, then with no acknowledgement of previously professed commitment, a lurch in another direction.
Witness in New York City, the developmental lesson was, king, then it was the workshop model. (And never mind that God Lucy Calkins said it was for elementary grades in English, it was transposed with dogmatic force to the secondary level in other disciplines.) And now, have you noticed that the mini-lesson is entirely discarded? It is supposed to be subsumed within the body of the motivation.
No matter, administrators told us that blue is now fuschia, and we followed in line; and this cycle repeats with nary an instance of critical thinking.

Leo Casey, vintage 2008, fights the good fight versus VAM Let us take a step back to the heady days of 2008. The United Federation of Teachers was for Hilary Clinton, who then openly professed criticism of No Child Left Behind and promised to take action. Alas, this was all before Barack Obama nudged her out of the way, beat I-can-see-Russia and her partner, Russert's Meet the Press BFF; Obama, who less than a half-year into the presidency, launched Race to the Top and the rest is history.

Just as the CPUSA had wild switches and swings in its line, especially in the mid-20th Century, the brook-no-public-dissent Unity caucus of the UFT (see for example here and here) has had its wild swings in its line on data and its use.
In 2008, before activists and terrified teachers had nightmares about VAM, APPR and IPCs --before we knew or even cared, then [Unity] UFT VP, Leo Casey had the right line on VAM. (See here and here if you still need some clarification on these terms and their significance for your career.) Could you imagine, that the Bush II years would be the golden years by comparison? The person that knew or talked about that sort of wonky stuff back in the mid-2000s was the dull nudge at school; now everyone with any concern for their careers knows. Why, I'd bet that many teachers' own children would realize that such terms are enough to make their parents grind their teeth.

Note the UFT's Casey's admittedly wise words on January 21, 2008, "Tweed's 'Value-Added' Project: Ideology Trumps Education." Back then this Unity chieftain of the UFT was on the right track with his words on VAM, not yet erased from the record, on the UFT's EdWize blog, bolded emphasis, mine:

The DoE’s “value added” project is a fundamentally flawed exercise which can not possibly deliver what it promises. It is being pursued, with the full knowledge of its flaws, because technocratic ideology trumps sound educational practice at Tweed. Moving forward with such a flawed project is extraordinarily irresponsible because “value added” — the idea that one should measure how much academic progress students have made, rather than just their absolute academic standing — holds promise as an useful tool in the repertoire of schools and educators. But the way in which it is being recklessly pursued by Tweed will cast discredit on the entire enterprise.

The DoE has no contractual or legal authority to use test score data in the evaluation of teachers, and the UFT will oppose it with all the means at our disposal. This is a line in the sand for the UFT.
Furthermore, note that Casey terms this reasoning as intellectually dishonest.
To understand just how intellectually dishonest this exercise is, consider the following. This pilot project is based on student scores on the annual New York State ELA and Math standardized exams, grades 4 through 8. [The initial year of testing, grade 3, provides a baseline, leaving only grades 4 through 8 -- the years in which the exam is given on an annual basis -- for the measurement of progress.] This means that the pilot can only be applied to the teachers of grades 4 and 5 in an elementary school, and to ELA and Math teachers of grades 6 through 8 in a middle school, a small fraction of all teachers. More importantly, since the ELA and Math exams are given in January, the students will have had at least two different teachers in the interval between exams — one in the spring term of one school year and the other in the fall term of the next school year. Even assuming that the exams are an accurate and complete measure of student learning — and there is ample evidence that they are not — a student’s progress from one exam to the next is thus dependent upon at least two teachers. In some instances, a student would have another two teachers for Academic Intervention Services in the 37.5 minute tutoring, and a fifth teacher if he attended a summer program. How could one possibly isolate an individual teacher’s contribution to a student’s progress using this method?
2013 UFT, about-face, applauding the same VAM principles
So now, we have the UFT reversing itself from Casey's 2008 line in the sand declarations.  A la the 1939-1941 CP period that included the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, we have the UFT making a grand about-face, now claiming that metrics are fair, a just reform over past practices. Akin to intellectually dishonest, can we say that the UFT is politically disingenous? The UFT in 2013 is repeatedly praising the new Advance (APPR) teacher evaluation system in principle, only adding the comment that the system has a few issues that need tweaking. President Barack Obama's and ED Secretary Arne Duncan's 2009 Race to the Top with its emphasis on test-linked evaluations paved the way for the changes New York is enduring. The UFT under Michael Mulgrew, in 2010 enthusiastically endorsed New York State's RTTT application, establishing these evaluation requirements in New York State, which provided the legal authority which Casey challenged, read here and here. 2013's Mulgrew deems the evaluation system, "clear in its intent to support the work teachers do inside the classroom." Where's Casey today? --safely insulated from NYC, assisting president Randi Weingarten in the American Federation of Teachers.
Come to MORE's next general meeting, 10/10/13


Nevertheless, the overall Unity line is that the state-imposed evaluation system is a wonderful improvement, including its reliance on the Danielson Frameworks (which assume that all kids will be attentive, intellectually precocious and cooperative), its central incorporation of value added modeling use of standardized test scores (the very kind of quantitative analysis that Casey faulted as the objectionable line in the sand that the UFT would fight with every means at its disposal), which mean that even the stellar teacher acing the qualitative Danielson sections could fail overall if the high-stakes test scores were inadequate, "40%=100%"-- along with the Student Learning Objectives, or SLOs, (in New York City, Measures of Student Learning, MOSL). The last point takes test-score ranking one step further on the absurdity scale, for example, in some schools, measuring physical education teachers on students' performance on tests in the science department. Such farcical, non-sequitor accountability measures stoked teacher outrage and a federal lawsuit in purple state Florida. Read, "Teachers in Florida sue state claiming job evaluation system is unfair." This Washington Post article begins, "Teachers in Florida filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday, claiming the state’s new teacher evaluation system is unfair because it partly rates their job performance on test scores of students they don’t know and subjects they don’t teach." 

This is the institutional madness that has hijacked the city's educational policies. This is what the UFT's MORE caucus will be protesting this Wednesday, October 9 at the union's headquarters at 52 Broadway, Manhattan, on the occasion of the Delegates Assembly ("DA"). (Rector, 1, R; Wall, 4, 5; Broad, J, Z trains)