I think we can all agree that the New York print media leaves a stadium parking lot to be desired. At the bottom of the pile is the New York Post which is little more than a daily snuff flick set to words. At the top is the New York Times, the supposed paper of record, whose coverage of current events is as deep as a kiddie pool. Somewhere between the two is the New York Daily News: half snuff, half fluff and all puff.
Take the Daily News’ coverage of the teacher evaluation fiasco between the UFT and DOE for instance. It hasn’t merely been bad or biased in its usual way. It has been downright uninformed. The unnamed author of this opinion piece, entitled Doomed to Fail, seemed to go out of their way to avoid doing even the most basic research on what the UFT and DOE were negotiating, why they were doing so and who played what role.
“What?”, “Why?” and “Who?”, as we were taught in grammar school, are three of the five basic questions journalists set out to answer when writing a story. The fact that the Daily News got 60% of it wrong is nothing short of a disgrace.
What’s worse is that Gotham Schools linked to this piece in yesterday morning’s “Rise and Shine” section. Am I just expressing sour grapes over the fact that Gotham Schools has never, not once, linked to my blog or otherwise acknowledged my existence? Yes it is but I will fry that kettle of fish another time. Much like my banishment from DOE broadband I take Gotham Schools’ derision of this website as a badge of honor.
But back to the appropriately named Doomed to Fail, which could just as easily be a description of the unnamed author’s efforts to write an intelligent piece about a basic bit of education news. The ignorance starts from the very first sentence:
The futile head-butting that passed for negotiations between United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott on a state-mandated teacher evaluation deal laid bare the fatal flaw in Gov. Cuomo’s approach: letting districts and unions negotiate their plans rather than imposing one from the start.
“Letting school districts and unions negotiate their plans” was not “Gov. Cuomo’s approach”. These negotiations, along with all of the other evaluation talks across the state, are mandated by the federal Race to the Top program. New York State applied to the federal government for Race to the Top money. One of the conditions that must be fulfilled before receiving this money is the institution of new teacher evaluations. At least part of these evaluations must be agreed upon in collective bargaining (see: negotiation between unions and school districts).
Therefore, it is not Governor Cuomo’s approach. It is President Barack Obama’s and Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s approach. This is the “who?” that the Daily News embarrassingly gets wrong. (And Gotham Schools thought worthy enough to hyperlink.)
Because while the governor set up a basic framework — teachers to be ranked on a four-tier scale based on student test score gains and other performance measures; professional help for those rated poorly; the boot for those who couldn’t improve after two years — he left it to the districts and their unions to work out the details.
Wrong. The governor alone did not set up the basic framework. The framework was agreed upon in collective bargaining between the State of New York (which includes Cuomo, State Education Commissioner John King and State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch) and New York State United Teachers (which includes NYSUT President Richard Ianuzzi and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew).
Again, the Daily News gets the basic “Who?” wrong.
Furthermore, the framework does not provide for giving “the boot” to “those (teachers) who couldn’t improve after two years.” Instead, teachers who don’t “improve” after two years would be subject to a 3020 (add the “a” to that number if you’re in NYC) hearing in which an arbitrator would decide whether or not to terminate said teachers. A teacher whose incompetence has been vouched for by an independent validator will have the burden of proof at the hearing to show they are not incompetent. A teacher whose incompetence has not been vouched for by an independent validator will have to be proven to be so by the school district.
This is a “What?” the Daily News gets wrong in this case.
Fourth and fifth sentences:
Which, as everyone knows, is where the devil is. Especially given the chronically obstinate UFT.
Sure, Mulgrew says he supports better evaluations. But at negotiation time, he’s all elbows.
Um, Mulgrew was one of the parties that agreed to this framework for “better evaluations” in the first place, a framework that has already been made official in most other school districts in this state. Is this the work of someone “chronically obstinate” or “all elbows” during “negotiation time”?
Essentially, the Daily News is accusing Mulgrew of torpedoing an evaluation framework that he helped create in the first place. Does this count as a “Why?” the Daily News gets wrong? I say it does.
Sentences six through nine:
Even so, it looked like a deal was in reach until early Thursday — hours before Cuomo’s deadline. Then, Mulgrew insisted on a two-year sunset on the evaluation program that would pull the plug just before the worst of the worst would get the ax.
Not to mention brand new arbitration procedures above and beyond the hard-won streamlined process currently in place.
I presume the “hard-won streamlined” arbitration process currently in place refers to the supposed abolition of New York City’s infamous rubber rooms. Whoever wrote this article has never heard of Francesco Portellos who has been languishing in a rubber room for the better part of a year.
Mulgrew could not have possibly insisted on “new arbitration procedures above and beyond” the system currently in place. The procedures in place now, as tepid as they are, require the school district to prove the incompetence of a teacher. As we have seen, Mulgrew already agreed to a basic framework with New York State that effectively short-circuits this by placing the burden of proof on the teacher. In short, he couldn’t have proposed anything to make terminating teachers more difficult than it is now since doing so would have violated the basic framework to which he already agreed at the state level.
Again, when it comes to the “Why?” of the failure of these negotiations the Daily News gets it wrong. Hey, at least it was good enough for Gotham Schools.
The rest of the article:
How could a mayor committed to school reform ever accept a system that purported to elevate teacher quality but would vanish before it could actually do some good? He couldn’t. Mayor Bloomberg had no choice but to say no.
Amazingly, some 90% of the approved plans negotiated by the 682 districts around the state sunset after one year, not two — a provision that Bloomberg dismissed as a sham.
He’s got that right.
Perhaps those districts merely felt the need to reevaluate in a year’s time, not go back to the drawing board. But in the city? Don’t count on it.
Here — with contract talks looming and a new mayor set to take office in January — it’s a sure bet that, had Bloomberg buckled, no teacher would ever be let go under tough new standards.
So, here we are: The kids lose. The teachers lose. The city loses. Only Mulgrew, able to say he stood up to a tough-guy mayor, thinks he wins.
Bully for him.
Right. This is your opinion and you’re entitled to it.
Why should your opinion matter when you fail to get the most rudimentary aspects of these negotiations straight, aspects that you could have gleaned from a simple Google search? Moreover, why should you get space in a major market newspaper when you obviously have not been following this story? Finally, why should Gotham Schools find this uninformed drivel poignant enough to hyperlink when there were easily dozens more insightful articles out there to highlight about this and other New York City school matters?
The answers are “it doesn’t”, “you shouldn’t” and “they shouldn’t” respectively.