Tag Archives: Race to the Top in New York City

The Power of Opting Out

There is always a choice.

There is always a choice.

This piece was originally written for Schoolbook who did not see fit to pick it up. Why let it go to waste? 

Opting out is becoming a form of educational civil disobedience.

Certain school districts in upstate New York are starting to opt out of the new teacher evaluation system mandated by Race to the Top. A group of courageous parents in Washington Heights recently opted their children out of a standardized exam that was being given for no other reason than to evaluate their teachers. A nationwide opt out movement has been afoot for some time as a response to the testing mania that has accompanied the current wave of education reform.

Opting out is empowering because it shows the rest of us, whether we are parents, students or educators, that we still have choices in an era of so much top-down control of our education system.

Teachers should take heart from these examples. I teach history in a solid public high school with wonderful students. The new Race to the Top evaluations are subjecting my students to more testing than ever before. It breaks my heart to see them spending so much time filling in bubbles when they can be in a classroom engaged in actual learning.

As teachers, our ratings and livelihoods hinge upon how our students fair on these exams. On top of this, our administrators have to observe our teaching more than they ever have before. Many of my colleagues have been scrambling to bring their teaching in line with the new evaluation regime. For my part, I have decided to opt out.

Sure, I cannot prevent my administrators from walking into my classroom to observe me. I cannot prevent my students from wasting their time taking exams. But I can prevent myself from scrambling to conform with a system that I know for a fact to be odious and destructive.

Teaching is the only career I have ever had. All of my teaching years, 14 to be exact, have been spent in New York City’s Department of Education. My methods have been informed by the veteran teachers who took the time to mentor me when I was green. My style has been shaped by the countless students who have let me know, one way or another, what works and what does not work. If not for my colleagues and my students, I would not be the teacher that I am today.

This is why I have decided to make no compromises with the new evaluation regime. I will not allow the regime to change a single thing I do as a teacher. I owe it to my colleagues to opt out in this way in order to give them hope that we do not have to give ourselves over to this new system. I owe it to my students to shield them, as much as possible, from the odious effects of this so-called “reform”.

This does not mean that I will not take risks with new materials, assessments or approaches to teaching. It is quite the opposite. A good teacher modifies and refines their style all of the time. What it does mean is that the changes I make will in no way be informed by the new system. Instead, I will continue to listen to my colleagues and students the way I have been doing for the past 14 years. This is what opting out means to me.

Bureaucracies, especially one as unwieldy as the Department of Education, have a tendency to make us feel as if we do not have choices in what we do. There are always choices. Sure, all of us have to make certain compromises in order to get along in the system. I have made the decision to make as few compromises as possible when it comes to the quality of education my students receive. This new system requires too many unacceptable compromises of me. Therefore, I will merely opt out of this system by pretending it does not exist in my classroom.

If this results in me being rated “ineffective” then so be it. At least I can sleep at night knowing I did right by the students I serve.

Advertisements

THE SHILL GAME: E4E

Our favorite shills are still here ready to feast on your brains.

Our favorite shills are still here ready to feast on your brains.

The misleadingly named Educators 4 Excellence is running a spot tonight on television that will encourage Governor Cuomo to impose an evaluation scheme on the city.

It’s strange that a small (very small) group of NYC teachers has the money to get air time on television. Either they have superior accounting practices or they are being funded by outside interests that wish to destroy public education. Which do you think it is?

As a NYC teacher, I don’t know what gives Evan Stone and his ilk the right to speak for me. They haven’t done anything to earn a position of leadership within my union. They haven’t done anything to even earn the name “Educators 4 Excellence.”

Of course they haven’t earned a thing. They are a front group for the reformy forces in NYC. What they lack with a popular mandate among teachers they more than make up for with dollars.

Here is a question: if they care so much about educating NYC children, why don’t they take the millions they have garnered from reformy groups and put it into the schools? Evan Stone and Sydney Morris hardly need another million dollars being the trust fund brats they are.

And speaking of the union, I’m sure Mulgrew and company find it very comforting that they support the same exact position on these teacher evaluations as groups like E4E. Mulgrew has already signaled his willingness to accept a state-imposed scheme. The Unity folks are out in force telling all of us that a state-imposed scheme will be nothing more than binding arbitration.

It doesn’t matter what they call it. Our union should be very uncomfortable with being on the same side of any issue as E4E.

E4E represents everything wrong with education in NYC. Their fresh, young and white faces represent exactly the type of teaching force the reformers want. You think E4E would get any reformy money if they had older black faces?

Thank you E4E for reminding us the lengths to which the 1% will go to destroy public education. They are like the plants sent by J. Edgar Hoover to infiltrate and divide the organizations of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. They are like the provocateurs who infiltrated the Occupy Wall Street protests. The only difference is, everyone knows who E4E is and everyone sees through them.

Does the fact that they’ve been around for years without gaining any traction among the rank-and-file teachers count for anything? I suppose it doesn’t when you have millions of dollars propping you up.

E4E: a zombie organization with zombie ideas. Tune in tonight to see them in action. Just don’t let them eat your brains.

 

LEO CASEY RESPONDS TO NYC TEACHER OUTCRY…. AND I CRY SOME MORE

Leo and Unity do damage control. Laws are now "binding arbitration".

Leo and Unity do damage control. Laws are now “binding arbitration”.

Leo Casey has been good enough to respond to my post about Michael Mulgrew’s comments yesterday, comments that me and many others see as preparing us for a “sellout”. I thank him for taking his time to write out a thoughtful response.

I think his comments are are too important to leave buried in the comments section and have decided instead to give it its own post. I will respond to Leo Casey in this post. If he wishes to further respond to what I say it is up to him, although he is obviously under no obligation to do so.

I will respond to his first paragraph and then I will respond to the rest of the post as a whole.

Leo Casey | January 31, 2013 at 3:37 pm | ReplyEdit

What is clear is that either MORE caucus does not understand collective bargaining or that it has made a decision to knowingly misrepresent the collective bargaining process.

Perhaps, but understand that me and every other NYC teacher is getting their information from Gotham Schools, the NY Post and Michael Mulgrew himself. Out of the hundreds of words to be read between those three sources there was no mention of the term collective bargaining. Every single one of them said the same thing: the governor and the state legislature are willing to push an evaluation regime through legislative channels, thereby instituting one by fiat. Mulgrew said he was fine with that. This comment by Leo Casey is the only time the term collective bargaining has been used to describe what the governor is promising to do.

Therefore, if there is a misunderstanding it is due to the nature of our sources, sources that include the UFT President himself.

Now on to the rest of Leo’s comments.

It is not uncommon to have negotiations grind to a standstill, especially when one of the parties — in our case, Michael Bloomberg — has no intention of engaging in good faith negotiations. Bloomberg can not get over the fact that law requires the DOE and City to negotiate teacher evaluations with the UFT, rather than be able to unilaterally impose what he wants — a system focused on the notches he can put on his belt for the number of fired teachers. What the Governor and leaders of the state legislature are saying is that if impasse with the city continues because of the mayor’s obstructionism, NYSED would act as an arbitrator, and issues that could not be resolved in negotiations would go to it for a decision.

This is a standard procedure in both labor law and collective bargaining practice, commonly described as a form of binding arbitration. Binding arbitration is not rare: it is in that forum that management and labor bring issues of the interpretation or implementation of a collective bargaining agreement that they can not resolve between them. The recent decision on SESIS (http://www.uft.org/news/uft-prevails-sesis-arbitration) is an example of binding arbitration, in which an arbitrator ruled that the DOE would have to compensate teachers for the additional time they spend, beyond the regular work day, to do the paperwork associated with the system.

It is important to remember here that there was an agreement that was reached between the UFT and the DOE that the mayor then blew up. The number of issues where there is now disagreement are finite and small. Chief among these is the issue of the sunset clause, where the mayor withdrew the agreement to have such a clause at the very last hour. In the days since he blew up the agreement, the mayor has made the sunset clause into a line in the sand, accusing hundreds of other school districts and the NYSED of countenancing ‘sham’ evaluation systems because they had sunset clauses. At the same time, Bloomberg’s account of the sunset clause and of the events that led to him blowing up the agreement over that clause have been publicly refuted and discredited by the President of the CSA, NYS Commissioner of Education John King and Governor Cuomo himself. New York City teachers have nothing to fear from putting that issue to NYSED for a decision, should the mayor continue in his fits of pique.

Real political debate requires a honest airing of disagreements. The suggestion that Michael Mulgrew gas given away “collective bargaining rights” or that I sold a “bill of goods” in talking about the role of collective bargaining in determining teacher evaluations are misrepresentations, and do not advance the honest debate that members of the UFT deserve.

This is a very curious response. Essentially, Leo Casey is saying that whatever Cuomo is threatening to push through the legislature is a form of binding arbitration. He compares what Cuomo is threatening to do the recent SESIS decision where an independent arbitrator ruled in favor of the UFT. I find this to be a disingenuous comparison.

The governor of NY State is not an independent arbitrator. Independent arbitrators are independent because they are free from public pressure. They do not have to run for office and therefore do not have to make the popular decision. They are independent because they are free to make the just decision.

To say that the governor and state legislatures are similar to independent arbitrators is absurd. To say that a law that comes out of the state legislature is a form of binding arbitration is equally absurd. In that case, every single education law ever made and that will ever be made can be considered a form of binding arbitration.

Cuomo and the state legislature are going to be pressured to do what is popular. What is popular may run counter in many cases to what the union wants, especially when it comes to accountability.

Remember that Students First and Educators 4 Excellence have spent the past year pushing for a law that would force an evaluation system on districts that have failed to agree to one. This is exactly the type of law Cuomo is proposing. The proof is in the pudding according to the Post:

A few hours before Cuomo made his announcement, the Bloomberg-backed “Students First” advocacy group filed a short-lived lawsuit to try to recoup the lost state aid, sources said.

But the lawsuit was quickly yanked after Cuomo called Bloomberg, sources said.

Right and they yanked the lawsuit because Cuomo is offering what they have been lobbying for for the past year on a silver platter.

Does the union feel any compunction about being in such close agreement with the likes of Micah Lasher?

To say that a state law is the same as an independent arbitrator’s decision is ridiculous. Nothing in any article about the matter has mentioned the terms collective bargaining or binding arbitration.

This is my take on Leo Casey’s response. To me, it seems as if he is doing a great deal of damage control. He is making it seem as if the union is not backtracking when they clearly are doing just that. We were promised collective bargaining. Mulgrew and Unity negotiated in good faith. No agreement was reached. That is what our collective bargaining came to.

Rather than defend the principal of collective bargaining at the local level, the thing that Casey said was essential to the process last year, they have allowed the whole bowl of fruits and nuts to be decided by government fiat. Government fiat is not a form of binding arbitration. It is a form of coercion.

And it is a form of coercion by a governor who is under pressure from billionaire groups like Students First. This makes the governor anything but independent and makes any system he comes up with tainted. More importantly, it is against the spirit and principles of what our union promised us last year.

I appreciate Leo Casey’s response. As I have said before, I like him as a human being. But I see no reason to see whatever Cuomo comes up with as a form of binding arbitration.

Has Leo Casey changed your mind? What do you think?

ATTENTION NYC TEACHERS: YOU HAVE BEEN HAD BY YOUR UNION

hoodwinked

I hope all New York City teachers remembered what was happening around this time last year. New York State United Teachers, in conjunction with our own United Federation of Teachers, agreed to a new teacher evaluation system with the state of New York.

I hope all NYC teachers remember that the UFT leadership, in the form of Leo Casey, tried to explain to us why the system to which they agreed was a good one. Here is Leo Casey last year “setting the record straight” on why we the teachers of NYC should support the new evaluations:

And it was essential that the bulk of the evaluations be established locally through collective bargaining, with the law only providing a general framework.

Translation: don’t worry, because your local union will have a say in what the evaluation regime will look like in your district.

Fast forward almost one year later to today. The UFT and the city have not been able to come to an agreement. As it turned out collective bargaining, the thing that Leo Casey said was essential, yielded no agreement. That is where things should have ended.

But Governor Cuomo said today that he might just push an evaluation system through the legislature and impose it on NYC by fiat. In other words, Cuomo said he is willing to override the agreement we came to via collective bargaining, which was no agreement. This is in direct contradiction to the framework to which he and the union agreed last year.

The UFT should be up in arms about this. Our Unity leadership should point out that collective bargaining yielded no agreement, despite the fact that they were willing to meet the city more than halfway. Unity should be fighting to uphold the integrity of collective bargaining, the one essential element of this evaluation framework.

Instead, here is the response of Unity’s own Michael Mulgrew:

Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that he “would prefer a negotiated settlement,” but supported state intervention if talks fail again.

In other words, Mulgrew supports an evaluation system imposed by fiat. Collective bargaining went from being the essential part of the deal to being no part of the deal whatsoever.

What a difference a year makes.

And lest there be any doubts as to how essential collective bargaining was supposed to be to the process, let us look at what Leo Casey said almost one year ago today:

With collective bargaining playing a key role in the shaping of “on the ground” evaluations, teacher unions have the input that will allow us to protect the educational integrity and fairness of the evaluation process….

Now that Unity has agreed to no collective bargaining and no input, does this mean that whatever evaluation process we get now will have no “educational integrity and fairness”?

In all of the complexity of these multiple measures, there is one essential point to remember: 80% of the total evaluation – the measures of teacher performance and the measures of student learning based on local assessments – are set through collective bargaining at the district level. This provides teacher union locals with an essential and necessary input into teacher evaluations, allowing us to ensure that they have educational integrity and are fair to teachers.

So does this mean that Michael Mulgrew today signaled that he is perfectly fine to have a system that doesn’t “ensure… educational integrity and (is) fair to teachers.”?

Remember when Carol Burris criticized the UFT for agreeing to a system that was going to deplete the quality of education in New York State? Here are some of the words Casey used to describe Burris’ criticisms: “alarmist”, “misinformed”, “groundless”, “problematic” and “speculative”. Here is Leo Casey addressing Burris’ point about our schools being given over to standardized testing:

If both components were based solely on standardized test scores, using unreliable value-added models with high margins of error, as Burris incorrectly claims, these scoring bands would have the potential of producing unfair ratings among outlier cases. But with at least one of these two components being a local assessment that, as it is collectively bargained, should be an authentic assessment of student learning, this objection does not hold.

The implication is that collective bargaining will ensure that the assessments will be “authentic” because local districts and unions know best how to assess their students. Now that Unity has signaled that they are fine with having zero collective bargaining, are they also saying that they are fine with inauthentic assessments of our students? Is he also saying that Carol Burris’ contention that these evaluations are bad for schools actually does “hold”?

What else can it mean? If collective bargaining equals authentic assessment, then how does no collective bargaining not equal inauthentic assessment?

Casey continued discussing the issue of student assessment:

In New York City, the UFT has taken the position that under no circumstances would we agree to the use of standardized state exams for the local measures of student learning…

Well, now that Unity has basically forfeited their right to agree to anything what use is Unity’s “position” now, Mr. Casey?

Casey then went on to address Carol Burris in more detail:

Burris’ commentary ignores the ways in which the New York teacher evaluation law turns over the scoring of different components of the evaluation to local collective bargaining.

And as of today, so has Michael Mulgrew.

On the measures of student learning, both the selection and the scoring of the local assessment are the subject of collective bargaining.

This is no longer the Unity’s position. As of today, this has been totally abandoned.

The law thus gives local unions the means to prevent the very sort of scenario Burris plays out in her piece, where a teacher is effective on all the measures of teacher performance and all the measures of student learning, yet still receives an overall rating of ineffective.

Sure, the law did but Unity showed today that they would be willing to allow that part of the law to be violated. Therefore, doesn’t this mean that Burris’ concern that a good teacher will be rated “ineffective” because of junk science has turned out to be much less “baseless” than Leo Casey had us thinking last year?

But Burris simply ignores the collective bargaining requirements and speculates that a scoring range for the measures of teacher performance will be established that, conveniently, produce the results that makes her scenario work. Is it really necessary to note that teacher union leaders with substantial experience in collective bargaining know how to do simple math, and would not agree in collective bargaining to scoring bands for teacher performance that would produce such an incongruous and unfair result?

I suppose it is just too bad that the teachers of NYC will not have the benefit of being protected by the awesome negotiating skills of Unity, since Unity has clearly indicated that they are willing to abdicate their role in this regard. What good are those collective bargaining skills when Unity refuses to stand by collective bargaining in the first place?

While Unity has not totally sold us out yet, Mulgrew said very clearly today that he was willing to do so. All of these promises from Leo Casey mean nothing as of now.

Dear Leo Casey,

We went the collective bargaining route and came to an agreement in NYC. The agreement was no agreement. Now you guys are willing to change the rules, do a complete about-face and trash all of the promises you made to us, your dues-paying members, last year.

Dear Teachers of NYC,

You have been had by Unity leadership. Very clearly, Leo Casey was selling us a bill of goods. They made us think that collective bargaining was going cushion the blow of these evaluations. Now they say they are fine with taking away the cushion. They are not even willing to put up a fight to keep the cushion in place.

You do not have to accept this. As Reality-Based Educator said today, there is MORE out there than a Unity leadership that will stab in you the back.

We deserve MORE than a pack of lies.

 

 

The Farce and the Hope of New York City’s Annual School Report Cards

Failed public schools will be Pharaoh Bloomberg’s legacy to New York City. It will be his pyramid if you will, built on the sweat and misery of the educators and students he has held in captivity for so long.

The Department of Education released the annual report cards for elementary and junior high schools this past Monday.

These report cards routinely have wild differences in school grades from year to year. The rubrics are always changing, leaving principals and teachers in the dark on how they will be assessed.  Having had to endure the annual release of school report cards under the Bloomberg regime, most NYC educators would probably admit they are no less arbitrary than a roll of a die. Both of them have six possible outcomes that all seem equally likely. Neither changes in the school program nor the way one shakes the die before rolling can secure a particular outcome.

I know another high school teacher in one of Bloomberg’s small schools sharing a building with four other small schools. Students routinely score horribly on state exams, well below the citywide average. The administration is mired in incompetence. The principal is a nepotism case. Teachers are mostly inexperienced and the work environment is toxic. There are no advanced placement classes. Yet, the school has never received any other grade but an A.

At the same time, the school in which I teach scores well above average on state exams, has several AP classes and a flourishing special needs programs. Any way you slice it, my school should have much higher grades than the other one. Yet, we have never received an A. Instead, we have bounced between Bs and Cs.

This point is demonstrated in New York State’s Quality Review assessment. Azi Paybarah explains in his article that the QR is based on a “two- or three-day school visit by experienced educators who visit classrooms, [and] talks with school leaders as part of their evaluation of the school.” Schools are rated in many different categories on a rubric with four possible outcomes. From lowest to highest they are “underdeveloped”, “developing”, “proficient” and “well developed”. It is a more in-depth and comprehensive assessment than the city’s report card system. The most recent Quality Review for my school resulted in “well-developed” and “proficient” scores across the board. For the school of my colleague, it was mostly “developing” with maybe one “well-developed”. This disparity between state and city assessments of DOE schools is pretty common.

Not too long ago, a neighbor of mine was asking me about possible high schools for her 8th-grade son. I mentioned a few schools I considered good off the top of my head. She gave me a quizzical look and said she had never come across any of the schools I mentioned in her research. Apparently, she was thumbing through the city’s high school directory and only considering schools with an “A” rating. The way the DOE simply labels schools with letter grades lends itself perfectly to parents quickly scanning the list for the highest rated schools.

I told the parent that, rather than looking at the city’s letter grade, she should take a look at the state’s Quality Review. She appreciated the advice, although it is a tough sell to the majority of parents like her who work many hours a week. As Paybarah explains again, the QR “has a few charts and check-boxes. They’re relatively [heavy on] words, and lack easy-to-consume indicators like letter grades. They require more work from parents, in other words.”

To be sure, no attempts to assess schools are perfect. But imagine you are making a decision as to where you will spend the next four years of your life, whether it is an apartment, a college or a job. Would you make your decision based upon a pile of esoteric charts where the thinking is pretty much done for you? Would you want those charts to be the only basis for a simple letter grade? Chances are that you would not. Chances are you would try to track down first-hand accounts, read some sort of in-depth expert reviews and visit the place yourself. Chances are that you would synthesize these pieces of thoughtful information in order to form an opinion. After all, nobody wants to be stuck in a place in which they will be miserable for so long.

Knowing these circumstances, one would think that the DOE would come up with a more stable rating policy for its schools. What can a parent honestly tell about a school that gets a C one year and an A the next year? The DOE rates schools every year. It changes the rubrics just as often, leaving administrators, teachers, students and parents in the dark about what exactly is expected of them. Schools are not compared with every other school in the city. Instead, they are compared with a small cohort of schools. Many times, these cohorts include charter schools, schools located in much better neighborhoods or schools that are part of Bloomberg’s “showcase schools” that get a disproportionate amount of funding. Some schools have art and music while other schools have many online classes. Are these differences accounted for when the DOE rates schools? We do not know, since the DOE has been anything but forthcoming about how schools are measured.

Would it not make more sense for the DOE to take a page from the QR’s playbook and rate schools every three years, or at most every two years, to determine if a school either maintains its gains over a longer period of time or has instituted policies that create improvements over the long haul? Rating schools every year by ever-changing standards is not the type of system that encourages administrators to think long-term.

Much can speculated as to why Bloomberg decided to approve a rating system of this nature. The obsession with annual ratings measured in bar graphs and statistics, along with the stress on constant “improvement”, is straight from the business world. It is the corporate managerial philosophy brought to New York City’s schools by a mayor who seems incapable of thinking in any other terms but corporate. Short term gains measured in numbers is what drives not only the Bloomberg education regime, but the entire education “reform” movement. It is a strategy that encourages short-term thinking throughout the entire system, from DOE officials all the way down to students. It is the same type of short-term thinking that encouraged the reckless Wall Street speculation responsible for the economic slump in which we are currently mired.

It would be semi-comical if the only impact of these school report cards was a few million misled parents. Unfortunately, the stakes are much higher. Not only are principal and teacher bonuses tied to these ratings at many schools, but they also play a large role in determining whether or not a school closes. By the time Bloomberg is out of office, he will have closed over 100 schools in his 10 years as mayor. One of those schools might have been Bushwick Community High School if not for the heroic activism of its students, teachers and administrators. Bushwick Community is a “second chance school” for students who have not received a high-school diploma by the time they are 18. I wonder what schools Bushwick Community was measured against for its report card? Is there a fair way to compare Bushwick Community to any list of cohorts in NYC?

This is why so many teachers, students and parents see the DOE’s report cards as bludgeons with which to destroy schools in the most impoverished communities. As Michael Winerip explained in an article earlier this year, the schools that receive the lowest grades tend to be in the poorest communities. Consequently, these are the same communities that have seen their schools hollowed out in favor of charters. The few DOE schools that serve middle class or affluent students, or schools whose buildings are not attractive enough for charter school operators, tend to get higher report card grades. People who say there is a conspiracy here to suck the resources from the neediest students so they can be handed off to the private sector might not be off base. The ever-changing manner in which schools are measured, combined with the DOE’s refusal to clearly explain their grades, certainly do nothing to dispel these conspiracies.

In the past, criticism of the DOE’s school report cards have united teachers, students, parents and administrators. Whether it is a school like Bushwick Community whose very existence was threatened by these grades, or a school like mine who clearly should have received higher than some of the schools getting As, everyone can agree that it is an injustice to punish schools for performing poorly when what is expected of them is kept a big secret. As educators, we would never assess our own students like this. As parents, we would be derelict in our duties if we failed to lay out clear expectations for the children we raise. Yet, for Bloomberg, Walcott and the corporate junta who seized control of our school system 10 years ago, they operate with total impunity. The accountability Bloomberg promised for himself has never materialized and never will as long as he is in office. As the old saying goes, the fish rots from the head. If NYC’s school system is rotting, we know exactly where to look for the cause.

Finally, as an exercise of pure speculation on my part, the school report cards might be another reason why Bloomberg refuses to sign a new contract with the United Federation of Teachers. As it stands now, NYC has a deadline of mid-January to approve some form of assessment that will count for 20% of the new teacher evaluation regime. If that deadline is not met, NYC risks losing millions in federal Race to the Top funds. It seems that this assessment will only be agreed upon once a new contract is squared away. With Bloomberg’s apparent stance of leaving a new teacher contract for the next mayor, it seems pretty unlikely that NYC will even come close to that January deadline.

Is this because he fears that laying out a simple and clear teacher evaluation will throw a monkey wrench into his secretive school report card system? After all, if these assessments measure both students and teachers, how would he not be required to factor them into the school report cards? I cannot imagine having an assessment like this and keeping it outside of the school report card rubric. If state exams like Regents factor heavily into them, why not these local assessments? Bloomberg might fear losing some control of the biggest bludgeon he has at his disposal to privatize the school system. A collectively bargained citywide assessment clearly written in the contract is anathema to the fluid and clandestine school grading regime being used now.

As much as we understand that Bloomberg’s school grades are hokum, maybe Bloomberg’s intransigence on this issue is a blessing in disguise. Without a new contract with a collectively bargained local assessment, we get no Race to the Top funds. This means, in all likelihood, that NYC would have effectively opted out of Race to the Top. Sure, this makes it easier for Bloomberg to close more schools by continuing these arbitrary school report cards. But this is nothing we are not already used to in NYC. In fact, the victories at both Bushwick Community and Grover Cleveland High School might be signs that Bloomberg is losing momentum on this front anyway.

It might be asked how I can support a course that will not only deny our schools millions of dollars, but serve as an excuse for Bloomberg to cut school budgets even further. I can support it for a few reasons. First of all, we are getting federal funds now and getting budget cuts all the same. There is no reason to assume that getting RTTT money will change this dynamic. I do not assume this because, second, the cost that it will take to implement the local assessments mandated by RTTT will probably equal if not outstrip any funds the city gets. After all, Bloomberg will use local assessments as an excuse for some more wasteful no-bid contracts to education data companies like Wireless Generation (or whatever they are calling themselves now). We have no reason to believe that one red cent of any RTTT money will find its way into the classroom. In the end, RTTT would be a net loss for NYC. Not only will the students of NYC be denied the money, but RTTT mandates will turn their schools into non-stop testing factories.

In the end, the devil that you know is always better than the devil you do not know. We know where Bloomberg is coming from in regards to education and it seems most New Yorkers are catching on as well. On the other hand, RTTT is a federal monolith that will merely add another major front to the war being fought to save public education in our fair city.

So maybe, for once, Pharaoh Bloomberg’s stubborn incompetence will turn out to be a good thing. Wishful thinking? Maybe. Let us wait and see.