Publication Date: 2006-04-13
Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers writes:"The mayor and chancellor must abandon their one-size-fits-all, top-down management style that treats teachers like assembly-line workers and children like widgets."
Comments from Annie: Several important points are made in this piece, but I still cringe to see that the goal is ?to boost test scores.? And even this comment: ?If the schools are going to succeed, we must all be partners in the process? Sort of gives me the creeps; it sounds too much like business speak.
I do very much support this teacher and AFT president?s intent (at least I think I do) but it seems to me that she need a bit more information and perhaps conviction about the destructive impact of NCLB.
Schools aren't factories
Micromanaging teachers, fixating on test results won't equal success.
By Randi Weingarten
There is no question that some things have improved in New York City's public schools. Some schools have made great strides, such as P.S. 65 in Brooklyn, which owes the bulk of its success to a union-run teacher training program. Reading scores for schools using that program beat the city average by 20%.
Educators throughout the system have worked hard with the kids to achieve more, and we hope to keep scores moving in the right direction. But mayoral control does not have to be a system that makes high-stakes testing the sole measure of achievement.
The fixation on test preparation is resulting in a narrowing of the curriculum, leaving little time for science, social studies, art, music and physical education. One idea that could boost test scores and decrease the dropout rate is lowering class size ? the top priority for parents and teachers. Yet in New York City, class size is 10%-60% higher than the rest of the state. For example, in New York City, the average 11th-grade English class has 28 students, compared with 21 statewide.
Another way to increase student achievement is to better prepare our kids for school in the first place. Full-day pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds would drastically improve achievement levels because the kids would start school ready to learn, giving educators a fighting chance to keep kids engaged in those critical secondary years.
The biggest frustration for teachers in New York City is the Bloomberg administration's total disregard for their professional judgment and creativity.
The mayor and chancellor must abandon their one-size-fits-all, top-down management style that treats teachers like assembly-line workers and children like widgets. The micromanagement got so ridiculous that some principals timed teachers' lessons and told them how many staples to put in classroom bulletin boards. That's not schooling ? and it's not progress.
It's time to stop pitting principals against teachers and start involving everyone in the process of deciding what works best in the classroom. Educators should be a valuable source for fresh ideas and a sounding board for what works ? and what doesn't. We teach kids to collaborate and share ideas; we must re-instill that ethic at the Department of Education. If the schools are going to succeed, we must all be partners in the process.
Randi Weingarten is president of the United Federation of Teachers.