2010-05-14 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

By Anonymous

The Wave has allowed the author of this “It’s My Turn” column to remain anonymous because his or her job and standing in the community could well be compromised if the name were used.

In pro sports when a team isn’t winning the owner often fires the coach because it’s easier to do that than firing all the players! Witness the experience of Joe Torre whose managerial record from 1977 thru 1995 (at the Mets and Cardinals) was 897 wins and 1003 losses.

His record from 1996 thru 2009 (Yankees Dodgers) was 1260 wins and 912 losses (note: these win/loss figures are approximations)… The Charter School Movement is the Joe Torre of our education system. Our leaders can’t fire the kids, so they want to fire the teachers. This movement started out with good intentions, but has degenerated into a corrupt, patronage-laden system which does not do a good job educating our kids.

Some charter schools have achieved better results-but this is due to a student population with fewer special needs children than in non-charter schools. Like Joe Torre, some charter schools are doing better because they have better/smarter teams/students than those of non-charter schools.

A compelling educational analogy to this is the well known Mark Twain JHS (#239) Brooklyn. In 1972, the NAACP brought suit against the local school board in U.S. District Court charging unconstitutional segregation.

The judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

The remedy was to KEEP THE ENTIRE STAFF in place and make the school into a magnet for gifted and talented. MAGIC occurred – with the SAME TEACHING STAFF, one of the worst-performing schools in the City became one of the best! This magnet school concept has been duplicated in many other schools, as well.

Charter School proponents who want to use the charter school movement to fire the teaching staff and bust the teachers’ union are off base.

Teachers are not overpaid.

They are highly educated and work very hard. For example, a high school teacher with 170 students has a tremendous amount of work to do outside the classroom (not just 7 hours/day working in the school building).

This teacher has to create lesson plans daily for five classes. He/she has to create class tests every two weeks (approximately) and mark these tests. It can take as long as 14 hours to grade 170 test papers – assuming 5 minutes per paper. This teacher has an undergraduate degree in a specific subject area, and often a concentration of many extra courses beyond this to comply with Department of Education Guidelines.

Also, he/she must obtain a masters degree within 5 years of his/her original teaching appointment.

Are teachers wealthy? Hardly, and whatever money they are paid is well earned.

Why Charter Schools?

The Charter School movement was started because academics want to sell the textbooks which they write, and they and their politician cohorts want to show that they are doing something original and important to improve our education system… However, the Charter School movement has evolved into a good means of UNION BUSTING.

Politicians are generally in favor of this because it can help to reduce union political power and municipal budget deficits on the backs of teachers.

Consequently, the “establishment” ignore the Joe Torre and Mark Twain JHS phenomena mentioned above in order to pursue its own agenda.

Teachers at charter schools are not automatically members of the teacher’s union. They can join the union – but it’s a sometimes difficult process. Charter schools don’t have to follow many provisions of the teacher contract, and don’t even follow many of the provisions they are supposed to follow. They can get away with it due to union weakness.

For example, a teacher can be programmed for 5 classes in a row (and this often happens) without a break – tough luck for the teacher with a weak bladder or a bad back! This is a bad deal for this teacher’s students as well – for what human being could do his best work under such conditions? A teacher who calls in with a fever of 102 degrees can be threatened with reprisals for taking a sick day (because a substitute teacher costs money).

This often happens, as well.

Consequently, Charter schools have high staff turnover, which undermines school performance. Charter schools often cut programs or curtail education for students with special needs in order to increase profitability. In NYC the Department of Education deliberately assigns fewer special needs students to charter schools, thus skewing academic results. Charters do better because they have fewer special needs children and non-charter schools do worse compared with the charters because they have relatively too many such children.

Profits

Isn’t it obvious that when schools are run for profit that education will suffer because spending does not go completely for educational needs – but for profit? Specifically, look at the huge salaries of charter school administrators and the brewing scandals.

Charter schools are a fabulous source of patronage for politicians – just read the newspapers. One day our leaders will wake up and realize that the Charter School Movement is a big mistake.

At least, I hope so.

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