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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Time to "Gum Up the Works": My Checklist for Evaluating Educational "Reform"

U.F.T. President Mulgrew once made reference to his attempts to "gum up the works" in the "war with the reformers."  Not surprisingly, he was attacked by the press and "reformers" for his statements.  Most teachers who are aware of the current debates, however, understand the difference between reformers and "reformers" (the latter may, more aptly, be called "deformers"; this was Mulgrew's intended usage).

Like every teacher I know, I am surely not against all reform.  On a quest to sort out meaningful from destructive "reform," I created my own checklist for evaluating educational policies.  Before you prematurely draw any conclusions about the nature of reform, these are some questions you may want to ask yourself:

1.  Do the "reformers" push public education into the private sphere to generate profits or dream salaries for CEOs?

2.  Do the "reformers" seek to destroy the job protections of teachers, including the due-process rights of tenure?

3.  Are the "reformers" union busters who would relegate workers to the status of Walmart workers or at-will employees?

4.  Do the "reformers" use Teach for America as tools to replace higher paid, more experienced teachers?  Do you sense if "reformers" could practically hire cheaper teachers in Asia for our American classrooms, working under dangerous conditions, they would not hesitate to give TFA recruits the boot?

5.  Do the "reformers" think teachers are largely replaceable by technology?

6.  Do the "reformers" stand to profit greatly from their "reforms"?

7.  Do the "reformers" throw tons of money towards politicians?

8.  Is "lobbying" part of the curriculum of the "reformers," so much so that they can cancel school for all students in order to say "hello" to Cuomo as they promote their brand of "reform"?

9.  Is "counseling out" kids viewed as a successful strategy by "reformers"?  Do the "reformers" fail to teach the most challenged of the challenged and the most challenging of the challenging?

10.  Do the "reformers" promote changes that drive teachers from the profession in droves?

11.  Do the "reformers" glorify test prep and hold rallies in its honor?  

12.  Do the "reformers" put their faith in junk-science measures of student "growth" to evaluate teacher performance?

13.  Do the "reformers" use tests purposefully manufactured with cut scores to take kids and their teachers down?

14.  Do the "reformers" refuse to subject their own children to their educational experiments?

15.  Do the "reformers" treat teachers as scapegoats?

16.  Do the "reformers" care little if art, music, libraries, etc., are cut in the name of "reform"?

17.  Do the "reformers" search for educational "lebensraum" at the expense of the overcrowded public schools?

18.  Do the "reformers" policies worsen societal segregation?

19.  Do the "reformers" host their conferences in very ritzy and remote locales?

20.  Do the "reformers" favor a policy of razing schools, rather than helping them?
Ask yourself these questions or amend the list and substitute items to create your own.  You must question, not only the motivations, but the potential outcomes of such "reform."  Remember, not all reforms are equal.  "Reform" for the sake of reform isn't worth much when it spells deform!  In such a situation, you, so to speak, might want to reach for a load of "Dubble Bubble."  It's surely time to "gum up the works"!

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