Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Sacramento Report: What the Hell Are We Doing? Assemblywoman Shirley Weber tries to help teachers improve

After I posted a comment on this page yesterday about the California Teachers Association's opposition to Assemblymember Shirley Weber's admirable efforts to improve teacher performance, I got a nasty, anonymous and untraceable phone call from a woman who sounded completely calm and sober.  She had a nice, ordinary voice, not the drug-addled, ignorant-sounding voice of most abusive phone callers.  I've been wondering who it could have been, and this morning I decided that it was very likely a teacher who was motivated by my comment in Voice of San Diego.

I considered changing my comment. I realized it was too harsh.  I should have done a better job qualifying my statement.

But I am not going to edit my comment in Voice of San Diego.

Instead, I'll qualify it in this response.

First of all, I want to acknowledge that ANYONE WHO RISES TO POWER IN ANY ORGANIZATION ON THIS PLANET is subject to a lot of pressure. I know for a fact that perfectly-decent people who become school administrators or school board members not-infrequently set aside their principles under pressure. They go along to get along, just like officials of CTA--and members of the California Assembly, both Democrats and Republicans.

Also, I think there's a big problem with the Vergara decision.  It puts the cart before the horse.  It gets rid of tenure WITHOUT HAVING A GOOD EVALUATION SYSTEM IN PLACE.  This is a very bad idea.  Vergara would increase the politics in schools instead of increasing the effectiveness of teacher evaluations. 

But isn't this exactly why CTA should agree to a plan like Shirley Weber's?

My conclusion is that CTA wants teacher evaluations to remain political. Why?  Because sometimes the worst teachers are the most loyal supporters of CTA officials and their pals.

Here's the comment I published yesterday in Voice of San Diego regarding the difficulties Democrats have in resisting the power of the California Teachers Association:
A few years ago at the California Teachers Association's yearly conference for the presidents of all the local affiliates, I heard then-executive director Carolyn Doggett tell teachers that they needed to take responsibility for good teaching or the responsibility would be taken from them.  [I was not a union official, just a lowly teacher.]  Clearly, CTA continues to refuse to take responsibility.  I'm afraid that the type of teacher that rises to power in CTA is not the type that's deeply interested in children.

Democrats should be ashamed of kowtowing to CTA instead of supporting principled reformers like Shirley Weber.

Below is an article from Voice of San Diego .--Maura Larkins

...During the Assembly Education Committee’s Wednesday hearing, the San Diego Democrat gave an inspired speech in support of her bill to require that student achievement be used as a factor in job evaluations of teachers and school administrators. Weber’s bill is one of several competing proposals for a comprehensive revision to the state’s teacher evaluation rules.

“Unlike the current way of doing things, AB 1495 would structure our evaluations around student achievement and help teachers improve their classroom outcomes,” Weber said.

Weber, who is considered one of the legislature’s most knowledgeable members on education issues, lined up support from several of the state’s leading education groups, including EdVoice, StudentsFirst and Students Matter. But her bill had one very powerful opponent: the California Teachers Association.

That opposition from the state’s teacher’s union was enough to kill the bill on a 3-2 vote — with fellow Democrats Kevin McCarty and Tony Thurmond opposed and Republicans Rocky Chavez and Young Kim backing Weber. (Other members abstained from voting, which meant the bill didn’t have enough votes in favor to move on.)

The hearing was shocking on several fronts. First, it’s rare for a member of the majority party to have one of their priority bills – on their expert subject matter – fail in committee. Even if members are opposed to the bill, they’ll commonly pass the bill out as a courtesy.

Second, Weber’s not a far-right ideologue that views the California Teachers Association as “the worst union in America.” Rather, she’s been featured frequently in the CTA’s magazine and received the California Federation of Teachers‘ endorsement for her re-election.

Finally, she’s chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, a position that gives her influence over every lawmaker’s pet project or legislative agenda.

The fight over AB 1495 reflects a growing divide among California Democrats over how to respond to Vergara v. California, the pending challenge to the state’s teacher tenure and dismissal process. On one side, those loyal to the state’s teacher’s union have refused to cede any ground, while others, such as Weber, view Vergara as “a wake-up call.”

“If we are not about improving the lives of children,” asked a frustrated Weber, “then what the hell are we doing? … What am I going to do after 40 years of working in a system I am frustrated by? Just go along to get along?”...

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