Thursday, April 26, 2012

Buffalo Teachers Refuse to Buckle to State Blackmail

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
Buffalo Public Schools teachers voted overwhelmingly last week to reject evaluation reform at six of its low performing schools, according to Buffalo Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore said that if the state withheld funding for such “arbitrary and capricious” reasons they would hold the state accountable and sue.

Education “reformers” have been taking advantage of the severe budget cuts districts have suffered over the past three years to blackmail teachers’ unions into accepting “reforms” that undermine their job security, collective bargaining rights and working conditions. In this case, New York had offered BPS $5.6 million in additional funding if they ripped up contractual rights, something that could only happen with approval of the new evaluations by the BTF.

When the union refused, the superintendent tried to blame them for the district’s financial woes and insinuate that it did not care about children’s wellbeing:
"The state has given us clear guidelines as to what we have to do . . . to restore these much needed funds to our schools. . . all that is needed for approval of this document is Mr. Rumore's signature. . . I continue to appeal to him to do what is best for the children of the Buffalo Public Schools . . .”

Never mind that the union had nothing to do with the budget cuts or that the teachers would have to sign away their job security in order to get the funds. The new evaluation plan would base teachers’ evaluations partly on student test scores, a metric that has virtually no correlation to teachers’ skill or performance in the classroom. More significantly, the test scores are most strongly correlated with students’ socioeconomic backgrounds. Thus, under the new plan, teachers would be evaluated on the affluence of their students, rather than their merits as professionals. This is not only unfair and unreasonable for the teachers, but it could undermine the wellbeing of low income students by driving excellent teachers out of low income schools.


  1. Below is a quote from a radio show in Pittsburgh. It also applies to our teacher friends in NY.

    "Evaluating teachers presents a similar challenge as evaluating police officers, doctors, dentists, and others who work with the public. We cannot evaluate the effectiveness of our police officers based upon their crime rate. We cannot evaluate doctors based upon their patient’s survival rate. If a doctor tells a patient to take their meds, exercise, eat right, quit smoking, etc… and the patient does not do these things and dies is it fair to blame the doctor?"

    The best indicator of a student's success is their parents' success. It shouldn't be on the teachers 100% of the time. Teachers did not the budget issues schools now face. There has been reduced Federal funds for years in most states. NCLB has caused a myriad of other issues, but withholding funds or penalizing schools for low scores, which actually need the funds the most.

    I certainly hope that the teachers in Buffalo can hold strong against the unproven charter schools. Just because a Charter school "graduates" a student does not mean they are prepared for college, or will do well on high stakes exit exams required by the state.

    There are many so many factors involved in why schools struggle. It doesn't help having a movement of people who want to privatize schools- especially when they have absolutely no experience working in the school system or any history in the field of Education.

  2. Good examples! I hope the Buffalo teachers hold strong, too!

    BTW, Parents' success or wealth is a good PREDICTOR of student success. A good indicator of student success would be their grades, graduation rates or something that actually measures their ability to think.

    You are correct that using student success (however it is assessed) to measure teachers is at best a weak proxy and at worst (as is often the case with these standardized tests) a terrible, misleading and inaccurate proxy.