Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Boston Teachers Union Sells Out Members

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
The Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), the state’s largest educators union, has agreed to tie teacher evaluations, promotions and terminations to student scores on the MCAS standardized state exam.  MTA officials said that the change was inevitable, so it was better to get on board early and help shape the plan. “We have to be the architects of reform, rather than the subject of it,” said Paul Toner, MTA president. Paul Reville, the state’s Secretary of Education, praised the union. (Big surprise)

MTA is correct that there is growing momentum for performance pay based on student test scores; at least it would seem so from the screeds of politicians and pundits. It has been called for by Obama and his privatization-hungry ed chief, Arne Duncan. It has been promoted by Bill Gates, Eli Broad and other billionaires out to destroy public education. But they are dead wrong that it is inevitable or that unions must jump on board idiotic projects that will be detrimental to children and to teachers.

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
Value-Added systems, in which teacher pay is tied to student test scores, have been shown to be complete bunkum. The consequences will be that many good teachers get punished and will ultimately leave the state or the profession. This will only harm schools and the children they serve. Standardized test scores are linked most closely with children’s economic background, not their teachers’ quality.

Teachers everywhere should be very concerned when union leaders collaborate with the enemy like this. It is nothing short of a sellout. Rather than wasting members’ dues on salaries for lazy chicken shit union bureaucrats and on unreliable politicians, unions need to get back to their original job: organizing, agitating and mobilizing their members.


  1. Whatever happened to, the good ol' union worker song,

    Which side are you on?

    Workers can you stand it?
    Tell me how you can
    Will you be a lousy scab?
    Or will you be a man?

    Which side are you on boys?
    Which side are you on?

  2. Funny you should ask, as it was in the next post about working class hostility toward teachers in Jersey and Philly.

    Too bad the union bosses aren't aware of it.

  3. The other song I want to post is the one, "Solidarity Forever"...

    Where did the solidarity go in unions?

  4. Thanks, this is another important labor song. You are very right, solidarity has become a dirty word for many (images of USSR??) Others just plain don't understand it, which is partially the fault of the unions themselves, for not doing a better job organizing and agitating.

    I like to direct your attention to a couple of labor songs I wrote:
    Solidarity Forever inspired my version: Support Your Public Education, which can be found at
    When Johnny Can't Read or Write No More can be found at:

  5. Thank you Michael. I will gladly look at them.

    I am a progressive early childhood educator. I just can not take what the ed deformers are doing to the pre--kindergarten and kindergarten classes in the urban public schools. It is developmentally inappropriate, children sit for way too long, no movement, very little multi-sensory experiences. Its upsetting. (Not all of the schools, but a vast number).

  6. It is terribly frustrating and sad. I have a 3-year old boy. I want him to go to public school, but in San Francisco (and I assume other cities, too) they are now doing test prep starting in kindergarten, yet they won't even start testing until 3rd grade.

    Whatever happened to being a kid and having fun at school?

  7. This is a part of the general trend of unions around the world to work against the interests of their members. It was graphically displayed when the unions accepted major cuts in pensions and shut down the strike wave in France in October.

    Unions are not fighting, but instead imposing, layoffs, budget cuts, and privatization.

    There is quite a lot of coverage of this issue -- especially in education -- on the World Socialist Web Site. Just a few things:

    Union backs attacks on teachers in Washington, D.C.

    Detroit teachers’ union blocks strike action against wage cuts, layoffs

    And the school closings in Boston:

    Boston School Committee approves expanded closure plan

    And most recently on the testing scandal in NYC:

    Testing scandal exposes corporate-backed “school reform” in New York

  8. Oh, definitely look at my blog then some more. Besides unemployment, education advocacy, I also write about early childhood curriculum. I am CONSTANTLY promoting authentic learning experiences in the early childhood classroom.

    I also have another blog, Early Childhood Ideas and Lessons, which I have not actually fully developed yet. Stay tuned for wonderful curriculum themes, movement songs, literacy lessons and mathematics lessons for 4 year olds.

    I am hoping to launch that blog for the new year and make it my new year's resolution. I have been working with 4 year olds for the past 13 years. I am definitely a progressive educator and need to find a fit that works for me as well. The last school was not a good fit for me. Too much cookie-cutter curriculum, worksheets and just putting up holiday craft for the sake of just decoration.

  9. Thank you, Sandy.

    The WSW has definitely covered this topic well and has always been a critical voice from the left.

    I would argue that this is not just a recent trend. Mainstream union leadership has always been this way, especially going back to Taft-Hartley, but even before that. This was one of the reasons why the IWW was born and such an important of labor history.

  10. The same exact thing just happened in New York State. Its application for the Race to the Top grant was at first turned down, because there wasn't evidence of "collaboration" w/NY's main teachers' union - NYSUT. The governor had a media blitz around this, blaming teachers for the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. So, NYSUT went to the table and did the exact same thing Massachusetts' union leadership did - agreeing to make 40% of teachers' annual evaluations tie in directly w/student test scores. This was, unsurprisingly, not a move supported by dues paying members, but union leadership tried to put the positive spin on it - "better we create the reforms, than them" - uhh, yeah, right.

    All RTTT funds have provided for our beleagured state is millions of dollars for "program creation," which nobody seems to have any idea what that is, and it is going directly to the State Education Department. Also, staff development, which of course fits in w/the overall theme -that if teachers get more and more training, somehow we'll finally reach the kids who are failing.

    Finally, the RTTT grant required the state to double the cap on the number of charter schools in operation here. We all know what that's all about. I completely agree w/what you posit, and what Sandy English posted - it is time for teachers to break from the corrupt unions that are selling us out, and to join w/other workers internationally to support a real workers' movement and party. Divided they are successfully crushing us as a class, but if we unite, they will find us very hard to ignore.

  11. Thank you, Isabelle.

    Yes, what is happening in Boston is just the tip of the iceberg and workers in all industries need to organize and fight together, in spite of our bureaucratic and collaborationist unions.

    In California, we've also seen this trend. The CTA supported the implementation of the Common Core Standards (CCS) thinking this would make us look reasonable and like team players (also, it was necessary to be eligible for RTTT). The problem was that CCS will cost the state billions in new text books, far more than we could have received from RTTT, when we already have a $27 billion deficit (and we lost RTTT anyway). Also, our content standards were already among the highest in the nation.

    So our union has collaborated with the Ed Deformers to (1) give away billions in taxpayer dollars to textbook publishers; (2) dumb down our curriculum; and (3) attempt to bring in RTTT and more charter schools.

  12. Teachers need to be evaluated on multiple levels not just on student performance. They need peer and principal evaluations to be considered. America recruits its teachers from the bottom third of college graduating classes. The irony isn't very funny. My senior year high school English(college prep) teacher thought adverbs were words that ended with 'ing.' I'm serious. Bad teacher fall through the cracks. They need to be culled.

  13. Evaluations are the responsibility of employers, not employees. If teachers evaluated each other, they would be in a position to influence each others' career advancement, which is a conflict of interest and sets up a dangerous dynamic that is ripe for corruption and ass kissing.

    Evaluations should be based on multiple assessments, but student test scores should not be one of them. High stakes tests do not measure what teachers are doing or how they are teaching. They measure how much a student can answer correctly on a test, something that is influenced most strongly by their socioeconomic background, and also by their amount of sleep, self-confidence, test-taking skills, and whether or not they even take the test seriously.

    Bad teachers do fall through the cracks and it is the administrators jobs to catch them and either provide professional development or, if they are truly terrible, or dangerous, get them out of the classroom.

    The example you give is frustrating and embarrassing, but hardly grounds for firing. Teachers, like all people, make mistakes and sometimes even believe and teach things that are not true. This does not mean they are bad teachers, nor does it mean they are hopeless. This is a minor problem that can be fixed, assuming the teacher is otherwise doing a reasonable job.

    Lastly, it is not true that teachers are recruited from the bottom one-third of their classes. Be careful about quoting propaganda. Teachers typically aren't recruited at all and the ones who are really at the bottom of their classes flunk out or don't make it into teacher training school in the first first place.