When I was first asked by my colleague to attend an "Educators for Excellence" (they use a number 4 for their middle name which rubs this educator the wrong way) happy hour at a Prospect Heights bar I was very apprehensive. The RSVP required that I ascribe to their "core principals" which include much of the "ed deformers'" agenda; teacher layoffs by ability not seniority, "earned tenure" which require certain student test milestones, and teacher evaluation systems based on student data which are also tied to merit-pay schemes.
When my colleague heard my concerns she invited me without the "Unity-style" pledge and asked me to keep my mind open. I admit that faced with this agenda it was difficult but I went anyway. I figured it would be, at least, a fun time with my colleagues and free drink and appetizers.
"Educators for Excellence," it appears, is run by a couple of new teachers who now teach 1 day per week at P.S. 86 in the Bronx. There are some interesting blog entries about them and their organization and if you are really interested you can go here and here.
When I arrived at the bar I was greeted by a representative of Educators for Excellence and immediately asked to sign the pledge. When I responded that I would never sign the pledge (I guess I couldn't keep my mind open) we immediately engaged in a civil discussion about teacher evaluation, seniority and merit pay.
"We're not anti-union, we just want teachers to be part of the dialogue," argued the rep.
How can you argue with that?
I'm not a big fan of Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt's Freakonomics and its tidal wave reception but I do admit to using parts of it in my classes. In the recent movie based on their books, Levitt states after discussing how real estate brokers have much different interests than home sellers, ""If you can figure out what people's incentives are then you have a good idea on how they will behave."
Attending happy hour sponsored by this group reminded me to dig a little deeper into this group. When the Gotham Schools article was posted Stone and Morris were reported to be full-time teachers in the Bronx and the organization was not funded.
Well, things have changed as they are now funded by the Gates Foundation and certain anonymous donors and have 3 full time employees.
What is their incentive? Are they just protecting "good" teachers?
As I was leaving the rep and I engaged, once again, only this time over the ATR issue. Needless to say he argued that we shouldn't be paying teachers who can't get appointed and had little understanding of how teachers became excessed.
We parted and he invited me to meeting with Michael Mulgrew on January 25th. Could be interesting.
The evening was not a waste of time (or a timeshare style sales pitch) but gave me the opportunity to explain to several of my colleagues just what was wrong with this organization and its agenda.
And besides, when was the last time I debated the issues of merit pay, seniority and tenure with professional deformers?