Wednesday, January 27, 2010


by A.J. Duffy, UTLA President – from United Teacher, the newspaper of UTLA

  • The great thing about public education and educators in general is that we agree with each other 85% of the time. Duffy gets his fair share right here – and where he's not absolutely right he's still pretty right! He's writing to his constituency here – but 85% of them are getting it right 85% of the time. That's 72.25% ...and the truth is, they're doing far better than that almost all of the time! - smf

Jan 22, 2009 In many ways 2009 was a year we’d like to forget.

The challenges were countless, but the bright spot is that together, we fought every battle that came our way, and we proved we are resilient. It’s that resiliency that will carry us through 2010 and beyond. I can’t help but think how our load could be lightened if some key players could get a clue. To that end, I wrote a collection of New Year’s resolutions for them. Here’s hoping they will embrace these commitments to change.

LAUSD SUPERINTENDENT CORTINES: Resolve to immediately halt the reconstitution of Fremont High.

The staff at Fremont High received a most unwelcome holiday gift last month when they were informed that the school was being reconstituted— despite the fact that research shows it rarely works. That the decision coincided with a visit by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan makes the move even more suspect. It’s not too late for Cortines to stop this. Listen to the Fremont staff, Ray. They have already started down the path of school reform; give them the opportunity to finish. It’s the best chance the students have for getting the education they deserve. You and Arne have a favorite mantra: data, data, data. Where’s the data to show that reconstitution works?

ALL L.A. TV STATIONS, FROM CHANNEL 2 TO 62: Resolve to start reporting positive public education news.

Yes, I know the slogan “if it bleeds, it leads,” meaning that salacious, violent, or negative news attracts the most viewers. But I refuse to believe there isn’t room to cover positive education news. When will the L.A. community see TV stations lead off their broadcasts with “Here are some great things going on in our schools”? Reporters: If you need any leads, give me a call.

THE LAUSD SCHOOL BOARD MAJORITY: Resolve to roll up your sleeves and do what you were elected to do—make LAUSD schools better by providing vision and resources, not by handing schools over to outsiders.

This one goes out to all the Board members except Marguerite LaMotte, who month after month has shown that she hasn’t forgotten where she came from—the classroom—and is willing to be the lone voice of sanity.

LAUSD CHIEF INSTRUCTIONAL OFFICER JUDY ELLIOT: Resolve to stop pushing standardized testing and scripted curriculum as the be-all,end-all of a proper education. How much longer can they find new ways to wring the joy out of learning and the creativity out of teaching?

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: Resolve to inject accuracy (now there’s a concept) into the ongoing debate about public education by greatly increasing the input from genuine classroom practitioners. I never thought I’d say this, but the Times has gotten a few things right lately. It has written editorials calling out charters for non-inclusiveness and has acknowledged that teachers’ union contracts aren’t the impediments to change it used to claim they were. Last month, it printed an op-ed penned by myself and UTLA Vice Presidents Julie Washington and Gregg Solkovits that one readersaid in a Times online post was “the first sensible article on educational reform that I’ve seen in the Times.”

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE: Resolve to fix the tax structure in California to create a better way to fund public education and community services.

U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION ARNE DUNCAN: Resolve to take a one-year sabbatical and teach full-time in an overcrowded, underfunded school. There is a reason Duncan is promoting a destructive collection of education ideas, like merit pay and reconstituting schools: He doesn’t know nearly enough about the challenges and realities of teaching. His official bio has this audacious statement: It says that Duncan’s “afternoons in his mother’s tutoring program” in Chicago helped shape “his understanding of the challenges of urban education.” Well, he clearly needs a much deeper understanding. Duncan, get yourself to a classroom right now. I have a suggestion for your first assignment: Fremont High.

LAUSD DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS JIM MORRIS: Resolve to fix all payroll problems once and for all. If you are one of the lucky employees who are paid correctly—probably because you receive a straight-forward base salary, with no extra hours or pay codes—you may not know that the payroll problems go on. Morris has made some progress since being named director of operations, but it’s unconscionable that some employees are still going through the trauma of being underpaid or overpaid. Let’s take accountability to its logical end: No talk of pay cuts until everyone’s paycheck is fixed.

GOVERNOR ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Resolve to never run for public office again until you learn how to do the job.

CHARTER MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS: Resolve to open your doors to all categories of students, to embrace greater fiscal transparency and accountability, and to treat your teachers with greater professionalism and respect. For years UTLA has spoken with a passionate voice about some of the problems with charters, and now our voice is being heard to some degree. More people are realizing that charters. do not educate all students—including English learners and special education students. I have a challenge for the charters: Level the playing field. Take all students and give up your right to later get rid of them. Then we can have a real comparison. I have a feeling it won’t be very flattering to charters, especially since studies show that charters overall do not outperform traditional public schools—even with the unlevel playing field.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t end with a resolution for all of us, the 45,000 teachers and health and human services professionals who are UTLA. It is simply to keep fighting, and to keep our students in our hearts and minds in whatever we do, whether we are in front of a chalkboard or in the middle of a protest march. The consequences of not participating in every UTLA action and rally are too extreme to contemplate. Size does matter. A few hundred UTLA members rallying is not nearly as powerful as thousands and thousands of teachers and health and human services professionals who together are doing what is necessary to get our message across for ourselves and our students. We all have a serious choice to make.

We can no longer stand on the sidelines and let someone else take care of the problems facing our schools. That someone else is us—all of us.

  • The UTLA United Teacher is available in it's entirety here.

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