Thursday, January 11, 2018

NY: A Super Slap in the Face

Is there any business, any industry, any large-scale endeavor in this country, that gives less respect to its frontline workers than education?

This freakin' guy

Imagine a major convention of hospital managers and administrators, convened to discuss the critical issues in health care, the new advances in medical treatment, and during planning the organizers scratch their heads and say, "Who should deliver the major speech about current medical issues? Certainly not a doctor. Do you think we can get that guy who sells the crystals with the little copper pieces? I think he was on Dr. Oz last week--- can we get him?? Or maybe Jenny McCarthy to talk about vaccinations?"

And yet. Here comes a conference for all the top district administrators in New York State at the beginning or March. Keynote Kickoff speaker on Sunday afternoon is Glenn Singleton, founder and head honcho at Pacific Educational Group, an consulting group that was originally focused on transforming K-12 education but has since broadened its focus. Their "courageous conversations" program for dealing with systemic racism is apparently the spine of the superintendents' gathering.

But Monday, here comes another keynote address, this time by David Coleman.

Yes, that David Coleman. David "Father of Common Core" Coleman. David "Don't Know Much About Teaching Literature" Coleman. David "I Don't Know How To Teach Writing, Either" Coleman. David "I'm a Genius" Coleman. David "I Messed Up the College Board" Coleman. David "I'm an Educational Amateur and That's Why I'm Awesome" Coleman. And, of course, David "Nobody Gives a Shit What You Think" Coleman.

Why, oh why, did the superintendents of New York State think that this is the guy who needs to be invited to speak?

It is, I suppose, par for the course. Journalists rarely talk to teachers. Thinky tanks and consultants rarely talk to teachers. Policies are routinely implemented by politicians without speaking to teachers (and when teachers do speak, they're carefully pre-selected so that they won't say anything disagreeable or upsetting). And of course, sometimes teachers who try to speak just get beaten up and arrested for daring to act above their Proper Station.

I like to imagine a world where journalists have a file of teachers that they call before they get that apparently mandatory Mike Petrilli quote for an article about education. A world in which politicians declare, "We can't take any action on this education bill until we hear from lots and lots of teachers about what they think the bill would do."

Heck, imagine a world where a superintendent's conference works like this-- the parent organization says, "Every one of you supers bring one teacher from your district who really does a great job, and then we will all sit and listen to them and learn what we can do better."

But no-- I'm in this universe, where somehow David Frickin' Coleman qualifies as an educational expert to whom an entire state's worth of superintendents should listen raptly. He's never taught, and is in fact proud of his lack of qualifications. He's presided over one of the most high-profile failures in education policy of the last century. He's abandoned that failure so he can go take a cushy job selling bad assessments after "redesigning" them based on his zero expertise. Meanwhile, thousands of experienced classroom experts will continue to be ignored. Thanks a big fat lot, New York Council of School Superintendents.


  1. There is at least one answer to your opening question: social work.

    As for doctors, you're basically right so far, but I think doctors would tell you it's rapidly heading south for them too. Medical needs have been taking more and more of a backseat to big pharma and big insurance needs, execs of both feeling free to speak for medicine.

    As an outsider (not a teacher), I realize I have to tread carefully, but I'd caution you about anything that claims teachers have it worse than anyone else. Most of us are suffering under neoliberalism and it's best to find ways to encourage people to find ways to work together rather than engaging in "you think you have it bad???" sort of one-upsmanship. Free advice, worth every penny.

    1. Yeah, there's no question that folks in the medical field are being increasingly dismissed in favor the opinions of various bean counters.

    2. I was chatting with my accountant while getting my taxes done last year, and we were talking about our adult children, and their career paths.

      When he told me that his daughter was considering a career as a teacher, I melodramatically held up my hands and in a mock-beseeching voice, said, "Don't let her do it!"

      That's when told me that his daughter was considering education because his wife, a doctor, has for years been telling their daughter to stay away from medicine.

      Any way you cut it, it's bad out there.

  2. The answer to your "Why oh Why?" question is simple: They're superintendents! They are typically more like politicians than educators, further removed from the classroom and teaching than the custodians.

  3. You can add my"David Coleman: The Cheshire Cat of Education" or my "I'm not an educator, but I play one on TV..." to your list!

  4. In my imaginary world, the superintendent's attending this event would all turn their back on Coleman when he stands up to give his speech. Wouldn't that be empowering? Imagine a world where more than just a handful of superintendents actually advocate for what is right for both teachers and children. Please don't wake me up from this dream!

  5. This is a joke, right? David Coleman speaking to superintendents? Now what will he try to convince them to do? Maybe he will offer them once again $$$$. Disgusting.

  6. How many superintendents and administrators across NY did you hear actually speak up against this disaster? How many horror stories from teachers that dared to speak up and those same aforementioned admin made their professional lives hell?

    Even NOW with a a growth formula that was found to be "arbitrary and capricious" being used to measure our children and schools how many admin/supt and/or BOEs are standing up for the kids and communities they represent?

    Even NOW as Elia and NYSED sugarcoat the Next generation Learning standards with false claims regarding many admin/supt/BOE are telling parents the truth?

    I still think we need another year of HEAVY OPT OUT, what else can be done?