Douglas Avella was removed from his classroom at Intermediate School 318 after students handed in blank standardized exams to protest high-stakes tests last week.This was the lead for a story on Saturday. What happened was that this teacher may have been involved in getting kids to protest a practice test. Here is Thursday's story.
More than 160 students in six different classes at Intermediate School 318 in the South Bronx - virtually the entire eighth grade - refused to take last Wednesday's three-hour practice exam for next month's statewide social studies test.There are a couple of things you should notice about the original article. First the teacher was not accused of leading a boycott of a real test just one of the many practice tests that schools think is a good idea, because they believe practice tests up test scores. Second virtually the entire class participated. No one can do this if there is not a clear grievance on the part of these students.
Instead, the students handed in blank exams.
Then they submitted signed petitions with a list of grievances to school Principal Maria Lopez and the Department of Education.
"We've had a whole bunch of these diagnostic tests all year," Tatiana Nelson, 13, one of the protest leaders, said Tuesday outside the school. "They don't even count toward our grades. The school system's just treating us like test dummies for the companies that make the exams."
What we have is a teacher who does this amazing thing, he teaches kids how to find their voice. His reward is that he is quickly removed from the school and sent to the rubber room. Apparently he is considered a danger to students. But of course he is not a danger to students he is a danger to a principal. Is there even a pretense any more of the rubber room as anything other that a political gulag.
Today I heard a story of another principal sending the chapter chair and the UFT delegates to the rubber room on the same day. Another obvious political move. When I first started in the system this type of thing did not happen. People in the rubber room were usually pretty crazy, or had done something bad. I remember defending a teacher when I was chapter chair who was crazy, but who was never sent to the rubber room. The rubber room was small. I think that the local superintendents were hesitant to send people there. This acted as a restraint. Something has changed, and I am not sure what. I am guessing that the chancellor has been pushing this tool and that principals have been trying to prove to their bosses that they are tough. Sending people to the rubber room is a good way to prove how tough you are in today's environment.
The UFT is upset about the chapter chair and delegates being sent to the rubber room. When most of the teachers were sent their the UFT didn't care, but now they care. They have put themselves into this position now they need to suffer the consequences.
When I first joined the UFT it was an organization that was dominated by one party, but that had some dissidents on the executive board. The UFT is as undemocratic as the DoE so it drove them craze that dissidents were on the board. In a move that would make Joel Klein proud the UFT changed its constitution to make it virtually impossible for anyone to win an election to the board except the approved slates.
The problem the UFT has with the rubber room is that it thinks the same as the DoE. An organization built on power politics and undemocratic principals finds it hard to fight these same principals in the DoE. They are hoisted by their own petard.