Friday, November 30, 2007
Who was involved? Students from Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech, NYC public and private school teachers from elementary to high school, parents, teachers and administrators at the University level, students from Columbia U and Polytechnic U, corporate level engineers from Credit Suisse and SIAC, and a few retired NYC teachers.
I was amazed at the total level of egalitarianism. The kids, as young as 15, were equal partners and their level of commitment and responsibility is the most impressive thing about it all. We have all worked together since June to make these events meaningful for thousands of students, their teachers and parents throughout the NYC area. Most teams are from schools, but we also have community organizations, a NYC Parks Dept team and a home-schooled team.
The first official event will be this Sunday, Dec. 2, at PACE U downtown Manhattan campus where kids from 6-14 will be taking part. This event comes out of the unique partnerships forged through FIRST. The senior FIRST Robotics Team from Stuyvesant have with the support of the parents and alumni have teamed with people at PACE U to coordinate the activities.
Next week, Sat Dec. 8, there will be events at Lehman HS in the Bronx and at Brooklyn Tech.
The week after, Sat. Dec 15, we will hold the Queens tournament at Aviation HS and the Staten Island tournament at Staten Island Tech.
Over 80 teams from the 160 entered will go on to the citywide at Riverbank State Park on Jan. 26.
Check it out.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
While not reducing class size across the board, there will be some reductions in certain areas.
Teachers will be allowed to voluntarily accept up to 10 extra children above the UFT contract in each of their classes as long as the number does not climb above 60. For each of those extra children, the teacher will be paid a dollar bonus a day as long as they show up at school.
An average class under the new agreement.
"This will give teachers an incentive to get the kids to come school," said a spokesperson for Tweed. "Those dollars can add up."
Rumors that an alternative plan has been floated to use the gross weight of all the children in the class to calculate bonuses have not been confirmed.
What of teachers who choose not to participate in the program?
"They are losers," said the DOE spokesperson. "They are scum. Clearly people who are not competent to teach. We feel the ability to teach a class of 60 effortlessly is a sign of minimum competency for any of our teachers and the message will go out hard and fast: be ready for a visit from our new multi-million dollar attorneys."
The UFT will hold a candlelight vigil to celebrate the new agreement.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
updated Thurs, 7:30 am
The much heralded "Thank a Teacher Campaign" announced today in a joint statement by Joel Klein and Randi Weingarten had a secret component, rooted out by the crack investigative reporters at Ed Notes Online (seen in the picture above on Monday night outside Tweed.)
A member from each Rubber Room will be chosen by lottery to be given a chair to sit on as a thank-you for being there for the DOE to be able to use scapegoated teachers to deflect criticism of BloomKlein's policies. Randi Weingarten went along, saying "I wasn't happy with this part of the plan since a hundred people still have to stand all day, but at least one person gets to sit. It is a start and we're hoping this collaboration will lead to another chair in each rubber room by next year."
Both Klein and Weingarten aides will write anonymous letters thanking a retiree for leaving their higher salaried job for a newcomer so the the DOE can hire 2 for the price of one.
ATR's who swear a blood oath to leave the system immediately will be nominated for a raffle to receive a free cell phone programmed with one number on it - the DOE sub hiring office. "Why pay them full salaries when we can get them as subs for no more than $150 a day," said a spokesman in the Tweed PR department? "But will teachers work for such a small amount when they could just stay on for over double that salary," an Ed Notes reporter asked? "Ve, er - we have our methods," she said. "Besides, we know incentives work."
The agreement was hammered out as Weingarten and Klein held a secret meeting in the dark recesses outside the Tweed Courthouse under a rain-soaked umbrella in the short time between the end of Monday's UFT candlelight vigil and the beginning of Klein's PEP meeting.
Joel Klein and Randi Weingarten working out the secret agreement on Monday
Chancellor Klein said. “I’ve said many times that I owe a great deal to my physics teacher at Bryant High School in Queens, who encouraged me not to set any limits when I thought about my future." The young Klein, was told, "Don't be crazy and become a teacher. Don't you know we make shit and have lousy working conditions? You don't want to have to do idiotic bulletin boards. " Instead he urged Klein to skip the drudge stuff of teaching and aim straight for Chancellor of the schools. "Remember, Sonny. NEVER BE TEMPTED TO TEACH, NO MATTER WHAT."
Weingarten, when asked to name her favorite teachers, did her usual straddling the fence wide stance and said all her teachers inspired her to aim high and do the minimal amount of teaching necessary to become head of the largest local in the world. "6 months full time ought to be enough," said Ms. Dumbledee, her 1st grade teacher. "But always make sure to tell people it was 6 years. If you say it often enough, it becomes true. NEVER FORGET: GOOD PR IS WORTH MORE THAN KNOWLEDGE."
Note: The actual DOE press release is at Norms Notes.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Update2: Fri. Nov. 30, 10 am
Norm's School Scope column appears biweekly in The Wave
This is a rewrite of what I wrote after little sleep, hopefully making it more literate.
Upadated Weds, Nov. 28
This is mostly a new post that includes the column I just submitted to The Wave for this Friday's publication, which goes into more of the history of the PEP and a rewrite some of the UFT stuff. I'll add a video link later to my statement about using the Workshop model for PEP meetings. Hear Klein cut me off on the 2 minute button. I also have video of how Betsy Combier pushed Klein's buttons and got an angry response.
The Panel SAYS
The Panel for Educational Policy replaced the old Board of Education when the state legislature gave the Mayor control over the schools in 2002, which will sunset in 2009 – thankfully. Now we all know about the disfunctionality of the old BoE. But the PEP is non-functional, being only an advisory body with Klein himself being a member and 7 members appointed by the Mayor, serving at his pleasure.
We found out what “his pleasure” meant at the famous Monday Night Massacre, chronicled in our March 26, 2004 column (“Beware The Ides Of March – You’re Fired”) where Bloomberg, that Julius Caesar pretender, fired 3 members of the PEP for opposing BloomKlein’s 3rd grade retention policy on March 15. Not that we are wishing the same fate for the Mayor that Julie suffered, though the thought probably has passed through the minds of more than one classroom teacher as they spent useless hours working solely for the purpose of “let’s show outside visitors how we follow Tweed dictums” on their word walls, flow of the day, bulletin boards, et al, often into the late afternoon, long after the kids have gone home.
I often go to monthly PEP meetings as penance for my sins. These events are required by law (not my penance) as a minimal attempt to keep the public informed, which Bloomberg and his hand-picked “I know about education because I once went to school” Chancellor, Joel Klein, do their utmost to keep minimally informed. The members of the panel are basically somnambulant and the meetings are often deathly, other than the 2 minutes allotted to members of the public who get the chance to “lay one on.” I use this time to avail myself of the opportunity to educate the Panel and Klein as to what constitutes a quality teacher. Doing this, 2 minutes at a time, I figure I’ll be in the nursing home before I finish. But there’s always Access-a-Ride.
Let’s not accuse our state legislators, members of one of the most corrupt political bodies in the nation, if not the world, from doing the wrong thing in handing over the largest school system in the nation with no oversight, to the whims of one man. They did provide that each borough president could appoint one PEP member, five people that would still be a minority on the Panel. The mayor could appoint anyone, his entire family or his dog, while the borough people must have children in the public schools. I think the dog must also have puppies.
Even if these five were appointed to represent the interests of parents, the relationship of the borough president to Bloomberg must be factored in. The Staten Island borough president fired his rep when she said she was going to vote against Bloomberg at the Monday Night Massacre. Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz supported his appointee Martine Guerrier when she voted NO. As he cemented his relationship to Bloomberg, her criticisms of Klein began to wane. She was eventually appointed by Klein to the 150K a year job as Chief Parent Muck-a-Muck in February 2007, and she had to leave the PEP, which is considered so inconsequential, Markowitz didn’t even bother to appoint a replacement until recently.
This summer, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer appointed Patrick Sullivan to the PEP. Sullivan has been active with Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters in putting issues of true educational import on the table, so his appointment was a pleasant surprise and a tribute to Stringer’s agenda of putting his constituents ahead of Bloomberg.
Sullivan, who comes from the corporate world, which gives him a credibility educators don’t receive in this business-oriented educational environment, has galvanized the PEP meetings as he questions Klein and his minions in depth on their policies. I’ve videotaped some of these encounters and you can view them on my blog where there are also videos of teachers and parents doing their 2 minutes, including my own.
I remember meeting Queens borough president Helen Marshall at the Monday Night Massacre. She expressed dismay at the firings. So one would have hoped the Queens PEP reps since then would express even a modicum of independence and oversight. Not much, so far.
But Michael Flowers, who had shown some promise, has resigned as Queens PEP rep. The last time I saw him he voted with Sullivan against Klein on the DOE’s military recruitment policies. Did the long arm of BloomKlein reach out to Marshall and snuff Flowers? I hope not.
Marshall has the opportunity to make an appointment that will result in the same kind of kudos Scott Stringer has received and at the same time provide an accomplice to Sullivan in challenging Klein. There are Queens parents who are very knowledgeable about the schools and hopefully Marshall will do the right thing by putting someone on the panel who will stand up for the parents, who have been so marginalized (or bought off) by Bloomberg. There are some top-notch candidates emerging, so…
UFT Candlelight Vigil Snuffed
School Scope wrote about David Pakter back in June 2006 (All Psyched Up With No Place To Go). He has been in and out of the rubber room for things like buying a plant for his school or making a videotape of a music class in is school building. Recently, he proposed taking an idea that was brewing among rubber room people and ATR's (mostly senior teachers forced to become subs from schools that have closed or from positions that have been cut) to use the steps of Tweed as a rallying point on a regular basis on the evenings of PEP meetings before going in and speaking (which people have been doing sporadically over the past few years) and turning it into a larger "Thousand Points of Light" event. At one point, David said, "I will be there with my candle even if I am the only one."
If it had happened that way, the one-man rally would have had more impact than what took place at the UFT rally on Monday night, November 26.
David asked Randi Weingarten to jump on board, but soon after sent out an email that the UFT would not support such a rally. This was in early November. So, what happened to make Weingarten change her mind a few weeks later (Nov. 16 to be exact) and jump on board? The utter outrage coming out of the schools after Joel Klein announced a witch-hunt to go after teachers as an excuse to shift the blame from his own failures. There was a need to put on some kind of show for the members.
The rally was filled with the usual suspects – Randi’s Unity Caucus/union employees, members of the opposition and some rank and file teachers who came out. Plus some rubber room people. Very similar to the idiotic John Stoessel protest at ABC a few years ago. Maybe a thousand people in all. With no press coverage at all. Basically, a ZERO. The Weingarten act is wearing very thin.
All this was predictable, as the UFT did not want too big a protest, intending to use this as a photo op/PR move to make the members feel something is being done. And to deflect what would have had an anti-UFT tinge from people who have felt the UFT has left them in this position in the first place.
Deflection and Dilution – Deflection of militancy and Dilution of the UFT critics in a sea of Unity Caucus.
The idea of holding an event at Tweed on this particular day (which has been a consistent theme of some of us over the years) was the opportunity to make a statement at the PEP meeting at 6pm where BloomKlein's rubber stamps – other than Patrick Sullivan – endorse anything Klein puts forth. Thus, I was more interested in the PEP meeting than the rally.
Why bother? Because the BloomKlein machine has made it look like they are doing wonderful things and the national press have jumped on the bandwagon. When parents and teachers get up publicly to expose the sham, it is one way to fight back. Certainly with the UFT not fighting back, there is a need to make a stand.
On Monday, Patrick Sullivan raised questions on the school report cards and the NAEP test results that were turned from straw into gold by Tweed spinners. Leonie Haimson was there and spoke about how the DOE has violated state law in refusing to post a viable class size reduction plan.
It is noteworthy that with a rally outside, the UFT totally ignored the fact that there was a meeting taking place and had no presence at all. If Weingarten was so upset at the witch-hunt for teachers, why not inundate the PEP meeting with people speaking against it publicly? It was left to teachers from TAG, Teachers Advocacy Group – which sprang up this summer to counter the lack of UFT protection – to play take that role. And don’t think that hasn’t has an impact on activating the UFT – to some extent.
At the meeting, after watching mind-numbing presentations from Klein’s Chief Accountability Officer James Liebman and Marcia Lyles - who read us 12 pages of a PowerPoint presentation - this from the chief teaching and learning person at the DOE, who replaced Andres Alonso who was even more mind numbing – (these people were teachers?) – I got my 2 minutes.
I suggested they use the Workshop model for PEP meetings, where each presenter gets 7 minutes; the audience breaks into groups and does "turn and talk.” A test should be given at the end of the meeting. If the audience didn't learn the material, the presenter gets fired. Or sent to an internal rubber room for Tweedles – maybe to serve as an aid at the Ross Charter School in the basement.
Even Klein smiled at that one. No one knows better than he the absurdity of it all.
To get a much better analysis than I can give, check out Reality-Based Educator's post at the NYC Educator blog and make sure to check the comments where our theme of "the UFT as collaborator with BloomKlein" is being echoed.
But I did get a UFT poncho and a light stick out of it before I went into Tweed for the meeting to keep my video camera from getting wet, though I did get some sound bites from some of the non-Unity people. (I'll post the video later this week.) And I met NY Sun reporter Elizabeth Green for the first time. It's nice to know someone who could pass for a high school student can have such an impact.
One of the ralliers who also attended the meeting sent this response to the rally:
No way, no how. Not ever.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Speakers from the public get 2 minutes to make their point.
TAGNYC (Teacher Advocacy Group) Speak out to Klein.
3 members do a continuous statement lasting over 6 minutes and they make their point.
Norm Scott on Teacher Quality at the Sept. PEP
I go over so often to talk about this issue which everyone, especially our union leaders, seems to feel is the key ingredient. Not so - teachers will fit the usual bell curve of quality, just as doctors and lawyers and all other jobs do. Lowering class size will result in an immediate uptick on teacher quality in many cases.
Staten Island CEC 31 rep critiques Tweed on SLT
Betsy Combier and Polo Colon have been regulars at the PEP and follow up here.
Patrick Sullivan is the Manhattan rep on the PEP (one of 5 borough appointees - the rest are appointed by Bloomberg) and can go into questioning in depth.
Patrick Sullivan and Chris Cerf on teacher turnover
Patrick Sullivan and James Leibman on parent surveys
Patrick Sullivan at PEP on Military recruitment
With the candlelight vigil set for tonight at 5pm at Tweed, rush over to Under Assault where Randi Weingarten is taken to task once again (The Lady Doth Protest, but for real). Why take her to task when it appears the UFT is doing something? There's a story behind this vigil and we'll get it out there in due time, and you may even be reading some things about in in the papers today - see NY Sun where I'm quoted briefly in a story that tells only part of the story.
The Sun story says:
Whitney Tilson, the co-founder of an education advocacy group, Democrats for Education Reform, characterized the vigil as an attempt by Ms. Weingarten to pacify her members, not a serious challenge. "Let them have their vigil, and then sanity will return," he said.
The gist of Weingarten's strategy: something is brewing, get a hold of it before it gets out of control, use it for your own PR, then go away till next time.
Some people will be there today calling for this vigil not to be the end all but an opening salvo in a concerted response to the BloomKlein teacher bashing.
Also, check out James Eterno's post on the ICE blog on the increase in U ratings - as if they were going after incompetent teachers and not "negative" people.
I may be there with my camera to share some of the vigil festivities and the action at the PEP meeting afterwards. I'll bring an extra candle.
Since David Pakter played so much of a part in the events of tomorrow you should read the fabulous speech (FLICKERING FLAMES - BURNING WORDS) he prepared that I posted on Norms Notes. I hope he gets to deliver it, if not at the rally, then 2 minutes of it at the open public speaking time at the PEP meeting.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
A friend in the Rochester area sent this email today:
The shit has hit the fan in Rochester. The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle quoted John Lawhead. He basically pegs Brizard as a Klein flunkie. What is the real story on Brizard? He gets appointed on Thursday and then there is no turning back. http://www.democratandchronicle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071124/NEWS01/711240343/1002/NEWS
Brizard is a long-time DOE official (and he's only 44), being shuffled around under BloomKlein. His was a principal, I think head of high schools, the Region 6 (Brooklyn) Superintendent - Tilden, South Shore closing and the removal of Canarsie principal David Harris at the very end of the school year a day or so before Region 6 closed down - but maybe that wasn't his decision. John Lawhead claims the closing of Tilden was not really his decision, which Brizard disputes.
Education Notes has had posts on these events, most notably by Tilden's John Lawhead who put Brizard on the spot when he came to talk about the closing. (Search this bog for related articles if you are interested in reading more.)
Rochester schools are a bit behind the times.
While at last week's ICE meeting, I received a call from a Gary McLendon, a reporter in Rochester asking if I could get him touch with John Lawhead, as he was doing a story on Brizard's possible appointment as the Rochester Superintendent of schools and came across John's story mentioning Brizard in relationship to the closing of Tilden HS on this blog. Magic - I handed the phone to John. McLendon's story (also at Norms Notes) is the result. A lesson to bureaucrats – control your arrogance towards teachers. You never know who may end up blogging. And kudos to John for a rare willingness among teachers to speak his mind publicly.
Good work in not jumping on the bandwagon by McLendon, who writes,
Among [Brizard's] strongest supporters is Tim Quinn, managing director for The Broad Academy, a national superintendent training program. Quinn said Brizard was easily in the top 10 percent of the academy's hundreds of graduates.
Having Broad Academy support gives me confidence – that Brizard will move to turn over as much of the Rochester school system to private hands as possible - ASAP.
Our loser NY State Education Commissioner, Richard Mills, is also a strong Brizard supporter: STRIKE TWO.
Now here comes an interesting part of the story. The current interim acting Rochester superintendent is William Cala, whom John Lawhead and I met in Birmingham in 2003 at the ACT Now high stakes testing conference. The meetings were held at The WOO run by the late Steve Orel and attended by Susan Ohanian, Gloria Pipkin and so many other prominent educators from around the nation in addition to Bill, and his wife Joanne, also an educator. (One more tribute to the amazing Steve Orel and his ability to bring people together. I've written about Steve, but since he died this summer, I've had writer's block when trying to talk about him.)
Bill Cala and I hit it off immediately and I remember laughing a hell of a lot in the midst of some serious discussions on how to fight NCLB, though I had to keep reminding myself that a guy that I could see coming to ICE meetings actually runs an entire school district. We all had fun with the idea of creating a phony election to run someone against Richard Mills and figured John Lawhead would make a much better State Ed Commissioner.
I won't go into the details of Bill Cala's background, but it should be noted he was one of the few - if not THE ONLY - school superintendent to battle Richard Mills over his horrendous testing policies (and his entire stewardship of the NYS ed dept - remember, Mills gave Klein the waiver.) Comparing Bill Cala to Joel Klein would be paralleled by comparing FDR to George Bush.
It was Bill who took me to a meeting where I met both Urban Academy's Ann Cook and Time out for Testing's Jane Hirschman for the first time. Not bad company to hang out with.
Bill retired as the Fairport schools superintendent and was asked to temporarily take over the Rochester job (while continuing to do fabulous work in Kenya where he and his wife Joanne started an organization to help AIDS orphans (www.joiningheartshands.org). (HINT: Donations are accepted.) If Bill hadn't gotten so involved with the Africa project it is hard to imagine him not being offered the Rochester job permanently, though I can't imagine the Broad people (looking to capture the public schools) and other interests (ie., Mills) would be happy.
So I shudder to think of the very idea that someone who worked for Joel Klein would be stepping into Bill Cala's shoes.
I would go back to teaching if Bill Cala ever became chancellor of the NYC schools system. But he is more likely to fix all the problems in Africa before that day comes.
In the meantime, is it possible Brizard is not a Klein Klone? Let us know what you think and we'll funnel the info to Rochester, where your voice can possibly help prevent the BloomKlein/Broad roller coaster from taking over yet another urban school system with Kleinites, as has been done in Washington and Baltimore.
To Cerf/Klein, when many teachers vacate a school they consider it a plus for the principal who got rid of all those senior (expensive) teachers who once felt they had a union and might infect the new teachers with the disease.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Billionaire Smellington B. Worthington III, has started the "Billionaires for Educational Reform" (BER) blog, where the self-made billionaire will comment on reforming the NYC school system. Reportedly wealthier than NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, thus making Worthington III even more credible than the Mayor on deciding the future of public education.
Smellington “pulled himself up with just the sweat of his brow, the grit in his character, a portfolio of stocks and properties, a substantial inheritance, and ivy-league education, and a hefty trust fund. In his younger years, Mr. Worthington attended private schools, as do his three children. He is now selflessly turning his valuable time and attention toward the public schools, in order to produce a better, more reliable class of worker.”
Smellington for President! Or Chancellor
I guess their union leaders didn't have to make excuses to the members for their non-militancy and to argue for givebacks. Check the UFT's one shot deal of a candlelight vigil on Monday at Tweed for a good comparison.
How long before Edwize engages in a light and mirror show either to make it look like the UFT is really more militant or that the strikers are too militant or any other level of intellectual dishonesty they can manage to come up with?
Manhattan appointee Patrick Sullivan and Tweed Chief Accountability Officer James Liebman joust at the Panel for Educational Policy meeting in September over the interpretation of parent surveys - do parents want more or less test prep? Were desires for lower class size purposely minimized?
Some of the looks on Patrick's face are priceless as Liebman dissembles.
Are you surprised to see te fog roll in and out as Klein and Liebman talk?
And note Klein's usual attention to his Blackberry.
Colleagues and friends:
As we've been reporting in Substance for more than five years, the Beach Channel plan is typical of the way in which the general (i.e., community based) high schools are sabotaged under mayoral control.
As the dictatorship creates more and more "choice" schools (selective enrollment, charters, whatever they are called), more and more of the "leftover" kids are channeled into the remaining general high schools. Then, because of "standards and accountability", the administration can prove that these schools are "failing" (and probably "persistently dangerous") to justify closing or flipping them (to charters or other privatization schemes).
In Chicago, this is the pattern that has been followed for more than a decade, with the ugliest examples coming forward within the past five years, since Arne Duncan began closing schools for "failure" in 2002 and converting them into something or other else.
So far, five general high schools in Chicago (all of them all-black) have received this treatment, and most of their space has now been taken away from their communities and handed over to the privatizers.
Collins High School (1313 S. Sacramento, West Side, North Lawndale) is now "Lawndale College Prep Charter High School."
Austin High School (231 N. Pine St., West Side, Austin community) now houses Chicago's "entrepreneurship small charter high school" (American Quality Schools); a thingy called the "Austin Polytechnic" (another choice school, but run by a group of "progressives"), and (soon) another small selective school.
Calumet High School (8010 S. May, South Side) is now "Perspectives Charter High School" completely exclusive (admission requirement; they can kick you out if your fail to follow your performance contract; etc.)
Englewood High School is graduating its last public kids in June 2008, while "Urban Prep" (a much hyped all-boys charter school, uniforms and all that) and "Team Englewood" (a different kind of something or other) are taking over the building where, among others, Lorraine Hansberry went to school.
If people are not organizing and publicizing these acts of sabotage as they occur, and challenging them when the next stage of privatization takes place, you will lose as completely as Chicago did. You are probably in a better position because your union leadership may be venal, but at least they are not dumb (as most of Chicago's are), because you still have competitive newspapers (and some other media) and because they haven't destroyed your infrastructure of union and community activists at the local school level.
Every day, I heard from someone at a general high school that's being sabotaged by corporate "school reform" in Chicago. And every one of those people is so frightened ("Look what they did to you..." is often part of the mantra, referencing the fact that they got away with firing me and blacklisting me from public high school school teaching, Chicago and suburbs) that he or she will not be quoted on the record.
Ultimately, "BloomKlein" will micromanage its media spin, right down to going after every individual who is quoted against their programs, whether at Beach Channel or elsewhere. I suspect that the principal and the UFT chapter leader at Beach Channel have already been warned in some fashion. By documenting and exposing every instance of that kind of stuff as it happens, you may be able to avoid the fate Chicago's general high schools have been suffering.
Otherwise, the script for your future has already been written here, and that story on Beach Channel is a prophecy of what the future holds for dozens of high schools that will be "stuck" with the "leftover" kids until the BloomKlein propaganda machine discovers (like that famous scene out of "Casablanca") that there is "failure here."
Well what did you expect, M______ when you sabotaged us for the last five years? Rhodes scholars and Mother Theresa?
George N. Schmidt
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Leonie Haimson commented on her listserve:
Typical actions by DOE, diverting more “over the counter” students to Beach Channel HS, destabilizing the school and putting it on the impact list.
This was a school that was allocated over $1 million that it said would be used to reduce class size; and was expecting to lower class size, according to just-released DOE chart to lower class size to 27 from 29.5. Wonder if indeed that occurred, or if the additional students foiled those efforts.
SED took as a great advance, they told me, Tweed’s promise not to undermine any principal’s efforts to reduce class size by sending more OTC students.
A certain cynicism [exists at the school] given the Education Department’s penchant for closing large high schools that can be depicted as failures. “I don’t know if the D.O.E. didn’t think about it,” [UFT Chapter Leader] Pecoraro... said about the effect of the involuntary transfers. “The worst thing is if they did think about it and they’re planning for the demise of Beach Channel.”
Bet on it Dave.
Ed Notes has discovered that in attempt to further the Tweed policy of promoting small schools while denigrating large high schools and closing them, BloomKlein will give cell phones and other incentives to the groups of students that can have the most impact on a school that can lead to its closing in the fastest possible time. Bloomberg is making a fleet of limos available to those students who cannot make it to school in the morning. The student winning team will be sent to Washington for a 2 week trial in disrupting Congress.
I started posting comments from the listserve thread in a post "Incompetently yours" pointing to incompetence as the reason. I was wrong. It is all intentional to keep parental involvement at a minimum by feigning incompetence.
The local and national press, so enamored and apologetic of the BloomKlein political agenda for the schools, have ignored this undercurrent of parent unhappiness, which Bloomberg has generally derided as dilettantish (I don't have the specifics here but if you do leave them as comments.) Of course, dictatorships don't want anyone questioning them or having any real input.
Klein cynically appointed Martine Guerrier, a mild critic in the past, as the CEO of parent engagement at $150K a year on Feb. 28, 2007, the day of the massive rally of parent, teachers and communities organized by (and later sold out by the UFT). I know and like Martine but was very disappointed at the loss of her voice, but, hey 150k is a 150k. I wrote about it ("Say it Ain't So Martine") back then (search for her name on the blog to read stories I wrote.) I also got a weird critical email from NY Times ed reporter at the time, David Herzenhorn, after I accused the Times of writing puff pieces on BloomKlein generally, and the Guerrier appointment in particular, by praising Klein for choosing a severe critic in Martine. Not true, as I pointed out to Herzenhorn. (He has since left the NYC ed beat to cover Congress in Washington and we hope there are no repeats of the Judith Miller fiasco. NY Times ed reporters should be required to take a course in investigative reporting from the NY Sun's Elizabeth Green.)
Martine's rep has suffered since then as seen by....
This post by Jane Reiff President of (PTA) Presidents Council D25 in Queens exposed some of the underbelly. Here are just a few excerpts:
Dear Chancellor Klein and Ms. Guerrier,
Follow the entire thread at Norms' Notes here.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Shaping the System That Grades City Schools - New York Times
Guest article submitted by Alice to ICE-mail
Nov. 19, 2007
The November 18, 2007 issue of Ed Notes Online's article, "Hunting Down Bad Teachers" observes that "The nation wide focus on quality teaching is curious when compared to lack of focus on quality of physicians where mistakes lead to people dying."
Apparently, the DOE is attempting to make just that connection by hiring James Liebman, a death row litigation expert,to be the chief accountability officer in rating schools.
The Times writes that Mr. Liebman "...would like to think fewer people might end up on death row had they received a basic education tailored to encouraging their strengths."
Thus, the connection between poor education and death has been made.
This article is filled with propaganda techniques from the folksy, plain folks tone, to the reframing techniques deployed in such statements as these: "We're not measuring kids, we're measuring schools."
I really suggest that everyone read this article several times looking for examples such as these.
If looked at closely, the reasoning is obviously ludicrous.
If read quickly, the subliminal message is "Bad Teaching Leads To Death".
As I've said in a number of posts, it would be suicidal to mount any public campaign without studying propaganda techniques.
George Lakoff, an expert in linguistics, writes in his article "What Orwell Didn't Know About The Brain, The Mind and Language,"
"Probably 98% of your reasoning is unconscious...Thought is structured, in large measure, in terms of 'frames' - brain structures that control mental stimulation and hence reasoning."
Lakoff contends that we think in terms of frames. Such a frame is "Failing schools." The catch is that once the frame is wired into the circuitry of the brain. Lakoff writes, "...the new neural structure cannot just be erased. In other words, if teachers try to negate the concept of "bad teachers, failing schools, etc" using those words, they just reinforce the frame.
Lakoff writes that repeating those words just ..."activates the metaphor and strengthens what you're against." (pgs. 70 -71,) Saying that the schools aren't failing, in other words, reinforces the concept that the schools ARE failing. An example of reframing this concept would be, "The schools aren't failing to provide for students, The DOE is failing to provide for schools."
The DOE has their PR experts and the media. In the above article, they're created an insidious frame equating poor teaching with death row.
Any truths told will be spun. If we don't know what we're doing linguistically, we will just provide ammunition to be used against us.
If we do know what we're doing, we can reframe their propaganda and use it against them.
Above Submitted by Alice
In an interesting anomaly, John Lawhead, one of the ICE founders and one of the most astute analysts and critics of high stakes testing and just about everything James Liebman has advocated since he's been at the DOE, spent many years as Liebman's administrative Assistant at Columbia before John began his teaching career. John should have spiked the coffee machine with truth serum. Currently an ESL teacher at soon-to-be closed Tilden HS after being being forced out of the closed Bushwick HS, we have to wonder if Liebman is closing every school John teaches at because he's short of help.
The AFT and soon the UFT support Hillary for Pres.
NYC teachers are urged to give support to the campaign.
What if Hillary gets elected
Appoints Joel Klein to the cabinet as Secty of Education or Attorny General?
HOW WILL NYC TEACHERS FEEL ABOUT HELPING KLEIN, THE PERSON THEY MOST DESPISE, INTO THE CABINET?
Klein's wife Nicole Seligman appeared with BILL Clinton when he testified before the grand jury in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and she spoke on his behalf before the Senate at the impeachment trial.
graphics by DB
Not all that far-fetched.
Monday, November 19, 2007
The next time the national press like Newsweek wants to write glowing reports on the competence of BloomKlein and the miracles they have wrought, they should check this story out as a prime example of how incompetently these "business" model people are running things. And while they're here, they should jump to the story in today's NY Post on further distortions in the grad rate at the much heralded small schools, where diplomas are granted based on passing rates of 55 instead of the more difficult 65.
Melvyn Meer from the Queens Community Board 11 Education Committee reports
I went to an official SLT "training" this morning. It was something of a fiasco.
Scheduled from 10 am to 12:30, it began at 10:15 and ended at 10:55.
Almost all that happened was that there was an outline handout that was also flashed on a screen. A lady read it, slowly, and it was almost over. I'm certain almost everyone in the audience knew this oh so basic material of the outline before going to this "training".
After the reading there were to be questions and an Asst. Principal from a middle school rose as if to ask a question. But what she said was that all the teachers from her team, as well as herself were there, and the school went to the expense of hiring substitutes for them so that they could attend. Her point was that for the considerable expense and effort the "training" was ridiculous--
I guess she expected to get some sympathy from a DoE attorney who was there as a back-up knowledgeable resource. Instead she got the bad news that it was a violation of State law for principals and teachers to be attending that meeting during the official school day.
Well, there must have been many others, for the room broke out in uncontrolled and furiously noisy argument all over the place and the meeting was, effectively, over.
I suggest that if you have to go to the training, bring something to read.
There's a long story about the candlelight vigil for Monday, Nov. 26 proposed by rubber room denizen David Pakter. His amazing statement (Flickering Flames, Burning Words), that I hope he gets to make at the PEP or on the steps of Tweed on Nov. 26, is posted at Norms Notes.
How Randi Weingarten came to support it, and her motivations for doing so, are for a later time. Suffice to say: just another attempt to derail and deflect any militancy and most important, keep any organizing that might end up turning against the leadership from occurring. But if you are a regular reader of this blog, you have been reading chapter and verse on the prime directive of the UFT/Unity Caucus leadership – hold onto power by any means and pay strict attention to every single threat no matter how minor. People who have spoken out tell me all the time just how much attention the top leadership pays to "little ole me." While flattered, they eventually come to see there is method in all this - kill 'em with kindness until they go away. The old four F mantra of teenage boys: Find 'em, Feel 'em, Fuck 'em, Forget 'em.
By the way, I took the photo at Gracie Mansion, a vigil that went nowhere, against Giuliani (remember him?) who was the most horrible mayor and the reason the UFT leaders were having such difficulty and just wait 'till he's out of office, yada, yada, yada.
Here is the email sent out by TAGNYC, who seem resistant to the Unity bull:
Teachers- CONTACT OTHER TEACHERS AND DEMAND THAT RANDI DO SOMETHING!
The UFT got us into this witch-hunting of teachers mess by accepting Bloomberg-Klein's description of the Union as weak- unable to fight back. Randi went along with the "Big Boys" and now the chickens are coming home to roost on her back- claws sharply extended. We gave away the store and now have to fight back without the contractual rights the Union had fought so hard to get- like protection of our job rights! The Union has accepted the myth that the TEACHERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE STATE OF THE INNER CITY EDUCATION SYSTEM. Randi's acceptance of this 50 year old lie is the cruelest cut of all. It is the teachers who have kept this system from imploding entirely- going back day after day to try to teach while society has closed its eyes to the problems that has made teaching so difficult. Randi- the "Big Boys" are finally owning up to the truth- they are bribing kids to learn. Now will you show the fighting spirit that you and 200 other UFTers had the nerve to travel to New Orleans to "teach" to that City's teachers' union.
ENOUGH and again ENOUGH!
RANDI, CALL OUT YOUR TEACHERS. NOT DURING THE SCHOOL DAY BUT AFTER SCHOOL. TAKE US TO THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE OR DOWN FIFTH AVENUE AT 5P.M. ON A BUSINESS DAY. DO SOMETHING RANDI. PICK YOUR 80,000 PLUS TEACHERS UP OFF THE FLOOR. GET THE BOOT OFF OF OUR NECKS. AND SHOW TEACHERS IN NEW ORLEANS THAT THE UFT DID NOT SELL THEM A CROCK OF _______.
Randi- You have to follow your own advice "Spit in the face of fear." Bloomberg and Klein do not have to be feared.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
The nationwide focus on quality teaching is curious when compared to lack of focus on quality of physicians, where mistakes lead to people dying. At Friday's ICE meeting, Michael Fiorillo raised a very valid point in comparing the way the US health care and education systems are perceived. He surmised that in reality, the US education system compares rather favorably internationally in comparison to the health care system, where US infant mortality rates are somewhat shameful, among a bunch of other negative stats. Let's say that in poor areas, they are no worse than comparable to each other. Yet, why isn't the Mayor finding a million dollars to root out bad doctors? (I won't even get into the legal profession here.)
I understand the focus on the desire to get rid of “ineffective” teachers but I would love to get people to tell me how to define that. I know plenty of teachers who ended up at private schools and are are considered to be good teachers because the NYC system spit them out due to large class sizes and unruly kids. “Effectiveness” is a relative term. In my first year if I kept the kids from swinging from the lights I was considered effective.
I was part of a group mentoring Teaching Fellows and stories abound of some of them floundering in one school but flourishing in another.
Look at your own schools and from what you can see, what is the % of lousy teachers? Try rating your colleagues in order of effectiveness. Would that list match the administrators’ list? The parents and students’ lists? (I was in Spain 2 years ago at a school where the principal was elected by teachers, parents and kids.) Most bad teachers find a way to migrate out of the classroom, all too often to supervisor’s chair.
There will always be a bell curve of teacher quality no matter what is done and everyone will have some teachers who are great, average and poor. The way to improve quality is to make conditions as ripe as possible for good teaching to take place. But what is occurring is a quota system where principals have to show results in getting rid of some teachers and they often pick on the most vulnerable personality wise, often loners without popular support in the school. In other cases, they pick on teachers who might be good teaching a whole class but struggle in the workshop model. Many have found this to occur when they were slow to adapt to the major changes Diana Lam and Carmen Farina forced down people's throats.
With so many 20-year plus veteran teachers under attack we have to ask, what if they get rid of them all and replace them with first year newbies of unknown quality, many of whom may be worse than the people they are replacing? Are the kids better off?
After the meeting Loretta Prisco sent this item.
A Third of New York’s Worst Repeat Offender Doctors
Continue to Practice Without Licensing Consequences
Rate of Discipline Among New York Doctors Who Have Made Medical Malpractice Payments
Number of Payment Reports
Number of Doctors Who Made Payments
Sum of These Payments
Subset of Number of Doctors who had One or More Reportable Licensure Actions
Pct. of Doctors Who Made Payments Who had One or More Reportable Licensure Actions
Pct. of Total Dollars Paid Out Statewide
2 or more
3 or more
4 or more
5 or more
10 or more
Source: National Practitioner Data Bank
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Call it Witch Hunt II.
I spoke to a teacher at Moriah's school who told me the principal targets one teacher a year. Last year it was Adila. This year it is Moriah. I can't reveal the school until Moriah decides to do so but it would be a good lesson for the principal to have this story pop up every time someone Googles the name.
I also had a friend sent to the RR when a kid peed in her class, never having told her he had to go. She was released 2 weeks later when he did it again in another class - this teacher a favorite of the principal. She still got a letter in her file and has lost grievances
Klein is spending a million to get rid of the Adilas and Moriahs.
And of course, note the "superb" performance of the UFT.
My "U" rating was not just about my lesson plans, or my teaching ability, or my salary, or my age, or my political views. It really started with my reaction to a frameup.
Another teacher, we'll call her Adila, was framed for child endangerment. She spent all last year in a Rubber Room Gulag. She was offered a deal--admit to a lesser crime, and pay a fine and you can keep your job. She accepted the deal, and signed an affidavit swearing to never speak of the matter again. She could have returned to her school, but she refused. She is now an ATR. Case closed.
When Adila was first accused, she went to a private lawyer, and I went with her. At some point during the interview, I said, "But the principal lied, and we can prove it!". The lawyer replied: "Everybody knows that President Bush lied about the Weapons of Mass Destruction, and no one cares, so why should anyone care if a principal lies?"
The lawyer was right of course. A web of lies had reached from the loftiest office of the land down to our lowly little school in Queens. That just shows why public leaders should to be held to very high standards.
Representative Kucinich has just introduced a motion to impeach the Vice President. The fact that his motion was not automatically tabled, shows that there is a glimmer of hope that we can turn this country around.
Adila does not want her case reopened. She wants to get on with her life, and put the nightmare behind her. But I am going to write about her case anyway. (Sorry Adila). We are all victims of the trickle down effect of Washington's lies. This is not just about one teacher's sad story. What happened to her can happen to anyone, as long as liars rule.
So here begins the telling of THE PRINCIPAL'S LIE
Adila was standing in the doorway of her classroom at the beginning of 5th period, as all teachers were required to do. She was expected to supervise not only the students in the hall, but also her seventh graders who were already in the classroom. The hallway was extremely crowded, because the school itself was overcrowded. We were on double session, but this didn't keep the halls from being regularly converted into mosh pits by squealing students who gleefully pushed one another back and forth when they got caught in a traffic jam.
The administration's answer to this problem, was to get the students from classroom A to classroom B as soon as possible (3 minutes) and then to keep them out of the hallways until the students had to move to classroom C. Regular "sweeps" were made to pick up lagging students who were then "written up". Bathrooms were locked during the first two periods and the last two periods of the day (a period lasted 45 minutes). Bathrooms were also locked during the first ten minutes and the last ten minutes of each period. Aides sat outside the bathrooms writing down the names of the students who entered and the teachers who had given the passes. Teachers were "written up" if they failed to mark students late, or if they gave too many passes to the bathroom. The principal regularly got on the loud speaker and irritably reminded teachers to stop giving passes during the prohibited times.
So in this environment, Adila was trying to get her students into the classroom as quickly as possible. A few girls were playing around down the hallway--putting off going to the classroom until the last possible minute. A boy named Bobby came running up from the opposite direction. He pushed past Adila, and in doing so he tripped and almost fell, but he recovered his balance at the last moment. He must have presented a comic figure to the children in the classroom, because they all laughed at him. Perhaps to cover his embarrassment at his own clumsiness, Bobby shouted," Ms. Adila made me trip".
Just as the bell rang, five or six girls tried to run into the classroom at the last moment, but Adila stopped them and dutifully placed an "L" for Late next to each name in her attendance book. The girls were incensed. They argued that they weren't late because they had gotten to the door as the bell was ringing. Adila told them to sit down, but one of the girls--the leader of the group--left the class without a pass saying that that she had to talk to her counselor.
A month later Adila was called into the principal's office. Bobby's mother was there. It seems that Bobby had complained that he had been tripped by Adila, and he had six witnesses to prove it. Now it was Adila's turn to be incensed. She had done no such thing! But there were witnesses, insisted the mother. Adila consulted her attendance book. The so-called witnesses weren't even in the classroom at the time--they were the girls who had run up to the door just as the bell rang. When the meeting ended, Adila felt that she had established her innocence.
A couple of months passed. Adila received a letter saying that a Chancellor's Investigator was coming to the school to hold a hearing about charges of child endangerment. She was told by the UFT that she would be represented by Ms. Baker, but Ms. Baker was unavailable until the day of the hearing. Adila saw her for perhaps three minutes before the hearing started.
The Investigator asked her about the Bobby incident, and Adila told the same story she told the principal and the mother. Then the Investigator started asking her about a second incident. Adila realized that she had been brought up on two charges. She was hearing about the second one with no warning at all.
The second charge involved a child named Karl. Karl had come into Adila's third period class one day asking to go to the bathroom. She told him that she would give him a pass in ten minutes as soon as the bathrooms were open. Now remember, Karl had already been sitting for two periods in math class with no access to the bathroom, because all bathrooms were locked during the first two periods of the day. When he had asked his math teacher for a pass to the bathroom, she had said the same thing that Adila did--bathrooms are locked. But Karl couldn't wait. He had diarrhea--a detail which he failed to mention to Adila--perhaps because he was already running out the door in an attempt to keep from having an accident. But the bathrooms were locked, remember? The aides were not yet sitting next to the door. There was no one to unlock the bathrooms--none of the teachers had keys. So poor Karl had a very messy accident. And poor Adila took the fall for it.
Adila told the Chancellor's Investigator that she didn't know that the child had an emergency. She told him that even if she had wanted to she couldn't open the bathroom door, because she had no key. The Investigator called the principal and asked her about the bathrooms. Were they indeed locked? NO, answered the principal. BATHROOMS ARE NEVER LOCKED.
Adila told the Investigator that all he had to do was to go down the hallway and look at the bathroom door. There was a huge sign that read:
BATHROOM HOURS OF OPERATION
Bathrooms Closed: Period 1,2,8,9 & Homeroom
Per. 3- 10:03 – 10:31
Per. 4- 10:52 – 11:20
Per. 5- 11:41 – 12:09
Per. 6- 12:30 - 12:58
Per. 7- 1:19 - 1:47
The principal hadn't even bothered to take the signs down. Why should she? The Investigator refused to get up and go look, as the principal knew he would. Ms. Baker, who was there to represent Adila, said and did absolutely nothing.
So because a child tripped and almost fell, and because a child couldn't get into a locked bathroom, Adila spent a year in the Rubber Room Gulag.
No I didn't leave anything out. There were no other incidents. No other crimes. I read the charges. I went with her to the lawyer. I swear those were the only incidents.
If a teacher can be sent to a Rubber Room Gulag on charges like those, none of us are safe. And I think that the principal did that to Adila, because she wants us to feel that way. Unsafe. The principal has the power to ruin our lives.
But my life is already ruined, because I can't stand the thought of such a horrible injustice being done to someone who had done nothing bad to anyone--including Bobby, Karl, and the principal. It knaws at me. People don't understand why I can't let it go. The District Representative, just the other day said, "You're not Adila's mother--let it go".
I can't. I don't think that the principal of a New York City Public School should have that much power. And it isn't just my principal. She isn't a trend setter. She isn't a loose cannon. She is very much a team player. She is doing exactly what she is told to do by higher ups. She wouldn't still be principal otherwise.
ALL OVER THE CITY, TEACHERS WHO HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG ARE BEING FRAMED, LIED ABOUT, RUINED!
I don't know why the UFT is putting up with this. I don't know why New Yorkers are putting up with this. I don't know why Americans are putting up with this.
I have told this story over and over. I wrote to the Chancellor's Investigator offering to send him the sign that was still on the door. I wrote to Randi Weingarten. I wrote to The New York City Teacher's Advocacy Group. I signed all letters with my real name.
I am going to keep writing. It's not OK to frame teachers. This is not going to go away.
Those in power are abusing that power and that means that THEY need to go away--preferably to a specially prepared RUBBER ROOM GULAG just for them.