Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Parents Who Fought Off School Resistance to Opt-Out Led to Modifed Policy

The students were told by one teacher if they opted out, they would not be part of the "culture" of the school. They would be different and not be able to be part of the after-test celebrations. We wanted to meet with the principal but at this point we were simply getting the party-line and things were moving too slowly (the ELA test was in just three weeks). Two parents from the school set up a community wide meeting and invited Janine Sopp to come and "educate" us on what was exactly entailed with opting out. We brought our kids (who at this point were conflicted as they didn't want to be "different" from their peers). We left the meeting pretty sure we were going to opt out and my kids were DEFINITELY interested in opting out. The more they heard the madder they got. We wrote up careful notes from the meeting and presented those to our principal and the PTA.... Brooklyn parent
It is not easy for a small minority to stand up, especially if you and your kids are turned into outliers. This great story came in from a  Brooklyn elementary school parent. I get where teachers are coming from -- if your job were on the line based on test scores and if your high scoring kids talked about opting out, you just might get that sinking feeling.

Kudos to these parents, their kids and the school principal for willing to listen and modify the policies.
There were several families interested in opting out but we felt unsure. We were at first met with resistance by the principal but especially by the teachers and even the PTA. This was new territory for our school because nobody had spoken of opting out before. The students were told by one teacher if they opted out, they would not be part of the "culture" of the school. They would be different and not be able to be part of the after-test celebrations. We wanted to meet with the principal but at this point we were simply getting the party-line and things were moving too slowly (the ELA test was in just three weeks).

Two parents from the school set up a community wide meeting and invited Janine Sopp to come and "educate" us on what was exactly entailed with opting out. We brought our kids (who at this point were conflicted as they didn't want to be "different" from their peers). We left the meeting pretty sure we were going to opt out and my kids were DEFINITELY interested in opting out. The more they heard the madder they got. We wrote up careful notes from the meeting and presented those to our principal and the PTA. He then set up a school-wide meeting and spoke from the administration's side and we were there as informed parents from the Opt Out side. It was a good conversation with probably 50-60 people. We reassured the principal and the staff that we were worried about harming our school (a school we all care about) or teachers but felt this was really important for parents to stand up. The principal did agree that things were changing so quickly and that the commissioner really is looking to the parents and not the teachers for the lead. He asked us to please, just let him know soon so he would be able to think about staffing on those days. Once we had the reassurance that our kids were going to be included in school activities and not punished, 10 families opted out of 5th grade (and others from the third grade). The kids spent the mornings with their "buddy classes" helping them with their reading.

For a first year and pulling the momentum together just a few weeks before the ELA we think this was a success. Many parents of 2nd graders looked to us for guidance and cheered us on.

Friday before vacation we got a school-wide email from our principal:

The staff and I share some of the feelings that you may be reading in the newspaper. The PTA is creating a page on their website that allows parents to access many resources related to State testing so thta you can be informed about information from the State and discussion or events that are happening around the city.

I just looked and that page is not up yet but it is a positive sign of open dialogue and transparency. We learned the importance of engaging the principal and working together with the school. Additionally, I know many parents who have left the choice up to their kids. We learned the importance to inform our kids in order to make that decision. (The more the kids heard the night of the community meeting, the more committed they were to not participate in this test).

It does take courage to be the minority and stand up for what you believe is right. Some people need others to step up first (are you that person?). It takes courage to ask our children to be different from their peers and stand apart. Finally, it takes courage and trust on the part of the principal and staff. Our principal is new and has no tenure and I believe he was courageous in NOT trying to silence us, NOT trying to dissuade us and ultimately said "I have to be neutral but I am here to support families who make that decision."

How Bloomberg/Klein Undermined a Voluntary Integration Program on the Lower East Side

Lisa Donlan has been telling the story for many years. Now this recent report condemning the NYC school system as one of the most segregated in the nation validates what Lisa has been reporting. This is from Community Education Council 1 on the LES.
Below are captions from NYS segregation report talking specifically about District One:


p 22

A district-wide voluntary integration program, consisting of the elimination of school zoning and employment of diversity-based lotteries for oversubscribed schools, was implemented in CSD 1 in 1989 and approved by the Board of Education shortly after.

Today, New York City public school system is, by far, the largest in the country, with racial enrollment varying greatly across schools and CSDs. Despite this diversity, prior voluntary integration initiatives have slowly declined, transformed, or been eliminated over the years, as more color-blind and market-based educational policies and programs have stepped into place. As a result, this city has failed to address student racial isolation, support the pursuit of diversity efforts and integration initiatives, and possibly increased school segregation across the city.

page 24

After Bloomberg centralized the Department of Education in 2003, the department’s central admission office began to replace the quota system being used in CSD 1 with a blind-lottery system.

In 2007, the same year of the Parents Involved ruling, the diversity-based preference system completely ended and has yet to be reinstated or modified (e.g., using set asides for free and reduced lunch students or English language learners) despite continual community requests and increases in school racial isolation.76 Around the same time, the DOE told individual schools that they could no longer give preference to low-income students.

Failure to address student diversity not only influences racial and socioeconomic segregation, but also can impact students’ educational opportunities and outcomes. For example, a recent Schott Foundation report showed the drastic disparity by race for students across New York City CSDs on opportunity to learn conditions: the opportunity to attend a high-performing school in the district, the opportunity to be taught by an experienced and highly educated teacher, and the opportunity to be tested for Gifted and Talented eligibility in kindergarten.77

Monday, April 14, 2014

Indypendent Comprehensive Coverage of the Common Core/Opt-Out Movement

Common Core resistance reflects an awareness of the metastasis of standards-based reforms into broader swaths of the American school system. “The changes in public education beginning to touch suburban communities, white or black” says Royal, “have touched us already in urban communities.” 
Opt-out parents like Brooklyn New School parent Elsass, who is white, acknowledges this dynamic. “We’re somewhat insulated from what’s happening at other schools,” she says, citing Brooklyn campuses where arts have been eclipsed by test-focused instruction. “It’s pushing us down a bad road for education.”
There is a silver lining, though. According to Slekar, Common Core resistance has opened dialog between cities and their vanilla suburbs. More affluent parents, Slekar says, “have finally burst out of their bubbles and see the harm that’s being done in the cities.” Royal considers it “good entrée for them into the whole problem of what public education has become.”
In this light, Jose Vilson sets his sights beyond the Common Core battle. “If there is a resolution to the Common Core,” he wonders, “do all the other things — the racism, classism, sexism that are pervasive throughout a lot of communities — go away? Will you keep fighting for those people that are marginalized by these situations?”.....
The Common Core and Its Discontents, The Indypendent
Jose's point is important. We are seeing the building of increasingly strong alliances that will be long-lasting and will lead to fighting together.

These articles touch on the entire enchilada, especially tackling the race issue as related to the CC. Excellent quotes from a number of people we've worked with, including Jose Vilson, Karen Harper Royal, Janine Sopp. We had the race discussion re: white middle class parents being more likely to opt out in Change the Stakes. That led to a decision to go out to communities through making contact with the local district Community Education Councils and we've already seen some results. My position has always been that all kids -- kids of color and whites are abused by the high stakes testing regimen -- it's a matter of connecting to parents throughout the city.

And the follow-up article this week points to these alliances being built:

Around a thousand New York City students opted out, thanks to the organizing efforts of grassroots parent groups like Change the Stakes. This spring the group helped rouse parents not just at progressive campuses like the Brooklyn New School, but in traditional public schools like PS 446 in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn and PS 140 in the Bronx.
At PS 446, over 80 percent of tested students opted out of the exams. “We felt like this benefitted our kids more than anything else,” says Latoshia Wheeler, a PS 446 parent and opt-out organizer. “They’re wasting a lot of money and resources that they could put back into the school.”
The work of CTS is so exciting -- often to me more than the union work. I am on the Steering Committee but play a minimal role. What a pleasure to see these amazing parents lead the way -- and also to see CTS becoming slowly but surely a more diverse community. Here are links to the Indy articles and a note from Janine.

The Common Core and Its Discontents, The Indypendent, April 4 2014
Finding Common Cause on the Common Core, The Indypendent (follow up article), April 9, 2014

Janine Sopp has been tireless in racing around to every community she can reach. Poor Kya - has been to more meetings - either she will be an activist like her mom or never want to see a meeting when she grows up.

Janine, whose coming out as an activist I am proud to have witnessed, writes:
Greetings Friends and Allies,

Here are two recent articles published by The Indypendent that focus on the ever changing, ever growing and constantly evolving movement to fight high-stakes testing. Journalist Owen Davis interviewed numerous sources on the past and currently unfolding events and actions these recent months and weeks has been a most responsive and reflective reporter. He sees our collective efforts as "one of the most important movements in education justice of the moment."

Change the Stakes has been a major participant in this movement along with countless other organizations, parents and teachers who are responding in their communities and adding to the growing numbers of opt outs as well as bringing awareness to the larger issues around high-stakes testing.

As a member of CtS as well as one of many parents on our school's PAC (Parent Action Coalition), I've met with scores of parents who are organizing in their own ways. CtS was mentioned in the follow up article, but parents from BNS (PS146) met with the PS446 community to speak with them about their plans to opt out. When communities begin to understand they have the right to make these decisions for their children, teachers and schools, it is amazing what can happen. I share this because parents everywhere can become the inspiration and support for others. CtS enjoys and hopes parents and teachers will plug into the network we have become, but we are not the only vehicle by which parents can get involved.

This is what we see when an independent media outlet can help tell the story, where the deeper issues that are the underpinnings of these reforms are allowed to be voiced, so please share these articles widely. And remember, you can still opt out of the math exam! Hope to see you on April 24 at the rally where all allies will stand together to REFUSE high- stakes testing.


Parent member of CtS, parent at PS146

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Newark Teacher Responds to an Ed Deformer

"When trust is low-as it is presently in Newark, there are not enough data decks, community presentations, evidence, research, or Power Point presentations, to keep good people from reading bad things into evolving plans developed by outsiders, who are perceived as less interested in helping children than in building their resumes for personal gain. In a bifurcated, oppositional, often contentious city, where people have been lied to and ripped off for generations, by people and organizations who claimed to be here to help, who can blame them for being upset by people who seem to represent those very same interests, now looking to close their schools, ruin their neighborhoods, and take their children and their jobs?"

Ross Danis
President and CEO
Newark Trust for Education
A Newark teacher responds:
Ross Danis, you can show us Power Point presentations until the cows come home and we will not believe them. Mark Weber aka Jersey Jazzman and Bruce Baker have crunched all the numbers and they have concluded once again that charter schools in Newark serve less needy children and achieve no better outcomes than the public schools they are to replace.

How dare you characterize Newark as "... a bifurcated, oppositional, often contentious city..."? Why would you shoot an arrow into the heart of the community? Novelist Philip Roth began his love affair with literature at The Newark Public Library. Legendary jazz singer Sarah Vaughan and Whitney Houston were born in Newark.

The Newark Museum was the place where Miss Carol taught me weekly art classes before I even started school. My mother bought me my white sixth grade graduation dress at Hahne's. I graduated from a university in Newark. I have spent a crucial chunk of my career teaching Newark children.

In Newark, people will answer you back before you finish offending them. The same kid ready with a smart remark will offer a helping hand. The major distinction between squad captain Ross Danis cheerleading his band of reformers and the Newark community is soul.

A Newark Teacher

DOE Use Arrest Tactic to Stop Teachers Stop Teachers Who Fight Back Publicly

The nest of vipers that is DOE legal has grown like a cancer and infested the NYPD where cops arrest fellow unionists for protesting abusive administrator tactics.

We've been waiting for the Lydia Howrilka case to go public since the Portelos arrest a few weeks ago for his satiric blog post. In many ways this is even more egregious -- a principal who ends a first year teacher's career with a Discontinue and then is repeatedly challenged by the teacher for doing so goes out and charges the teacher with harassment and the NYPD arrests the teacher. Even though the ridiculous charges are dropped, the chilling nature of this tactic must be exposed. Lydia spoke at the PEP the other day about her D without talking about her arrest (See speech at: Lydia Howrilka Speech on DOE Discontinue Black List). She may go back next time to share the arrest story. Let Carmen Farina and the de Blasio PEP appointees hear these stories -- and note how the UFT buries them too.

By the way -- you can tell the Post is somewhat sympathetic to a teacher (for a change) by this wonderful photo of Lydia - instead of trying to make her look like a criminal. Sue Edelman has been doing some good work -- though I still never trust the Post.

Bronx teacher thrown in jail after criticizing principal

By Susan Edelman
April 13, 2014 | 4:23am
Bronx teacher thrown in jail after criticizing principal
Lydia Howrilka was arrested for harassment and spent 14 hours in NYPD custody before charges were dropped.


A Bronx teacher who criticized her boss got a hard lesson recently when she was thrown in jail.
Lydia Howrilka, 24, of the Academy for Language and Technology HS, was fired last July by Principal Arisleyda Urena, who called her ineffective.
Howrilka sued and filed a complaint alleging Urena improperly raffled off iPads and other costly prizes for kids. The claim prompted a DOE probe.
Howrilka sent an e-mail asking about her treatment to Urena and Chancellor Carmen Fariña — and to some 40 other city and state education officials and city politicians.
She got a call from the NYPD asking her to surrender on Urena’s charge of aggravated harassment.
Howrilka spent seven hours in the 84th Precinct house before being moved to Brooklyn’s Central Booking.
After seven more hours, a court officer said the DA had dismissed the charge.
“I believe it was done to intimidate,” she said. “And I’m concerned it will have a chilling effect on other whistleblowers.”
Urena’s lawyer, Tim Parlatore, said his client called cops “because of repeated, unwanted e-mails and communications.”
Also tossed in the klink was Francesco Portelos, a technology teacher at IS 49 Berta A. Dreyfus on Staten Island, who was yanked from his classroom two years ago, after launching a blog accusing Principal Linda Hall of violating rules. The outcome of his termination hearing on charges of insubordination and other alleged misconduct is pending.
Portelos, 35, who collects a $75,796 salary, wrote a satirical blog post on Feb. 24 saying he had hacked into the DOE’s payroll system with the password “kittensRcute,” and given himself a raise.
“Ridiculous story? Yes it is,” he wrote in the same post, adding “the truth is I can’t hack and never have.”
But the DOE’s chief information security officer, Desmond White, filed a complaint of official misconduct.
The police report asks, “Is Victim fearful of their safety/life?” White apparently answered “YES.”
Portelos spent 33 hours in custody, sleeping on the floor of a crowded cell next to a toilet, he said, before the DA dropped the charge.
The DOE made no apology. “We believe Mr. Portelos acted inappropriately with a post on his blog, and we notified the NYPD out of an abundance of caution,” a spokesman said.

UFT Astroturf AQE Wants "Credit" for Horrendous Cuomo Ed Budget with Charter Giveaway

At certain critical moments in labor struggles, things really do evolve to the point of it all being about Them and Us.
Them: so-called reformers, made up of edu-preneurs, privateers, malanthropists, PR flacks and advocates, opportunists, naifs, parasites and political enablers: the entire reform-industrial complex. Them.
Us: classroom teachers, students, parents and supporters of public education and the public good. The Union, in its truest, most practical and most aspirational sense. Us.
Weingrew is Them
..... Michael Fiorillo, comment at NYC Educator
The Governor should give credit where credit is due; it was the hard work of parents, students, teachers and the State Assembly leadership that allowed for a $1.1 billion increase....Alliance for Quality Education
I responded to the above quote from the AQE email below:
You've got to be kidding. So you're doing a victory lap for the giveaway of the school system to the charter lobby? Shameful.
Many people are fooled by groups like AQE. One of the leading voices from one of these groups sends a child to the UFT charter school, co-located in a public school. Really, what a game, what a sham.

Billy Easton has sold out repeatedly to the UFT/pro-mayoral control/pro-charter (when it suits them) agenda.

And AQE played no role that I could see in the anti-Cuomo charter giveaway rally the other day.

Time for everyone to declare themselves in the battle for public education -- all in and if not you are on the other side.

James Eterno posted this analysis of the threat of the charter movement on the ICE blog:


For Immediate Release: April 10, 2014


Billy Easton, Executive Director, AQE
beaston@aqeny.org / (518) 461-9171


AQE Slams Governor Cuomo's Victory Lap on School Aid 

Governor Cuomo Wrongly Claims Credit for 5% Increase in School Aid That He Stood Against

ALBANY, NY - Following Governor Cuomo's speech on the 2014-15 state budget in Monroe County, Billy Easton the Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education released the following statement: 

"Governor Cuomo is taking a victory lap on the state budget, but when it comes to school aid he is claiming credit for a victory for which he provided zero leadership. The Governor should give credit where credit is due; it was the hard work of parents, students, teachers and the State Assembly leadership that allowed for a $1.1 billion increase. The legislature added $500 million to the Governor's lousy proposed budget, and every other year he has consistently underfunded our schools. Let's be clear, the '5% increase' in funding that Governor Cuomo is touting was won despite his opposition, and not because of his efforts," said Billy Easton.


About AQE
The Alliance for Quality Education is a coalition mobilizing communities across the state to keep New York true to its promise of ensuring a high quality public education to all students regardless of zip code, income or race. Combining its legislative and policy expertise with grassroots organizing, AQE advances proven-to-work strategies that lead to student success and echo a powerful public demand for a high quality education.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

LA Teacher Gains Public Support for Standing Up to Student Disruptor

Groundswell of support for teacher who wrestled disruptive student to the floor shows the public is fed up with the disciplinary problems and bureaucracies that impede education....
When the cellphone video made the evening news, the student's family was offered support by the district's superintendent — who publicly chastised Black and placed the teacher on leave.... For many of us, this goes beyond whether the teacher should have resorted to wrestling moves to handle a student challenge. It's about scapegoating a profession that's under siege right now....Are teachers equipped to manage the fallout of social issues that play out in their classrooms?..... LA Times
This is actually a shocking story. We know how this story ends here in NYC - the teacher is rubber-roomed and branded a monster - and if tenured, brought up on 3020a charges. There were times in my school where teachers had to take action when a child was creating a dangerous situation. When a school has poor mechanisms for coping with discipline issues beyond the teacher's capability, a teacher is left defenseless -- as are the other kids.

Uproar over classroom scuffle reflects a profession under siege

Groundswell of support for teacher who wrestled disruptive student to the floor shows the public is fed up with the disciplinary problems and bureaucracies that impede education.

Mark Black and student
A cellphone video of Santa Monica High School teacher Mark Black restraining a student in his classroom went viral. (KTLA)

At this point, it may not matter much to the public what actually went on in that Santa Monica High classroom where a teacher was recorded wrestling a student to the floor.
The 58-second cellphone clip recorded by a student went viral this week, turning the teacher and the student into symbols of what's wrong with public schools:
Defiant students. Overwhelmed teachers. Feckless administrators. Knee-jerk policies with no room for common sense.
    "We're in the middle of a cultural change, and this case reflects that shift," said Shawn McMullen Chen, a high school teacher for 25 years. "The teaching environment feels more corporate now; very litigious, very careful, very impersonal...It's not easy to make the human connection you need to reach kids."

    Investigators in Santa Monica are trying to sort out what led to the classroom tussle. Here's what we know so far:
    Wrestling coach Mark Black was teaching science when he scolded a student for walking in and out of the classroom. Classmates suggested the trips had something to do with marijuana. When Black threatened to call security, the two wound up nose-to-nose and the student shoved the teacher. Black responded with a series of wrestling moves and restrained the student on the classroom floor.
    When the cellphone video made the evening news, the student's family was offered support by the district's superintendent — who publicly chastised Black and placed the teacher on leave.
    That prompted a public uproar that shows no sign of easing.
    School officials have been flooded with emails. Social media erupted with expressions of indignation, hailing Black as a hero thrown under the bus by bureaucrats who don't recognize the value of good teachers.
    This week, police arrested the student, Blair Moore, 18. He's been charged with possessing marijuana and a weapon (a box cutter) on campus, and threatening and using "force or violence against a school employee" — all misdemeanors.
    That turned up the heat among the teacher's supporters. Hundreds have pledged to show up Sunday for a Santa Monica rally dubbed "Community Peace Gathering celebrating Mark Black and all teachers who step up for their students." Almost 23,000 have "liked" a "We Support Coach Black" Facebook page, created by former students.
    "What was he going to do, turn his back?" posted the mother of a junior at the school. "Brave man...I feel my son is in good hands if all the teachers are like him."
    Black is a legend at Santa Monica High — a revered wrestling coach, beloved teacher and father figure to students.
    But the outsized support, from people across the country and around the world, probably has less to do with Black's history than with his new maverick status — the teacher who took a stand that preserved his authority in the classroom.
    The incident has parents worked up; it's an unsettling peek behind closed doors on a big urban campus. No one wants their child in a classroom where teachers and students are apt to wind up rolling around on the floor.
    But teachers told me they have few options to deal with disruptive students: You call security and hope help arrives before the disruption robs students of too much learning time or someone in class gets hurt.
    They resent the perception that teachers are to blame for classroom management problems; that if they're skilled in keeping students engaged, no one will act up.
    "Teaching has a lot more gray than most people understand," said Chen, an English teacher at Mira Costa High in Manhattan Beach. "You can have 17 kids who really want to do great things, and five or six who act out. You want an open, collaborative class. You don't want to be too strict... It's a tough tightrope to walk."
    Many public schools — including Los Angeles Unified campuses — aren't allowed to suspend students anymore for what's considered "willful defiance."
    "You'll send a kid to the office, the administrators don't want to deal with it, they send him back to class," Chen said. That's undermines teachers and destabilizes their classes.
    For teachers, the public support for Black feels like vindication.
    "It's an indication," Chen said, "that there is some possibility the public really does understand what a difficult job teaching is."
    I understand Supt. Sandra Lyon's gut reaction. The video of the classroom struggle is alarming to watch. But just as alarming is the idea of a student peddling weed in class.
    For the district superintendent to respond to one and ignore the other suggests the depth of the problem.
    The official investigation into what happened is supposed to wrap up before spring break ends next week. But the public discussion ought to continue, and look at the broader issues the incident may reveal:
    What does the groundswell of support for Black say about our expectations of public schools? Are teachers equipped to manage the fallout of social issues that play out in their classrooms? How do we keep vulnerable students from drifting off track?
    Moore was on the baseball and track teams as a sophomore; two years later he's allegedly carrying drugs in his backpack. Did something go wrong that school officials should have noticed and could have attended to?
    The superintendent has backed off her original stance, which many found offensive. But she ought to explain why she leapt to the presumption that the teacher was the villain.
    For many of us, this goes beyond whether the teacher should have resorted to wrestling moves to handle a student challenge. It's about scapegoating a profession that's under siege right now.
    We need to train and trust teachers to manage their classrooms — so students can focus on learning, not disturbances that call for cellphone cameras.
    Twitter: @SandyBanksLAT


    Alternatives to School Closures

    Coney Island Prep Charter Schools Publicly Shame Students

    “It is in their handbook that they subject their students to wear an orange tee-shirt over their uniform when they are Out of the PRIDE, when they’re not given enough money in their paycheck,” asserted CEC 21 Treasurer and local parent Randi Garay at a Parent Education Program (PEP) meeting with the Department of Education (DOE) last October. “When they’re Out of the PRIDE, they miss out on enrichment. They’re not allowed to communicate with other students and they’re not allowed to be spoken to.”..... http://www.homereporternews.com/news/school_news/exclusive-orange-is-the-new-blackboard/article_11bfa7f4-c1a5-11e3-85ad-001a4bcf887a.html

    EXCLUSIVE: Orange is the new blackboard?

    Posted: Friday, April 11, 2014 2:13 pm | Updated: 2:17 pm, Fri Apr 11, 2014.
    Parents with children at Cavallaro Intermediate School, slated to co-locate with Coney Island Prep, this fall, are seeing red over the orange shirts that students at Coney Island Prep’s Coney Island campus are at times forced to wear as a disciplinary measure.

    The orange shirts are the penultimate stage in Coney Island Prep’s system of discipline, which begins with a token economy called PRIDE – a system, measured in money, that allows teachers to reward and penalize students as they see fit by either awarding or deducting PRIDE dollars from students’ weekly paychecks, and which can result in the orange shirt punishment. The final stage in the system is suspension.

    “It is in their handbook that they subject their students to wear an orange tee-shirt over their uniform when they are Out of the PRIDE, when they’re not given enough money in their paycheck,” asserted CEC 21 Treasurer and local parent Randi Garay at a Parent Education Program (PEP) meeting with the Department of Education (DOE) last October. “When they’re Out of the PRIDE, they miss out on enrichment. They’re not allowed to communicate with other students and they’re not allowed to be spoken to.”

    The system is exhaustively mapped out. According to the Coney Island Prep handbook, students receive $50 worth of PRIDE dollars weekly, which teachers then add to or deduct from throughout the week. At the end of each week, the results are tallied and PRIDE paychecks are printed and distributed for parental signature. Students who fail to bring back their signed paychecks see $50 deducted from their bank accounts and find themselves Out of the PRIDE – a handbook-mandated consequence also visited on students who lose $20 or more in one day from their PRIDE paycheck or end their week with a $0 balance.       

    Among the acts for which students receive anywhere from $1 to $5 bonuses are going above and beyond in such areas as enthusiasm, professionalism, respect and integrity, and students may receive $20 for doing an excellent job on a major assignment or demonstrating PRIDE values through an exemplary act.

    On the other hand, students can lose anywhere from $3 to $10 in PRIDE dollars for infractions, including, but not limited to missing homework, misuse of materials, grooming in public, leaving their seats without permission and arriving at school after 7:30 a.m.

    Higher infractions include $20 deductions for a dean’s referral.

    According to CEC 21 Recording Secretary Linda Dalton, the board brought its concerns to the DOE at the PEP meeting where members were approached by a DOE lawyer who took a copy of the handbook. They have heard nothing since from the DOE about the issue.

    Despite the controversy, Coney Island Prep Founder and Executive Director Jacob Mnookin stands by the system, adding that the charter school hasn’t heard any complaints from its own parents.
    “It’s just a different kind of take on a typical behavior management system,” said Mnookin, stressing the approach’s similarities to thousands of behavioral management systems used in schools across the country. “We think it makes crystal clear what our expectations are and what the rewards are for excelling and good behavior, and what the consequences are for not as good behavior.” The orange tee shirts have no special significance, added Mnookin, other than orange being a school color.

    According to Mnookin, Coney Island Prep will not move forward with a PRIDE dollars approach or the orange tee shirts, at its elementary school planned to be housed at Cavallaro. Instead, the charter school will implement what the leader called a “stop light system” that aims to teach its younger students the basics of good behavior.

    “Every kid would start every day at green and move to yellow or red dependent on their behavior,” he explained of the system, used already in other elementary schools across the country.

    Either way, the team at Coney Island Prep stands by the consequences of being “Out of the Pride.” The school’s mantra – which, according to Mnookin stands for Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Determination and Excellence -- is also used to define a pack of lions; the school’s mascot.

    “Being ‘Out of the Pride’ means that you’ve violated the norms and you’re out of the pack, out of the community” he explained, “but rather than having an in-school suspension, which we feel can take away from the educational aspect, kids can still go to class and participate in class; they just kind of sit separately until they can turn their behavior around.”

                The DOE did not respond for a request for comment.
    © 2014 Home Reporter News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    More about

    Reaching Kids with Street Law 101: Jeff Kaufman Featured in Article in School Stories

    A fascinating piece on Jeff and his teaching career. Where did they get that MORE is left wing? They must not know about Mike Schirtzer.


    Reaching Kids with Street Law 101

    It was sixth period in Jeff Kaufman’s Street Law class in Aspirations Diploma Plus High School in Brooklyn. Homicide was the subject of the day at the East New York transfer school that serves as a last chance for its 218 teens who have struggled in their previous schools.
    Definitions on the white board included:
    killing with intent
    super reckless
    felony murder
    Kaufman engages students at Aspirations in the study of criminal law.
    Kaufman engages students at Aspirations in the study of criminal law.

    A dozen students, half the total enrolled, showed up to the high school’s only elective class. The 17-year veteran teacher considered it a good day. Half a class was better than less than half – the usual attendance rate in his other U.S. and World History classes. It was even better than the entire school’s average of 43 percent, a record so low that it is in violation of New York State attendance requirements.
    “Do you still call it school when there are no students?  That’s the philosophical question,” Kaufman wondered out loud, as he prepared to teach his class.
    Undaunted,  Kaufman walked around his class with confidence as his students called up the assignment on their desktop computers: What is the difference between being convicted of grand larceny or attempted grand larceny?

    Kaufman knows the difference all too well from his time as a criminal defense attorney and as an NYPD officer in the 83rd and 73rd Precincts of East New York, neighborhoods with some of the highest homicide rates in the borough and city.

    At one point, Kaufman asked the class what the legal definition of “jostling” might be.  From the back of the class, Nassor Jordan, 18, muttered an accurate definition. A dark-haired girl sitting across from him questioned in a snappy tone why he seemed to know so much about crime.
    “He’s got some experience.  Give him some credit,” Kaufman said, without missing a beat. The girl was silent.  The lesson continued.

    Kaufman has seen it all, from his years in law enforcement, criminal justice, and then as a high school teacher in Riker’s Island, all of which taught him a valuable lesson: strong relationships are the key to success, especially with the youth raised in the midst of poverty and crime.
    “Academics are important but it really takes second place to relationships,” said  Kaufman, with conviction.  He has years of teaching experience, particularly at failing schools where he sees at-risk youth struggle everyday.
    Aspirations Diploma Plus High School, a last chance transfer school for East New York teens.
    Aspirations Diploma Plus High School, a last chance transfer school for East New York teens.

    Kaufman taught in what was once called East Brooklyn Congregation high school for two years, before it was phased out for chronic failure and eventually replaced in 2011 by Aspirations. He was the only teacher to make the switch from one school to the next. The others were displaced.

    Since the beginning, Aspirations has struggled to keep its rates above the barely adequate mark. Attendance continues to hover around an abysmal 43 percent. In 2012 zero students graduated after four years; 32 percent graduated after six years. Last year rates improved slightly, bringing the whole school up from a D to a C on the city’s report cards.

    The students come from a high-crime, low-income neighborhood where slightly more than half its residents live on welfare, and where 11 percent – the highest rate in the city – have been accused of educational neglect.
    It’s no wonder that keeping attendance up is one of the biggest challenges to teachers like Kaufman, who tries against life’s distractions to hold their attention. The relationships he has built with students keep him coming back.

    Kaufman has made a career of getting inside kids’ heads, particularly kids who are stuck in some of the city’s most neglected neighborhoods and schools. Street Law he knew from experience was the best way to engage kids in learning about government and global history. The school has a 23 percent pass rate on the Regents Global History test, the lowest of any subject. “Criminal law is government to them,” said Kaufman. He battled to keep all his sections in the curriculum. But the principal decided to cut his other sixth and seventh period Street Law classes to make room for three-month test preparation courses.

    This sixth period class is the last one offered. Kaufman asked a student to read the scenario of Rajana, a woman who committed arson.  When she read the name “Rajana,” another student blurted out, “Vagina!” Kaufman ignored it. He barely registers retorts, jokes, and vulgar comments.  Nothing much seems to rattle him. It’s part of his survival strategy.

    Instead, he deflected the sophomoric retort with another question, “Can conspiracy happen between two people?”  Silence. Random guesses followed, which he used to direct them to look it up online on Black’s Law Dictionary.
    Jordan waited until the right moment, then volunteered detailed information about arson law.   “You must have been charged with every crime in the penal law,” Kaufman said to Jordan.

    “No, only a little,” Jordan responded matter-of-factly.
    In the mid-90′s, Kaufman left life as a criminal defense lawyer to teach a paralegal program at Franklin K. Lane High School, a now shuttered Brooklyn public school, because he “saw something at the end of the tunnel” in the world of teaching adolescents. His time as a cop and as a lawyer left him unsatisfied. Kaufman wanted to make an “immediate impact” and yearned for a “sense of salvation” that came with teaching that he didn’t see on the streets.

    When Franklin Lane shut down, Kaufman got a job teaching adolescent offenders  at Rikers Island from 1998 to 2005. There he developed a course called Criminal law for the Incarcerated Student, an early version of Street Law. He encouraged students to get involved in activities such as a student newspaper at Rikers, Three Main Jump Off, and a citywide high school competition in stock market investment, which his students won.

    Kaufman was forced to leave Rikers when he violated rules by contacting an inmate while Kaufman was outside of class and the jail to offer him extra help with college credit courses. He was sent to a reassignment center, more infamously known as New York City’s “Rubber Room,” where suspended teachers await their employment fate. Kaufman’s fate took him through Queens Academy, an early model transfer school in South Jamaica.  A few months later Kaufman was moved to a suspension school in the Bronx, a part of Kips Bay Academy that took in students who violated a school’s disciplinary code.  Finally in 2007, Kaufman was hired at the East New York high school. “I am now fully invested in education, so I’m not going to abandon it,” Kaufman said.

    Kaufman is currently the union chapter chair at Aspirations as he was one at Rikers.  He served as one of the six high school representatives on the United Federation of Teachers executive board in 2003 and was a Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association delegate in the 83rd precinct. A member of a left-wing union cause, MORE, Movement of Rank and File Educators, he rallies for better working conditions for teachers.

    Kaufman tried to implement a law club, debate team and peer mediation and youth court in the past at Aspirations but all were eliminated due to lack of interest and funding.  While Kaufman believes “the model of transfer schools is awful,” in that it leaves at-risk youth without much needed support, he recognizes the students in them need someone who understands where they come from.  “There is a certain way you’ve got to talk to these kids.”

    “At first, I didn’t want this class,” said Onyjie Edwards, 19, of the Street law class.  Edwards is currently on her school leadership team, a collaboration between school administration, parents and students where school concerns are heard.  Edwards ended up finding the class very useful because she learned her rights.  “I wish we had more classes like this in what we need to know on a regular basis.” Edwards is a senior who is one global history Regents exam away from graduating.

    “I love this class; you learn about the law.  People don’t know the law,” said student Abraham Aquino, 19, who hopes to enlist the U.S. Navy after graduation.  He liked how the class asked him to think about challenging concepts such as the relative difference between murder and rape, or how crime affects the criminals’ families, or other laws surrounding assault and misdemeanors.
    “To me, it’s empowering.  I want them to question authority, to question me, to question their parents,” Kaufman said of the class.  He erased the white board moments before the bell rings for dismissal for the day.
    The last trimester of the year began Monday. This course would be eliminated to make room for Regents test prep. Kaufman ticked off all the other initiatives he began and lost.

    Street Law was just another. “These kids,” he said, “need special things.”


    Test, Charter Parent/Teacher Protest Roundup

    Blown away! Boycotting Teachers from Chicago sent these flowers of solidarity to Colin, Emmy and myself!.. Jia Lee

    Two of my students from last year just emailed me a video of themselves tearing up their ELA prep books... Lauren Cohen feeling proud
     Lots of coverage on the tests but not very much on Thursday's anti-charter Cuomo giveaway. Testing opponents reaching critical mass. Charter issue still resonating with only a few. It must grow into the thousands before it will have an impact. Leonie has a full report on her blog:

    Pictures and words from our amazing rally yesterday; protesting Gov. Cuomo's forced charter takeover of our public schools - Yesterday, we held a terrific rally with hundreds of parents and kids, filling the steps of the NY Public Library, outraged at the onerous provisions in ...

    Eva can hire spies and video crews to film every event but won't pay rent.

    Thursday Rally, Leonie & Hired Harlem Success Spy

    Friday, April 11, 2014

    Lydia Howrilka Speech on DOE Discontinue Black List at PEP, April 9, 2014

    Readers of Ed Notes know about the horrendous Discontinue, where any principal is given the power to terminate the career of any non-tenured teacher, even if another principal wants to hire them - as was the case for Lydia. What insane system do we have where a first year teacher can have their dreams of teaching in the NYC school system ended by a vindictive principal? Why vindictive do you say? Even if you think that teacher did not do a good job, why would you want to stop another principal who was impressed by that teacher from giving her a fresh start? Only evil people would do that.

    On Wednesday, Lydia went to the PEP to use her 2 minutes to tell her story directly to Carmen Farina, who I imagine doesn't really give a shit. But let's force her to listen to these stories anyway.

    Read MORE's Paul Hogan piece on this issue: On Discontinue - MORE's Paul Hogan -


    Rally Against Cuomo/State Leg Charter Giveaway - photos

    The abandonment of any sense of support for public schools and the caving to the charter lobby has been the equivalent of an ice bomb dropped on many people who have had faith in the political system (I am not one of those and what the state leg did is totally expected). Many of the protesters are promising revenge -- like running in primaries, etc. We'll see. I think it will take a series of massive protests on a continuing basis - thousands in the streets and maybe civil disobedience. That even those locations denied to Eva are forced down our throats by this law takes this to an extreme.
    One of those locations is Murry Bergtraum in lower Manhattan -- a prime bit of real estate Eva wants very badly as a base for growth in lower Manhattan - this will give her 5 large buildings for future growth and pushouts of the public school.

    There is a PEP meeting at the school in May -- that would be a time for a big rally.

    Some more pix from yesterday.

    Thursday, April 10, 2014

    More Pix From Rally With Real Grassroots Parents Opposing Cuomo Charter Giveaway

    See my earlier post.

    Protesting Charter Lobby Influence -- Unique Coalitions Formed - and in Formation



    Protesting Charter Lobby Influence -- Unique Coalitions Formed - and in Formation

    To all who came, thank you.  To all who will come the next time, we'll keep you posted on the next action.  In short it was a GREAT day, GREAT day.  So many showed up...by my estimate at least 300, may be more.  We had reps from many elected officials, Liz Kruger and Danny Dromm were there.  Danny spoke.  Bob Jackson was there.
    Our march to Cuomo's office had a police escort and a hot band with a New Orleans sound. We delivered a postcard with names and quotes. 
    We did this in 8 days;
    We didn't take kids out of school
    We didn't rent buses
    We didn't buy tee-shirts
    We are the 96%
    We vote
    More to come...
    ............................Ellen McHugh --

    CEC/Citywide Councils and parents act!

    One thing about the 1% - or the 6% and their billionaire backers -- they are so used to getting their way they always reach too far. This charter law may have been enough to drive even people sitting on the charter fence over the edge.

    I loved the smile on Ellen's face. And as Ellen points out - this did not take closing schools, or millions from billionaires -- just true grassroots parents from many of the elected councils in the city. And they are pissed at the charter giveaway. And this all started about a week ago.

    Raging Horse has a report and pix:

    By the way, no sightings of anyone officially connected to the UFT/Unity Caucus leadership. But I did see a bunch of MOREistas and Change the Stakesers.

    Julie and a BIG Jack -what's really in that bottle?

    3 Happy Fellas: Patrick Walsh, John Lawhead, Michael Fiorillo

    My political son - Mike Schirtzer - never takes off his MORE 3XXX shirt - heading for Japan with a teen tour this week

    Mike, Fred Smith, Ruth Silver

    Is that a grin on her face or a grimace?
    I did manage to drag my wife along, who never rallies or protests (except against me) - but she despises Cuomo so much -- for her own reasons, not the least of which is his connection to awful chef Sandra Lee (my wife is a serious cooking show viewer.) She made me take her to dinner after -- bribery still works as we are about to hit the 43 year mark in 2 months - if we survive those 26 members of her family coming for Passover Monday -- anyone have sanctuary for me?

    We had just come from taping an interview with former Councilwoman and major political influence for so many years (and Jimmy Breslin's wife) Ronnie Eldridge for a Manhattan Neighborhood Network show I assist with called Active Aging, which promotes the idea that as people age they don't have to stop doing things. Thanks to Pat Dobosz for this rare photo of the 2 of us together at a protest.

    More pics and maybe some video in follow-ups.