John Lawhead sent me this follow-up.
Thanks Norm. In all fairness Randi stayed in the building all morning meeting with teachers and the principal. Tilden people went to an info session for parents on the new schools in Gowanus last Thursday. Charlie Turner (UFT B'klyn HS Dist Rep) was there and made a good statement from the floor on the shortcomings of the decision-making process and high turnover of the small schools. Their support is belated but welcome given the long odds of reversing the phase-out. We're building for a public forum on Feb. 6.
Hands Off Tilden!
Town Hall Meeting
7:00 p.m. ~ February 6, 2007
Tilden High School Auditorium, BrooklynCheck out the site
Let me say a few words about John Lawhead. He was one of the people I met when he saw a copy of Education Notes in his mailbox at Bushwick HS in the fall of 2002 and wrote some wonderful articles for the paper. We both had major resesrvations about the high stakes testing craze, No Child Left Behind, mayoral control and many other issues. He got me involved in a national group called ACTNow headed by the wonderful Susan Ohanian, amongst others. John and I went down to Birmingham, Al to attend their conference at the World of Opportunity (The WOO) headed by the equally amazing Steve Orel (currently undergoing the battle of his life against cancer). I'll write more about this experience some other time.
In Sept. 2003, John and Sean Ahern, another teacher we met through Ed. Notes, went out for an evening of merriment and over quite a few beers, the idea of a group like ICE emerged. John has been a stalwart of the group from the very beginning (he is our webmaster) and his ideas and knowledge of the impact of national educational policies have often served as a guidepost for many of us in ICE.
John and I do not always agree on the role the UFT plays in these kinds of situations but at this point I will agree that we should give Randi Weingarten the benefit of the doubt on Tilden and see if there is real support for fighting to keep Tilen open or whether these are just public relations moves. Having John there on the spot to monitor the situation will be invaluable for all of us waiting to see exactly how the UFT plays this.
One of the people working with ACTNow is George Schmidt from Chicago who has been putting out Substance, an alternative newspaper in the teacher union for almost 30 years (Yikes! I remember seeing it back in the late 70's). Substance was the model for the expanded newsprint edition of Ed. Notes after we had a visit from George in the summer of '02. George has been our guru on mayoral control (amongst many other issues), which hit Chicago in 1995 and the very day Randi announced her support of the idea in May 2001, I put a copy of an analyis George had written in front of everyone on the UFT Exec. Bd.
George wrote this in response to my column.
George Schmidt from Chicago writes:
One of the things that confused people here until we began tracking it was that the policy of closing schools was able to be based on any "policy" they cocked up on the spot. As John points out, Tilden is in the middle of "failing" schools, so why target it? Here, they added declining enrollment and safety and security issues. They can manipulate any of the Big Three excuses -- low test scores are almost a given in the hard core inner city general high schools; you produce low enrollment by sabotaging incoming 9th graders; sabotage a school's security by cutting security or simply not providing backup. If the union doesn't call them out on it, they have a field day and every high school except the elite ones becomes a potential target. School closings haven't solved anything in Chicago.
The schools that were closed and converted to "small schools" are still in the same boat (Chicago's Bowen, Orr and South Shore high schools).
The schools that were closed and turned into elite schools are "better" because they got rid of all the kids and replaced them with college prep kids (Chicago's King High School).
And the schools that were "reconstituted" (1997) and then subject to "intervention" (2000) are now being turned over to charter operators while the charter schools that are actually serving the same populations in Chicago are facing even bigger problems than the public schools. Chicago has now reached such a large number of charters -- more than 60 --that it's critical mass time. Filling the charters with FNG teachers -- all of them in their 20s with nobody who knows anything about reality -- has become a prescription for disaster, starting with the breakdown of classroom management and then leading to massive hallway disruptions and finally gang predators both outside and inside the buildings. This is the big cover up in Chicago's charter "community" right now. (Of course, their test scores also tank when the school goes up for grabs, but they have more control over manipulating those data and do so...).
I'm going to try and stay on top of the variations on these scams that they use in New York. Thanks for reporting them.
Give my best to John and everyone. Hope to see you all soon.
Second, the story that Jeff Kaufman forwarded from Oakland also spells of a Chicago script. KIPP is a real piece of work, and seems to have major ruling class backing, including, of course, those Ivy League pundits who practice New York Times Magazine style "journalism." (Tough's recent puff piece for KIPP; 60 Minutes).
In Chicago, KIPP never wanted to really manage a public school, even under the privileged conditions of the "small schools" nonsense. KIPP originally began in Chicago doing one of four "small schools" inside a school they closed here (one of the first closed under "Renaissance"). As soon as KIPP could, they pulled out, saying their "model" (read "Business Model") was for charters. I'm doing a short piece on it calling it a bait and switch. All of these assholes are now working with long-term (five to ten year) business plans and models, since they are confident that mayoral dictatorships will continue to subsidize their stuff.
Third, are other people willing to call out Deb Meier on the entire "small schools" scam, there, here and elsewhere? I like her, but this shit has now become second only to charters as a plan to bust unions and screw veteran teachers. In one Chicago high school (DuSable) they have "small schools" which are still officially "public" and a charter in the same building!
If she were to widely denounce it (and Klonsky along the way), it might actually help. Anyone there know her well enough to demand that she do that? Otherwise, she's really aiding and abetting the attack on public schools and unions.
Hell of a Happy New Year, huh?