Monday, December 31, 2007

Not On The Test

Here's a new song about school testing that John Forster & I (Tom Chapin) wrote.
It helped usher in the New Year on National Public Radio, appearing on "Morning Edition" on January 1, 2007.


Not On The Test
by John Forster & Tom Chapin
© 2007 Limousine Music Co. & The Last Music Co. (ASCAP)

Go on to sleep now, third grader of mine.
The test is tomorrow but you'll do just fine.
It's reading and math. Forget all the rest.
You don't need to know what is not on the test.
Each box that you mark on each test that you take,
Remember your teachers. Their jobs are at stake.
Your score is their score, but don't get all stressed.
They'd never teach anything not on the test.
The School Board is faced with no child left behind
With rules but no funding, they're caught in a bind.
So music and art and the things you love best
Are not in your school 'cause they're not on the test.
Sleep, sleep, and as you progress
You'll learn there's a lot that is not on the test.
Debate is a skill that is useful to know,
Unless you're in Congress or talk radio,
Where shouting and spouting and spewing are blessed
'Cause rational discourse was not on the test.
Thinking's important. It's good to know how.
And someday you'll learn to, but someday's not now.
Go on to sleep, now. You need your rest.
Don't think about thinking. It's not on the test.

This new song does not yet appear on any Tom Chapin CD. You can download the song for free, either on Tom Chapin's website (here), or on Tom's Myspace page.

Brandeis HS Rejects Merit Pay by Default

There's an interesting article in The Chief on the process focusing on Brandeis HS which I have also put up on Norms Notes here.

I've received requests for details of the merit pay plan in terms of the future. I put this out to the ednotes chapter leader/delegate list and will put responses in the comments section of this post.

1. If there is no 55/25 pension does the plan go on hold for next year? Is there a deadline?

2. Does it have to be re-voted every year? When would that vote take place? In other words, would the vote for the 2009/10 school year take place in the fall of 08 like this vote did? or if a school voted for it is it set in stone for the future or until the DOE offers it to other schools?

3. Is there an intention to expand the program throughout the school system or will it be limited to around 250 schools?

Feel free to include details on what took place in your school.

How did you as a chapter leader address the issue? If you are not the CL how did your CL address it.

Anonymity guaranteed but if you don't mind it to be published say so.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Leaving "No Child Left Behind" Behind by Richard Rothstein

Black Boy Middle School, Parts 1-3

I found this as a comment on the NYC Educator blog. Really good stuff:

i just want to remind ye teachers what you are fighting for. i carved out a sense of self in school because of you folks. when the line dips in the yearly graph for energy and commitment to the classroom, remember what i say: teachers were my parents growing up. school was my sanctuary. i'm remembering those days with images and words here. come by to get rejuvenated.

Black Boy Middle School, Parts 1-3 v=wdgEz...feature=related v=3xaBZ...feature=related

Friday, December 28, 2007

Videos from Panel for Educational Policy Meeting

November, 2007

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters raises the issue of the DOE missing the deadline for releasing class size data in addition to talking about the number of seats needed in schools to accomplish serious class size reductions. Joel Klein responds.

Joel Klein reacts angrily to Betsy Combier's charge he doesn't care about kids when she questions him at the Nov. '07 Panel for Educational Policy meeting in NYC on why charter school but not public school kids get $44 million in busing money.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

What's really behind the decision to close a school while leaving another open?

Full story posted at

Pick up today’s Daily News and you might get the impression that community organizations that sponsor small schools can basically decide whether those schools survive or not. The first article, Bushwick parents and kids celebrate exit of embattled Acorn High principal, Rachel Monahan describes how the ACORN School of Social Justice, with their CBO, ACORN, was able to oust a principal who was blamed for the school’s poor performance and a DOE letter grade of F. The school was obviously saved from closing with a change in leadership despite its poor grade. ACORN was willing to continue to help the school although it is unclear what they were doing to allow the school to take such a precipitous decline.

In another article, Slow death for Brooklyn high school, Carrie Melago, describes how the CBO, East Brooklyn Congregations pulled out of EBC/ENY High School for Public Safety and Law and left the school to be placed on DOE’s death list of closing schools. The school was making some improvements but without CBO support and other political considerations the Chancellor decided to close the school even though the school received a letter grade of D.

While only a mile apart physically, both schools are light years away in how they were treated by the DOE.

Are the differing CBOs the reason? Perhaps. But it is only a part of the story.

Read more at:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Shuffling the Deck on the UFT Titanic

"He won't last 6 months." Thus spoke an observer upon hearing Jeff Zahler was replacing the affable and capable Michael Mendel as the UFT's Staff Director at the end of the last school year. "He doesn't have the temperament for the job," she said.

And so it has come to pass, as Zahler, noted for his red-baiting attack on Kit Wainer during the 2007 election campaign amongst other lovable things about him, will be leaving the post next week, but will remain as the head of Unity Caucus. Oh, those deck chairs.

His replacement will be Manhattan District High School rep for small schools, Leroy Barr. Barr will be the 4th staff director since strongman Tom Pappas left the post a few years ago. Under Weingarten, the staff director position has lost some of its dominance as she is a hands on micromanager (or meddler to some) and there is not a clear chain of command with so many political appointments who can go right to Weingarten over the head of the staff director.

With her expected move to the AFT Presidency next July, Weingarten must firm up the home front just in case a serious opposition should emerge. The brilliant move of buying off the long-time opposition, New Action, can only last so long as their support in the schools dwindles to microscopic levels. (Is New Action Really a Caucus?)

The staff director has often been viewed as the 2nd in command – Sandra Feldman held that position before being elevated to UFT Presidency when Albert Shanker finally gave up the position after holding both AFT and UFT positions for 11 years. She appointed Pappas, who was considered by some a possible replacement for Feldman at one point. But Feldman and Shanker had their eye on Randi Weingarten as a better choice than the rough and tough Pappas, who has run the all-important Retirement Chapter since he gave up his post as staff director. At that time Weingarten handed the position to Queens Borough Rep Elizabeth Langiulli, which quickly turned into a disaster. Then came Mendel who seemed to be doing fairly well (he always seemed to be available) before he was kicked upstairs. Maybe he was too popular.

So, has Leroy Barr suddenly jumped into the race as a possible successor to Weingarten when she moves to take over the AFT this July? We think not, certainly at this time. The leading contenders to take over for Weingarten one day have been Elementary School VP Michelle Bodden (who is rumored for reassignment), the up and coming Vocational HS VP Michael Mulgrew and Mendel. None of these choices really work for Weingarten's purposes, though Bodden is considered the most "presidential."

Ed Notes' position has long been that Weingarten will hold on to the UFT Presidency as long as feasible, but to do so she needs to strengthen the home front to cover for her while she is traipsing around the country. The next election in 2010 will be the telling factor. If she planned on not running at that time one would think there would be a clear successor who could use the next 2 years to make himself/herself known to the members. Barr's appointment only further muddies the waters.

I remember Shanker running through a few successors - Herb Magidson was one around 1975 before he was kicked upstairs to NYSUT – before settling on Feldman, who some people thought would have a tough time filling Shanker's shoes, but in retrospect, managed fairly well. I find it interesting the number of people who tell me they miss her after dealing with Weingarten, which is surprising considering she was not Miss Warmth. But there was a certain "what you see is what you get" with the late Feldman that would be refreshing today. It is hard to imagine she would buy off New Action, especially with Shulman, whom she had no respect for as the leader. And with his old left background, Feldman's right wing Social Democrats USA (SDUSA) party ideals would curdle in her stomach.

Feldman also had a "teacher" mentality even though she did little teaching. But she trained as a teacher and was a socialist with a trade union background. (I was at the AFT convention in Washington in 2004 when she made her farewell speech and was very impressed as she focused on her activities in the civil rights struggles of the 50's and 60's.) Actually, despite the condescending arrogance that at times came from her and her inner circle, I sort of miss her too.

It was well known before Weingarten ever set foot in a school that she was the chosen one. She never taught and rose through the ranks but was a lawyer who was given a part-time teaching position while also working at the UFT so she could claim legitimacy as a teacher as Feldman's successor. Give both Shanker and Feldman credit in that they defined clear successors. Weingarten is too insecure to have her own Weingarten-like successor and this lack of talent near the top will have a long-time impact.

The UFT, the largest local in the world with almost 200,000 members, controls the NY State United Teachers which recently merged with the NEA in NY state (the idea of a national merger is on hold) and thus controls the AFT. That is why Weingarten is assured of being elected AFT Pres.

But there are serious dangers for Weingarten's power base if she turns the reins over to a powerful and ambitious successor as she was. Stories abound of friction between her and Feldman when the latter tried to tell her what to do. Weingarten quickly moved to replace Feldman/Shanker loyalists with her own people. What would stop a successor from doing the same no matter how much she felt she trusted that person? The reins of power are the reigns of power and we know how power can make people so light-headed they become blind.

Maybe Weingarten is trying to trisect – a troika, or quadrisect – a "quadrumvirate"- the leadership so no one person gets too much power or gets too popular with the rank and file.

Both Bodden and Barr are African-American. Weingarten has diversified the UFT Executive Board ethnically and racially, though certainly not politically, as all members, including the 8 New Action members who received the "gift" from Weingarten, adhere rigidly to the Unity line. Ed Notes has long maintained that a politically diversified EB not dominated by people on the UFT dole and that reflected the realities in the schools, would have a positive impact on the union.

Watch to see who emerges as a major spokesperson when Weingarten is not around. It will be very interesting if it does turn out to be Barr, who from my own limited contact seems a decent guy. In his performance as District Rep I've heard generally good things with a few minor complaints. Everyone in the union benefits with a responsive staff director. We wish him well in his new position.

Teachers Unite Presents – Jan. 10, 2008

How will we reclaim public schools from privatization?

Thursday, January 10th, 5-7p.m.
Location TBA

Millions of dollars are exchanged between New York City’s Department of Education and private companies. How do these relationships impact our classrooms? What can be done about the seemingly inescapable trend of schools privatization?

Michael Fiorillo, Chapter Leader, Newcomers High School
Leonie Hamison, Executive Director, Class Size Matters

Discussion to follow.

Please RSVP to

This forum is the third in a series of events where educators can relate their experiences in schools to larger political trends. The 2007-2008 forums focus on the impact of privatization and the corporate model on classroom life in NYC public schools.

Teachers Unite provides leadership opportunities that build ties between educators and community organizers, and political education forums that build an informed teacher constituency. Teachers Unite is an organization for educators who act in solidarity with the communities they serve.

NOTE: See comment #1 as George Schmidt attempts to answer some of Sean's questions.

Sean Ahern raises the following thought-provoking questions:

I had some questions for the Jan 10 forum.

"How will we reclaim public schools from privatization?"

1) What is meant by "privatization" in NYC public schools?

2) Are public assets being sold or given away to private interests? Who's selling and who's buying? Are we talking about ownership or control? Who has lost what as a result of "privatization"?

3) Is it in the interests of the majority of educators and parents to seek a restoration of the old system, with the professional educrats and the UFT leadership back in the catbird seat? If not then what are we seeking to reclaim?

4) Most NYC public schools followed a factory model in the past. What are the differences and similarities between past and present models, between a public school and a privatized one? What do educators and parents and students want that neither past nor present systems provide?

5) Where is privatization coming from? Federal, state, city governments? "A Nation at Risk", NCLB, Put Children First, the Chicago model? Private companies, foundations?

6) Is Mayoral control a necessary component of "privatization"?

7) Do we have testimony from teachers, parents, students, comparing the privatized school with the public school?

8) Does this call to "reclaim public schools from privatization" seek to restore the past, in part or in whole?

9) Who is the "we" that can "reclaim" public schools and who is this "we" reclaiming it for? Does this "we" include the UFT leadership and educrats and pundits who exerted considerable influence over the public schools before privatization became a "seemingly inescapable trend"? Why did that "we" fail to stop "privatization"? What reason is there to believe that this "we" can or should "reclaim" it from the privatizers or that rank and file teachers and parents should be party to any effort to restore the claim of this "we" to control of the public schools? If this "we" includes rank and file teachers and parents of color along with the UFT leadership and leaders and pundits of the educracy such as Diane Ravitch, what changes will be made to empower educators and parents in a new system?

10) Are there any positive effects of privatization or Mayoral control from the standpoint of educators, parents and students that the latter might want to retain after public schools are "reclaimed".


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Triangulation 2 from George Schmidt and a Question on Shanker and Democracy

This is a video of a statement/question I made at the Century Foundation breakfast in November sponsoring the Kahlenberg book tour which was taped by CSpan. Weingarten was on this panel defending the UFT charter school and pointing to how the only group in the business community that supported her was the Broad Foundation. I guess that was some response to attacks on the ties between the UFT/AFT/Shanker /Weingarten and the anti-union business community.

I pointed out there was another view on Shanker overall and on democracy in particular and asked why the business community was only interested in ed reform on the cheap - ABM - Anything But Money - but plenty of time blaming the teachers - I didn't get to talk about the "culture of low expectations" or the answer being lots more professional development, but never class size.

George Schmidt on ICE-mail in response to the triangulation post a few days ago:

Colleagues and friends:
Merry Christmas.

It's been the same here in Chicago for some time. And the same story could be written today about Barack Obama as he triangulates his way towards the same policies as the Clintons, only with some New Age charisma added. We know what the Clintons have wrought through corporate "school reform". Let's keep a close eye on what the Obamaites will bring under the same ideology.

AFT and the Chicago Teachers Union also use the Hart polling firm to shore up their prejudices. Rather than leading, they "traingulate," as the NYT story reported Sunday.

But here is one to remember. Four years ago, in December 2003, I sat with the staff of the Chicago Teachers Union while people reported on a Hart poll of the unioni's 35,000 person membership. That data formed some of the basis for Debbie Lynch's 2004 election campaign (as opposed to having a grass roots organization in each of the city's 600 schools). A month later, insult was added to injury when Jan Schakowsky's husband, Bob Creamer (of the same "triangulation" crowd in the Democratic Party) became Debbie's "campaign consultant." Creamer didn't even know that the union's rules precluded a caucus from getting the home phone numbers of voting members to do massive phone banking (one of the stocks in trade of that type of election planning), nor was there any plan for a GOTV push the final week.

Result #1? Debbie lost the election in two phases, first by not getting a clean majority in a four-way race in May, then by losing by 500 votes in June. After a flurry of media events, Stewart took over the reins of the CTU in August 2004. It's been downhill even more quickly since then, as recent numbers show.

Result #2? The Chicago Teachers Union, under the new leadership of Marilyn Stewart, has a sliver over 30,000 members, and is declining faster than anyone can count in the face of school closings and charterizations here in Chicago.

Irony #1. A recent Hart poll showed that the members of the CTU are completely confused on such basic issues as whether Mayor Daley is good for the public schools or not, or whether Arne Duncan (our "CEO", as Klein is your "Chancellor") is, too.

That's leadership for you.

Let's not forget that "triangulation" in the 1930s left the USA unarmed at the time of Pearl Harbor. One of the books handed down to me by my family was a thing called "Common Sense Neutrality", a collection of essays by a bunch of isolationists and pro-Nazis.

My Dad, who was in the U.S. Army in 1941 before Pearl Harbor, talked about using wooden "rifles" and "machine guns" during the massive maneuvers in Louisiana two months before Pearl Harbor. The "tanks" they had to fight with and against were often decorated Model Ts or souped up jeeps. That's one of the reasons why GIs were massacred at places like Kasserine Pass during the early days of combat against Germany.

And, it's still possible that had Hitler not declared war on the USA after Pearl Harbor, a declaration of war against Nazi Germany might have been difficult in the U.S. Congress.

Triangulation has a long and ugly history in this country. Many of our comrades were hounded in later years (after the Nazis had been defeated) for being "premature anti-fascists." I'm glad to have been working with all of you premature anti "school reform" people while Rani and Ed dither around looking for a center that is really way out there on the right (just as, it later turned out, "Common Sense Neutrality" was partly subsidized by the Nazis Fifth Column on the East Coast).

Best for the holidays,

George Schmidt
Editor, Substance

One of the themes of the Kahlenberg book is that Shanker was fighting off the anti cold war "isolationists" on the left who wanted to lighten defense spending and focus on the problems here at home. He pretty much gives Shanker credit for the fall of the iron curtain – the glories of "tough liberalism."

One the ideas behind our forum this Thursday is to look at the reasons this book is being promoted at this time and by whom: Century, Broad, Chester Finn. Reading that Times piece on Sunday tied some things together -- the tough liberal concept is part of the Clinton campaign for the presidency.

If you can stand it watch the c-span program at this link . The panel had Bela Rosenberg, Eugenia Kemble, Diane Ravitch, Randi. I got to ask one question near the end but they cut me off.

Here is a link to a video of the short time I got to speak.

The speaker after me was Velma Hill who headed the earliest efforts to organize paras into the UFT (one of the good things). The old gang gathers.

Kemble is an ideologue in the Shanker mode who wants to kill democracy in order to save it from communism, which to them included anyone on the left or anyone who opposed their "enlightened" policies. Thus they are entirely justified in their minds in changing and manipulating union rules to keep power. Rosenberg wrote many of Shanker's "Where We Stand Columns."

New Century has put up short segments on you tube of each speaker. A pretty intensive effort to get the word out.


I put up The Nation's piece "Shanker Blows Up the World" here at Norms Notes.

Here is a direct link to my "question" which was in response to Eugenia Kemble's claim that the UFT was democratic and that complaints about democracy came only because the opposition lost all the time. I pointed out that when they did win the high school VP election they changed the rules.

The entire cspan video is at:

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Triangulation - Clintonism as a Model for UFT Policy

Updated sun, Dec.. 23, 11pm, post Ranger hockey game (a loss).

I was struck in reading this article in today's NY Times mag (I'm not finished yet) by the connections (not surprising) we can extrapolate between Clintonism and the policies of the UFT. Check the definition of triangulation and apply it to how Weingarten takes a policy advocated by the opposition that might have "traction" and modifies it to "centralize" it. Also note that Hillary's chief spokesman Howard Wolfson also works as a consultant to the UFT. I think there's been a merger between the Clintons and the UFT. (What position does Uncle Joel and his wife Nancy Seligman occupy in this arrangement?)

Note how Clinton took the Democratic party in a centrist direction and compare it to how the UFT moved from a classical union to a broker between the business interests and the union members - selling the business roundtable line to the members rather than being a strong advocate for the membership. Kahlenberg spends oozes of time talking about the affinity between Clinton and Shanker. We hope to get into some of these ideas at the forum on Thursday (see post below this.)

Definitions in the Times article: "old liberals" are now defined as "progressives."
"Progressives" call Clintonists "Neo-liberals" and look at the practitioners as being not far from neo-cons, with which many share the same roots (loads of examples cited by Kahlenberg.)

Kahlenberg calls "old liberals" "neo-liberals" and uses "tough liberal" to define Shankerism which in many respects is really Clintonism which is really neo-liberal which is in many of its doctrines (other than union rights) a form of neo-con.


Though I see the Times article and the promotion of the Kahlenberg book as part and parcel of an attack on the left, including left-wing Democrats, there's a lot more thinking through of these issues to do.

But Giant football is coming up and we've got lots of chips and dip to attack and then heading off to MSG for Rangers hockey tonight, preceded by hot dogs at Nathan's. Urp!

More later.

NY Times article is at:

The Roots of UFT Policy Forum

Thurs. Dec. 27 11-2pm in the Midwood section of Brooklyn.

We are running a forum this Thursday at 11 am in Brooklyn that will delve into the UFT's response to the major issues facing NYC teachers.

Many people think Randi Weingarten has turned the union in a new direction from its roots.
Is this really true when the UFT/AFT has a certain history that goes back to Al Shanker on many of the push button issues of today?
Why does the UFT support mayoral control?
Certain types of merit pay?
High stakes testing?
Reducing teacher due process rights?
The end of seniority?
Charter schools - deals with Green Dot?
Why does the UFT have a basic mistrust in its own members?
Why is the UFT leadership so restrictive of democracy?

The roots of many of these policies go way back to before Weingarten ever set foot in the UFT building. In fact I surmise there was a talent search to find someone with her skill set to assure a continuance of these long-term policies. For those of you who think recent contracts are a result of her being bamboozled by BloomKlein, she has continued most UFT policies with great skill while controlling the membership. Someone said to me that Unity always bought off people who had flirted with the opposition (ie. people like Leo Casey and Lynn Winderbaum as just 2 examples.) But Randi's brilliant innovation was buying off the entire New Action Caucus. Now, there's creative management.

One of the issues we will explore is what areas has Weingarten has changed the direction of the UFT, if any.

Examining these issues will bring some clarity in understanding certain basic issues.

We hope to continue the discussion in future sessions (possibly during the midwinter break in Feb. and the spring break) and to publish something afterwards.

I was asked why this is important at this time?

My immediate response was that ideology, not individuals drive AFT/UFT policy. Thus, when Randi Weingarten eventually (and not too soon I would bet as the home front of Unity in terms of capable personnel is not exactly firm) gives up her position as UFT president, there might be hope her replacement will take the UFT in another direction. Don't bet on it. Weingarten is trying to shape up the top level of Unity to keep things in line while as AFT president she races around the country to try to elect Hillary. (Of course if Hillary is not the nominee, that might have an effect.)

One might ask why such a big push for the Richard Kahlenberg Shanker bio, which justifies almost all of Al Shanker's policies, especially his alliances with the business community that has led to many of the destructive policies that have put public schools under such attack? Why is the concept of "Tough Liberalism" which includes a major attack on the left, being shoved in people's faces? Why is the New Century Foundation and the Eli Broad foundation back this book?

Lots of questions. We hope to find some answers.

Thurs. Dec. 27 11-2pm
There is still room.
Contact me at if you are interested in attending and I will send you details.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Why Not Lists of.....

We've been raising the issue of how there seems to be a witch hunt on for teachers while other areas of society seem to be escaping. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune published a national list of teachers who have been disciplined, naturally lumping sexual issues (25% of the teachers) with others who might appear due to a disagreement with their administrators.

George Schmidt commented on ICE-mail:

I don't know if I'm on the list, but since I was fired by the Chicago Board of Education for the publication of the CASE tests in 1999 and then placed on what is called locally the DO NOT HIRE list, it wouldn't surprise me. Generally, I'm in favor of investigative reporting. This particular instance goes outside the realm of decency, however, if, as it is said, the "problems" can range over anything (including, let's assume, serious disagreements with superiors, as I had here). To lump child molesters of the kind I helped bring to justice here in Chicago with teachers who stand up for what's right is almost obscene.

SS raised the issue of why not lists for other areas of society:

Why not lists of lawyers whose sole mission in life is to make lots of money hurting other human beings?

Why not lists of "real estate" "developers" who kill trees, grass, bushes, shrubs, mom-and-pop businesses, hundreds of creatures, the lives of tenants and home owners in order to "develop" and "improve" a piece of land?

Why not lists of parents who don't feed, clothe or wash their children in a manner to benefit those children?

Why not lists of every adult who doesn't have the first inkling about disciplining and schooling a child to be a decent human being?

Why not lists of health care providers who care about as much as Stalin?

Why not lists of politicians who routinely destroy the health and lives of millions of their so-called constituents?

Why not lists of massively miserable administrators who get their jollies harassing and then firing their employees?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Bush Profiteers collect billions from NCLB

This is the first piece of 23 parts (so far). Kathy Emory attended the high stakes testing conference John Lawhead and I attended in Birmingham Al. in 2003. Here, Emory "detailed the convergence of two heretofore unconjoined worlds: the world of big business, and the world of educating kids."

We hope to examine the considerable role Albert Shanker and the AFT/UFT played in this conjoining at our upcoming conference on December 27.

All parts accessible here:

Bush Profiteers collect billions from NCLB

Much was said about George W. Bush’s fundraising prowess in 2000 and 2004, when he created labels like "Bush Pioneers" to identify those who shook down donors and bundled the lucre for his campaigns. But hard on the heels of his inauguration, he might’ve just as appropriately created a new label, "Bush Profiteers," to identify those who first turned his decayed ideologies into law – inventing new spigots through which Bush’s businessmen-backers could suck federal funds – and who then vacated public service to collect their own lucre as lobbyists for those businessmen and their companies.

If you needed a perfect example of this model of lawmaking-turned-moneymaking, you might consider Bush’s vaunted No Child Left Behind. And if you needed a perfect example of the Bush Profiteer, you might consider the first "senior education advisor" he imported from Texas, the architect of NCLB himself.

I offer a simple thesis: Several large corporations and their lobbyists have profited from Bush’s NCLB by tapping billions of dollars in standardized testing and in "supplemental education services" funds since its passage in 2001. They’re lining up now to expand their profit margins for the next six years as NCLB is being re-authorized. And the one man who stands to personally profit the most this year isn’t Bush himself, but advisor-turned-lobbyist Sandy Kress, the architect of Bush’s old high-stakes testing model in Texas and the overhaul of ESEA in 2001.

As Bush himself might put it, "Heck of a job, Sandy." Ahem:

KATHY EMERY KNOWS something about educating kids. Her resume, found here , documents a 30-year career as a history teacher-turned-education researcher. Credentials impeccable. She’s published and presented and given workshops and been interviewed on testing and assessment and good education practices, so she’s got skills. And she writes, "When Ted Kennedy and George Bush agree on something, one needs to worry about who the man behind the curtain is. After doing research for my dissertation (which is now a book) it became clear to me that the men behind the curtain are the members of the Business Roundtable."

In a speech given in January 2005 to the San Francisco State University faculty retreat in Asilomar, California, she detailed the convergence of two heretofore unconjoined worlds: the world of big business, and the world of educating kids. The convergence was given birth in the passage of NCLB, she says, but the pregnancy was more than a decade long. Its unsuspecting mother was the Education and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), first adopted under Lyndon Johnson’s administration in 1965 in partial fulfillment of John Kennedy’s domestic agenda. Its father? "...a bipartisan bandwagon of standards based advocates – a bandwagon built in the summer of 1989 by the top 300 CEOs in our country."

The Richard Kahlenberg Shanker bio details this event in detail. Now we are hearing the "Big Oops" from Shanker apologists. "This is not what Al intended." Gee! How come people in those years somehow knew what would be the outcome? Oh, what have they wrought!

Big Bucks at Tweed Can Lead to Becoming Next UFT President

See the list of 36 NYCDOE Tweed officials who make over $180,000 a year at Norms Notes here.

But they must be worth it. Klein says they could be making 2-3 times as much in the private sector. Maybe become the head of the UFT where they could make $350 grand.

And poor Klein. The DOE PR people actually made the point he hadn't received a raise in 5 years. Poor guy. Making a 100 grand less than Weingarten. I have an idea. Weingarten will be leaving soon and the BloomKlein reign is coming to an end. Klein is a lawyer with a similar background and he could use a raise. Let's start a campaign for

Joel Klein for UFT President!

Another angle emerges from the debate on NYC Educator on how the UFT blog Edwize defended James Liebman after his recent performance at the City Council hearings and his insightful comments in Samuel Freedman's column this week. NYC says:

First, "Maisie" wrote a piece about how Mr. Liebman was "smart and decent," and incredibly, defended him by explaining he was just following orders. I can recall cases where that defense proved ineffective. Most recently, they got a student to write for them, putting forth the preposterous suggestion that our supposed unwillingness to compromise was somehow setting back the issue of class size.

"Maisie" is NY Teacher reporter Maisie Macadoo, who doesn't write a word that is not checked by Randi Weingarten. My guess is that the UFT is laying the groundwork to hire Liebman after he leaves the DOE late this spring. Maybe Chief Accountability Office of the UFT.

See the GBN (satire as always) report on Liebman's consults with parents:

...the firing of a popular principal, Isaiah Wallace of MS 422 in Brooklyn, was actually the result of a consultation with a large number of people who overwhelmingly felt that he should be canned. At a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden, Chancellor Joel Klein consulted with a capacity crowd of nearly 19,000 people, many of them parents. He heard the clear consensus of this group as they chanted in unison, “Fire Isaiah”. The Chancellor realized that the group could only have been referring to Mr. Wallace, because his school had received an F on the recent school Progress Report. A source at the DOE confirmed to GBN News the authenticity of this document, and maintained that it proves Mr. Liebman had been telling the truth when he asserted that thousands of parents were consulted by the DOE. However, the source refused to confirm or deny that the DOE plans to soon replace the district CDEC’s with local movie theater audiences.

Liebman's experience in obfuscation and confusion at Tweed makes him the perfect candidate to explain how the UFT actually is a democratic institution.

But, hey, he's another lawyer. If Klein doesn't want to be UFT President, how about

Jim Liebman for UFT President.

Speaking of which, check out Richard Steier's in-depth interview with "Sister Randi" in The Chief, also posted at Norms Notes.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Test your Knowledge of School Grades in New York City

Version 2 based on more input:

Written by Professor Celia Oyler

Test your Knowledge of School Grades in New York City
Version 2 (12/21/07)
Written by Professor Celia Oyler
(send comments to

In November, 2007, The New York Department of Education issued a letter grade of A through F to each school in the city. Each grade is based on a very complex set of formulas. Test your knowledge about these new school grades.

1. The school grade is based on three “elements”: school environment, school performance and school progress. At the elementary and middle school level, what percentage of the final grade is derived from achievement test scores?
a. 10%
b. 25%
c. 55%
d. 85%

2. The New York State achievement tests used to calculate progress are designed by psychometricians and are normed in advance on a large group of students to ensure that the items at each grade level are appropriate for that grade level.


3. From a psychometric point-of-view, New York State achievement test scores offer a reasonably adequate tool to measure progress of learners from year-to-year.


4. Under No Child Left Behind, schools are expected to show that children in grades 3 through 8 have—on average—made one year of progress as measured by achievement tests.


5. In the DOE’s formula, the year of progress is calculated using statistical methods that take measurement error into account.


6. The 55% of each school grade (in elementary and middle schools) that the DOE calls “progress” (and is based on the averages of 2 achievement tests scores at each grade level) takes into account the unreliability of the average gains in achievement within each school.


7. To get the highest score of a “4” (1 is lowest) on last year’s English Language Arts test (ELA), in 5th grade, a child can only get one question wrong on the multiple choice section.


8. The scoring of the writing sample of the achievement tests uses a rubric and is conducted by:
a. Department of Education personnel to ensure that all results are reasonably fair
b. Teachers across the city who sometimes know the schools they are grading for
c. Personnel from the New York State Department of Education who are trained to not take into account such factors as the children’s handwriting
d. Temporary workers hired by each school

9. Each school in New York City is subjected to a Quality Review where a trained observer rates the school on many dimensions of curriculum, instruction, and assessment of learning.


10. The results of these Quality Reviews are then factored into the final grades each school receives.


11. A school can receive a “proficient” on its Quality Review and still receive a school grade of “F”.


12. Circle all that are correct: The school grades are based on how well each school:
a. Teaches children to solve problems
b. Uses culturally relevant pedagogy
c. Integrates the arts
d. Provides time for children to exercise
e. Prepares children to make healthy food choices
f. Helps teachers work cross-racially and cross-culturally
g. None of the above

13. The scores that New York City students achieve on the New York State tests show basically the same trends as those that a sample of New York City students achieved on the national achievement test (called the National Assessment of Educational Progress and administered since 1969 to samples of students across the country).


14. There is a strong correlation between the list of schools that New York State has rated as failing and the ones that received a grade of “F” by the New York City Department of Education.


15. Of the 346 schools in New York City that the State of New York has flagged as having the most difficulty (SINI: Schools in Need of Improvement; SURR: Schools Under Reregistration Review), how many received a grade of A?

a. 10
b. 25
c. 40
d. 50

16. The ARIS computer system specifically designed by IBM for the DOE and intended to track student progress on annual and periodic assessments cost approximately
a. Eighty million dollars
b. Eight million dollars
c. Eight hundred thousand dollars
d. Eighty thousand dollars

17. The DOE assigns each school its final grade based on the actual score in relation to all the peer schools so in theory every school could achieve an A, if all students showed a year of progress.


18. A school can receive an “F” even if 98% of its students are rated on grade level in math and 86% are on grade level in language arts, as measured by the New York State tests.


19. After all the large number of calculations are completed—including being compared to the schools in the “peer group”--each school receives a final score. These scores are then converted into a final grade.


20. The final score of one school may be only one hundredth point (0.01) away from another school, but one school can get a higher letter grade than the other.


21. Short Answer (extra credit): Since these school grades are: so expensive to produce; not based on many important aspects of what many educators and parents consider central aspects of schooling; do not take into account multiple measures of student progress and school quality; do not take into account standard statistical measures of error; and are based predominantly (in elementary and middle schools) on state tests not designed to be used to make year-to-year comparisons of student growth, why are these school grades being used by the Bloomberg/Klein administration?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Magnificent 7 Pieces of Useless Information About Me

My life is an open book. No deep, dark secrets here. But I was tagged by Eduwonkette into revealing 7 pieces of information about myself in the chain of info going around the blogging world like a virus.

The rules are:
- Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
- Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
- Tag 7 random (or not) people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
- Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I am just superstitious enough to worry about – not Eduwonkette’s disclaimer about hair falling out if we fail to comply, but having a curse placed on me where I have to go to work for the DOE under BloomKlein – to go ahead and search the archives of my deteriorating brain cells for factoids that might be of some interest before passing this on to the next 7 unlucky “winners.” Here goes:

  1. I spend hours figuring out what my cats are really thinking.
  2. I eat anything – still lifes and things in motion (no, not my cats.)
  3. I know little about how to build and program a robot, but when people ask me for advice, I either send them to someone who does know something or just fake it.
  4. I had basically only one job in my entire life. Guess what that was?
  5. I read trashy historical novels, figuring I can still learn something without having to wade through deep facts. And I was a thesis short of an MA in history. How low can I sink?
  6. I’m going to England in March – specifically to see a 40th reunion Zombies concert. I sink even lower.
  7. I listen to sports radio – mostly WFAN – almost 24/7. Sunk.
I have tagged the blogs of 7 NYC classroom teachers who I've been in touch with at various times:

Round Deux
Under Assault
Proof of Life
Have a Gneiss Day
Pissed off Teacher
Female Faculty

Jim Liebman in Sam Freedman Column Raises Eyebrows

It seems like Sam Freedman is doing a series on the idiocy of the BloomKlein era. In the NY Times today. Freedman describes an incredibly dangerous middle school that received an "A." How is that possible when we all know that in schools like this teaching and learning is extremely difficult?

Rhoda commented at NYC Educator:
"[Freedman] not only rips the awful report cards, but shows what a hypocrite and truth twister James Liebman is." Rhoda's favorite quote:

The A grade, though, may also have something to do with the fact that the progress reports weigh all safety factors as only 2
.5 percent of a school’s total grade, said James S. Liebman, the Education Department’s chief accountability officer. He has said the department decided not to give safety more consideration because statistics on school violence rely on self-reporting and tend to be deceptive. “This is a school that’s doing remarkably well on the progress side, and ‘remarkably’ isn’t a word I use lightly,” said Mr. Liebman. The first part of the article describes how violent and dangerous the school is and how there was a high attrition rate at the school in which 13 of the 16 teachers were in their first year in the 2006-7 school year.

Rhoda says, "Mr. Liebman is a remarkable idiot and remarkable isn't a word I use lightly, either."

There's even a better quote from Liebman. When asked about the not remarkable high rate of teacher turnover, which is common at schools in chaos,

"Mr. Liebman said many teachers flee schools that are in the midst of reform and instilling a “culture of accountability.” He did not address the roles of theft, violence and insults in persuading teachers to leave.

Of course, Liebman did his own fleeing from the "culture of accountability" when parents tried to give him a petition signed by 7000 people after a recent City Council hearing.

The article is also posted at Norms Notes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Klein and Weingarten Announce 86% Eligible Schools to Participate in School-Wide Peformance Pay

There are links to complete lists of schools accepting and rejecting merit pay on the sidebar to the right.

I posted the full press release on Norm's Notes. Randi and Joel seem so excited that 86% - 205 out of 240 eligible schools – chose to participate in the school-based performance plan. Many of us are thrilled at the 35 schools that are not participating.

Note all the characters involed from Eli Broad to the NYC Partnership, which uses its money to hump BloomKlein commercials in addition to schemes like this - anything but money in the classroom - to old Diane Ravitch attack dog Kathryn "Gone" Wylde.

The Ten Plagues of Bloomberg and Klein by Norman Scott

The School Scope column appears every 2 weeks in The Wave (
December 14, 2007.

The Ten Plagues of BloomKlein by Norman Scott

  1. Closed schools based on single letter grades!
  2. Inflated test scores!
  3. Distorted graduation rates!
  4. Use of statistics instead of educationally sound principles to make basic decisions about children’s lives!
  5. Reduced services for special education students!
  6. Attacks on senior teachers!
  7. Parents treated like pariahs!
  8. Enormous sums spent on testing rather than reducing class size!
  9. Even more enormous sums spent on high priced consultants and computer systems!
  10. Constant chaotic reorganizations based on untested principles!
  11. Dumb merit pay schemes for teachers and students!
  12. A gutted, compliant, ineffective union that capitulates and collaborates with the BloomKlein administration while deceiving the membership.

Oh, sorry, did I pass ten? Is it too late to change the title? Can I try for twenty? Nah! Let’s keep this column short. As I told [Wave publisher] Susan Locke at the Wave Xmas party the other day, “Cut the column when you fall asleep.” Zzzzzzzzzz.

The big local news was the announced closing of Far Rockaway HS. Following on the Wave reports a few weeks ago about the increased problems at Beach Channel HS from over the counter (OTC) refugees from Far Rock, expect more of the same next year when Far Rock’s freshman class has to go elsewhere. The over/under on Beach Channel’s future is already being set in Vegas.

When the reorganization of Far Rock was announced in April 2005, I wrote, “Far Rockaway HS has been put on a fast track to be reorganized by September [2005] which could lead to the creation of four mini-schools, including a vocational ed track, and the replacement of up to 50% of the teachers. Teachers who want to stay will have to apply for jobs. You know the story – if it’s a failing school it’s got to be the fault of the teachers. Their resistance to change must be the reason the school is perceived as failing; probably not willing enough to drink the Workshop model Kool-aid.”

That reorganization must be viewed as a failure by the NYCEDOE if they are closing it now. Who is responsible for that “failure” (their definition, not mine) if not the DOE? Why are they allowed to get away with blaming everyone and everything but themselves? They are always talking about "no excuses” yet they are the biggest excuse-makers.

When BloomKlein announce they are closing schools, there are shock waves, part of their “shock and awe” strategy in “reforming” the educational system. But when they close a school they are announcing their failure to fix it, while absolving themselves of responsibility. After all, they control the administrators and most of the teachers who are there. So, what will change when they close a school? New administrators, new teachers and mostly, new kids. Where will the ones denied entry into the new school go? To the next school to be destabilized? If you can’t fix what’s wrong without closing the school, then you have failed.

Questions have been raised about small schools and charter schools actually being more successful considering these issues: getting a higher achieving pool of students and eliminating students with special needs; getting a disproportionate share of resources; forcing the larger, traditional schools to be even more overcrowded and receiving those students who have the least chance of succeeding.

Joel Klein wrote an op-ed in the New York Post ("Closing Time") on December 10, outlining the rationale for closing schools. Klein said:

Starting in 2002, we began phasing out and shutting down schools that had a history of failure. These decisions...were an acknowledgement that the schools weren't remotely educating students - and that they weren't going to get better on their own. [Why is a supposedly failing school being left to drown on its own?]

Klein uses the example of Bushwick High School in Brooklyn to demonstrate:

Bushwick HS had a graduation rate of just 23 percent. We replaced it with four new small schools, which now make up what we call the Bushwick campus. Last year, the new schools had a combined graduation rate of nearly 60 percent -almost triple what it once was. The students literally paraded through their neighborhood in June, demonstrating the pride that they feel for their schools and their community.
Blogger Eduwonkette, following up on the work she did on exposing the Evander HS “miracle” where she compared the student populations of the small schools with the large “failing” school they replaced, did the same work on the Bushwick example:

If the intent of school closings is to clear out the students who previously attended the "failing school," replace them with higher performing students, and declare victory, Bushwick is a marked success.
Bushwick stopped taking 9th graders through the formal admissions process in September of 2002, but continued receiving "over the counter students" (OTCs)- students who have not been placed in any school, who are transferring, or who arrive in the middle of the year - in the 2003-2004 school year as well. Zoned schools like Bushwick represent combinations of the formal admissions process students and OTC students; while the small schools do receive OTCs, the proportion of the student population comprised by these students is much smaller. How was the old Bushwick different from the schools that replaced it? The most notable differences include the ELL population and the percentage of students who come into 9th grade proficient in reading and math. Bushwick 9th graders were 30.6% ELL, while in their first year, the new small schools served between 19.5 and 26% ELL. Even more drastically, 83% of the Bushwick OTC kids were ELLs. On most other indicators, the Bushwick 9th graders were lower performing than the 9th graders attending the new small schools. This is particularly true of the Bushwick OTC students.

Eduwonkette blogs at:

It’s the family, stupid

Mike Winerip, one of our favorite commentators on education, was in the NY Times on Sunday [Dec. 9] laying waste to the “No Excuses” argument, something anyone who spends 10 minutes in the classroom understands.

Does that mean we stop teaching? No. But we understand that we must fight for the resources necessary to close the achievement gap, not do education reform on the cheap or throw money at data management rather than classroom management.

But guess where they buried what should be a front page piece because it exposes the sham of NCLB and the entire business-based education reform movement and, in particular, the entire program of BloomKlein? In the regional "parenting" section, which most people in the city environs do not even receive. Winerip starts his piece with:

The federal No Child Left Behind law of 2002 rates schools based on how students perform on state standardized tests, and if too many children score poorly, the school is judged as failing.

But how much is really the school’s fault?

A new study by the Educational Testing Service — which develops and administers more than 50 million standardized tests annually, including the SAT — concludes that an awful lot of those low scores can be explained by factors that have nothing to do with schools. The study, “The Family: America’s Smallest School,” suggests that a lot of the failure has to do with what takes place in the home, the level of poverty and government’s inadequate support for programs that could make a difference, like high-quality day care and paid maternity leave.

The E.T.S. researchers took four variables that are beyond the control of schools: The percentage of children living with one parent; the percentage of eighth graders absent from school at least three times a month; the percentage of children 5 or younger whose parents read to them daily, and the percentage of eighth graders who watch five or more hours of TV a day. Using just those four variables, the researchers were able to predict each state’s results on the federal eighth-grade reading test with impressive accuracy.

Try to read the entire piece – if you can find it (I have links on my blog.)

I want to reiterate that even with these issues, I have a firm belief they all can be overcome. Give us the resources. A kid in pre-k is already 2 years behind? What would it take? A one-on-one person every day for a year? Then do it. The DOE’s Jim Liebman said that it would take 15 in a class, the level of private schools, for class size reduction to make a difference and that is too expensive. When this country suddenly needs trillions to fight wars, the money magically appears, but when education reform is on the agenda, the business community wants to do it on the cheap with gimmicks like merit pay and changing perceptions of low expectations.

Educators who want to reform the system the right way do have low expectations: about the ability of this society to give them the tools they can really use to close the achievement gap.

The Great Escape
One of the notable education stories this week was Tweed’s Chief Accountability Officer James Liebman’s race to escape parent petitioners after testifying at a City Council hearing on the school grading system. Even reporter Jennifer Medina’s story in the NY Times seemed to have a bit of fun with it. Satirist Gary Babad did a piece for the NYC Parent blog on the NY Jets offering Liebman a contract based on his mad dash.

You can read all about these delicious education wonk friendly stories at my blog.
Oh, and Susan. Sorry, the column is not short. Maybe next time as a New Year’s gift.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

How One NYC School Rejected Merit Pay plus a Meeting

Some schools that rejected merit pay want to hear about others. Maybe even get a meeting together. Or just attend the NYCORE meeting mentioned below (I will try to attend and report back.) If you know of schools that voted it down let us know and we'll pass it on.

Kudos to Sam Coleman and his colleagues for taking action and having an impact.

Email to NYCORE listserve from Sam Coleman:

To everyone who responded to my request for advice/information about fighting merit pay [see ed notes posts here and here], I took a lot of the ideas and comments that I received and wrote up a little leaflet. I put it in all the mail boxes at my school on Monday. I got a lot of positive feedback. This led to a meeting on Tuesday and about half the faculty showed up.

Folks got really fired up and not only vowed to vote against it but wanted to get in touch with other schools who rejected it and try to organize with them to make some public noise.

The vote was today and it was about 80% against, with almost a full turnout!

So, thanks again to all who responded and if people are interested or have ideas or are already doing something to make noise about this issue, let me know.


p.s. I heard that 20% of the schools offered the merit pay option have rejected it. That's about 40 schools. It would be great to get our hands on that list. . .

Sam also sent this along about the NYCORE meeting on merit pay tomorrow:
NYCoRE’s Justice Not Just Tests Working Group will be meeting on Monday, December 17 at 5:30 at Pless Hall, 2nd Floor Anderson Room

At this meeting we will be discussing the bonus/merit pay issue, and planning our next move.
Our group has spent a couple of weeks thinking about and researching this contentious issue. We are discussing questions such as:

Will merit pay pit teachers against each other?
How will it effect special education and ELL students?
Will it promote cheating among teacher?
Will test prep become even more of a priority?

Please join us and bring your own questions, ideas and information. forward this message widely. For more information, contact info@nycore. org

The UFT and Mayoral Control

The issue mayoral control has come up on the nyceducation news listserve, one of the leading parent blogs in NYC (which by the way just added Debbie Meier along with Diane Ravitch) following a thread on the future of mayoral control. I was pointing out the role I expect the UFT to take in the debate to people who weer thinking I am just casting blame on the UFT and think we should move beyond that. Graphic by David Bellel.

It is not a question of trying to pin blame but to explore history so people are aware when it is repeated. And it will be repeated. The UFT has rejected all attempts by some of us to draw some line in the sand on mayoral control. The attempt will be to pin the problem on the particular mayor not the system and the UFT also expects to be able to put its own mayor into power - ie. Bill Thompson, so why kill the potential golden goose?

The UFT is the gorilla in the room and no matter what is said, no matter how many governance task forces there and how often they meet (they will be holding borough meetings soon) the history of the UFT points towards supporting some form of mayoral control.

The task force report will look great on paper - it will catalogue all the evils of mayoral control but the UFT will not use its muscle to force serious changes. But those actions and inactions will be hidden so they can claim they are for whatever. A very similar situation with the UFT task force on testing last year - they issued a decent report in May and then go on to in effect support the advancement of high stakes testing in their actions - see merit pay.

Why go through a sham when policy has already been decided? To be able to go on record that
Some feel they were ignorant of what was happening in Chicago - not so. This is their policy.

The danger to politicians and parent groups is that everyone is afraid to offend the gorilla. So no real alternatives can emerge from any strong advocacy group as long as the UFT is viewed as a possible ally. Only when people are free from that allegiance, can they act.

Otherwise, the play will play out with a pre-written script.

My goal is to keep pointing out the signposts so people can recognize where the train is going and hopefully get off in time.

On Leonie's question as to what will replace it - and that we don't want to go back to the old system - I feel the kids got better services and the parents had a place to go and knew who to call. The procedure was bulky and ineffective in so many ways - but if you study some history you will find the UFT played a role in setting that up back in the late 60's - I won't go into the gory details. But there can be a better way to put some local control into effect and we shouldn't just throw out the baby with the bath water on this because a distorted system didn't work. Undistort it.

We had mayoral control in essence before the late 60's and many thought it wasn't working then. Centralized control over a system this large is the problem, even with oversights.

But this is a discussion that should begin taking place now. If people are waiting for the UFT task force and get sucked up into the UFT game waiting for something to emerge it will be a black hole.

My original post:
People sure could have anticipated the excesses of mayoral control from the stories coming out of Chicago where Mayor Daly and Paul Vallas were 5 years ahead of NY in their shenanigans.

The NYTimes had quotes from Debbie Meier in the fall of 2002 warning about this.

Ed Notes was printing warnings from George Schmidt and raising the issue with the UFT from 2001 on.
It should have been obvious: if you turn education into a total political entity then they will take the test score route to "success" because they are so easy to manipulate.

The UFT which supposedly represents educators was a key player and could have thrown enough roadblocks into the process to force some "thinking it all through." But then again the UFT itself is not really run by educators but by politicians.

In case you wonder why I and others have such strong feelings about the UFT on so many issues.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

An Ugly Thread on the UFT and Class Size

“To its [the UFT's] credit, the city is already taking some smart steps. Its small "lead teacher" program and its new performance pay initiative, both developed with the United Federation of Teachers, will provide bigger paychecks and new career paths to successful teachers in poor schools. That will give those teachers new reasons to stay in the Bronx and Brooklyn rather than move out to Westchester or Long Island.”

Robert Gordon in the Daily News praising the UFT after trashing parents who support class size reduction.

Of course to me it all falls into place. It is no accident Gordon lauded the UFT/company union which will be supporting his wife's boss for president.

Gordon is married to Hillary Clinton's domestic advisor.

Robert Gordon attacks class size and praises the UFT - he full well knows they have much higher priorities than class size.

I've always said the UFT was playing a game on class size.

The AFT and NYSUT already endorsed Clinton and the UFT will follow. Randi will become pres of the AFT and use that platform to try to elect Clinton if she's still in the game.

Klein could become Sect of Ed in a Clinton admin.

Oh, the ties that bind!

Follow the thread below between Leonie and Patrick Sullivan from the NYC Education News listserve.

Leonie Haimson posts:

Hilary Clinton’s domestic policy director, Catherine Brown, is married to Robert Gordon, yes, Robert Gordon, the infamous designer of FSF and current attack dog of the DOE against the “obsession” with class size reduction, as he put it in his oped in the Daily News yesterday.

(For more on the education staff and advisers of the various candidates see:

If you want to hear about how Brown and Gordon met and fell in love, here’s a revealing account of his quick-witted charm from the NY Observer:

“Ms. Brown, a slender, blond outdoorsy type with a warm smile, mentioned that she’d just bought a ski condo in Park City, Utah. “That’s very grown-up of you,” Mr. Gordon said. “I didn’t realize you were that mature.”

“Is it that obvious?” Ms. Brown quipped.
“It’s a good thing,” he said. “Being immature at this stage of life.”

Patrick Sullivan comments:
I met with Gordon toward the end of his (full time) tenure at DOE.

When I voted against Fair Student Funding at the May PEP, Klein asked me to talk to Robert Gordon.

I told him I was coming in and wanted an explanation as to why two thirds of D4 ( East Harlem) schools were getting hold harmless and why 7 of 8 schools on the SURR/SINI list would get nothing as well.

Despite the fact that he had the question in advance, he said, "gee, looks like the schools in D4 are smaller and maybe that's why". Sticking the schools with a radically different budgeting methodology without understanding or concern for the impact on the ground is irresponsible, to say the least. For many of these people, our schools and our kids are one giant sandbox to try out the latest academic fad. And no need to test on one District, just go crazy and do it to 1.1 million kids. Gordon represents the worst of that bunch. Now he's safely in his think tank.

That day I kept asking what they would offer these schools, the only answer I ever got from Tweed was "accountability"

Leonie follows with:

But he’s not safely in his think tank; he’s still working as an adviser to DOE, writing attacks on class size in the Daily News (which I’m sure he was paid handsomely for), distorting the research by referring to those “giants” in the field of education like McKinsey and the Parthenon Group, and married to Hilary Clinton’s top policy adviser.

No doubt his inside the Beltway perspective will risk poisoning who ever becomes the next president.

And what is he? Just another arrogant lawyer.

Perhaps his being married to Clinton’s top policy adviser led him to express his animus on parents instead of the UFT.

Parent Josh Karan responded to Gordon with a letter to the Daily News:
Robert Gordon's pitting of improving the teaching corps against reduction of class size is like asking which eye you would rather have -- your right or your left. Like stereoscopic vision, they work together. Reducing class size will help even the best teachers reach their students more directly, and will help retain teachers, who find the workload impossible. In middle or high school --- where Mr. Gordon wrongfully claims there is no evidence for the efficacy of reduced class size -- how can a teacher review & critique even weekly writing assignments for a
hundred and fifty students, the number commonly taught by NYC teachers? Just giving a paltry 10 minutes to each would require 5 hours every day outside the classroom in addition to regular lesson planning. I am sure that Mr. Gordon does not put in those kind of hours, nor do the teachers in elite schools with classes of 15, where intensive development of students ability to write is indeed possible because teachers work with so many fewer students. He is right,
however, that providing equal education would cost a boatload, which is why the rich & powerful who don't pay their fair share of taxes reserve such education for their own. As a society, the consequence is well stated in the bumper sticker "If you think education is
expensive, try ignorance".

Josh Karan
District 6 Washington Heights
The district which initiated the Campaign For Fiscal Equity lawsuit

Friday, December 14, 2007

Weingarten and Thompson Embarrassed

From the Daily News:

Teachers Union President Randi Weingarten suffered an embarrassing moment when she revealed that an affordable housing project for educators in the Bronx was being built with nonunion labor.

Even more embarrassing?

The man who stood beside her in October to announce the project, city Controller William Thompson, could have warned her about the problem.

His office was aware during negotiations that the developer refused to promise to hire only union workers, sources said.

The snafu was a big headache for Weingarten, now the head of the city's largest municipal union, who had to tell the union's pension fund to sell off $28 million in bonds being used to finance the low-cost apartments.

Unions for the building trades even threatened to put the famous inflatable rat outside the United Federation of Teachers headquarters, sources said.

Spokesmen for Thompson - a probable contender for mayor - and Weingarten, his longtime friend and ally, declined comment.

No matter what the level of embarrassment, the UFT will support Thompson for mayor, something that has been in the works for 8 years. And along with that comes continued support for mayoral control of the schools.

Is New Action Really a Caucus?

In the 1999 and 2001 UFT elections, New Action leader Michael Shulman received over 11,400 votes against Randi Weingarten in the UFT elections. PAC, another opposition caucus received 1300 votes. That's around 13,000 voting against Unity. That was the last election New Action ran a full slate. (I posted a reprint of an excellent piece by TJC's Marian Swerdlow that Ed Notes printed in April 2001 over at Norm's Notes at this link.)

New Action gave up being an opposition to join in a United Front with Unity. The result? Their votes shrunk almost in half by the next election in 2004 when
ICE/TJC wrested the high school Exec bd from them.

By the 2007 election, New Action's vote from teachers in the schools was around 1600.With retirees (many of whom are not aware of the sell-out) their vote came to around 3500, a [someone do the math] drop from when they opposed Unity.

So how did that United Front work out for them? Actually, not bad. While having little support in the schools, New Action members serve on committees, they have jobs and offices at the UFT and run around pretending to be an independent caucus.

We wanted to inform the delegates of the situation since New Action distributes their pretend caucus leaflets at the DA. Ed Notes Print edition distributed at the UFT Delegate Assembly on Dec. 12, 2007

Why am I bothering to spend so much time on a group headed for obscurity? With Weingarten, New Action's guardian angel set to leave the scene, we want to hasten their move towards oblivion, as their existence confuses the members and is a road block in the formation of a true opposition. In 1991 New Action actually got 31% of the vote. 16 years later, it's 9%. ICE/TJC's 20% in '07 is a building block for a future opposition.

Note: A New Action executive board member on Weds. called this a hatchet job and tried to compare what they are doing at Executive Board meetings with ICE/TJC. "How many resolutions did you get passed," he asked? Meaning: you couldn't get the 83 out of 89 Unity EB members to support your resolutions while we can through our sucking up to Weingarten. Duhhh! Read on!

The Numbers Tell the Story

Let’s look at New Action’s vote totals on its own as compared with ICE/TJC and Unity in the 2007 UFT elections. (Slate votes only).

High Schools
Unity: 2,183 (57.7%)
ICE/TJC: 1,524 (36%)
New Action: 521 (12.3%)

Number of high school seats on Exec Bd:
Unity: 3 New Action: 3 ICE/TJC: 0

Huh! ICE/TJC triples New Action’s vote and gets NO seats. Assume some of new Action’s votes (in all divisions) came from people who had voted New Action for 20 years when they were the major opposition, didn’t know about the sell-out and were confused. A swing of around 300 votes would have given ICE/TJC all 6 seats.

Democracy INACTION.

High Schools: Total Ballots 19,799
4,568 voted (23%, down from a 31% return in 2004)

The drop of 8% in HS significant. But it gets worse in middle schools where 12,841 ballots were sent and only 2,384 (18.6%) voted, down from the 27.6% who voted in 2004.
Here are the dismal totals.

Unity: 1,499 (67.6%) ICE/TJC: 444 (20%)
New Action: 273 (12.3%)
Elementary schools:
Mailed: 36,912
Returned: 8,904 (24.1%). 34.3% voted in 2004.
Unity: 6252 (76.7)
ICE/TJC: 1337 (16.4%)
New Action: 562 (6.9%)

Results from Elem + MS + HS:
Unity: 9,934 68%
ICE/TJC: 3,305 22.6%
New Action: 1,356 9.3%

Think about it. Less than 10,000 classroom teachers out of 70,000 voted for Unity as a slate. Dismal indeed. Weingarten’s totals are higher with the addition of the New Action votes but even with the addition of the non-slate votes, probably less than 15,000 in all.

To the overwhelming majority of classroom teachers, the union is insignificant. New Action, which at one time got over 10,000 votes, is irrelevant, even with its 8 bonus seats from Unity to be the house opposition.

Six years ago, in Dec. 2001, Ed Notes wrote:

Unity’s biggest fear is that New Action will fade into obscurity and a real opposition might blossom. Unity needs a non-threatening opposition to claim “we are a democratic union.” What better opposition than New Action, growing steadily weaker and less effective? By breathing life into New Action, the union leadership can give them an air of legitimacy as the “loyal” opposition. New Action is perfectly happy to occupy the position. As long as they play this role for Unity, there is little chance of seeing a serious opposition take hold. If New Action didn’t exist, Unity would have to invent them.

Ah, how time flies. Six years later, New Action is handing out leaflets talking about how 8 New Action members were elected to the UFT Executive Board in the UFT elections in March 2007. Unity holds the other 81 and ICE/TJC hold no seats on the Ex Bd.

Ed Notes is making a return appearance at the DA to fill in the missing information.

New Action received an automatic 5 seats from their candidates that also ran on Randi Weingarten’s Unity slate.

The other 3 seats came from running with Unity on the high school level, where they split the 6 seats with Unity. ICE/TJC had wrested these seats from New Action in the 2004 election when Unity didn’t run any candidates in a deal with New Action to have them not run a candidate against Weingarten. This led to the foundation of ICE and the reincarnation of TJC as a caucus active in UFT elections. The 6 ICE/TJC Ex Bd member were such a thorn in Unity’s side, they made sure not to allow New Action to run on their own against ICE/TJC.

What has NA they done with the seats? While their leaflets try to give the impression they are taking action at the Executive Board, they have endorsed every single policy advocated by Unity and have played the role of rubber stamp. (Come to an Ex Bd meeting and see New Action Inaction.) Their last leaflet contained not one word about the UFT’s endorsement of the merit pay scheme even though many New Action members are opposed. The same top-down mentality exists in New Action as in Unity. True birds of a feather.

Sometimes I'm amazed at the predictive powers of Ed Notes.

From the May 2001 edition:

New Action Goes CURR
The non-Unity active membership has declared New Action a CURR (Caucus Under Registration Review). In dropping from 31% to 21% of the vote in 10 years ( a 32% decline) New Action has clearly failed to meet the standards. If there is no improvement in the next election, New Action will be closed and reorganized into a debating society.