Thursday, January 31, 2008
I had an out of body experience yesterday when I was invited over to the Queens Rubber Room by the gang who went to federal court last Monday with a lawsuit. They are calling themselves "Teachers 4 Action."
Going in. Video posted below.
I got off the Van Wyck at Linden Place and looked for the ugliest building I could find – where was the sign proclaiming I had reached Shit's Creek? Part of the DOE punishment manual - put 'em in places with bad architecture. Also, not exactly near good public transportation. I parked – illegally – behind the building but no one seemed to be watching.
I was greeted by the T4A organizing committee (I'm not mentioning their names here until they give me the ok, but they know who they are). I will mention Florian Lewenstein who has been out front with his lawsuit. You can read more about Florian and the suit in a story written by Meredith Kolodner in The Chief, posted at Norm's Notes.
What are they shredding over there?
Their lawyer, Ed Fagan, led the charge into the building and I followed his blocking, dodging and ducking like any good running back in the Super Bowl. We got up to the 4th floor where the detainees hang out. I will say, they do have a room with a view – of highways.
It was clearly not a normal day at the office for the confinees. I started taking pictures, which always make people nervous. But I was careful to focus on Ed and the background. Ed talked to people briefly to tell them about the lawsuit and to announce a lunchtime meeting at a nearby church.
There followed lots of milling about as the powers that be began to get organized and an order finally came down from the lady in charge, who was not on sight, that we had to leave. Teachers organized themselves into cars to go to the church.
Ed scans the sheet listing where people are "supposed" to be.
About 50 people, some from Rubber Rooms in other boroughs, showed up. After an introduction by Florian, Ed Fagan explained what this was all about. (RR activist and lawyer Joy Hochstadt was also on board.)
Using the metaphor of the attack on Pearl Harbor, he reprised the words of the past: "They have awakened a sleeping giant with a terrible resolve. We will fight to win with righteous anger. If we lose, we will still win by shining a light and raising awareness. We are facing a Goliath but we have a mighty slingshot."
That pumped up the crowd, which having faced so much demoralization, certainly could use a pep rally. Fagan went on to the details.
He didn't shy away from the issue of there are people who may have done things that are serious. But he focused on the issue of no matter what they did, they still have a right in this society to their due process rights. The DOE MUST play by the rules. Is the way they were removed from their schools without charges or any information such a violation? Is the very existence of the rubber room, with its humiliating rules and procedures, such a violation?
Ed and Florian at the church.
The two judges involved seem pretty decent. The Federal judge is Victor Marrero, who struck down provisions of the Patriot Act – twice. A good sign for due process. There is also a Discovery Judge. (Legalese like "discovery" gives me the heebies. All I know about "discovery" is Columbus "discoveried" America - maybe.)
The Judge (one of them) asked for the case to be tightened up and they have to return to court next week.
Fagan asked people to conquer their fears and stand up for their rights. "Until you do, you will lose." The judge has assured if there is any retaliation, it is against the law.
As to exactly which people and agencies to sue, that is still being determined. The UFT is still a candidate to be sued.
The audience at the church.
Teachers4Action can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to DB for video processing and editing.
I am scoring the ELA tests every day after school and Sat. and Sundays as well for two more weeks. I've already done it for nine days. There must be hundreds of teachers involved in this important task of making sure that as many kids as possible score as many 4's and 3's as possible irregardless of the quality of their work. Lots of money is being spent on this activity which is probably why the DOE is cutting 100 million from the school budgets.
Time Out From Testing would like to propose that each one of us write Chancellor Joel Klein, with copies to City Council Member Robert Jackson, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Jennifer Medina at the NY Times arguing that if there must be a $100 million cut, it should not be taken from instruction, but from the interim assessment contract (Acuity costing $80 Million and ARIS ($80 million), the system now in place to track every students' personal information. Those two contracts cost the DOE $160 million. That would leave $60 million for the schools to invest in teaching and learning.
In addition, we should DEMAND a listing of all those who work at TWEED along with their salaries.
Teachers rally at unsafe public school
BY JESS WISLOSKI DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Teachers and parents picketed a Far Rockaway school Wednesday to protest what they said were increasing outbursts of violence in the school.
Now there are elements of what Klein says he tried to do in here but with this plan the power doesn't reside on top but at the place where it is needed.
ICE is going to address this issue at Friday's meeting. I don't see how we will come to a conclusion at that point but the discussion will clarify things. Anyone interested, come on down. 4:30 at Murray Bergtraum HS.
And be sure to check out Meredith Kolodner's excellent piece in this week's Chief on the UFT Governance meeting last week featuring excellent points made by our buddies Josh Heisler (left) and Michael Fiorillo. Josh teaches at Vanguard HS in the Julia Richman Complex and has been part of the Teachers Unite Forum Planning Committee. Michael, one of ICE's founders, is CL at Newcomers HS in Queens. The article is posted at Norm's Notes.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Have you heard rumors that the 55/ 25 pension is being held up because those that be in charge want to raise the amount of money we would have to pay to opt in??
If you've heard anything, let us know.
When Weingarten announced the merit pay plan she said it was teamed with 55/25. Merit pay has been voted upon and is being put into effect while 55/25 pension plan is delayed. She spun this as a good thing at the last Del. Ass. – see, the longer the delay, the less you have to pay. But she promised there would not be one without the other. I'm just shocked she might have been a shade less than straightforward on this. Just shocked!
THIS JUST IN: Pension plan changed from 55/25 to 95/75. UFT argues this is a good thing as the DOE will allow those who die on the job to be buried on school grounds free of charge.
UPDATE: Sunday Feb. 3 from a CL:
At Middle school chapter leaders meeting last week, vp said that 55/25 is expected to be signed at the end of February or the beginning of March.
Will you be attending any of the UFT's meetings on the subject of mayoral control? I want to go, but after the last 2 contracts I always feel decisions are already made ahead of time and Randi will either support it or some version that still gives the mayor some power.
I think you may be right though there is some value in your going and reporting back to the gang here on what happened.
UFT events like this are basically venting mechanisms.
I missed the one at MLK HS in Manhattan last week which I wanted to attend. They are basically dog and pony shows like the high stakes testing committee was and that the UFT has a commitment to a system based on some form of mayoral control which they will not be moved off no matter what people say. Expect some tweaking of mayoral control. Remember, the UFT will support Bill Thompson for mayor and sell it as a way to have mayoral control with your own mayor.
When you say to Randi you are opposed to mayoral control she often will come back with : We don't want to go back to what we had.
I'm not so sure anymore.
The trick to is to come up with an alternative which we are beginning to struggle with in ICE. ICOPE is doing a bunch of stuff too. And we are going to do forums on this issue with Teachers Unite probably in the fall and we hope to attract teachers and parents. But I'm concerned that might be to late.
I've seen Lucy Woodward perform a few times and she is worth a visit. Her new album includes songs she co-wrote with Itaal Shur (who won a Grammy in 1999 for co-writing the song "Smooth", recorded by Santana).
Friday can be an afternoon of ICE (meeting at 4:30) and Lucy at 7:30.
Mom sent these pictures along.
Samples of the music can be heard on www.lucywoodward.com and on YouTube (e.g., Use What I Got) Geographical Cure and Slow Recovery
And almost every one of the coaches of the 142 teams in NYC that have participated this year have stories to tell about the kids that were changed by this experience.
Photo by Gary Israel at Saturday's robotics tournament at Riverbank State Park.
The Bronx robotics story is worth expanding upon beyond the Ridder kids.
I was working with people doing a video for FIRST in Atlanta last April at the Word Festival (among teams from almost every state, int'l teams included Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel and teams from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong - FIRST might solve world problems) and we interviewed the Principal, Claralee Irobunda who said she would have robotics throughout the school and curriculum if it was possible. Think the DOE "test 'em every minute of the day" program interferes?
Laura Rodriguez has been a major supporter of this program from the time she was a District and then a regional Supt and now as the head of a Learning Support Network. She hired Gary Israel.
Gary has put together a massive operation in the Bronx along with 5th year teacher Evan Weinberg (a Tufts engineering grad who became a teaching fellow and teaches at Lehman HS), a bunch of engineering students from Columbia organized by the amazing Wayne Penn who is now in a Phd program in Boston in medical engineering and also working for FIRST founder Dean Kamen on the artificial arm project. Wayne comes down to NYC constantly to help out and was at our tournament at Riverbank State Park this past Saturday.
They provide the kind of support for the schools with training for teachers and kids that exists in very few places (other than in Region 4 when it existed) and it has survived all the reorganizations.
A whole bunch of us are going to Tokyo at the end of April with the Ridder Kids and possibly another NYC team for the Asian Open FIRST LEGO League tournament.
To their credit, the NYCDOE press office played a very supportive role in working with the Times on this story. Thanks to David Cantor and Maibe González Fuentes for their work on this - now you skeptics who say it was an obviously feel-good story, stop rolling your eyes. I've been doing this stuff for 6 years and this is first time they've showed an interest.
You can track NYC robotics doings at my other blog:
What would be the grad rate today?
Were they worried about the upcoming Y1.9K problem?
UPDATE: Wed 7am
This came late last night and I didn't see it in context. John Lawhead scoped this out for ICE-mail as a hoax. View it as part of the attack on today's education system in an attempt to brand today's teachers and students as failures. What % of the entire US population in 1895 do you think could have passed this?
Go to: http://www.snopes.com/language/document/1895exam.asp
Anonymous from email
Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895?
This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina , Kansas , USA . It was taken from the original docu ment on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina , KS , and reprinted by the Salina Journal.
8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS, 1895
Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the pa rts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of "lie", "play", and "run."
5. Define case; illustrate each case.
6. What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic (Time, 65 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of w heat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per meter?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent. < /STRONG>
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus .
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States .
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas .
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865.
Orthography (Time, one hour) (Do we even know what this is???)
1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, and syllabication.
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, sub vocal, diphthong, cognate letters, and lingual.
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' (HUH?)
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi-, dis-, mis-, pre-, semi-, post-, non-, inter-, mono-, and sup-.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)
1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North A merica
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia , Odessa , Denver , Manitoba , Hecla , Yukon , St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco .
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of: Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10 . Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.
Could they have filled in a bubble answer sheet?
Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete. Gives the saying "he only had an 8th grade education" a whole new meaning, doesn't it? This also shows you how poor our education system has become... and, NO! We don't have the answers.
Ed Note: Our commentator takes the opportunity to slam current ed. But could those 8th graders text message?
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
The department's deputy chancellor for finance and administration, Kathleen Grimm, said last week that her staff began brainstorming cuts about two months ago, in November.
No principals have yet been informed of the cuts.A Department of Education spokesman, David Cantor, said they would be informed in the next few days.
Hmmm! Let's see. November, December, January, almost February. Bet if not for Green's article they wouldn't hear in May.
Featured in Green's article is Brian (Leavy) De Vale, principal of PS 257 who is one of the first principals to lay out the BloomKlein regime with a roundhouse right and couple of left hooks – a sure sign that lame duck status is descending on the BloomKlein era.
A few more choice quotes from the Green piece:
[De Vale] listed several multimillion-
dollar expenses the Department of Education might cut from its central office budget instead, including ramped-up testing; a new data warehousing program called ARIS, and a process of reviewing schools through an outside contractor based in Britain. The ARIS system is costing the Department of Education $12.2 million this year, and the review process is costing $5.9 million, Mr. Cantor said. The new interim tests were to cost $80 million over five years.
To save money, Mr. Bloomberg's budget calls for scaling back the tests to four a semester from five. Mr. Klein hails all three programs as innovations that put
schools ahead of the country in terms of their ability to individualize teaching. New York City
In an interview yesterday, Mr. De Vale, whose school received an A grade on its progress report, said the emphasis on data did not match his priorities. "We don't spend our day looking at flow- charts," he said. "My priority is keeping kids off the street."
The criticisms come a week after Mr. Klein released a survey showing wide approval among principals for the programs Mr. De Vale disparaged.
The survey was given anonymously, and about 70% of principals responded.
Mr. De Vale said the results were distorted because many principals were not under the impression that their answers were actually anonymous.
"This is a climate of fear," he said. "Principals don't speak the truth."
I knew Brian [as Leavy] when he worked for the District 14 office and he became principal just as they folded the districts. Brian was part of the old machine in the district and is proof that not all was bad in the old regime. I have lots of friends who work at PS 257 and there are only raves for Brian as a principal. I won't go into the reasons that he is such a good leader because having teachers, parents and children love you doesn't fit the Tweed model corporate type.
Kudos to Green for following up on the Klein press conference we both attended last week where Klein Kvelled about how wonderful principals thought he was doing. The rest of the press corps I'm sure sat there thinking Klein must be Bubble Boy if he thinks those surveys were really honest since principals have such mistrust in Tweed, sure their responses are being tracked, yet did not try to follow up on the possibility these surveys were a sham. The cracks are beginning to show, thanks to Green's work.
Make sure to check out NYC educator's take on this issue today.
Please share with all of the people with whom you shared the earlier email to thank them. The support of the people on your e-mailing list was overwhelming, and the DOE officials acknowledged that “their phone was ringing of the hook all day.” They called it off. I had forgotten how many good friends I had. And, thanks for those, like Luis Reyes, who immediately defended the integrity of the movement when someone questioned it – as well as Mickey, Luis Garden, Angelo Falcon and Lillian.
The parents communicated to Olivia Ellis that an apology must come from the Department of Education to all the parents of PS 84, particularly to the more than 350 concerned parents who attended the meeting last Thursday and heard Quail describe a the plan to displace the children of PS 84.
See ednotes' previous posting on PS 84 here.
Monday, January 28, 2008
- When? Monday.
- RR group, Teachers4Action, growing by leaps and bounds.
- Randi and UFT not supporting teachers. Writes letter to elected officials disavowing suit.
- Randi is sent "cease and desist" letter by lawyer who accuses her of attempting to undermine RR teachers.
- Details to follow as they come in. I'll put a direct link to this posting on the upper right corner of the blog, so check back.
That the UFT will oppose any independent action on the part of teachers is a given. Unless they can coopt it like they did the rally at the PEP in November. Remember the mantra: The "job" of the UFT leadership is to control the members and dampen any militancy that might arise in the rank and file.
I believe both the DOE and the UFT are working together to eliminate the rubber room, not for good reasons, but to find a way to keep people away from each other so such militancy won't occur again. The key was the favorable mainstream press some of the outrageous cases were getting, which embarrasses both Tweed and the UFT.
Who knows? Maybe there is enough anger to cause a lot more people than have come in the past to stand outside the Delegate Assembly on Feb. 6 and tell people what is going on.
Tonight, another group, TAGNYC, will be at the PEP at Tweed to give Klein a lecture.
Check out Chaz's School Daze for his Jan. 21 report.
UPDATE: I only have pdf's and jpegs of Randi's Jan. 16 letter to elected officials. I am working to get them clear enough to read and will post them below Fagan's letter later today. Fagan nails a bunch of stuff in this excerpt:
teachers were forced to take action because, in part of the UFT’s failings to do its job to protect teachers. Unfortunately, you did not see fit to provide a copy of your response to my clients and instead circulated your proposals in a typical political maneuver.
Via Fax # 23 January 2008
Randi Weingarten, President
United Federation of Teachers
New York, NY 10004
Re: Teachers4Action et al v. Bloomberg et al 08-cv-0548 (VM)
Dear Ms. Weingarten,
I represent Teachers4Action in the above referenced matter. We have just received a copy of the letter you circulated to elected officials on Jan.16, 2008 in response to my clients’ Jan. 15, 2008 letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein.
My clients’ Jan. 15th letter was faxed to you to inform you of our/their demands and actions. My client’s letter was sent so that you would realize the seriousness of the problems that exist, the immediate, irreparable and ongoing damages that the teachers are suffering and the fact that the teachers were forced to take action because, in part of the UFT’s failings to do its job to protect teachers. Unfortunately, you did not see fit to provide a copy of your response to my clients and instead circulated your proposals in a typical political maneuver. Your Jan. 16th letter illustrates (i) the failures of the UFT to address these problems and (ii) the UFT’s knowledge and failure to take action related to the ongoing damages which Teachers4Action members suffer because of the "Rubber Room“ practices. Your Jan. 16th letter also underscores the need for the above referenced complaint filed by Teachers4Action.
My clients and I consider your Jan. 16th letter as an attempt to undermine their efforts to protect their rights. Your Jan. 16th letter gives the impression that you have labored long and hard to find a solution for my clients and the other teachers and DOE staff who have been, or continue to be, caught up in the mayor’s and the DOE’s scheme to reduce salaries by getting rid of senior teachers. However, the truth is that my clients and Teachers4Action members were forced to take action because you and the UFT failed them and violated your obligations to them.
My clients demand that you and the UFT advise us immediately that you will (i) cooperate with and support Teachers4Action members individual rights to protect themselves and prosecute these claims; (ii) stop interfering with/undermining legitimate efforts of teachers who are UFT members to protect their own rights and interests; (iii) stop misrepresenting what actions the UFT has and has not taken related to teachers in “Rubber Rooms”; (iv) cease and desist interfering in Teachers4Action’s efforts to protect themselves and their members; and (v) immediately produce any and all UFT correspondence, letters, emails, faxes, computer stored records and other documents related to “Rubber Rooms” dating back to 1999.
We look forward to receipt of your direct, full and prompt response to this letter.
Edward D. Fagan
A Magnet School for the Visual Arts
250 Berry Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
MEDIA ADVISORY FOR JANUARY 30 at 12 PM:
Contact: Jaime Estades 347.446.5786
CHANCELLOR KLEIN JOINS GENTRIFICATION PROCESS
IN WILLIAMSBURG IN A SECRET ‘SEPARATE BUT EQUAL’ POLICY
At the January 24, 2008 meeting of the PTA of P.S. 84, more than 350 incredulous parents and teachers heard District 14 Superintendent Quail confirm that the Department of Education plans to place a separate elementary school within the building of P.S. 84, an existing elementary school serving minority children within the same grades as the proposed school. Quail stated that the new school is in response to the demands of a group of overwhelmingly white parents who have recently moved into the Williamsburg community and who have demanded their own school to provide them with additional “options and choices” -- by eliminating the “options and choices” of the predominantly Latino and African American children of P.S. 84.
This is a clearly discriminatory decision with no policy or social justification, and in which P.S. 84’s school administration and families were not consulted or notified. P.S. 84 children will be over-crowded in fewer classrooms, teachers will lose their jobs, the school will lose many enriching educational programs, students will have less access to its computer lab and other resources and the children will suffer the effects of negative stigma as a result of this segregation which will send our City back 120 years! P.S. 84 welcomes the integration of newcomers’ children into our school, without the creation of a separate school. This plan endangers our children’s education, safety and self esteem!
WHO: PTA and Community of P.S. 84
WHAT: Press Conference to Protect the Children of P.S. 84
WHEN: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 (12:00 P.M.)
WHERE: 250 Berry Street (corner of South 1st Street) Brooklyn
I watched the neighborhood gentrify but PS 84 is still mostly an Hispanic school with some special ed classes. Over time we expected that some new parents would start sending their kids to the school but this sounds like pure segregation.
Reminds me of the time a Hasidim group of kids were put into PS 16 (not that far away on Bedford) about 30 years ago and the Superintendent ordered a wall to be built to keep the 2 populations from coming into contact with each other. It led to a boycott of some kind by the Hispanic community and the wall was taken down.
I will try to be at PS 84 on Wed. maybe with a video camera. If anyone wants to come, take the L to Bedford Ave. Walk north a few blocks to Grand St. trying to avoid becoming overly hip as this is the epicenter of hipsterdom in The Burg. Go left for one block to Grand and Berry. School is on the corner. Walk one block on Berry to South 1st.
This blog can get pretty negative about what's going on in the NYC school system but working on these projects and being with so many people active in a positive way is a great counterweight. We even had cooperation in getting the word out from the DOE publicity department. Due to their efforts, look for a profile of a team in the NY Times this week.
Everybody is in a good frame of mind at FLL events and here I schmooze with the principal of Bronx Latin HS, which won 4th place overall.
Hōs successus alit; possunt, quia posse videntur.
('Success nourishes them; they can because they think they can.')
Photo by Gary Israel
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Given Barack Obama's stated enthusiasm for merit pay, I thought there might be things we needed to know about his relationship to renaissance 2010 in Chicago. Therefore, I e-mailed George Schmidt, since he would be in a position to know. Below is his response.
Subject: Re: Obama/Renaissance2010
Here are the facts:
1. The election of Barack Obama to the U.S. Senate was a blow against white supremacy and all of us should cheer. The election of Barack Obama to the U.S. Presidency would be the same, on the world scale. I don't think we can overestimate its importance. The man is qualified – or more qualified - than about half the politicians who have been elected to that office during the past 140 years, and certainly better by far than any of the last four Republicans. (My family always told me to consider Dwight Eisenhower in a different way, since both my parents served in World War II).
Having struggled against white supremacy, racism, and racial segregation all my adult life, I'm in wonderment about how this is developing.
2. There has been no difference between Barack Obama and Mayor Richard M. Daley on any of the corporate "school reform" plans foisted on Chicago since Daley pioneered the "mayor control" dictatorial model of school governance (thanks to a vote of a Republican dominated Illinois General Assembly, a la the Gingrich Congress) in 1995.
3. Despite the fact that many community leaders and even some public
officials have challenged Mayor Daley on "Renaissance 2010" -- especially the wholesale relocation of children as schools were closed and often flipped for charter school use, Barack Obama was not public with any criticism of "Renaissance 2010." In fact, his positions are indistinguishable from Mayor Daley's or those of his Hyde Park neighbors and the people pushing privatization, charterization, and corporate "school reform" out of the University of Chicago and elsewhere in corporate Chicago. Rumor locally has been that Barack Obama has included Arne Duncan [the Joel Klein of Chicago] and others of that ilk in his informal educational brain trust.
Needless to say, he has no interest in hearing from critics of "Renaissance 2010" or from those of us who maintain that No Child Left Behind has to be abolished.
4. Barack Obama has close ties with a large number of corporate types who are happy with the Daley dictatorship. Most important of these is John Rodgers of Ariel Capital Management, which has placed Arne Duncan and one member of our seven member Board of Education at the "top" of the school system, despite the fact that Duncan had absolutely no experience, training, knowledge or credentials to head up a public school system. Obama's allies, in fact, were partly responsible for Duncan's quick rise to the top of the executive heap.
Ideologically, he seems to share the economic philosophy of the majority of his colleagues at the University of Chicago Law School -- and that is, ultimately, a very reactionary conservatism.
We may go further than this for Substance as we discuss our positions.
5. On the many occasions when I met Barack Obama while I was working for the Chicago Teachers Union, I found him amazingly charming, intelligent, and all of the other things that have brought him this far. He was a superior candidate for the Illinois Senate and for the U.S. Senate from Illinois. He was also, and always, a Chicago politicians, with all the deals that entails.
In those days during the early 2000s -- prior to Renaissance 2010 and prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama was a regular at Chicago Teachers Union events. He even came to the union offices to thank us all after he was elected to the U.S. Senate and prior to his national debut with that speech at the Democratic Convention. I have shaken his hand more times than I have shaken the hand of any politician, ever, and find him immensely likable.
We also have dozens of photographs of Barack Obama at various Democratic Party and union functions. As we've reported, one of the reasons Barack Obama is where he is today is that the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union in 2003 broke with the labor unions, via the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and endorsed Obama for the U.S. Senate nomination over Dan Hynes, a regular organization guy.
I personally had heated arguments about this with "regular" Democratic Party types (many of them friends) in the CTU during those months, and always countered the opposition to Obama with something like "Will you listen to the guy for a minute..."
6. I oppose Barack Obama's plans for health insurance, which in my opinion will continue the ruin of the American health care system that's developed since the "market" took over and greed ruled over the hypocratic oath. If "Sicko" were made today, there could be a very interesting piece devoted to an interview with Barack Obama.
7. I'm disappointed that his education policies will be in the same
neo-liberal vein, and I don't expect much from him on No Child Left Behind. Our position is that it must be abolished.
8. On February 6, in the Democratic Party Primary here, I will be voting for John Edwards or Dennis Kucinich. With rare exceptions, for the past 40 years I have voted as a Democrat, although sometimes holding my nose. Were there a viable socialist party contending for power in U.S. elections, I'd probably investigate that option deeply.
While I will doubtless vote for the candidate of the party who is running against the Republicans, it will be with a heavy heart, since I think the Presidential election will prove an even bigger disappointment than the Congressional election of November 2006. I worked the streets and all day election day in the Sixth Illinois Congressional District on that transformation on November 6, 2006, and we were not working for a compromise on the war in Irag. As you know if you read Substance closely, we covered the Obama speech against the Iraq war in Substance, both then and since. Most recently, we reprinted the actual text of that speech in Substance.
My one regret about that event is that we didn't take photographs of the speakers, foremost (now) among whom was Barack Obama.
Even in as strong a Republican district as the Sixth Illinois (where Henry Hyde had vacated his seat after decades of reactionary leadership in the U.S. House), the people we were dealing with were focused on many issues, most notably the war. Although our candidate (Tammy Duckworth, a disabled Afghan War vet) lost narrowly to the Republican, the intent of the voters was clear, and it was not to continue to compromise with Bush.
You may share this widely and freely with colleagues, comrades, friends, and anyone else who is asking about Obama's education stands.
Anyone who stands with Richard M. Daley is an enemy of public schools and public employee unions.
George N. Schmidt
I got an email recently from someone who has been somewhat screwed by the union but who wanted me to publish something with the following caveat because of my association with ICE.
"I'm uncomfortable about the factionalism in our union. I believe the city and the UFT leadership use the "divide and conquer" strategy successfully to keep us weak. Let's stay united!"
I'm not sure he is clear about who has to stay united when the leadership is part of the problem. This is the line Unity/New Action when we are called traitors to the union.
It is the union leadership that is aligned with BloomKlein against us but tries to make it seem they are on our side.
As long as your "let's stay united" includes Unity Caucus in the definition, there will be manipulation on this basis to defanging militancy. To me "staying united" means the people who feel there will never be changes until an alternative to Unity springs up.
I blame the union more than BloomKlein for what has happened because they have undermined any kind of adequate response.
So my political message is to constantly point to these things they do which contradicts what they say for the consumption of the members.
The UFT has many high priced consultants like Hillary's Howard Wolfson who advise the union on how to manage the membership. And for those who think Randi and co. are incompetent, when it comes to this they are extremely competent. But then again, that is what they devote most of their time and attention to.
Sometimes that does result in service and the union functioning like a union is supposed to. But that is only when forced and to some extent a corollary effect of trying to put out the fires of militancy when they arise.
graphic by DB
Here's one of the little nclb ditties going around. Some poor use of words in some of this - number 3 in particular - but the idea is a variation of many others out there.
1. All teams must make the state playoffs and all MUST win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held accountable. If after two years they have not won the championship their footballs and equipment will be taken away UNTIL they do win the championship.
2. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time, even if they do not have the same conditions or opportunities to practice on their own. NO exceptions will be made for lack of interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities of themselves or their parents. ALL KIDS WILL PLAY FOOTBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL!
3. Talented players will be asked to workout on their own, without instruction. This is because the coaches will be using all their instructional time with the athletes who aren't interested in football, have limited athletic ability or whose parents don't like football.
Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept in the 4th, 8th, and 11th game. This will create a New Age of Sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same minimum goals. If no child gets ahead, then no child gets left behind!
If parents do not like this new law, they are encouraged to vote for vouchers and support private schools that can screen out the non-athletes and prevent their children from having to go to school with bad football players.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Mary Theresa Lynn, Delegate from Newcomers High School
The January 16 Delegates' Assembly compels me to write to you:
Who wouldn't agree that the city's current mandatory testing policy is a nightmare? At the January 16 Assembly, The UFT Resolution on Assessment-Related Paperwork and Data Collection seemed like a good idea--until I closely examined the wording of the first WHEREAS (emphasis mine):
"WHEREAS, the data generated by these tests and assessments can be useful to teachers as a tool to enhance teaching and learning, the collection, collation and interpretation of this data can be time consuming and require specific skills, technology and resources often not available to teachers...."
Unless we agree that "test-prep" is now synonymous with "learning," which is just what the highlighted section of the resolution implies, we should find this clause in the resolution most disturbing. These tests are not reliable and the data generated by them is not useful to teachers and certainly not conducive to learning. In fact, these tests have had a disastrous effect on both teaching and learning.
I immediately raised my card to call for a friendly amendment to the resolution to omit the offensive clause. However, Randi seemed determined not to see me. In fact, she deliberately filibustered until my raised arm went numb. When I took my arm down to switch my card to the other hand, one of her minions called the resolution to a vote, even though at least two of us still wanted to voice our opposition and were still waving our cards frantically. A staffer who had seen me with my hand up from the start and had even approached me to politely wait for her to finish her rant stood nearby, but as I yelled, "Point of order," I was drowned out by Randi's, "Let's call the question. All in favor raise your cards" and the amens of others who were eager to move on after her filibuster. I was artfully--but very intentionally--ignored. She dodged my objections and steamrolled on.
My biggest concern on this one is that we will be "hung by our own words" somewhere down the line. Basically, the wording of the resolution that passed gives credence to the DOE's tests as "tools to enhance teaching and learning." What a public relations fiasco for us if proponents of high-stakes testing get their hands on the UFT's own words! How could the UFT validate these tests when we know the disastrous effect all of this test-prep has on teaching and learning?
Randi seemed like she was in an awful rush to call this one to question--she even started the meeting on time for a change, no doubt to leave room for Hilary's "surprise" call--which means she was well aware of the wording, and eager for others not to notice it. As a first-year delegate, I was surprised that there was so little vocal opposition to the wording of this resolution. And obviously, I was disappointed that the "Artful Dodger" had, once again, dodged her opponents. Her tactics at these meetings are becoming increasingly deplorable. Sometimes I feel like I'm being hustled in Three Card Monty.
Friday, January 25, 2008
The press briefing was all about the Principal Satisfaction survey and how much principals love what BloomKlein are doing so questions were limited to that.
I did find one area where 55% said they were dissatisfied with the amount of technology in their schools - as a tech person I've heard from my former colleagues that since Klein took over the state of computers has been a disaster in many schools and I tied the question to how can he expect teachers to check results of tests online during a limited school day when there's is such poor computer access and doesn't this mean they have to do it at home?
He responded that my info was based on urban legends. My next question would have been "Will you do a similar survey on teacher satisfaction." But wouldn't call on me again.
Klein claimed the Principal surveys were anon but one reporter told me they must be able to trace them - so even some of them are skeptical. In addition, every contact I have who talk to principals and even those above them - say they are very dissatisfied with the BloomKlein changes - other than those corporate types they've brought in.
I got an email from someone who reads my Wave columns and urged me to keep up the good work. Turns out that person actually works in some high position. There's unhappiness in the belly of the beast.
On a social note, our old friend Redhog was at the press briefing for the NY Teacher.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
UFT top level blogger City Sue put out a remarkable statement on Edwize "explaining" how and why the UFT knew about the "secret" DOE teacher rating plan focused on test scores. We'll have fun parsing this one later tonight in an update. But here is a first response from a correspondent on ICE-mail:
They are so worried that she had to "out" herself. Her post is truly unbelievable and pathetic -- we could put her own statement out as a leaflet to their own incompetence. They "promised it wasn't going to be used to evaluate teachers" to get the UFT on Board and to keep it secret and then the UFT figured out later on that this really wasn't the truth. Oh my god!Off to a Joel Klein press briefing for more truly unbelievable stuff.
Update: There's be an update on the press briefing to follow later.
Back to City Sue who reveals she is the UFT's Director of Policy Research. She can no longer try to pose as a teacher/blogger. I think I remember City Sue once saying something about the advantages in being an ATR when she was defending one of the recent contracts.
What exactly does a Director of Policy Research do? Almost sounds like one of the DOE's bullshit positions. The UFT needs a Director of ATR Research.
There's much defensiveness and obfuscation in City Sue's piece:
The UFT had been invited to join the panel only after President Weingarten had angrily refused to endorse the project last summer and had won a concession that results would not be used to evaluate any UFT member.Translation: Only due to our fearless leader who so intimidated Klein who clearly has proven he will do nothing without the endorsement of the UFT.
At that time, the union’s opposition to the relentless focus on high-stakes tests was the main reason for its objections to the experiment.
Translation: We showed out "opposition" by accepting a merit pay plan based on high stakes testing.
Initially, I was pleased to join the panel. I’d been reading so much about the controversy swirling around the usefulness of value-added (VA) analysis in developing fair and objective ways to evaluate teacher performance. For myself, I can’t remember ever having received an observation report that was truly helpful or thoughtful, and I’d received some that made it clear that the AP was reading his mail throughout my lesson. Maybe, I thought, VA would be an improvement. Hope springs eternal.
Translation: Has City Sue noticed the BloomKlein onslaught, fudging of stats and downright dishonesty in just about everything they've done. Hope springs eternal only if she's been living in a bubble, which is where Directors of Policy Research obviously live.
I am probably on this panel — indeed the panel itself was probably created — for one reason only — so the DOE can say that the UFT “participated” in the project, as they have done for the last couple of days.
Ahhhh! I see. The panel was created to entrap the UFT.
In today's emailbag was this:
I'm just amazed that they're surprised. Can't they predict the behavior of this administration yet? It's so transparent. What are they, a bunch of fucking morons?
It looks like NY Gov, Elliot Spitzer, who I did not vote for (I ignore the screeching charges of being a lousy citizen for not voting for what seems to be the better of poor choices), has made a deal with Sheldon Silver, who rules the NY State Assembly, one of the most corrupt political bodies in the world. (And so many are friends of our UFT, which I bet will be in favor of the deal.)
With a looming $4.4 billion deficit, the state legislators, who are the 3rd highest paid in the US, could possibly get a 21% raise if Silver gets his way. But, hey, there are only 212 of them, so it ought to be a drop in the bucket. The NY Times article says, "Mr. Spitzer’s move underscores the degree to which the once reform-focused governor is taking a more accommodating approach this year after spending much of last year mired in controversy."
I recently wrote about the Spitzer/Mark Green deal to transfer money between their families to circumvent campaign finance laws.
And that's right after Spitzer cut back on educational promises. (See Leonie Haimson's "Four things to hate about Spitzer's education proposal" on the NYC Education News listserve.)
The actions of politicians always leads me back to these words from those political geniuses, The WHO:
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
We might as well do the entire lyric which all of you should recite as you read the daily comings and goings of our candidates. (Make sure to include the screams. It will make you feel better.)
We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song
I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the foe, that' all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they all flown in the last war
I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
I'll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
For I know that the hypnotized never lie
There's nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now the parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight
I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Rather than argue the case against, we want to focus on the role, or lack of role the UFT has played.
With every passing day more and more teachers see that the UFT is not on their side but acts as an intermediary for the powers that be. In essence, they represent the interests of people like Bloomberg and Klein to the members, using obfuscation and confusion to give the members the impression they are on your side.
If you're asking why they function this way, we would have to delve into the history of the labor movement and the role union leaders have played to control the militancy of the members - militancy that could threaten their own power.
Randi Weingarten has known about the program for months but kept quiet about it - she claims she did not know the specific schools which we all know would have been easy for them to find out and warn the teachers. And even if they couldn't find out, a public exposure at the time would have allowed teachers in all schools to confront their principals and ask point blank if they were part of the program. That would have forced them to tell them or basically lie to their faces. At the very least the UFT could have thrown a monkey wrench into the DOE plans but chose the sounds of silence.
Therefore, view Randi Weingarten's words of outrage - I guess she wasn't all too outraged all these months - and promise to fight the plan as the usual empty words designed to obfuscate the issue and confuse the members.
Marjorie Stamberg has written a strong piece posted at the ICE blog:
DOE's Secret Plan for Merit Pay...Without the Pay!
Here are a few choice excerpts related to the UFT's role in all this:
Naturally they had to do it in secret.
The Times revealed that that the DOE has a program in which 2,500 teacher in 140 schools across the city are being evaluated on the basis of their students' test scores.
Did you know about this? Of course not. Because they've kept it under wraps. Now Randi has a statement out (on the UFT website), calling the secret program misguided and claiming it is in contradiction with the "commitment...to collaboration and working together.. in the School Wide Bonus Program." No, there's no contradiction--this is all part of the same program and the UFT leadership has acted as enablers.
The Times said that Randi Weingarten and the UFT knew about this secret program for months and said nothing to the teachers! In a quote, Randi said she could not reveal it because she was told "confidentially" by the DOE and did not know which specific schools were involved. She said she "had grave reservations about the project and would fight if the city tried to use the information for tenure or formal evaluations or even publicized it." (So now it's public--I wonder what she's going to do?)
But we should all ask our UFT reps what they knew about this secret plan and when they knew it.
As members of the UFT executive board, and as district UFT reps, were they informed about the existence of this program before today? Did they know about it when they were asking us to be part of this agenda? Or did Randi keep it from them as well?
Some of the best commentary is over at NYC Educator where his cohort Reality Based Educator did a piece yesterday - and make sure to read the comments.
ICE mail also had quite a bit of discussion and I'll put some of that up in a future post.
One of the themes of the Times piece is the usual "teacher quality is the most important determiner claptrap. Of course, Weingarten and her political cohorts the Clintons say this all the time, which puts the blame for failure clearly on the teacher. So I don't believe the UFT is against this plan philosophically.
But you know my view of Randi and the rest of the Unity Caucus crew is that they are 5th column collaborators, or, Vichyists, if you will.
Michael Fiorillo echos some of these thoughts in a post to ICE-mail:
Apparently, the UFT fundamentally seems to agree with them: rhetoric made for public consumption aside, they clearly support the "testing as achievement" regime, as confirmed by their support of a merit pay plan that enshrines testing, use of management-framed data in making tenure decisions, passivity regarding testing mandates stemming from NCLB, testing used in rating and school-closing decisions, etc.
This is what a "bi-partisan," "post-ideological" political landscape looks like: corporate self-interest and stealth privatization masquerading as "reform," and ambitious union misleaders helping them manage the transition.
Today's front page of the NY Times is a must read to remind everyone of the mean-spirited "politics of retaliation" of the Giuliani years as mayor. And it doesn't even mention the day care center forced out because a local City Councilman who backed it made some critical comments. Or how the entire "Neponsit Home for the Aged" in Rockaway was condemned on a moment's notice and the entire population terrorized as they were removed in a middle of the night raid. Supposedly because some real estate interests connected to Giuliani were interested in the prime beach front property. The place still remains shut down today.
No matter what you think of the Bush years in the White House, they will pale in comparison with the loss of democracy that would take place under Giuliani. Expect an immediate attempt to cancel the Bill of Rights.
What is notable is the use of the entire city force at the Mayor's disposal to go after even the mildest critics and the absolute and devastating fear Giuliani inspired in everyone around him.
Now, fear also exists in relation to Michael Bloomberg who also practices a less obvious politics of fear. That's only because he has the advantage of money and makes use of the fear factor in more subtle ways. Or, he just buys people. The story about how Giuliani would change the charter to keep Public Advocate Mark Green from taking office could be matched by the same relationship between Bloomberg and Betsy Gotbaum. Keeping her out of office is a major incentive Bloomberg has not to resign even if he runs for President.
The NY Times should hold onto this article for a few years and just change "Giuliani" to "Bloomberg," get a new cast of characters Bloomberg has retaliated against and republish it in a few years when the "all clear" is sounded.
Monday, January 21, 2008
"Hillary Clinton called Randi on her cell-phone and addressed the delegates from Nevada. The Union is clearly making a strong pitch for their endorsed candidate: Hillary. Comptroller Bill Thompson [who has been the UFT choice for Mayor for about 10 years - part of the support for mayoral control by the UFT] also spoke live to the Delegates in favor of Hillary."
I'm surprised Giuliani spouse Judy Nathan didn't call next. But Chicago Teacher Union President Marilyn Stewart did chip in.
Both Thompson and Stewart are Black.
The calls from Black leaders are part of the campaign to keep Blacks in the UFT from deserting Hillary for Obama.
Unity Caucus discipline will take care of Black members of the UFT Executive Board and Delegate Assembly. Watch the vote when the Hillary endorsement comes up at both bodies. It is hard to believe that not even one Unity Caucus Black member would not be for Obama, with polling numbers around the nation showing a massive drift of Black voters moving from Hillary to Obama since Iowa. Some numbers show 5 to 1.
But in the "democracy" in Unity Caucus, democratic centralism will suppress any sense of support for Obama. That doesn't mean an attempt won't be made to make a stand at the DA by both Black and White non-Unity Obama supporters. And it would be fun to watch some of the Unity faithful squirm around that one. Undercover Unity Obama supporters have got to be feeling some level of discomfort, especially Blacks who understand the historical significance of Obama's popularity across the board. Suppressing racial pride cannot be a good thing for Unity over the long-term.
Which just goes to show that there are some inherent contradictions within Unity and what looks monolithic, can develop cracks when Weingarten is no longer around to keep her hand on the trigger.
Which leads us to a discussion of last week's fascinating piece by Elizabeth Green on Randi's successor. Look for our comments later this week.
Some more tidbits from the ICE DA report:
ICE has not taken a position on the Democratic Primaries so further comment is not called for here.
Let me guarantee here that knowing the people in ICE, there is no way in hell ICE will take a position on the primaries but will point out how the UFT leadership will manipulate the members into an all out Hillary endorsement. Don't be shocked at a visit from Hillary to the DA at some point (as she did in 2000.)
Finally, the Union announced its Principals in Need of Improvement program. This was introduced by new Staff Director Leroy Barr. He called up to the podium multiple members from three schools who told horror stories about principals from hell. The schools were Acorn High School for Social Justice...
Is this the same Acorn that has an alliance with the UFT? I may be wrong and the school with Acorn's name on it might have little to do with the UFT buddy Acorn.
Apparently not. See comment #1 for clarification from a reader.
Happy, tired Arabella at: The Cobra Youth Foil Competition (individual) -- Cobra Fencing 1/19/08
First place Y12 First place Y14
Number of bottles of Vitamin Water consumed - 7
Number of colored rubber bands that popped off braces - 3
Number of hours it took to fence and win both competitions - 9
Toughest bout - finals of Y12 with Jessie Laffey from Cobra Fencing
Person we are most grateful to:
Steve Kaplan head of Cobra Fencing for graciously providing Arabella with weapon when she managed to leave all of hers locked in her locker at her own fencing club by accident.
Number of brand new fencing shoes Arabella managed to destroy in 48 hours (Cobra Foil and Cobra Challenge the next day) - 1 pair (completely torn apart)
Number of hours slept after competition - 13
Number of days til next big event at Cobra - 30 (the New York Super Regionals - Feb 22-24)
Arabella way back then on the cruise ship