Thursday, February 28, 2008

Rubber Room Movie Team on Chicago Public Radio

UPDATE: Listen to 880 AM in NYC on Saturday March 1 at 11am for the program.

Greetings all,
We are pleased to announce that Chicago Public Radio's This American Life, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program with an estimated 1.7 million listeners, is teaming up with Five Boroughs to do a radio segment on New York City's Rubber Rooms. The radio segment, entitled "Human Resources", will air beginning this Friday, February 29th, and will feature audio from Five Boroughs Productions film footage as well as original interviews conducted by This American Life producers. This American Life is an award winning radio program, recognized time and time again for excellence in journalism, and we at Five Boroughs could not be more thrilled to be working with them.
Copy and paste the following links into your browser address bar:

Find This American Life broadcast times and stations in your area:

"Human Resources". (Once the show has aired you can stream the broadcast free at this link):

Jeremy Garrett
Executive Producer
Five Boroughs Productions

If you want to contribute to the project, contact Jeremy at:

The RR movie trailer can be accessed here.

ARIS Smashed

See Comment #4 for letter from David Yasky and Robert Jackson calling for ARIS contract to be cancelled.

Remember the famous spoof of 1984 with that Apple Super Bowl commercial attacking IBM with all those lemmings going over the cliff? (You can watch it here.)

They landed at Tweed.

(Many years ago I said that one day Joel Klein would be taken out of Tweed with his coat over his head – I half expected to see him among the Gambino Family crowd. Maybe he will be joined by Chief Accountability Officer Jim Liebman.)

Poor ARIS, Joel Klein's $80 million white elephant. Getting trashed all over the place.

Gary Babad is back with a satire over at NYC Public School Parents Blog "DOE Plans Billion Dollar ARIS Upgrade."

I attended a press conference a few years ago when Klein announced how data would be accumulated for teachers to use. Based on my knowledge of the state of computer access in schools (which has suffered severe deterioration under BloomKlein) and the state of available time available during the school day for teachers to check such data (which has also suffered severe deterioration under BloomKlein) I raised this issue with Klein:

"The reality on the ground, is that teachers will not be able to access all this other than on their oen time at home, and that is just not real." Klein just shucked the question off (I guess he figured threats to send teachers to the rubber room for not burning the midnight oil at home checking the ARIS data would suffice.)

Shame on the NYC press corps for ignoring this issue.

ARIS has also been taking hits from the pros. When the system was announced a year ago, the juiceanalytics blog called it an $80 million super mugging.

Ah, the sweet smell of a swindle. Don't you just hate it when consulting companies cajole deals with hand-wringing about technology and, especially, preying on clients' lack of expertise?

Teachers are underpaid, hardly appreciated, and overworked. I can only wonder what the half-life is of a system that asks teachers to log on to get information delivered by the "chief accountability officer."

A new blog post follows up at It is worth repeating in full.

How to Feel Better About Your Data Warehouse Fiasco

Here’s a little predictive analytics:

About a year ago I took a swipe at the “$80 million supercomputer to analyze NYC student achievement.” It smelled more like a super sales job than a super useful analytical tool.

At the time I had said:

Teachers are underpaid, hardly appreciated, and overworked. I can only wonder what the half-life is of a system that asks teachers to log on to get information delivered by the “chief accountability officer.”

Well, it appears that things haven’t gone that smoothly with the supercomputer. Today I received a link from Leonie Haimson, a NYC education advocate, to a story entitled SCHOOLS COMPUTER AN $80M ‘DISASTER’.

Not only has the supercomputer struggled to gain much traction with users (“The school system’s new $80 million computer super system to track student performance has been a super debacle, teachers and principals say.”), it has coincided with severe budget cuts.

We see these data warehousing problems all the time with our clients, and the NYC supercomputer displays all the hallmarks:

  • Delivery delays: Nearly six months after the Department of Education unveiled the “first of its kind” data-management system, the city’s 80,000 teachers have yet to log on because of glitches and delays.
  • Bad user experience: Many principals have complained that it runs slowly, lacks vital information, and is often too frustrating to use.
  • Complicated training and set-up: School officials were hoping to have everyone hooked up and trained within monthsdelays in creating IDs and passwords for teachers
  • Trying to do too much; delivering too little: The principal added that she preferred to get student information from a combination of old data systems “rather than wait for ARIS to churn and churn and churn and maybe give me half the report I need.”
  • Massive cost: Complaints about the expensive system - on which nearly $35 million has been spent so far - have gotten louder since the city unceremoniously chopped $100 million from individual school budgets last month.
  • And yet, few success anecdotes to justify the investment: ARIS had already enabled her data team to analyze the performance trends of the school’s many English-language learners.

It does offer one thing that I haven’t seen before: a Chief Accountability Officer.

A Short Guide to the WTO, the Millennial Round, and the Rumble in Seattle

With NAFTA becoming a major part of the political campaign between Clinton and Obama, I remembered Ed Notes re-printing an article about free trade. It was shortly before the WTO meeting in Seattle and cleared up a number of misconceptions I had and forced me to confront my basic instinct to be a supporter of unfettered free trade. After all, we were taught in high school and college economics that a major reason for the Great Worldwide Depression of the 1930's was the restriction of free trade (the Hoot-Smalley tariff bill was a major villain we were told.) Then came the riots that disrupted the conference and shook downtown Seattle like no earthquake could. I guess the powers that be never read Elaine Bernard's article.

While not stated, applications of market-based and corporate agendas to education systems can be implied.

Ed Notes reprint from the Jan. 2000 edition

A Short Guide to the WTO, the Millennial Round, and the Rumble in Seattle
By Elaine Bernard
November 24, 1999

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is coming to Seattle at the end of November and tens of thousands of labor, environmental, and progressive activists are organizing to give them a hot reception. There are thousands and thousands of pages out there - on the net, in progressive journals, articles, even books, on the WTO. But rather like trade agreements themselves, sometimes the very volume of materials available on the topic overwhelms the uninitiated reader. So, I thought I would put together a quick guide to the WTO, to the Seattle meeting, and to the various debates within the progressive community on the WTO.

What is the WTO?
It’s an international organization of 134 member countries which is both a forum for negotiating international trade agreements and the monitoring and regulating body for enforcing the agreements. The WTO was created in 1995, by the passage of the provisions of “Uruguay Round” of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Prior to the Uruguay Round, GATT focused on promoting world trade by pressuring countries to reduce tariffs. But with the creation of the WTO, this corporate inspired agenda was significantly ratchet up by targeting so-called “non-tariff barriers to trade” - essentially any national or local protective legislation which might be construed as impacting trade.

So, Aren’t we in favor of regulation?
Sure, but not the type of regulation proposed by the WTO, a powerful body of un-elected bureaucrats, who deliberate in secret with an aim to turning the entire world into one big market. Officially, the WTO has two main objectives: to promote and extend trade liberalization (by breaking down national “barriers” to trade), and to establish a mechanism for trade dispute settlement.

In practice, the WTO is seeking to deregulate international commerce and break open domestic markets for foreign investors. Its rule making seeks to free corporations from government regulation which would constitute a barrier to trade. It permits relatively unrestricted movement of money, capital, goods and services, while at the same time providing investors and corporations with extensive protection of their property rights. It even extends corporate property rights through the so called “intellectual properties” provisions. Intellectual property as defined by trade agreements is not about the creative powers of intellectuals. Rather, it is about protecting corporate ownership and monopoly over the patenting of plants, processes, seed varieties, drugs, and software. The intellectual property provisions are just one example of how there is extensive protectionism in this so-called “free trade” regime - but protection for corporations and punitive market discipline for workers, consumers and small farmers.

Freedom for Capital, Market Discipline for Labor
Here’s an example of WTO thinking. The WTO says that they can not deal with social issues, only “trade” forgetting that once you start to deal with trade in services, you are indeed dealing with many social issues. It says that it can only regulate “product” not “process.” With labor and environmental standards, what we normally regulate is process. It’s been an important acquisition of the labor, consumer, and environmental movements in recent years to move beyond the simple regulation of end product and regulate process - how things are made. It is in the very production methods that we can improve safety, eliminate hazards and develop cleaner processes. The difference between a shirt produced by sweated labor under near slave like conditions and a shirt produced by union labor under decent conditions isn’t readily obvious in the packaging (the end product) but rather its observed in the monitoring of the “process” of how the shirt is produced.

By contrast, when the WTO sees the interest of investors and capital threatened - it can spring into action and be quite powerful in its enforcement. So, for example, when workers are being forced to work with flagrant violation of labor law and safety codes, the WTO says there is nothing it can do. But let these same workers illegally produce “pirate” videos, or CDs (challenging a corporations copyright) and the WTO can spring into action sanctioning all sorts of actions against the offending country - in order to protect a corporations “intellectual property.”

Ok, back to Seattle, what is the millennium round?
The WTO wants to continue its campaign of trade liberalization and in particular it wants to increase the trade in services - including public services. Unfortunately, this means further turning over services such as health care, education, water and utilities to markets and international competition and undermining and destroying local control and protection of communities.

What’s the problem with markets?
Markets are fine, in their place, but they must not be permitted to replace social decision-making. Markets should not be confused with democratic institutions. Markets, for example, might be useful in determining price of goods, but they should not be mechanisms for determining our values as a community. Markets are oblivious to morals and promote only the value of profit.

So, what do we want to do about the WTO?
Resistance to the free trade agenda and the continual drive to undermine social decision-making and democracy is the basis of unity for all the groups protesting the WTO. Beyond that profound and important agreement, there are wider differences about what to do about the WTO.

Resisters want to abolish the WTO
Some of the groups coming to Seattle are supporters of the resistance movement - arguing that the trade liberalization program of the WTO is fundamentally flawed and we would be better simply abolishing this dangerous organization. They argue for building the global resistance and constructing global solidarity from below.

Reformers believe they can transform the WTO
Others, in particular much of organized labor argue that while the WTO trade liberalization program is deeply flawed, it’s now well established as a powerful organization and that the concept of negotiated trade regulation is vital to the health and welfare of the world community. They argue that if core labor rights, environmental protections, and what the Europeans refer to as a “social clause” was inserted into the WTO’s mandate and practice that it could be transformed.

Resisters, reformers and rebels from around the globe will be gathering in Seattle later this month in a remarkable international solidarity action challenging the WTO’s corporate agenda. While there are important tactical differences in approaches to the WTO, there is also a fair degree of unity in action and in identifying the WTO as an important global institution promoting policies which are contributing to the growth of inequality and the undermining of democracy. The protest in Seattle maybe be both the last major, international demonstration of the century and the beginning of a new powerful global solidarity movement.

Elaine Bernard is Executive Director, Harvard Trade Union Program. Copyright (c) 1999 Elaine Bernard.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Quality Teachers vs. Small Class Size

All you need to control this crowd is a quality teacher.
The so-called Education reformers always pose demands for lower class sizes in terms of, "We will need so many more teachers and so many of them will be of lower quality, the impact of lower class sizes will be negated."

Of course, they always start off with the usual (say this out loud with your lips pursed):

Teacher quality is the single most important determiner of a child's education.

Ugh! Like either you're a quality teacher or you're not. No recognition of the impact on quality by conditions like class size, kids with problems, etc.

Unfortunately, the leadership of the UFT/AFT axis and most politicians have bought into this, which naturally leads to the "let's blame the teacher" and "It's all about professional development" and ultimately to a deskilling of teachers -- let's make teaching teacher proof - and what better way that teach to tests?

Two articles are worth taking a look at, both based on studies in England. "How Much Do Smaller Class Sizes Improve Teaching" here and Ed Week's "Teaching Quality Matters" .

There will always be a bell curve in any job.
Maybe we should not hold elections until we are sure all politicians are superior?
Or fight fires until all firemen are tops?
Close hospitals till all doctors are high quality?
Close down the legal system unless you can get Clarence Darrow?
Quality Lawyers? Quality Judges? - give me a break?
Or not put police on the street until we measure their effectiveness? They get credit in NYC for cutting crime by putting lots of police (did they measure their quality beforehand?) on the street.
So how come everyone is focused on quality teachers?
Because it's an excuse to do ed reform on the cheap.

Many teachers do struggle with things like control due to large classes. Many are well intentioned but the job is overwhelming. And there are superior people who can handle it all but we will never get all teachers to be superior - not with merit pay or no matter how much they are paid.

What strikes me is that the cost is always raised by people who didn't blink when enormous money appeared miraculously to fight a war. Imagine how demands for the same amount would be met as throwing good money away if a war on education neglect were declared.

A parent wrote on the nyceducation listserve:

I am not an educator, but a parent. I have had three children go through the public education system from Pre-K to High School. I can attest on a personal level smaller classes provide a better learning environment. The article cites the teachers we have as all being superior, or according to them we should get rid of the less than superior teachers and have the superior teachers teach to classes of 50 or 100. Since they are so good they can do that. Rather, in our current system, we have some superior, some good and some mediocre teachers. So baring the idea that we can just do away with the mediocre teachers, then wouldn't it be better for a mediocre teacher to be teaching to a class of 20 rather than 30. Maybe the less than perfect teacher would find the lower class size conducive to improving their teaching as they could then spend more time with each child. This seems to me like common sense, something sadly lacking in much of this ongoing debate.
Another parent followed with:

The other thing is that large classes cause much higher rates of attrition – so that you end up getting less experienced and less able teachers as a result and most high-needs, overcrowded schools. 50% of teachers said that large classes caused them to leave the profession – and in national surveys they say the best incentive program to attract them to and keep them working at high-needs schools would be small classes.

Are Merrow Reports on PBS Fair and Balanced?

Reports on Paul Vallas - the uber Klein - check the state of the Chicago and Philly and now New Orleans schools as he goes on his path of destruction of public education.

And Klein Klone Michelle Rhee who may actually face push back from a union (as Andres Alonso is finding in Baltimore) and school boards. But maybe not.

Are the Merrow reports and podcasts fair and balanced? He's based in NYC. When will he take on the BloomKlein story or is that too delicate in that he might have to actually hear the voices on these listserves?

At the bottom of his emails:
Funding for our podcasts is provided by the Annenberg, William & Flora Hewlett, Bill & Melinda Gates and Wallace Foundations.

Ooops! Guess not!

The story on Michele Rhee a few weeks ago was so narrow - like the issue is merely about the right to fire people without due process or to close schools. There are much bigger issues here that go beyond Washington. The use of the term "failing" schools is an excuse for the Eli Broads and Bill Gates' to be part of a private takeover of urban schools. Basically, urban parents and teachers are being put under the dictatorship of one person while suburban get to control their schools.

Hey BUB!
Merrow advertises the videos on you tube using the expression "bloated and unresponsive bureaucracies." How ironic when that is exactly what Joel Klein and ultimately Michelle Rhee will create. While we always have BUBs - and many private corps do too - (ie. Microsoft compared to Google) what BUB often means is that true educators are saying "NO" to gimmicky reforms.

The Rhee report left out all the connections between the assault on parents and teachers going on in urban centers by Joel Klein, Andres Alonso, Rhee, Paul Vallas. Why not look at the results of this phony "reform" movement in Chicago which has had 13 years of it where Vallas played a major role? How did Vallas ultimately do there? In Philly? Now New Orleans?

Where are the stories of the St. Louis schools system after the A&M consultants came in? Now they too are in New Orleans after taking away a king's ransom from New York.

I'm sure without even knowing anything about Washington that Rhee has used high priced consultants and funneled money to all kinds of profiteers and privateers while cutting schools - bet she used consultants to tell her which ones to cut. Maybe even A&M.

There's a major story here in NYC that the national press, in it's fantasy of the phony reform movement wants to ignore. It is about the immense failures of Bloomberg and Klein. And the cover ups, etc. Why not try to get info on exactly what they spend on consultants, etc.? The Kremlin was easier.

I am posting at Norm's Notes a recent Merrow podcast announcement and a selection of examples from the voices of teachers and parents in NYC that illustrate the absolute either out and out incompetence of Tweed or even worse, a bloated and unresponsive bureaucracy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

UFT Undermining Rubber Room Suit, Teachers Charge

UPDATE: Thurs. Feb. 28 from Boubakar Fofana:

You make grave statements without naming your source. Who told you that "NYSUT lawyers withdraw from active 3020a hearings of plaintiffs" ?
"Teachers4action being criticized by some for putting people in jeopardy."
By "some" ? Again, what is your source ? Teachers4action put people in jeopardy by suing the DOE and the UFT ? How ?
This is absurd because the plaintiffs are the Teachers4action and Teachers4action is the collective name for the plaintiffs.
The UFT has a fiduciary obligation to protect its members and provide them with legal representation in the 3020a proceedings.You certainly know that.

I have news for you : I am a plaintiff and the following correspondence is proof of the fallacy of the piece you call breaking news. I do hope that you will make a correction on your blog :
"Boubakar Fofana" <> 2/21/2008
Mr. Cavallaro,
It is not easy for me to walk away from someone I am comfortable with, and whose professionalism is quite remarkable. Given the circumstances we discussed yesterday, I believe my interests will be better served if a private attorney represents me in the 3020a proceedings, although I don't understand the rationale for the NYSUT making the choice for me.
Boubakar Fofana

Thu, 21 Feb 2008 15:52:15 -0500
"Antonio Cavallaro" <>
"Boubakar Fofana" <>
"Claude Hersh" <>,
"James Sandner" <>
Re: Private Attorney
Mr. Fofana,
Thank you for your compliments. I appreciate that this was not an easy decision for you to make and that there is nothing personal in your decision. As I mentioned to you yesterday, our policy is that if we pay for the representation provided we must choose the attorney that provides that representation in order to ensure that the quality of representation meets our very exacting standards. Once that attorney is secured by this office, we have no right to oversee or direct the representation in any fashion, despite the fact that we will be paying that attorney's fees. However, we still have the responsibility, to ensure that the representation is ethically and competently provided. The only way we can meet our responsibilities under those circumstances, is to choose the attorney who will provide that representation ourselves. As I mentioned to you when we discussed this issue yesterday, if you wish for NYSUT to cover the costs of the representation, that is an absolute pre-requisite. I am sorry if you do not understand this requirement, but it is not negotiable. If you wish to secure your own attorney to represent you in this matter you will have to pay the attorney and all associated costs yourself. Alternatively, as I also explained yesterday, you may choose to continue with me as your attorney, so long as you are willing to sign a legal document which clearly indicates your knowledge of the possibility of a conflict of interest and waiving any objection to that possible conflict. In any event, I will immediately inform my managers of the choice you have made in this instance.
Thank You
Antonio Cavallaro
Associate Senior Counsel, NYSUT

UPDATE: Wed. Feb 27 9am

Breaking News: (If you have added info, email me or add it to the comments section).

UFT sued by Teachers4Action – Weingarten and SWAT Team member Betsy Combier named as defendants amongst others.

NYSUT Lawyers withdraw from active 3020a hearings of plaintiffs, claiming potential conflict of interest; will go to federal court to ask for ruling; teachers told they would have to pay for their own lawyer if NYSUT lawyers stay away; arbitrators informing teachers if they turn up without a lawyer they will be charged for the day of cancelled hearings; some teachers claim withdrawal of NYSUT lawyers part of pressure tactics to force plaintiffs to drop out of case.

On Jan. 31 I posted about how we broke into the Queens rubber room where the group "Teachers4Action" has been organizing to file a lawsuit against the DOE and possibly the UFT. Almost 50 teachers gathered in a church to meet. Think this is a threat to the UFT, which they claim has been working to undermine the suit? Weingarten even wrote letters to elected officials as part of this campaign. The candlelight vigil in November, originally planned as a protest by RR people who would have made the point about the UFT selling them out, was one such undercutting action.

But she doesn't have to do the heavy lifting. When she created the SWAT team (named "The Three Stooges" by Jeff Kaufman on the ICE blog) back in the fall to supposedly assist the RR people, some viewed them as spies who would work to divide and defuse any militancy that might arise.

Now Teachers4Action are claiming they are under assault by the UFT, as evidenced by this email:

[A UFT rep] is attempting to intimidate teachers involved [in our lawsuit] and peel them off one by one in order to dilute our effectiveness. Word is spreading fast among the rooms that the UFT has declared war against the sacrificial lambs.

I wrote back in September when the SWAT team was announced, "If I were in the RR I wouldn't make plans to be back at my job real soon." Here are excepts:

In a post the other day I wrote "the screams of the people are beginning to be heard and with the potential national impact of blogs calling Randi a sellout, she is trying to make it look like they will do something-- she has assigned [a team of 3] to visit the rubber rooms and come up with suggestions. So she is trying to let the air out of the balloon."

It will be the usual "We hear you, we feel your pain." People will feel good like the union is paying attention and will stop organizing. A year later when nothing much has changed they will get the message: Talk loudly, carry a tiny stick.
Here's a link to the full Sept. 28 post.

Does "Education Week" Violate Journalistic Standards?

Education Week, a national weekly read by the Ed cognoscenti, has been accused by Deborah Meier, David Marshak, Philip Kovacs, Susan Ohanian, Jerry Bracey, William Spady of violating journalistic standards by humping a point of view that backs the kind of insanity we've seen here in NYC. They sent a letter and want others to join them. Read this important letter at Susan Ohanian's place.

I had my own recent bout with an Ed Week editor when they printed an article biased in favor of a report on teacher quality by Britain's Sir Michael Barber who was embraced by Bloomberg/Klein for his half-baked policies in England (now under some repudiation – I'll check it out in an upcoming trip to London.)

An article called "Teaching Quality Matters" states (my emphasis):

The world’s top-performing school systems and those coming up fast have a lesson to teach the others: Put high-quality teaching for every child at the heart of school improvement....

Neither resources nor ambitious reforms have been the answer to the need for school improvement, say the authors, Sir Michael Barber and Mona Mourshed of McKinsey & Co., the London-based consulting firm responsible for the report. They point to “massive” increases in spending and popular reforms—prominently, class-size reduction and decentralization of decisionmaking—that have failed, they say, to much budge the needle of student achievement many places.

You know. The old line about all you have to do is fix teacher quality and you overcome all (I'll write more on this soon.) But then again, the UFT's Randi Weingarten, the Clintons, et al. all sign on to this bull.)

I sent the following letter to the editor, who I've spoken to a few times in the past (and have some sympathy for, as she was once trapped in a train station for hours with nothing to read but Education Notes.)

I was wondering if Michael Barber, a noted trasher of class size as a factor, cited specifics of the studies he cites? He says many places. Did he give one example? If not, shouldn't he be challenged to do so instead of being allowed to leave the impression that class size reduction doesn't work?

I received this reply:

There are a few references in the report, but it is not really a scholarly work. I don't have it with me. I think his argument rests more on the fact that there has been a lot of class size reduction in places where achievement has stayed relatively flat, such as in many U.S. school systems. I think that is generally true, although you could certainly argue that classes need to be still smaller. I didn't have much space to offer challenges and had to give what space I had to people assessing the general worth of the report, which you should be able to get on the Web. You might a letter to the editor if you think his conclusions are misleading.

"Generally true?" "Many US school systems?" How about which ones? Where's the actual research to cite this, not that I trust research, which can be slanted in so many ways. But Ed Week is part of the cabal against spending real money on Ed reform – is is so
much easier and cheaper to blame the teachers. How about Ed Week calling for an accurate study (like we really need a study to tell us that much smaller classes, which I bet the elite critics pay a fortune to assure their own kids experience - like Bloomberg's kids going to Spence with 14 in a class) instead of adopting the "generally true" standard of research.

The article, which you can read in full here, did include the following bone:

David P. Baker, who has extensively studied the results from international math and science tests, praised the study for clear conclusions that hold the possibility of pushing policymakers in valid directions. He said his own research showed that countries that reduced the spread in teacher quality tended to have higher test scores. At the same time, the Pennsylvania State University professor said the report might have taken better account of the effects of social disadvantage, which has a profound influence on school performance [the Richard Rothstein view].

I never wrote that letter to the editor, but I think now is a good time.
Here is a list if you wan to join the party.
Virginia Edwards, Editor and Publisher
Gregory Chronister, Executive Editor
Lynn Olson, Project Editor for Quality Counts
Karen Diegmueller, Managing Editor
Mark W. Bomster, Asst. Managing Editor

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cops attack striking teachers in Puerto Rico

NOTE: Keep an eye on the way the UFT/AFT addresses this issue. This is the kind of militancy that scares them - remember, unions of professionals collaborate, not strike. They will not oppose a support reso support the teachers but will probably substitute pablum.

Photos of police attacking strikers on Day Three of the Puerto Rican Teachers Strike:

This is how the president of FMPR, Rafael Feliciano, ended his update for today. The strike is holding fast in its third day. 84% of students are not attending classes. 80% of classes across the island are not being held. 54% of teachers, or 23,000 are directly or indirectly (staying home) supporting the strike, of which 8,000 are participating on the picket lines [amazing statistic].

The Dept. of Education is warning parents that students will receive an "F" for their class grade and will not be promoted to the next grade as well as that the school year will be extended

A big demonstration is planned in front of the Dept. of Education for tomorrow at 1 PM. Feliciano adds "no hay triunfo sin lucha!"
This Wednesday at Hunter College, there will be an event to build support for the important and exciting PUERTO RICAN TEACHERS' STRIKE. The colonial government is trying to break that strike and destroy the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation. This is part of the same attack on public education that we face at CUNY, throughout the U.S., and many other places around the world.
This Wednesday, at 3:15 p.m. until about 4:30, Revolution Film Club will help hold an event in Thomas Hunter 109 (office of the Puerto Rican Club and Latino Honor Society) to hear more about the strike, including an eyewitness account, hear a CD of great songs from the strike, and watch some videos about it.

All are invited who want to learn more about the strike.

Joan asked about last Friday's rally. I was out of town, but activists there said there were about 80 people and it was very spirited. There's video coverage on U-Tube, (see link here), and a brief report from rhe NY support committee.
At the D.A. it will be very important to raise the resolution for UFT support to the strike. It was distributed last month, but did not get raised as a motion. Also, members of the New York support committee for the strike will be outside the D.A. distributing educational materials about the strike and asking for our support.

Here's the report put out by the NY Support Committee for the Strike:
New Yorkers Support The Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico!
Friday, February 22, 2008
New York City
During a snow storm and 20 degree temperatures, NYC teachers, tradeunionists and political and community activists, responded to the call of the FMPR Support Committee – NY. At a picket in front the offices of the Free Associated Stated (ELA) government of Puerto Rico, in Manhattan at Park Avenue South, more than 80 demonstrators gathered to protest. With no need for electronic sound to project their voices, the group denounced the anti-worker actions of the government of Anival Acevedo Vilá and denounced the actions of the AFT and SEIU, U.S.-based unions, that have joined in efforts to destroy the organization of struggle of the Teachers in Puerto Rico, the Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR).
Loudly and militantly chanting, accompanied by musical instruments, participants also distributed information to the press and area citizens as they left work for the day. The demonstration caused alarm with the security personnel at the new Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration offices of the colonial government of Puerto Rico.
Among the chants that the public heard were:
“¡Lucha Si, Entrega No!”
“¡Huelga o Convenio!”
“Puerto Rican Teachers, New York is With You!”
“¡FMPR, En Pie De Lucha”
“¡La Lucha Obrera, No Tiene Fronteras!”
“Support Puerto Rican Teachers, Support The Strike in Puerto Rico!”
“Say NO to Privitization! Say YES to Free Education!”
“¡Gobierno Colonial, Gobierno Patronal!”

LA Teachers Vote- 79% Don't Vote

It's a Duffy Landslide!

The United Teachers Los Angeles vote is in. The union sent out 42,952 ballots. Here are the results:

A.J. Duffy - 5,242 (12.2%)
Linda Guthrie - 2,112 (4.9%)
Becki Robinson - 1,468 (3.4%)
Barbara Eisen-Herman - 103 (0.2%)
Don't Give a Crap - 34,027 (79.2%)

Jamaica High School Horror

Hey, all you Bloom/Kleinites out there. Run, do not walk, over to the ICE blog and read the letter from the teachers at Jamaica High School about the horror being perpetrated by the policies of Tweed.

How about 39 in an honors economics class while 2 social studies teaches are prevented from being used to reduce class size because they have been excessed and are ATR's? Oh, and the Tweedles are busy making sure things will go well for the new Bill Gates school being placed in the building. Is there a better examples of how Bloomberg and Klein have destroyed the schools and messed with the lives of so many students?

We used to joke about the Children Last policies of Tweed. But the word "last" doesn't do justice. If I were religious I would say that one day some of these people will rot in hell.

Maybe Eduwonk/Rotherham should reconsider bestowing the Broad Prize on BloomKlein. But I'm sure he'll find a way to rationalize these policies – ye ole apologist for the status quo.

And I don't even have words for our cozy union which has stood by (oh, watch Randi's words of outrage spew forth) while this catastrophe has been visited on school after school. You see, if we didn't agree to allow this ATR outrage and defended the contract (YES, boys, the contract may protect teachers but kids get protected too) things would not have been quite so easy for the DOE.


Eduwonkette has a post today on the Richard Rothstein appearance at Teachers College which we wrote about here and here. I made this comment.

The idea of accountability for everything needs to be challenged (I know, we teachers just want to avoid responsibility). The climate of over-accountability can poison the atmosphere between teachers and students. When you teach kids who are struggling academically and have become used to feeling like failures there's a need to build a lot of trust and teachers walk a delicate balance of encouragement and building self-esteem – I know how some disparage this - see the attitudes of Al Shanker in the Kahlenberg book – as somehow being destructive.

I had an MA in reading and went through all the rigmarole of diagnosis and correction of reading problems. The biggest leap is made when you convince a child to want to read. Then the skills problems (other than dyslexia) fall by the wayside. It them may take years to catch up but it is possible. Can you measure me as a teacher in my ability to "sell" reading? Maybe give me merit pay? Give people reasonable class sizes, resources and support and then think about measuring results.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Breaking News - Updated

Updated Feb. 25, 2008 12:30 am

An article (Remaking Labor - From The Top-Down? Bottom-Up ? or Both?) compares 2 books on the labor movement, one praising SEIU and "Change to Win" and the other (by Kim Moody) being critical and also talking about rank and file organizing. Make sure to checkout the post below this one on how SEIUs' Dennis Rivera is undermining FMPR, the Puerto Rico teachers union that cut ties with the AFT.
Why is this important to teachers in NYC? We are certainly affected by the general weakness in the labor movement and both books address rebuilding the movement. We see in NYC schools every day the impact of a weak labor movement and hopefully, one day people will get together and challenge all the assumptions by which unions are being run (ICE has been doing some work on the issue of UFT/AFT ideology which I'll put up soon.) Anyway, you can check out the (long) article at Norm's Notes.

There are UFT members and others who feel the merger of HIP and GHI is a bad thing. Some may hand out a leaflet explaining their position at the March 5 Delegate Assembly. Someone check my facts but I believe Sandy Feldman's husband held some high position with HIP and Randi Weingarten may be on the HIP board (I'm not sure if that means anything.) The result will be a joint privatized HIP/GHI operation instead of being under public control. Instinct says that is not a good thing. Check it out here.

Ralph Nader on Meet the Press makes a hell of a lot of sense.
Nader on the other candidates and on the 2000 election.
People are pointing on NYC Educator today that Nadar as a perspn is irrelevant. We can agree. But the issues he raises are not.

Under Assault comments on Steven Miller and Jack Gerson's report on "The Corporate Surge against Public Schools."

Read Howard Zinn "Election Madness" on the no difference between Dems/Reps.

Puerto Rican Teachers Union (FMPR) and the AFT

Updated Sunday, 1pm

This Friday ICE will discuss a resolution for the March 6 Delegate Assembly supporting the striking teachers in Puerto Rico. Watch this closely and you will see how the AFT/UFT and the US labor movement in general collaborate with the government to kill militant movements. (Any UFT/BloomKlein collaboration watchers surprised?)

Check the NYC FMPR support web site here. A recent posting said this:

"The government of Puerto Rico, in collaboration with leaders of several U.S. unions, (e.g. the American Federation of Teachers, SEIU, Change To Win) is attempting to destroy the rising militant and effective organizing efforts of the FMPR to improve educational and teaching conditions on the island and to undermine opposition to President Bush's No Child Left Behind, a privatization program on the island."

The FMPR has successfully fought government attempts to squash the voice of teachers and community in decision-making in Puerto Rico's school system. The FMPR effectively seceded in 2006 from American Federation of Teachers which abysmally failed to crusade for better
conditions while collecting millions in dues money from Puerto Rican teachers.

EIA's Mike Antonucci (caveat - a notable critic of unions often accused of being supported by many anti-union forces but does accurate, though selective reporting) has written about the history of the AFT and FMPR. It looks like in 2003 an opposition caucus won the election with one of the planks being to disaffiliate from the AFT and FMPR has been under attack since then.

(Imagine if some day an opposition won an election in the UFT and the kind of attacks to undermine it that would come from all over the place. Imagine that the AFT would work to undermine the people in power and do anything it could to bring Unity back? Did they play a role like this in Chicago to support Marilyn Stewart against Debbie Lynch?))

There has been some bone of contention as to whether a resolution supporting the PR teachers should contain something about the AFT and the role they have played - after all, we are asking the next Pres. of the AFT to support teachers that they have opposed.

What they will do is come up with some pablum saying they support the teachers - a substitute of some kind?

Then there's the role SEIU and Dennis Rivera is playing to undermine the FMPR: - (with the AFT cheering?) by organizing a rival union (the typical Shanker-backed "dual unionism" to undermine left-leaning unions.)

Note this Rivera statement:
"The president of the SEIU, Dennis Rivera, assured that "the approach between both organizations [the alternative AMPR] was mutual", and recognized that its union never made a similar approach to the Federation of Teachers, the current exclusive representative of the teachers. He reminded that the present leadership of the Federation dis-affiliated itself from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT, in English) because, in his opinion, the "rhetoric" of the Federation "is to attack the international unions". "We did not see the possibility of an alliance with them", he declared.

Note the code words for - these are lefties.

I collated the EIA stuff I could track down in chronological order. It is posted at Norm's Notes here. In addition, I posted more info, including the proposed reso at the Norms Notes blog - search using "FMPR" to find them all.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The UFT/AFT and Rothstein

If you've read the post previous to this one on Richard Rothstein's appearance at Columbia on closing the achievement gap, one thing I left out is where our union stands on the questions he raises.

It would seem on the surface like a slam dunk – there are factors outside the school that must be addressed in order to close the achievement gap. But, while the UFT/AFT machine might pay lip service to Rothstein, in fact they line up with the Business Roundtable, Rangel, the Clintons, etc. which embraced Al Shanker (it was mutual) in the early 80's.

For them it is all about accountability – but one way accountability. The schools and teachers will be held accountable but the government and the entire regressive ed reformers will not be accountable for providing adequate resources to assure an equal and adequate education for all. "We can't be perceived as not wanting to be accountable," is their argument – even if the playing field is totally tilted against the teachers they purportedly represent. In other words, they won't put up an iota of a fight against closing a large high school. When Christopher Cerf said at a Manhattan Institute luncheon that throwing cash at the problem won't solve it, I challenged him with "But you NEVER EVEN TRY. Why not throw cash at Tilden high school for a few years as an experiment instead of closing it?" He had no answer.

I've been at many forums even with Randi Weingarten on the panel and she never takes this kind of stand. What teachers were looking for is this from the union:

We will not cooperate in any way in closing of schools, or helping you get rid of what you say are bad teachers or modifying the contract or give you any aid until you show a commitment to providing adequate resources."

Now that would be a slam dunk. But don't expect the UFT/AFT leadership to win any dunking contests. They get an allergic reaction when anywhere near the word "militancy."

If you're looking for an explanation for why the UFT aligns with the enemies of rank and file teachers, that would take us into the philosophy and ideology that has driven and still drives the UFT for well over 30 years. That analysis will be forthcoming soon in this space.

Rothstein Rocks, Rangel Rambles

A large crowd attended Richard Rothstein's appearance at the Campaign for Educational Equity event at Columbia yesterday (Feb. 20) where he presented an outline of a paper titled:


Rothstein proposed "a new approach for assessing student achievement that goes beyond test scores and graduation rates, and measures skill attainment in broad, yet essential, areas, such as social skills, critical thinking, preparation for citizenship and employment, appreciation of the arts and literature, and the knowledge needed to maintain sound physical and emotional health."

Here is the complete list:

Goal/Relative importance (percent)
Basic academic skills in core subjects (21)
Critical thinking and problem solving (16)
Social skills and work ethic (14)
Citizenship and community responsibility (14)
Physical health (9)
Emotional health (8)
Appreciation of arts and literature (7)
Preparation for skilled work (11)

A redesign of NAEP to assess the full program would be necessary. He estimates the costs at $45 million and ongoing costs of $13 million a year. The presentation was very valuable and went into great depth, but we will spare you the details at this time.

Rothstein, former education columnist for the NY Times, has been a leading proponent of, let's call it the anti-BloomKlein "no excuses" philosophy that calls for attacking the so-called achievement gap (a phrase I'm getting sick of hearing) with a broad range of programs that go beyond the school's doors. His response to Chester Finn's "March of the Pessimists" is a good read. It begins:

Chester Finn, in his August 17 "Gadfly" posting ("March of the Pessimists"), responding to a New York Times article by Diana Jean Schemo (here) and a Wall Street Journal essay by Charles Murray, expresses puzzlement that "the likes of Schemo and Murray" can't see that good schools can overcome the disadvantages of poverty, racism, troubled families, crime-infested neighborhoods, and harmful peer influences.

These are complex issues, not elucidated by labeling these writers, as Mr. Finn does, 'liberal,' 'conservative,' 'pessimist,' or 'defeatist.' But I take Mr. Finn at his word that he genuinely does not understand why Schemo, Murray and others do not share his belief in the power of good schools to offset all other social and economic influences. I will attempt, as respectfully as I can, to explain why, for my part, I do not share his belief.

In short, given that, as Mr. Finn asserts, children's time influenced by families and communities exceeds the time they are influenced by schools "by a multiple of four or five," I am puzzled that he fails to agree that serious and successful efforts to substantially narrow the achievement gap must include social and economic policies to improve the circumstances of family and community life, as well as policies to improve the quality of schooling.
Get the full pdf here.

Many progressive reformers love Rothstein, as opposed to the regressive biz/ed reformers ala Rotherham/Eduwonk). I asked him about a happiness/satisfaction of children and teachers index – which in NYC right now must hover somewhere near the Kelvin absolute zero point – as a counterpoint to measuring mania. I mean, is there any joy for teachers and students at all in the current educational climate and isn't that in itself an indicator of motivation to teach and learn aside from punishment or reward? I was a bit disappointed when instead of saying there are things that do not need to be measured he said even this could/should be measured – well, maybe it would serve some value if a survey of some kind were done.

Later, a student in an ed program at Columbia came by to say she was pleased I asked that question. She had been a teacher on an Indian reservation in New Mexico and there were so many mandates and restrictions on teachers and students, there was not much joy in the process.

Rangel Ramble
One of the interesting aspects of the event was the appearance of Congressman, uba Clinton supporter Charles Rangel (Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee), who made a pathetic, rambling statement humping the use of the business community to fund Rothstein's proposal (don't think Hillary is far behind on this one), mentioning the Business Roundtable (one of the sources of all our tsouris) so many times he sounded like his needle was stuck in a vinyl groove. Maybe Rangel should propose the corporate community fund the Iraq War. The Business Roundtable can certainly fund voting machines in Rangel's district that would actually tabulate Obama votes.

Read the follow up piece on how the UFT (in deed, if not words) is more in line with the regressive ed reform movement than with Rothstein. If you're looking for a "why", hold your horses, we're working on it.

The Survey Says...

NYC teacher Abigail Myers has requested a link be posted to her survey on teaching qualifications, experience, and work conditions in the NYC schools, in particular from five year plus teachers. Contact her directly for more info. Or click here.
You can read a great poem by Abigail posted by NYC Educator.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bush Calls for Successor to End Dictatorship

The recent announcement that a dictator may be leaving office prompted President Bush to call for and end to the dictatorship so democracy can shine in on an oppressed people.

This led to one of the few occasions the rank and file of the UFT had a reason to cheer the president.

UFT members cheer Bush statement

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Grover Park Group, $2,617,982 - a UFT Slush Fund for Clinton?

The most recent LM2 annual expense report posted on the US Department of Labor web site by the UFT covers 2006. It includes a payment of - gulp - $2,617,982 to Grover Park consultants, led by Howard Wolfson, a major Hillary Clinton advisor. (How's that working out, Howard?) It's probably due to his advice that improvement in teachers' working conditions going so well.

What's intriguing about this astronomical number just for giving advice - hey, I'll give advice for half the amount: buy high, sell low – is that there is no accounting for the work Grover Park did for the UFT.

The Grover Park Group web site says this about Wolfson:
At Glover Park, Howard focuses on crisis management, complex intergrated campaigns, and political advertising and communications. The firm's New York clients have included Cablevision, Verizon, the New School, Newscorp, and the United Federation of Teachers.
Howard has helped direct the campaigns of Senator Hillary Clinton, New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson and newly elected U.S. Representatives Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Arcuri.

Ahhh! It's all about how to manage the membership. The UFT payed Wolfson to advise them on how to use massive UFT resources in Hillary's campaign without having to go through an endorsement by the members or even hold a discussion where Obama supporters might get to raise a stink.

And follow the bouncing ball in the next year or two as Wolfson gets paid enormous sums to guides the UFT on how to sell mayoral candidate Bill Thompson to the membership while using dirty tricks to degrade serious challengers like Anthony Weiner.

Or is this a simple matter of the UFT leadership finding a sneaky way to funnel money to the Clinton campaign by "hiring" Wolfson?

And UFT High School VP Leo Casey is listed as a vendor for over $16000. I didn't know the UFT had an ice cream truck. Or maybe the money was for selling half-baked ideas.

The LM-2 for 2006 (there's always a year or more lag and the UFT is always late in sending it in - this one was signed by Randi in December '07 when it was due in May '07) will be posted on the ICE website soon. If you can't wait to see how those special reps make 140 grand shoot me an email and I'll send you the pdf.

Memories and Tragedies

About 10 years ago I go a call on Thanksgiving night from a former student from a correctional institution upstate. He was serving life (and is still in the system). After chatting for a few minutes, he said "Wait! Some people want to talk to you." And there were two more of my students. Six or seven from my school were in the same cell block. My fault, I guess. You see what happens when you have under performing schools? What was missing from their lives was probably a charter school.

One of the things about teaching in certain neighborhoods, and a reason some teachers eventually must leave, are the all too many dismal stories – more of the above than successful college graduates. If you stay in one place, you see generations of devastation – drugs, prison, you know the drill. Probably due to the low quality teachers according to the Joel Kleins of this world.

You could have feast or famine in alternate years - if the contract, which gave you the right to move from bottom of the grade to top, was followed, which it often wasn't. The favorites of the principals got the top every year unless you grieved – which I had to do twice. Oh, that darn union contract, which was so weak even in this obvious area (my principal declared a heterogeneous "experiment" for my grade only that year only.) Some teachers would knife you in the back to stay on the top and do all sorts of favors for the principal. Now I hear they have supposedly eliminated tracking.

How are teachers affected by so many stories of death and destruction? Some get worn out; for others it's like water off their backs. That was why the UFT's willingness to remove the ability to transfer, often the only way out, was such a sell-out. I mean, there comes a time when people need to see some success stories.

Here is something I wrote in my chapter leader report in November, 1996. I was teaching computers, so A... wasn't in my class, but over a few years we got to hang out together, go to basketball games and my wife and I even had him and a friend stay over at at the house a few times. One of the major hoodlums in my school, feared by students and even some teachers, despised by the principal, my wife couldn't believe the stories, he was so unfailingly polite - and made his bed, which was a major point for my wife. I had had many members of A...'s family in my classes over the years, his uncle and even his mom (I won't even go there) for a time when she was in the 4th grade and knew his grandmother well. She was raising him, as were many other grandmothers in the neighborhood, one of the serious issues that lead to worn out older women having to do it all over again and just not having the energy to keep tight control over the kids.

When he was 12 or 13 I took him to Gleason's boxing gym in downtown Brooklyn to introduce him to a trainer a friend was working out with. We got him a locker and he worked out. Everyone treated him great and I thought this could save him. We went once or twice and I urged him to keep going. But he didn't. A major lost chance.

When A... was arrested in Pennsylvania when he was around 14, I received a call from the social worker there. "We don't know what to do with him," she said. "His grandmother says it is too far to visit and wants us to send him home." "Keep him there as long as you can," was my advice. They didn't listen. Within a year he had shot up the door to an apartment in his building, got a 24 year old woman pregnant and was sent away for 3 years.

When he got out he called and we made plans to get together. It never happened. One November morning his little sister tapped me on the shoulder as the classes were lining up. As calm as she could be, she said, "A... was shot 5 times in the head in Pennsylvania." What makes it all so tragic is that no one was surprised at the news - like watching someone standing in the middle of the road with a truck coming and you're helpless to stop it.

PS XXX Chapter Report, Nov. 1996

A..., a graduate of P.S. xxx, was shot to death on November 8, 1996. He was 18 years old. Our condolences go out to A...’s grandmother, his mother (also a former student), his sister, (currently a 4th grade student at P.S. xxx) and the rest of the family.

Some people were not surprised that A..’s life ended at such an early age, given the hard life he led. No matter how often we read similar stories in the paper, there’s no accounting for how people will react when they see a young man they’ve known since the 3rd grade laid out in a coffin; especially a young man who died such a seemingly senseless death. But as one of his relatives said after the funeral, A... was willing to risk danger because the life he was destined for seemed so bleak.

In spite of all this, he was still one of our kids. P.S. xxx provided A... with a nurturing environment in spite of the fact he was never easy to deal with. He had a certain stubborness that often drove teachers crazy. But many of us developed a rapport with A... that went beyond the normal teacher-student relationship. He had a hard reputation on the street, but he could be extremely responsible and trustworthy when he respected you and his situation moved many of us. We saw the road he was on. At times he reached out for help, but there was no stopping this train.

A...’s last months were spent at home in Brooklyn getting to know his three year old daughter (who had just started calling him “daddy.”) He started school and had a nighttime job. This was not the kind of life he was used to. We urged him to hang on. Maybe the routine would break him of bad habits. He knew his weaknesses. He had hoped to find a sports program to keep him occupied until he could play baseball in the spring. But the temptations must have been too great. He went back to Pennsylvania where he had been in trouble before. That was where he died.

His short life left something to be desired. He was a 7th grade dropout (his school career lasted about 2 months after he left us); he had multiple problems with the law (he just finished serving 3 years in prison); there were ugly rumors about some of his street activities.

A...’s funeral was attended by many parents and former students from the community. His cousin N... (another former student at P.S. xxx) read a moving eulogy, which expressed the all too common and disturbing attitude ("A..., you did what you had to do as a man"). Many of his friends wrote poems in his memory. A... clearly had the respect and admiration of many of his contemporaries.

Postscript: N..., a cousin who made the eulogy, was attending college at the time of the funeral. We hope she made it out. But even if she did, the needs of the family would have always pulled her back.

A teacher at PS xxx told me a few years ago that A...'s daughter was a student at the school, most probably being raised by that same grandmother. I guess she would be about 14 now. We can only hope she also breaks the pattern.