Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ding Dong at Bayard Rustin Ed Complex

Principal John Angelet of the Bayard Rustin Educational Complex, a man publicly called an a-hole by Randi Weingarten, has resigned and will be leaving this June. Word is the UFT was on the case for a logn time but whether their pressure made a difference is not clear. Angelet was protected through thick and thin by Tweed. They will send a teacher to the rubber room for yelling at a principal but a principal can say and do anything and get away with it. Some words from teachers in the trenches:

John Angelet has inflicted harm upon excellent Teachers, Counselors, and other UFT members for almost 4 years now as Principal. He has destroyed careers, lives and caused an excessive amount of stress for all who work for him. The morale at this school is non-existent. UFT members have resorted to a "survival" mentality even if it means hurting another UFT member. John Angelet has destroyed this school, yet we still have not received our report card grade and despite numberous acts of violence committed in and outside of school, rumours of grade-changing and Regents scrubbing and an abysmal attendance record for all students, he continues to be Principal, he continues to go after those he wants to exact his irrational rage upon and he will not stop until that person is robbed of their livelihood. I have been going through this for three years and it has got to stop. I know Principals that have been removed for less, yet John Angelet is left to terrorize his staff. The events at this school are being widely publicized, the most recent being a condemning, but accurate, article in Chelsea Now.

Mr. Angelet continues to retain his job while others are powerless to save their own. We have an Assistant Principal of Guidance, Jacqueline Serna, who left her previous school, Urban Peace Academy, under allegations of misconduct.... Still she is allowed to observe and U rate Counselors who work very, very hard and have given years to this system. Urban Peace Academy is another casualty of the BloomKlein regime, yet the very people that caused its demise are simply placed in other schools instead of the rubber room, where John Angelet is assigning people at an alarming rate. The UFT has to respond to this and demand why this incompetent, possibly emotionally disturbed individual is being allowed to run this school.

John Angelet must be removed before June and he SHOULD NOT be allowed to rate anyone considering he is himself incompetent. I have never met a more vindicative, cruel, sadistic individual in my entire life.

AERAPLANING - Don' Need No Stinkin' Research tell me lower class sizes benefit kids.

On Tuesday, after De-Kleining Joel Klein, I headed over to the Sheraton with Sol Stern to pick up a press pass (I left out in that post that Sol was mad at me for repeating something he said in an email) for AERA (American Education Research Association) which supposedly has 16,000 people attending. I was thinking of hanging around for Diane Ravitch's presentation later that afternoon, but headed for a movie and then home to do get in some late-afternoon gardening. Reading Eduwonkette's report on Diane's presentation made me sorry I didn't stay. I wonder if 'Wonkette was wearing her mask? (How about an Eduwonkette scavenger hunt?)

Thursday, I bit the bullet and headed for AERA for the entire day, carrying the 500 page AERA guide, Kahlenberg's "Tough Liberal" and Podair's book on the '68 strike to entertain myself between workshops. As a quasi educator/blogger/reporter/ed commentator I was interested in this mouthful: Disseminating Education Research Through Electronic Media: Advice from E-Journalists.

The participants were: ed commentators and bloggers Alexander Russo (This Week in Education), Andrew Rotherham (the Ed Sector and Eduwonk), the more traditional educational journalist, Jennifer Medina from the NY Times, and Richard Colvin of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Eduwonkette asked me to cover this for her and I sent stuff over for her AERA quotes of the day. There wasn't a food fight between Rotherham and Russo – that will go on at their blogs. Is the day coming when you can throw a pie in someone's face through the computer screen?

I was interested in raising some issues related to the coverage of events in NYC, especially by the NY Times which is viewed by so many as biased for BloomKlein but wasn't sure how to raise it. I've actually seen a slightly more nuanced tone in Medina's reporting but there's so much the Times leaves uncovered. I was surprised when she said there were 11 education reporters at the Times.

You can read about the serious aspects of the session in terms of researchers and journalists (the E and traditional kind) at their blogs.
Russo reports on the session here.
Rotherham's account is here.
Moderator Paul Allen Baker's report here.

I wanted to get a few points in regarding the absence of the classroom teacher voice and how class size is addressed in terms of research.

So I made the statement about not needing stinkin' research in the context of the argument the anti-class size reduction people make that we can't lower class size until we have a quality teacher available and that resources would be better spent in recruiting and training better teachers. That reporters repeat that all the time. Less kids = lift all teachers quality is so obvious.

I said, how come the same questions are not raised about the medical field: we don't refuse to put more doctors and nurses in hospitals because some of them will not be high quality. (Did you know how many practicing doctors have not passed their certification boards?) The legal field – do we ban the guys who can't run fast enough to catch up to the ambulance? The financial field?Hoo , ha! Judges? Politicians? The ones who have the most number of affairs are the lowest quality. Or the highest. Or better yet, take NYC education journalists. Do you see a difference in quality? If you can't keep up with Elizabeth Green, you can't write a story.

Of course this comparison was totally ignored. This is about education, not the rest of the world.

How come the focus on teacher quality to the exclusion of other areas of society. Actually, I got a lot of the answers at Lois Weiner's session on Saturday about the world-wide neo-liberal attack on teachers and their unions (see Lois at the April 15 Teachers Unite forum) but will post on that soon.

What ed journalist do is narrow-casting. Like there was a UFT/coalition rally to restore budget cuts while down the street the fed was coming up with $200 billion and no one made the ironic connection.

Or report that class size research is inconclusive and ignore the fact that parents spend #30,000 for private school and parents in rich areas like Scarsdale pay so much for small class sizes.

I got a rather heated response from Richard Colvin (did I detect a note of hostility when I ran into him in the press room later?), who said just because people in Scarsdale drive a Mercedes, it doesn't mean we all have to when cheaper alternatives are available - that the best uses of resources in resource-starved urban schools may not be to reduce class size. He didn't quite say that the better use was to recruit quality teachers, but he may have been thinking it.

I didn't get a chance to say it but I guess urban kids never get to ride in the Mercedes unless they do the drug thing. What I would have said: How about giving kids in a few places the Mercedes just to see if it works. Like, instead of closing down one high school and loading it up with multiple small schools (sure, that's certainly more cost effective), try doubling the staff for a few years and see what impact that had. Why don't class size researchers suggest that as a test? Or ed reporters? Like I said, narrow casting.

Rotherham pointed to the USA Today article on class size on Monday which made an interesting observation:

Small classes work for children, but that's less because of how teachers teach than because of what students feel they can do: Get more face time with their teacher, for instance, or work in small groups with classmates... researchers closely watched students' behaviors in 10-second intervals throughout class periods and found that in smaller classes in both elementary and high school, students stayed more focused and misbehaved less. They also had more direct interactions with teachers and worked more in small groups rather than by themselves.

Duhhh! That's the point. Reducing class size from, say 30 to 20 may not lead to drastic change in teaching styles (again, what exactly are they doing in the private schools and the rich suburban districts with their lower class size - it would have been interesting if reporters and researchers reported on that) but why is that the crucial thing at this point. The USA article stated, "teachers didn't necessarily take advantage of the smaller classes, often teaching as if in front of a larger group." Of course idiot anti-teacher propagandists who claim to be teachers turn that statement into this: "The solution is not to reduce class size and thus have to hire more bad teachers, but to keep classes big, within reason, and to focus more on hiring and training good teachers."

Typical sophistry from the right wing - turning "teachers who still teach to large groups" into "bad" teachers. Like if it were a given that class sizes would be under 20, teachers would be trained to work in that environment instead of training to manage a herd.

The other point I made was how the voices of classroom teachers, the actual people who have to implement all this crap, never seem to be heard in these debates. I could almost hear a collective regurgitation at the mention of "classroom teachers." Rotherham's comment was that his survey of 1000 teachers show they are not much aware of policy issues. So what? Guess he isn't reading some of amazing NYC Teacher blogs out there.

Medina said something about 6 people talking to each other. Maybe so, but each of these 6 people work in a school and talk to people at the job. So for each blogger and their commenters, there is a multiplier effect.

But most egregiously, she said she'd love to talk to teachers but they don't want to talk to the press. Hmmm! Maybe not about an expose at their school, but about policy? I know so many people who won't keep their mouths shut. If there are any teachers out there who have gotten a request from an ed reporter at the NY Times for an opinion on DOE policy, please let me know.

I bet some in this crowd, as much of society, gag at the idea of hearing teacher voices. Read Frank McCourt's wonderful Teacher Man for a view of how low down society looks at teachers. He spent 30 years in the classroom but it took writing a best seller to be heard.

At least he taught high school. When I told the crowd I taught elementary school, you might as well have read the bubbles over their heads saying, "Those that can do, those that can't teach, especially elementary school."

A Pat on the Back

I'm not shy. If someone wants to give me more credit than I deserve, I'll take it. Ed Notes put out the press release telling the story of the closing of Brooklyn Comprehensive Night School (based in South Shore HS) in Feb., 2007. Some of the papers picked up the story. (Not the NY Times, of course.) The UFT did respond when the press showed interest and if I remember correctly, played a role in extending the school's life.

BCNHS was a school that ran from the afternoon through the evening (for kids that had jobs, etc) four nights a week.

Flo has a tribute to the founding principal of BCNHS (see picture on the right) on her blog here and here.

Malaika Holman-Bermiss (right) died in January.

You have been the champion and hero who I have looked to this whole year for a reason to go on. You reminded me that there was still truth, honesty and high intelligence at work in the world. And you cared about me even when I could not be brave.

In the flood of people that we asked to save Brooklyn Comprehensive, you were the only person who really helped us and I will always believe that the publicity we got because you sent out the press release helped us get that extra year. 40 kids graduated in January who never would've had the chance and about that many will in June. Some kids will finish in other places, but at least they didn't give up and they got a little closer with the people they trusted most. You made that possible.

Malaika Holman-Bermiss, BCNHS' founding principal, passed away just this February. She was just 56. It was cancer. When she was 40, she was working on building her school. At the time, there was a place in the DOE to create a place where people could be creative, kids could learn and everyone could feel absolutely safe. We never had an incident that I can remember while she was principal (we had one with Grace Garafolo and a few with the current principal.) She wasn't a big woman at all or a tough one in a physical way. She just had absolute intellectual clarity. This was about helping young adults live their lives and love to learn. Anything that stood in the way was garbage. Anything that did those things was a good thing. I'm 40 and I can't guarantee that I can offer that kind of place to anyone or that kind of environment to any student and that is my failing somehow.

You gave my school an extra year and a lot of kids and their families will be forever grateful.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Founding Fathers

Here's a story for ya - Updated

UPDATED: March 30

Background for those not familiar:
Last year the DOE sent out surveys to teachers, parents and students. In schools where teachers and/or parents were critical, their report card scores were lowered. Predictably, principals have often responded, not by fixing the problems btu by using tactics to make sure the surveys this year are not critical - get teachers to do them en masse, etc. Teachers are afraid these supposed anonymous surveys can be tracked.

This email came in over the transom Friday from one of the best teachers I've known ( I
point this out to show the bullshit has alienated even the best of people.) This is not the first email about teachers being pressured to fill out favorable surveys (I think Unity Must Go made a comment last week). Watch the press buy it hook, line and sinker when Klein says "See how satisfied the teachers and parents are."


Do you know about those surveys we're supposed to complete about our school? Well, my principal was REALLY pissed last year that people didn't rave about the place so she told us a few times during meetings that we had to be very careful with what we write (maybe they should also put some thought into how to run a school if they want a favorable response from us???). OK, so this school year passes, a lot of BS went on as usual, and people are generally disgusted. Now it's time to fill in these questionnaires again. A few weeks ago, the principal wanted us to do the surveys online IN SCHOOL [in return for some perk]. "Why?" when we could do them at home in 5 minutes, but then I realized: they wanted to supervise us so we would have to write what they want!! The other day, they held a meeting and handed out the survey and told teachers to fill them out right there in FRONT of the supervisor!!! The chapter leader, thankfully, was there and protested. The rest of us got them delivered to us shortly thereafter. If it had not been for the CL, we probably all would have been similarly pressured during grade meetings. And most of us would have been afraid to protest because then we get pulled into the office and threatened individually (so there are no witnesses). At a nearby school, the principal told his teachers to fill them out and submit them TO HIM when they were done...

Is there ANY way someone can tell who submitted which responses? I am telling the truth in this survey and don't need to get caught. I am even going to skip the last question asking how many years I've been teaching so there will be NO way to identify me. But there is an id number on each form and how do we know that the administration can't track these down?

On the UFT Grapevine, is there any way people can track down who submits comments? It seems anonymous, but I don't trust anyone (except you, of course). There is a rave review about our school there and the truth needs to be told.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Students have nothing to do with their performance

TEACHER QUALITY are the buzz words – a VERY convenient way to throw teachers under the bus for all the bad things that go on in schools.

A voice in the Wilderness at The Chancellor's New Clothes makes the point of the irrationality so deftly. Why not say a sick person's recovery depends soley on the quality of the doctor (not to say that is not a factor - a factor - not the sole or even the major factor?) How responsible are the lawyers for the guys on death row? Here is an excerpt, but make sure to read the whole thing here.

I made a comment that I thought was fairly innocent. “It’s interesting,” I said “to note that all of the explanations and goals have to do with teachers.” Literally, every statement looked something like “Teachers are not teaching consistently, Teachers are not planning regularly, Teachers are not engaging students,” and so on.

I could see the change in his demeanor. “Well, who else would you hold responsible for student performance?”

I just kind of looked at him. “Well, how about students?”

It was on. I had unwittingly thrown the gauntlet.

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” he began. “Students have nothing to do with their performance.”

Huh? I looked around the class to see if the other students had heard. They looked at me blankly.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

De-Kleining at the Manhattan Institute

It's been an interesting week. Tuesday morning I was at the Manhattan Institute (the conservative think tank) breakfast where Joel Klein was the featured speaker. He said the usual - a friend told me a colleague from the DOE was there too, couldn't stomach it and left before Klein finished.

Should MI members have their heads examined for supporting BloomKlein?

After Klein came the panel with his former employee Michele Rhee, who runs the Washington DC schools, Paul Vallas (Chicago, Philadelphia and now, New Orleans, and Tom Payzant (Boston, retired.) Don't any of these people have large school systems to run? I guess using their valuable time to go to these things is sign of the political ideology they are laying down. I've heard the line a million times about how schools should be there to meet the needs of the kids, not the adults. But that is what these so-called reforms are all about - the ideology, not the kids.

I had a bunch of questions to ask but didn't get called upon during this panel. I'll get into the details about Klein's speech and the panel in a future post.

The 2nd panel had David Bloomfield from Brooklyn College (who I know from Leonie's list) but he unfortunately supports Mayoral control with some slight modifications - he subscribes to the theory that BloomKlein are aberrations and the next mayor will make the system much more responsible. Dream on David.

Joe Williams was on the panel - the former reporter from the Daily News who now runs Democrats for Education Reform, another supporter of BloomKlein. I wasn't impressed with his presentation which talked about how bad things were before and how much better it is with one strong person in charge. My question (I didn't get called on again) would have been that having one person in charge makes it easier for them to cover up the same crap that happened before. I had a nice chat with Joe afterwards - he said he used to call me when he was a reporter and I used to tell him how I wouldn't talk to the press because they were so biased against teachers but then talked to him anyway. I have no memory about that, but a lot of brain cells have died since then.

Seymore Fliegel, a former Superintendent (and deputy under Anthony Alvarado in District 4 when AA made his bones before becoming chancellor) DOE flunky and current Bloomberg flunky ( someone told me he's on he payroll) told distorted anecdotes.

Finally, the piece de resistance - Diane Ravitch, who surgically dismantled every single thing Klein said, ripping apart the phony stats piece by piece. I was sitting next to parent leader from District 1 Lisa Donlon ( who made a great presentation arguing in favor of a localized community control governance plan at the City Council hearings) and I'm black and blue from her punching me every time Diane hit another zinger. The only problem with Diane from my point of view is that she, as everyone else up there, also supports mayoral control, but with what she terms checks and balances, which take the form of the mayor appointing a majority of a board, I believe for a fixed term - I don't get how this is a check. Or a balance.

Leonie Haimson was there and got in a good statement/question on class size.
The UFT's Joe Colleti (the designated attendee at these events) and Peter Goodman (Edwize and Ed in the Apple blogs) were there but the UFT doesn't send people to stand up for teachers in these forums (and I told Joe that they never effectively counter Klein's arguments) - which leaves it to me, but I didn't get called on again. I may have to wear a disguise. Almost feels like the old days when I tried to hide behind a seat at the Delegate Assembly to fool Randi into calling on me.

The event was taped and I hope it pops up on C-Span.

At the end of the meeting, I got to hang out with Ed Notes fave Elizabeth Green from The NY Sun (that was the day her article on the UFT Charter school was out) and she filled us in on her adventures the night before when the UFT didn't let her into the PTA meeting. Sol Stern came by to chat with Elizabeth. (Sol may be the only BloomKlein critic at the Manhattan Institute.) Since I was standing there, Sol and I finally made up (once again) after not talking for a year. After the ruckus he caused at last year's Radical Math Conference (it's coming up again next week) which somehow lead to our argument (more of my brain cells are gone so I don't remember the details) he is not interested in attending again. Some of the gang from NYCORE and RadMath often chide me for putting Sol onto them. I do enjoy jousting with Sol over ed policy and always come out sharper for it. So I'm glad we're talking again, though after writing this piece, he'll probably get mad again.

We shared a cab to the Sheraton to get press passes for the AERA Conference. Having a well-known journalist run interference got my dinky Wave press pass through, enabling me to hang out at the press office, drink coffee and eat bagels and danishes for the rest of the conference. More on that Friday.

Pay for Performance Destruction

A brilliant piece that exposes what teaching and learning is all about by Jamiaca HS teacher JB McGeever in the City Limits. Delving into the kind of choice teachers face when test scores are used to evaluate their work, it is an impressive expression of the destructive impact merit pay schemes have on the teaching/learning process.

Principal Doublespeak: Having the Lesson Plan Takes Priority Over the Lesson

If you haven't been following the travails of Moriah, a middle school science teacher in the process of receiving a U-rating, head on over and read the latest entry in the bizarre world of the NYCDOE. I know people at the school and this principal, notorious for emphasizing minutia and noted for choosing one teacher a year to pick on for a career-ending experience. One day Moriah will give the ok to go public with this stuff so that when someone googles the principal's name they will read this excerpt (head over to Untamed Teacher for the entire saga.)

MORIAH: There is a big difference between not having a lesson plan and not having a lesson plan on the desk during a lab.

PRINCIPAL: Tell me what the difference is.

MORIAH: The difference in not having a lesson plan would have meant that I did not know that I had to bring 8 triple beam balances. I did not know that I had to bring 8 graduated cylinders, two bars of soap. In other words, I would not have known what to do that day. But the lab was very very carefully planned. All materials were present. I knew the exact procedure. All the children knew the exact procedure. There was 100% success rate in finding the density of both bars of soap. Children were able to write up a lab, an example of which I gave you and which I have here. So it would be impossible to do all that without writing up a lesson plan, but my emphasis was on having the equipment rather than having a piece of paper that I have memorized. You are always welcome to ask for it. I usually have a written lesson plan, but there are times when perhaps I might get caught without the piece of paper, but the lesson is not only planned, I have it memorized in my head.

PRINCIPAL: But as per Chancellor’s memo 666 and the faculty handbook that you received at the beginning of the year, you must have a written plan and you must have the lesson plan available when it is requested. You said just now that you “usually” have a written lesson plan. All teachers must have a planned lesson. A written lesson plan. Please explain to me why you did not follow the faculty handbook, the Chancellor’s Regulations and the Principal’s Memos. You must have a written lesson plan ALL the time.

On march 23, 2007 I was a traveling teacher and I had a small cart with 13 science project boards from 7F the lowest class that I had.

The science projects were:

How does color affect the melting rate of ice?
How does a change in air pressure affect an egg?
How does temperature affect an electromagnet?
How can we use cabbage juice as a pH indicator?
Which substance filters water the best?
What is the effect of soda on the fizz of a soda?
Will seeds grow better in a covered jar or an uncovered jar?
How do we find if a food has starch?
How much bounce will a handball lose if it is dropped from different heights?
Have you ever wondered how clouds form?
How will different amounts of baking soda and vinegar affect how high a film canister will pop?
How does density of a liquid affect how ice floats.
How can we test different liquids for pH?

At that time I was overwhelmed by the number of boards on the cart. We were going to have a science project fair for 7F. Ms X came in and asked for the lesson plan and when she couldn’t find it she turned around and left without looking at the science projects of 7F. Without giving the children the approval that this low level class needed.

PRINCIPAL: Let me repeat my question. Why did you not have a lesson plan?

MORIAH: It was buried under 13 science boards.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New Blog from NYC Schools

Updated March 27

At the new blog The Chancellor's New Clothes, bloggers A Voice Cries Out and Learners Inherit come at us from 2 distinct directions right out of the NYC schools.

Today, Learners Inherit, a former Teaching Fellow who has crossed over and is now a vet, exposes the fault line in the newbie/veteran teacher divide in today's post. A brief excerpt (make sure to read the whole piece):

...according to the welcoming committee at the NYCTF New Teacher Ceremony, the reason [for th divide] is because “older teachers don’t like you. And they shouldn’t. They are afraid of you because you have the power to do what they can’t. You can change the schools. You are young, fresh, and full of ideas.” That was the speech that echoed throughout the large auditorium housing over 1,850 newly inducted NYCTF. But this was not the first time I heard it. In fact, this was actually a tame version of what I had been hearing all summer from my Fellows Advisor...

Why did these Fellows Advisors have to play-up our importance in the system? Why did they consistently and conveniently alienate us newbies from the experienced teachers?

Is Clinton Strategy Designed to Undermine Obama Chances to Win?

What role will the UFT/AFT play if Obama is the nominee?

On Feb. 12, in part 2 of our post on Randi's Succession, we wrote:

[Randi's] plan being to use a national forum [as AFT President] to help Hillary get elected. Ooops! Actually, if Obama is the candidate and loses to McCain, Hillary becomes very viable in 2012, so think long-term. Who do you think the Weingarten/Clinton forces will really be rooting for?) An Obama loss and AFT HQ becomes Hillary Central.

If Obama gets the nomination and loses to McCain, Hillary gets to say "I told you so" and becomes the instant candidate for 2012. At the time, I read the piece to my wife, upon which she, basically a Hillary supporter at the time, said "WHY? HOW COULD THEY WANT McCAIN?" I responded because for the Clintons and their supporters it is about them, not the party. I told her we would be watching the true level of enthusiasm Randi Weingarten and the AFT/UFT have for Obama – oh, there will be lots of surface stuff, but with Randi's star so hitched to Hillary, an Obama win, leaving Hillary in Siberia, would not be part of the plan.

Today, Maureen Dowd ("Hillary or Nobody") raises this same point (has she been reading my blog?):

Even some Clinton loyalists are wondering aloud if the win-at-all-costs strategy of Hillary and Bill — which continued Tuesday when Hillary tried to drag Rev. Wright back into the spotlight — is designed to rough up Obama so badly and leave the party so riven that Obama will lose in November to John McCain.

If McCain only served one term, Hillary would have one last shot. On Election Day in 2012, she’d be 65.

Why else would Hillary suggest that McCain would be a better commander in chief than Obama, and why else would Bill imply that Obama was less patriotic — and attended by more static — than McCain?

Why else would Phil Singer, a Hillary spokesman, say in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday that Obama was trying to disenfranchise the voters of Florida and Michigan. “When it comes to voting, Senator Obama has turned the audacity of hope into the audacity of nope,” he said, adding, “There’s a basic reality here, which is we could have avoided the entire George W. Bush presidency if we had counted votes in Florida.” So is Singer making the case that Obama is as anti-democratic as W. was when he snatched Florida from Al Gore?

Some top Democrats are increasingly worried that the Clintons’ divide-and-conquer strategy is nihilistic: Hillary or no democrat.

(Or, as one Democrat described it to ABC’s Jake Tapper: Hillary is going for “the Tonya Harding option” — if she can’t get the gold, kneecap her rival.)

A few days ago, David Brooks ("The Long Defeat") estimated Hillary's chances of getting the nomination as at best 5% and he wondered why she would be risking the party's chances by undermining Obama to such an extent he can't win.

When you step back and think about it, she is amazing. She possesses the audacity of hopelessness.

Why does she go on like this? Does Clinton privately believe that Obama is so incompetent that only she can deliver the policies they both support? Is she simply selfish, and willing to put her party through agony for the sake of her slender chance? Are leading Democrats so narcissistic that they would create bitter stagnation even if they were granted one-party rule?

We've speculated (here and here) on the lack of democracy in the way Randi Weingarten went about steamrollering the UFT into supporting Hillary Clinton (Are there NO Obama supporters in the UFT, in particular amongst Black UFT'ers and in particular Unity Caucus?) by not allowing the Delegate Assembly to even discuss the endorsement, denying Obama supporters at least the sense of fairness.

Unity Caucus discipline will take care of their Black members. 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.... But in the "democracy" in Unity Caucus, democratic centralism will suppress any sense of support for Obama.

It's all about how to manage the membership. The UFT payed [Hillary advisor] Howard 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.

With the end-game approaching, let's see if members of Unity Caucus are freed to express their enthusiasm for Obama. Randi, hedging her bets as usual, did do some gentle trashing of Obama's positions on education at a recent DA. The UFT (it will take Randi a bit of time to turn over the top level of the AFT in her image) will make it look like they support Obama, while undermining him. This is where Weingarten is at her most brilliant. Feinting left while going right. Or is it feinting right and going left? Actually, it's both at the same time.

There is sure to be some resentment of Black members within Unity Caucus if the UFT slacks off. Mike Mulgrew, Michelle Bodden and other supposed Weingarten successors will have their work cut out for them avoiding cracks in the machine.

I will miss the daily obfuscation show in the UFT when she starts racing around the county this July after her election as AFT president campaigning for Hillary – in '12.

Green Scratches Surface at UFT Charter

Updated March 26

The long-awaited Elizabeth Green piece in the NY Sun on the troubles at the UFT elementary Charter school has just scratched the surface. Some of us in ICE have been sitting on a bunch of stuff about the school for some time and were waiting for someone in the main stream press to puncture the pinata. (There was probably no lack of joy over the story in the upper reaches of Tweedletown – there were some hints from that quarter that a little scratching around was warranted.)

These stories are ONLY about the elementary, not the UFT middle school, whose principal is Drew Goodman, son of retired UFT District Reps Joan and Peter Goodman – noted Edwize blogger and Ed in the Apple. Drew Goodman has a good rep but the hints of nepotism after the UFT supposedly engaged in a high priced talent search, still float around 52 Broadway. The middle school is housed in George Gershwin JHS on Van Sicklen Ave., where I spent my glorious junior high years and was in the first 3-year grad class ('59 the school opened in Sept '56.)

Elizabeth took a trip out to the old neighborhood in East New York on Monday night for an emergency PTA meeting at the elementary school on Wyona St. where parents expressed some level of dissatisfaction. What's still missing is the unhappy teacher factor plus assorted other parties who have complained to ICE – not happy campers. Both current and former teachers, fearing the long arm of the UFT are afraid to talk publicly and some are resorting to drop boxes, leaving messages taped to the bottom of park benches – extreme micromanagement that make the Tweedles look like progressives and other juicy goodies.

Excuse me, I have to go wipe some of that juicy stuff off my keyboard.

Note: Check out NYC Educator's take.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Schmidt on Russo, Social Promotion and More

I asked George Schmidt to comment on work Alexander Russo did on social promotion - which we're calling "test-based retention" - in Chicago. Everytime I start to read someone's blog, George trashes them. I can't keep track of which status quo the Education Wonk crowd is defending. Or are they attacking the status quo? No. I get it. They are attacking the old status quo and defending the new (corporate-style mayoral control) SQ.

I'll keep reading Russo's blog anyway. (Has anyone seen Russo and Rotherham in the same place? I'll check out their workshop with Jenifer Medina of the NY Times at AERA on Thurs. and report back.)

Excerpts from George (he is referencing this piece by Russo):
What Russo is doing is recycling conservative talking points, then dressing them up with some twists as "fact." Note that he never actually talks about numbers, but froths into metaphor and some quips. The reason is that at every point, the numbers are nasty. The kids who are kept back are screwed -- just as the data showed from as far back as the New York Gates programs -- for life. The schools don't improve, either. What happens is a massive triage, with the minority of better scoring children (usually, middle class) slowly being siphoned off into magnet, charter and selective enrollment schools, while the remaining public schools receive the "leftover kids" (as they have been called in New Orleans, and in some schools here).

Russo has a way of dodging facts and ignoring data, except when he is cherry picking to fit his conservative biases.

What's amazing about Russo's piece is that he can ignore what now amounts to more than ten years of history and information, then spin out the same lies about "ending social promotion" that were being served up by right wing pundits a decade ago, when Chicago was in the vanguard of test-based "standards and accountability" long before No Child Left Behind.

George's full piece with some Russo quotes is over at Norm's Notes right here.
And some responses to Russo's piece from Leonie Haimson here.

Whitney Tilson Chooses Ed Notes Editor to Manage Hedge Fund

Ed Notes News (ENN) reports that its editor, Norm Scott, has been appointed by hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson to reform the Nasdaq stock trading market in addition to managing Tilson's personal assets. Scott is deemed fit for the jobs after taking a one week course for teachers at the NY Stock Exchange.

"Nasdaq was around 5000 in March 2001 and now it is around 2200," said a spokesperson. "Clearly the financial pros are not doing the job. The culture of low expectations is the biggest reason for the failure of Nasdaq to bounce back.

"The core problems in American financial markets are: large companies with awful bureaucracies, skewed incentives, and powerful, entrenched interests defending them. We feel an optimist with one week's training can turn this culture around."

"It's all about the culture of low expectations and it's clear that the schools training financial managers have failed," said another unnamed Tilson spokesman. "We need to place a quality finance person in every position. The performance of the markets is indicative that MBA programs have failed miserably. Someone outside the field with little training is what is needed. A teacher with no expectations of ever earning a decent salary fits the bill perfectly."

As his first act, Scott had all the hedges trimmed around the nation's financial institutions.
Scott announced that every stockholder and employee at Bear Stearns will be able to bid for high priced consultant jobs.

Nasdaq will be branded a failure, closed down and broken into smaller entities. The public will be invited to apply for charters to open their own stock exchange. No experience in the financial field will be necessary.

Experts have speculated that one of the major causes of the current financial crisis has been due to Tilson and other financial managers' preoccupation with imposing a market-based model on the education system causing them to not pay attention to the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Whitney Tilson background:
Using his extensive knowledge of the public school system and how to fix what's broken - after all, he once did attend a school - Whitney Tilson jumps out of the financial field to comment on education on his so-called ed reform blog. He is also one of the leading advocates of Teach for America, the program that takes high end college grads and runs them through a few weeks of training and tosses them into classrooms in the inner city, mostly as missionaries to serve a 2 year term. Only 18% of TFA grads remain in teaching beyond their promised term of service. Tilson supports GARCOTT - Get A Real Career Other Than Teaching.

See NYC Educator today on Tilson and BloomKlein.
Tilson also has a blog supporting Obama's candidacy.

Scary, dude! Obama supporters, beware!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

More This Week in Ed Notes

Besides attending (and writing about) the events listed in the previous post, here are some of the areas I hope to write about this week:

Why does Weingarten embrace holding teachers accountable (See The Chief) when they have absolutely no say in their professions? Why is she grading schools, albeit with an extension (a fairly light extension) of criteria?

The Battle of the Rubber Rooms: Teachers4Action vs. Betsy Combier and the UFT. Or how Betsy got her job at the UFT.

True Confessions: I was an ATR

More True Confessions: I bribed kids

Can an Old Dog Learn New Tricks? How People Learn

Schmidt on Russo: Comments from George

Calling all BloomKlein supporters in the NYC teaching corps

Reader suggestion:
Teacher surveys and the intimidation taking place by administration to score your school well, and mis-represent what services you provide.

Terror Alert for NYC Schools

Blogger Under Assault has been refining her brilliant Security Alert analogy between schools and the Department of Homeland Security. She has a widget in her sidebar and if you want to list your school under the appropriate category (to warn or encourgage potential job applicants) send along the info to either her or to me. Anonymity guaranteed. I sent her a couple I know of. (Note: the buttons don't work here.)

This Alert is still under construction, but in the meantime, press the buttons to show the categories. We'll be listing the schools we already know about soon. They're talked about in public sites, and the reputation they've earned is no secret.

Send recommendations to:

This Week in Education Notes

It will be a busy week coming up.

On Tuesday, at 8 AM Ed Notes will be heading over to the Princeton Club for a Manhattan Institute (the right wing think-tank) breakfast conference. At least when you go to MI events they feed you. (See a report of my visit to an MI luncheon in Feb. '07 for Christopher Cerf at the University Club here and a recent visit last month at the Harvard Club for Chester Finn here.)

The topic is "Can Mayoral Control Fix Urban School Districts?" Joel Klein will be the featured speaker followed by a panel discussion with Michelle Rhee (former Tweedle, Teacher for America hot shot and now the head of the Washington DC schools) and Paul Vallas, privatizer supreme of 3 urban school systems (Chicago, Philadepphia and now New Orleans). Don't these people have school systems to run. The fact that they are gathered here is proof of the political over educational agendas they are pushing.

Gee, bet I can guess the outcome of this panel.

But there may be a fly in the ointment – Diane Ravitch is also on the panel. We'll report back and maybe get some pics of the food fight.

I hope Eduwonkette shows up to ask this question she raised on her blog on Monday:

Really!?! Joel Klein

NYC's Panel for Education Policy voted tonight to require 8th graders to score above level 1 on reading and math tests and pass core courses in order to be promoted. Meanwhile, last week Joel Klein wanted to invest a hypothetical billionaire's bling in a research institute - "There are two things that I would do with this money. One, I would try to set up a national institute for educational policy that does serious research. This is an industry in which there are so many myths, and that’s because there are such large gaps in our knowledge right now."

Really, Joel Klein? That's surely true in some areas, but grade retention ain't one of them. Really. It's just that a recent paper by Brian Jacob and Lars Lefgren found that the 8th grade retention initiative in Chicago increased students odds of dropping out. That's on top of a boatload of other studies finding the same. Why waste that billionaire's money if you're not even going to read the research? And why are 18,000 8th graders projected to be retained if your 3rd, 5th, and 7th grade retention initiatives were so effective? Really.

AERA in NYC This Week
Wednesday through Friday I am checking out the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference being held in NYC. Eduwonnkette says "Weighing in at ~500 pages, the AERA program is a good weapon, but a crappy guide to a professional meeting."
Eduwonkette and Skoolboy have some suggestions as does Rethinking Schools.

This one might be fun Russo and Rotherham (Eduwonk) on the same panel - another food fight?

Disseminating Education Research Through Electronic Media: Advice from E-Journalists

Scheduled Time: Thu, Mar 27 - 10:35am - 12:05pm Building/Room: Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers / Lenox Ballroom, 2nd Floor

Session Participants:

Chair: Paul Alan Baker (Wisconsin Center for Education Research)
Participant: Alexander Russo (This Week In Education/Scholastic Administrator)
Participant: Andrew J. Rotherham (, Education Sector)
Participant: Jennifer Medina (New York Times)
Participant: Richard L. Colvin (Columbia University)

And maybe this one later that afternoon at 4PM (after finding a good movie.)

Organizing Against Intolerance: Teacher Unions, Antiracist Education, and the Limits of Liberalism

Sponsor: SIG-Teachers' Work/Teacher Unions

Scheduled Time: Thu, Mar 27 - 4:05pm - 5:35pm Building/Room: New York Marriott Marquis Times Square / Majestic Complex, Palace Room, 6th Floor

Session Participants:

“Communism Is Jewish”: New York City Teachers Unions and Tolerance Education During World War II
*Zoe Burkholder (New York University)

What’s A Teacher Union for Anyway? Race, Community, and Organization in the Chicago Teachers Union, 1965–1973
*Kyle Westbrook (University of Illinois - Chicago)

Keeping the Peace: Social Justice Teacher Unionism in a Canadian Context
*Cindy Rottmann (OISE/University of Toronto)

A Critical Analysis of the BCTF Aboriginal Education Program: A View From Within
*Blanche Christine Stewart (British Columbia Teachers' Federation)

Discussant: Wayne J. Urban (The University of Alabama)
Chair: Lois Weiner (New Jersey City University)

By examining the tolerance education of New York City Teacher Unions during World War II, the adoption in 1971 and quiet disappearance in 1998 of an anti-racist program with the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, and the struggles within the Chicago Teachers Union over full inclusion of African-American educators during the late 1960s, this session will highlight the ways in which teachers’ unions have functioned as sites of struggle over race, power and privilege.

Labor Conference at UFT HQ
On Friday afternoon (4-8) and Saturday (8-2) there is a labor conference at the UFT building at 52 Broadway. Party Friday at 4.

Note: Lois Weiner will be on a panel on Saturday at 10. Lois has written extensively on the neo-liberal collaboration with business interests in the attack on the public schools. She will be the keynote speaker at our upcoming Teachers Unite forum om April 15.

See More This Week in Ed Notes coming up later today.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Our school just voted down the bonus/merit pay plan

Posted to the ICE-mail listserve.

Our school just voted down the bonus/merit pay plan. We are in D75 and they finally gave us the criteria of the plan last week. (although the UFT wanted us to vote on the plan back in November)
Anyway, I wanted to thank everyone on this list for the discussion of the pros and cons of the bonus plan. I was able to better articulate the reasons to vote against it, because of this list.

A spreadsheet (not updated) on NYC schools that voted down pay for performance is here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Let's Rally - In France

I just dried off from the rally. I had 2 more events to attend afterwards and I was squishing all over Manhattan. What else is there to say? If it made the participants feel good, the more power to them. Will it get any funding back? I am sticking to the point that if the rally were held back in May when momentum was strong (and the weather better) it would have had a bigger impact. But then again, the UFT would have led that one too and we know where that ultimately takes us - nowhere.

I still say the rally should have been at the Federal reserve and the NY Stock Exchange. Or Bear Stearns. Now that the guy who ran it is available, why not make him a CEO of something in the DOE?

Below, NYC Parent Steve Koss (and former teacher) posting to the NYCEducation News Listserve. He raises the issue of what they would do in France, where unions have a bit of heft. As UFT'ers, we can only go home after the rally and dry out. Steve closes with, "
The only other choice is to wait for the next Mayoral election after suffering eight years of abuse and hoping for something better. Good luck with that."

To that, I say, "Bon chance!"

Steve Koss writes:

Today's NY Daily News reports:

Before the protest, city leaders held a press briefing to stress that city spending on schools has grown by $4 billion since 2002, when Mayor Bloomberg took office. They also noted that if education was saved from budget cuts, other city agencies, including the NYPD, would take a 12% hit.

So even before yesterday's Keep the Promises rally had begun, the DOE's official response was another thumbed nose at the parents, teachers, and students who showed up to protest. Worse, their response was the now-classic Bush/Rove strategy of false dichotomy, the "You're either with us or you're against us," "If you don't support the war, you don't support our troops," "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud" approach of scare tactics and implied ad hominem attacks. In this case, it's either, "You accept the cuts in the DOE budget or we cut the NYPD's budget by 12%, so good luck protecting your family from the rampaging criminals and rapists who will be then be running wild through your communities."

One thing has become abundantly clear: this Mayor and Chancellor couldn't give a fig about public school parents or their silly little protests. "Go ahead, have your little march, and we'll ignore it, the media will barely notice, everyone will go home after a little harmless catharsis, and we'll go right ahead doing what we planned to do anyway." Doesn't matter if it's 8th grade promotion policies, budget cuts, or anything else.

There's only one thing this Mayor will ever respond to (other than the power of money), and that's threats to his national political image. Short of parents actually boycotting the public schools and holding their kids out indefinitely in a mass strike, nothing is going to change with this Mayor. Nothing else parents can do -- no number of protests or rallies or City Council testimonies or petitions or blog postings -- is going to make even the slightest dent. Five or six years of this should at least have made that clear by now.

Say what you will about the French, but they understand the power of mass strikes as the last (and, too often, only) weapon left by which regular people can still exercise their democratic power. Government still requires the consent of the governed, even in Mayor Bloomberg's New York City.

The only other choice is to wait for the next Mayoral election after suffering eight years of abuse and hoping for something better. Good luck with that.

Weingarten May Soon Hold N.Y., National Union Jobs

Elizabeth Green wrote in the NY Sun.

Ms. Weingarten has enjoyed broad popularity inside the UFT, consistently winning elections by a landslide. A group of teachers that organizes against her, the Independent Community of Educators, has repeatedly condemned some of Ms. Weingarten's more unconventional positions, such as her support for performance-based pay for teachers, her support for charter schools, and her new partnership with a charter school operator that bans traditional teacher tenure, Green Dot. The group greeted her announcement, delivered to the union's executive board and legislative body last week, with disgust. "The UFT deserves a full-time president," a UFT chapter leader at Jamaica High School who is a member of ICE, James Eterno, said.

Are you sure about that, James? We've had one, supposedly, for the past 10 years. Where has that gotten us? Let's try for 10 years with Randi as a part-time President. Think it's impossible for Weingarten to attempt to break Shanker's 11 year record? Green writes [emphasis mine]:

Ms. Weingarten said holding both jobs would be the only fair way to ensure the smoothness of her departure from the UFT. An AFT president starts her term the day after being elected, she pointed out, arguing that such abruptness would prevent any smooth transition out of the UFT. "If this happens, I would do both for an uncertain time period," she said [how about a decade?]. The period would probably end when Ms. Weingarten felt a qualified successor [the search is on for another lawyer] had emerged to take her place at the UFT. Three have emerged as top contenders: two UFT vice presidents, Michael Mulgrew and Michelle Bodden, and the New York State United Teachers vice president, Maria Neira.

What Abruptness? Everyone knew for the past 3 or 4 years Randi was becoming AFT president this July. So if there was any intent to pass on power to anyone, a clear cut successor would have been chosen and groomed, as Shanker did with Feldman and Feldman did with Weingarten (who was designated at least 5 years before she actually took over.)

If you read our 2 part series on Weingarten's succession (see link on the sidebar), you will see the candidates mentioned (there were 6 at that time and expect more names to surface) include a white, a black and a Hispanic to keep all constituencies in Unity Caucus (the membership is irrelevant in all this). None of them are viewed as serious candidates capable of filling Weingarten's shoes, not as much due to their inabilities, but because Weingarten has assured the existence of a divide and conquer strategy by not putting a clear successor in place. Imagine as people begin to line up as near to the potential throne as they can, with supporters of each jockeying for positions within Unity and even going beyond into the rank and file, and heavens forbid, some people in the opposition, playing the "I'll be a different type of leader" card.

Expect Weingarten to play them off against each other. When Feldman handed her the reigns of power, she moved to edge out those Feldman supporters who did not kiss the ring. She cannot risk the same happening to her.

Remember, the entire power in the AFT resides in the UFT, and ultimately, Unity Caucus – control the caucus and control the world.

Mulgrew, who came out of nowhere from a high school chapter leader to near the top of the heap in a very short time, is mentioned as the person with the power game to run the union. But people see him as a bit rough at the edges, in more of a role to control the faithful while Weingarten races around, functioning like Tom Pappas did for Feldman and Weingarten (don't think the Randi/Tom relationship was always smooth either.) The threat to Weingarten is that Mulgrew moves behind the scenes to build an internal support system that would make him the obvious choice. Then Weingarten would face pressure to make it official.

If Bodden were truly a potential successor, she would have been given responsibilities to prepare her for the role. Neira has played little of a public leadership role to date.

So my guess is this is all about setting Randi up to run in 2010 because if she didn't groom someone by now when she knew she was leaving, why would she at this time when she won't be around to ease the transition?

A perfect example would be the coalition of groups the union worked with to put together the rally. Much is based on the personal relationships with Randi. If they don't deal directly with Weingarten, the people they do deal with in the UFT are basically gofers and are not enabled to make any real decisions. Thus, the entire political house of cards Weingarten has built, will come down without her hand being on the till. And don't think people aren't worried. If she had put in a strong successor, that person would have been picking up the relationships and assuring a smooth succession.

Soon we will be hearing how the fiscal crisis requires an experienced hand at the helm and that hand must be Weingarten's, even if it has to reach from Washington.

Of course, all of the above it total speculation on my part from a distant galaxy, so take it all with a grain of salt.

Social Promotion Under Bloomberg/Klein

Here is the true incarnation of social promotion - clearly, by their actions in giving Diane Dixon a job, BloomKlein support social promotion. And who is that nameless bureaucrat at the DOE who approved her? Any guesses out there?

The NY Post said:
The [DOE] stated, "Most importantly, Lt. Gov. David Paterson was mostly responsible.

No. More importantly, the DOE is as subject to politics as ever.

Blaming David Patterson for making a phone call - where's the accountability on the part of the DOE for saying "Yes?"

Can't you see the spin: Diane Dixon is qualified because she has proven that she can run (for a job.)

Leonie Haimson wrote on her listserve:

While thousands rally against the budget cuts to schools, and our new Governor David Paterson stands w/ Bloomberg to reject the state tax on the wealthy, saying that "I think the world that the teachers, the schools in New York City, knew, has changed," to justify these cuts, the NY Post confirms that last month he made phone calls to get Diane Dixon, his alleged ex-girlfriend a job at DOE.

Today’s story gives more details: Dixon was rejected as a CEC specialist , but then after Paterson made some calls, was hired as a District family advocate in D17 (under Martine Guerrier) at $50,000 a year. As the DOE says, “Lt. Gov. David Paterson was mostly responsible.”

Nice to know that these positions – as well as the money promised our schools as a result of the state’s highest court decision -- are considered politically expendable. How many others have been hired in this office – which the Mayor cites as showing how much he cares about parental involvement- to cement relationships with potential friends and allies?

The NY Post article is here: ED. DEPT. PATERSON CALLS GOT GAL A JOB

Test-Based Retention

Leonie Haimson responded to our previous post on social promotion (feh) with a very perceptive point:

Norm and others: you really ought not to refer to the administration’s policies as opposing social promotion; call it test-based grade retention. No one supports social promotion, and by calling it that, you’ve already bought into the Mayor’s line.

She also did the research I am too lazy to do in relation to the Alexander Russo piece on social- er – test-based retention that I referred to in the posting.

Leonie writes:

Alex Russo’s article is a bit out of date – he refers to Brian Jacob et al as supporters of this policy; more recently he has shown significantly increased dropout rates for those kids retained, as has the Chicago Consortium.

For links to the more recent Jacob research see eduwonkette (here).

For links to the Chicago studies, see our blog at On the fourth anniversary of the Monday night massacre; what have they learned?

Since then, there have been two authoritative studies, both conclusively showing that holding back kids hurts rather than helps them . See the Chicago Consortium report called
Ending Social Promotion: The Effects of Retention, which shows that third graders who were held back did no better than those who were promoted; and that sixth graders who were held back did even worse.

Even more pointedly, check out Ending Social Promotion: Dropout Rates in Chicago after Implementation of the Eighth-Grade Promotion Gate which concludes that eighth grade students who were retained increased their likelihood of dropping out by 29%.

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Social Promotion Blahs*

See latest update to this post here.

How does BloomKlein claim they empowered principals but then dictate from above decisions on who gets promoted or not? There are views on both sides on the part of teachers, who generally seem to come down on the side of using promotion as an arrow in their quiver (they have been left with precious few) to get kids who don't do much work to be motivated.

The non-worker is very different from the child who tries and struggles. If a child can't read at all - no skills after even 5 years in school even with the worst teachers then there is a problem like dysleksia. If the child is 2 years behind then there could also be a problem that no amount of holding the child back in yet another class of 25 or 30 kids will help make a difference.

When I found the graphic, it was attached to an interesting article by Alexander Russo on retention in Chicago which goes into the pros and cons and discusses the research – I don't pretend to absorb the implications, but it is worth a look-see at

I asked George Schmidt for reactions and will add them to this post.

UPDATE, March 20: Leonie Haimson's response on Chicago is posted here.

Read NYC Educator (Get Tough But Pass Everyone Anyway) here on the 8th grade social promotion farce.

Manhattan borough PEP Rep Patrick Sullivan, the lone dissenting vote commented at the blog:
Like most people, Manhattan BP Scott Stringer and I don't think we should push kids into high school who are not ready. We don't support social promotion. Yet the proposal that Klein put forward for approval had no plan to provide services to the retained kids, let alone deal with the pervasive problems of middle schools. Panel members were asked to put faith in the "forthcoming" plan that DOE is developing to turn around middle schools. The end of the administration struck me as an odd time to start working on a plan.

I've looked closely at all the research on these programs to hold kids back based on test scores and pretty much across the board the research says they don't work. A very comprehensive study in the Chicago school system showed that the retained kids had higher drop out rates, the program overall did not help despite costing hundreds of millions to fund another year of school. We will see somewhere between 5,000 - 18,000 additional kids repeat 8th grade. Tweed has not even thought about where they'll put these kids in middle schools that are already overcrowded.

What we've been saying is to instead find these kids early and provide the remediation instead of waiting for them to fail. DOE has an $80 million dollar student achievement database and the most extensively tested student body in the free world yet they can't figure out which kids need help and give it to them. Instead of paying for another year of school, we should invest in creating middle school environments that are more attractive for both students and teachers - small classes, enrichment programs, real music, art, etc.

There's a lot more from Patrick and Leonie Haimson at the NYC Public School Parent blog.

Read Patrick’s lucid explanation of his vote on the new 8th grade promotional policy here: 8th Grade Retention Vote at March 17th Panel for Educational Policy

Leonie's (in her words) somewhat less lucid account, including links to news stories, is here

last night at Tweed.

Both are worth reading.

Loretta Prisco, retired teacher and one of ICE founders writes to ICE-mail:

In my school for many years (until a new test-centric principal took all decision-making into her own hands), we made the decision to promote or hold back very carefully - teachers and supervisors and parents too without some self-serving political crap from a mayor or chancellor. And in fact as pointed out at NYC educator schools will cheat to get around the issue so they look better. Social promotion will be stronger than ever.

Retired teacher and one of ICE founders, Loretta Prisco writes on ICE-mail:
What is so amazing is that our current 8th graders were in 2nd grade when Klein took over. They have been the recipients (or should we say victims?) of his policies,curriculum mandates and personnel appointments and yet he takes no accountability for the fact that 8th graders cannot reach level 2.

Are we expected to believe that after 8 or more years of education that have not enabled students to achieve a level 2 on a standardized test, they will be successful in 6 weeks in summer school. Achieve in 6 weeks what couldn't be done in 8 years? Why not just cancel school and have them spend a few weeks in summer school? Throw in some Saturday sessions to guarantee success.

It is interesting to note that 5 of the 6 identified SURR schools were middle schools this year. Holding back 8th graders will definitively challenge middle schools even more - a challenge they will not be able to overcome. Are we looking at systematic closing of middle schools as we have seen in the high schools? A cause for more charters?

Middle schools can work. Classes of no more than 20, true advisor-advisee sessions, guidance support, good attendance improvement programs, a full gym program, intensive English classes for our ELL population, a full visual and performing arts program, health programs offered on site, professional development on working with the adolescent, teachers teaching within their license area, and providing the mandated services that our special ed. population deserves.

And we should be sending on 5th graders prepared for middle school. That begins with a substantial foundation in the early childhood grades. A full comprehensive program, low class size and further reduced for those who need more attention, intervention with struggling learners in kindergarten, before failure takes its ugly toll.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

$220 Billion for Bail Out, Zilch for Schools

The Ed "reformers" always talk about accountability in terms of "no excuses" for poverty, large class sizes, etc. They are quick to support the billions for bailouts but say they can't waste money on lowering class size because they can't guarantee a quality teacher in every class.

How about not allowing a bank to open until there's a quality banker in each and every one? Are any of teh characters who led us into this crisis truly suffering? Poor guy at BearsStern- wealth fell to 12 million.

Under whose watch were laws passed during the depression to prevent the kinds of abuses we are seeing today repealed? I believe Mr. Clinton. And of course, followed up by the massive giveaway of the institutional protections to corporate interests.

If we had unions that stood up and exposed the practices that end up in bailouts ( Chrysler, savings and loan - one a decade) instead of collaborating, it all wouldn't be as easy for them.

If the UFT/AFT defended its members instead of seeking ways to cooperate in the dismantling of public education, they could have played a role in exposing some of the shams. But how can the UFT play at that level when they can't even defend teachers in their schools?

Not a word from the union about how 200 billion can be found for a bailout or how 2 trillion magically appears for a war. Instead of pointing out where the money is, the UFT/AFT buys into the phony accountability/reform movement and calls for tinkering at the edges.

We will see the UFT lead a rally at Tweed tomorrow begging for a few crumbs to be put back on the table while the Fed throws billions on the table for the financial industry.

The rally to restore the budget cuts would have a much better chance of succeeding if it were held at the Federal Reserve.