Wednesday, April 30, 2008

ATR's in Bloomberg Purgatory

The breaking Bloomberg wanting-to reopen-the contract ATR story reached us here in Tokyo. I'll link to Elizabeth Green's story when I get back. The gist from the people who published the vicious attack on ATR's by calling for them to be put on unpaid leave after 12 months until they get a job is what we all expected to happen. That the character in charge said he has confidence that Randi will agree in the long run is actually funny - if you're not an ATR. The UFT always gets mad he said. Or acts mad before signing on to whatever.

Yeah! The UFT response even 7000 plus miles away will make me go all gooey inside.

Ok, Bloomberg, here's the deal. Let's reopen the contract - Teachers get all seniority rules back and your - is it $60 million- ATR problem goes away. The UFT doesn't need no stinkin' press conferences with ATR's pleading their cases. Time to say we don't give a crap how much the public or the press or anyone slams us. Time to act like a union. Draw a freak'n line in the sand and say a loud SCREW YOU ALL. THE CONTRACT IS THE CONTRACT EVEN IF IT SUCKS.

Oh, but what does that do the image of the next president of the AFT? Won't Rod Paige and Eduwonk withdraw their praise?

And gee, I just have been reading about a certain union that went on 3 strikes for almost 3 months 40 years ago over 19 teachers who were transferred. Where's Shanker guru Richard Kahlenberg on the current ATR outrage with his defense of Shanker's actions then? (I heard he got some nice space in the NY Teacher 'splainin what Shanker REALLY meant on his charter school idea.)

This email was sent to ICE-mail asking us to spread around this letter some teachers wrote to the NY Times, soon to be owned by Bloomberg. Think anyone there has the balls to publish it?

Hi colleagues,

Here is a "Letter to the Editor" of the New York Times, which two GED Plus teachers, Roz Panepento and myself, sent off today. It was in response to the Times Metro page article on ATRs. The Times, the Post, Channel 7, the Daily News all ran varieties of the same story, which disgustingly blamed the ATRs for being in sub pools, and not in the classroom. The story was clearly generated by the Chancellor's office. The UFT is asking ATRd teachers who have tried, but not been successful on the open market, to contact the union and be willing to speak to the media to counter this latest onslaught from the NYCDOE.

To the Editor:
New York Times

April 29, 2008

Your story about the Absent Teacher Reserve pool today can only be seen as part of a coordinated campaign by the mayor and chancellor to be able to layoff senior teachers, with years of critical experience.

Your article states that many teachers in the reserve pool are “undesirable.” This is pure slander. In District 79, last June we faced a chaotic “restructuring” which led to the loss of hundreds, if not thousands of students (the DOE is not keeping records), and the loss of over 250 teacher positions. Some of our ATR’d colleagues have Ph.D’s in education; others are college professors who have returned to the classroom; still others are highly-skilled math, science and literacy teachers. Some were not permitted to interview for new positions, others had phone interviews; others faced interviewers who were utterly unqualified and clueless about specialties such as ESL or Special Education. Most had years of “S” ratings, and had never received an unsatisfactory in their lives.

Behind the fiasco of the ATRs was the end of seniority transfers in the 2005 UFT contract. That system assured that with school closings, teachers could find new positions in an orderly way. Bloomberg and Klein vowed to get rid of tenure, seniority transfers and bring in merit pay—all of these are disasters for the students and the teachers.

The article blames teachers for the NCDOE’s own policies: closing schools, “excessing” teachers, forcing them into pools, and replacing them with new (cheaper, younger) teachers. Looking at the “bottom line” might work in business, but it sure hurts students. It takes years to develop knowledgeable, experienced, effective, caring teachers.

You blame teachers for supposedly not taking advantage of the open market. We suggest you ask the teachers who tried it --many applied for numerous positions, and never got a call back (many positions are filled before even being listed). We strongly suggest that, rather than the blame game, you give the ATRs a voice, to get a real view of what’s really going on in the schools.

Roz Panepento, former Chapter Leader during the ATR reorganization of District 79
Marjorie Stamberg, ESL specialist, teacher GED-Plus, District 79

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tokyo Notes

Random thoughts on many things...

Wed. April 30, 5 AM, Tokyo time (which is 4pm, Tues., Apr. 29, NY time)

Leaving tomorrow early to start heading home. Plane takes off at 11 AM and we arrive in NYC at 10:30 AM, a half hour earlier than we left. Will I be a half hour younger?

I came to Tokyo as part of a group to assist with the Asian Open FIRST LEGO League tournament. The event ended Tuesday afternoon after 3 intense days. As a first time referee I was in the middle of a lot of the action and there's a lot to say about FLL, robotics, etc.

This trip turned into a unique opportunity to interact with a great variety of adults and children from all over the world. So much has gone on, it is hard to contain all of it. We have also been on the constant run - I'm leaving soon to meet the teachers and kids from Little Red Schoolhouse from Manhattan for a trip out of town to a giant Buddha. But more on that later. (Note- I'm using a borrowed computer and the browser is in Japanese, so there will be lots of typos which I'll fix when I return.)

There's lot to write about - including some of the observations I've had and many educational conversations I've had with Europeans and Asians and Americans. We had 2 contrasting NYC middle schools here - one public school from the Bronx and the other a private school from Manhattan and I had a bit of perspective from talking to the teachers and observing some of the interactions between the kids, especially last night when we all had dinner together. We were joined by one of my traveling companions from NYC, who is of Japanese descent but born and raised in Brazil but also lived in Japan for 9 years. After dinner a few of us met up with a group of Europeans from the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark in the bar.

This posting will keep a running account over the next few weeks as things come back to me.

Last Saturday there was a planned excursion to a temple, followed by lunch and then onto an area of Tokyo known as electronic city - think of a thousand B&H's and J&R's piled on each other block after block - plus assorted other stuff like the old Canal Street hobby shops. Geek heaven. Back to that later.

About 200 kids and the adults with them milled about the lobby at the Keio Plaza hotel. The teachers from Little Red -Sherezada, Karen, and Steve finally met Gary who works with the Ridder Kids from the Bronx to hand over the $1200 they raised from bake sales to help out the Ridder Kids.

We were part of a group that never signed on, so there was no room on the buses. be continued

Friday, April 25, 2008

Illiterate in Tokyo

So this is what it feels like to be illiterate. You can't even look something up in a dictionary. The streets have no names so following a map is almost impossible. We've (I'm travelling with Gary who was my counterpart in Region 2 and then moved on to handle the entire Bronx) figured out you have to use buildings as markers. Luckily we have Marcio with us. He's a New Yorker of Japanese decent originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He lived in Tokyo for 9 years and even he finds it confusing. He took us out last night to the east end of the area where his hotel is located. One of the known red light, raunchy districts in Tokyo. But we saw little raunch and ate on the 5th floor of a building. Many restaurants are on top of each other in a vertical pile. So are some people around here I imagine.

We're in Shinjuko in the west end of Tokyo. The train station here may be the busiest in the world. Some 2 million people pass through a day.

We want to walk everywhere. Marcio discourages us, urging us to take the subway. We did convince him to walk to day but it is not easy to get around that way for anything but short distances. Some aspects of the city remind me of London, certainly that they drive on the opposite side of the road. But London could be walked. Here, you have to go up stairs, then down stairs. Streets do not run parallel.

We got back to the hotel this afternoon for the meeting with the organizers and volunteers. Most are from Europe and LEGO education. We were led on a school-type trip back to Shinjuku station for a 4 stop subway - really, many trains here are elevated- ride to someplace I can't pronounce - they have the offices there. Someone from LEGO Japan did the translating for us. I am going to be a referee for the first time and had to relearn the game. Gerhardt from LEGO in Denmark is a lifesaver and we went over all the aspects and now I have a feel for it. We're meeting Sunday at 9:30 to go over stuff and practice scoring - I need the most help - to be ready for the real competition on Monday. The 56 teams from 24 countries and 456 kids. Really all over the world. Peru and Brazil, a bunch from the US, Canada and Mexico. Five from China, teams from Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan. any from Western Europe. And Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia. We were disappointed to hear the 2 teams from Israel had to cancel at the last minute - we could have solved the middle east in 3 days.

We were taken to eat after the training at an 8th floor restaurant with a buffet right over the train station - there's lots of these big shopping areas as part of train stations. I sat with David who is a phys ed teacher in Barcelona and runs all of the tournaments in Spain and a woman who runs the tournaments in Benelux. Is iit amazing meeting all these people who speak fluent English? What a dunce I feel like.

After eating the organizers felt the trains would be too crowded, so they piled us in cabs to get back to the hotel. I could have walked faster. Tokyo traffic is awful. But in addition to David, a gal from Germany was in the cab and she works in the social responsibility section of a major corporation and recruits mentors for teams.

In a major interesting point of the conversation, she asked about KIPP involvement in FIRST activities and said she has friends who work with KIPP in the states. That led to a great follow-up - I told her to tell her friends to contact me if KIPP in NYC was interested in FIRST robotics. We did get to talk about some of the broader issues facing the corporate takeover and she surprised us by saying there were few private schools in Germany and those that do exist are viewed as havens for kids who buy their degrees because they cannot make it in the much better perceived public schools.

Back at the hotel, the organizers told us the tallest building in Tokyo was open for us to go up and check out the views and David, Gary and I went on up but the glass prevented us from taking good pics. Gary and I went over to the Hyatt to try to find the school from Little Red which had raised $1200 in bake sales to contribute towards the Ritter Kids from the Bronx who arriving 17 strong along with their principal and 6 parents Saturday afternoon. They didn't check in 'till after 7 (what a long, grueling trip they must have had) but must have gone out to eat.

Tomorrow we go on an all day excursion out of the city.

I think I'm jet-lagged up the kazoo.

The only ed news that seems to have come up of note is that Queens Bor. Pres Helen Marshall seems to have woken up and appointed a Queens rep to the PEP. Leonie posted a good article from the Queens Courrier. Will Manhattan PEP Rep Patrick Sullivan have another independent colleague?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tokyo Bound

Well, I'm heading over to Tokyo for the Asian Open FIRST LEGO League tournament so I will be posting sporadically for a few days. Updates on the robotics aspect at the Norms Robotics blog. I'll post any interesting ed news I come across on this blog. I wonder if they are addressing issues such as school choice, teacher quality, achievement gaps, etc over there? Think they have rubber rooms? Probably, but not where you think.

I registered for the Ed Bloggers Summit in Washington May 14/15. The keynote speaker is Newt Gingrich - now you know all you need to know what this is all about. I'm going disguised as Eduwonkette.

Students at Manhattan Center Protest Teacher in Rubber Room

We've heard lots of RR stories but this may be the first student protest. Teachers are protesting too - I saw a teacher from the school with a black armband last week. That so many students are denied their teacher is one of the under reported aspects of putting teachers in the RR. I have lots of stories where the teacher is charged with such bull that could easily have been resolved without shipping them out. Check out NYC Educator's take today. Check the video of Michael Meenan's NY 1 report.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Randi Weingarten added to 4/23 Grading NYC Schools Panel

Public invited. Details here.
I bet no one says the very idea of grading schools is rediculous and a waste of time and resources.

"Scarsdale Success" To Give Parents Choice - Finally

EDNN News Reports:

Tired at being barricaded inside their zoned schools, a group of Scarsdale residents have asked some Harlem African-American ministers to open a charter school in Scarsdale, NY. They will urge space be found to cram it in to a current public school. The school will be called "Scarsdale Success" and will be modeled on former NYC City Council member Eva Moskowitz' "Harlem Success" school.

"It is not fair to the people in that community that charter schools are only being opened by white people for black residents in Harlem," said a spokesperson. "Free choice of schools should be open to white folks too. Why should the good people in Scarsdale have to send their children to a conscripted public school without having the freedom to choose alternatives? Our individual rights are being subverted in favor of some misguided notion of collectivism that favors the status quo."

"But they aren't they wealthy enough to send their kids to private schools if they are not happy with the public schools," we asked?

The spokesperson said:
"Do you know what they pay in taxes to support the public schools? A portion of that money should go to open a variety of charter schools so they can have a choice. What if a parent is not happy with the progressive curriculum and wants their kids to have a test-prep-all-day education like the kids in Harlem? What if a parent is sick of all the trips and excursions their kids go on and prefer they stay in school all day and work to close the achievement gap with Shaker Heights, Ohio? What if you are a minority in the community and you don't want to go to the school with the majority-chosen principal? The only model that avoids the tyranny of the majority and respects the individual rights of parents and students is the school choice model."

Won't cramming a charter school into an existing public school cause class sizes to rise? "Class size is overrated. Better to have a class of 50 with a good teacher than a class of 10 with a low quality teacher," said the spokesperson.

"I'm sick of having to elect school boards and having a say in running our schools," said a Scarsdale supporter of the plan. "We want what the residents of Harlem have – no say at all in how their schools are run. Liek them, we want outsiders to come in and take the burden off our hands by telling us how to run our schools. I've noticed too many of our kids do not look at the teachers and nod on cue." We want some Kipp of our own.

Some Scarsdale residents plan to petition Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein to come in and take over their schools. "Better yet," said a parent leader, "we hope Eva Moskowitz gets off her missionary kick and comes on down."

Scarsdale middle school will have to make room for a charter school, causing a rise in class size.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The attack on teacher unions...

..... is broad-based and international - Lois Weiner put together an excellent presentation at the Teachers Unite forum last week and I hope to have the video up in a few weeks.

Naturally, one aspect is money. Non-union teachers can be paid less - don't be fooled by 125K salaries - the numbers still don't compute in terms of time. The other costs associated with contracts are health care, preps, and class size and other aspects.

But it goes beyond to the ability of organized unions (not the UFT, of course) to drive a progressive education agenda by mobilizing people.

Teachers are the point people all over the world in bringing information to the mass of people and are viewed as potentially dangerous to any agenda unless they can be controlled through fear and intimidation. That's the Taliban assassinate teachers, especially those working with girls. And why teachers in Mexico have been murdered. This is echoed all over the world where teachers are amongst the leaders of progressive movements - except here.*

Thus the real reason for the attack on tenure and senior teachers, people who are the most capable and knowledgeable in terms of resisting the idiot ed ideas being fostered on them.

They want teachers to respond when they are told at 12 midnight that it is really noon to say, "Where are my sunglasses?"

*[Analysing the Kahlenberg "Tough Liberal" book on Al Shanker with supplemental reading goes a way to explaining a lot.]

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Randi, Hillary and Barack

UPDATE2: George Schmidt on Obama and the Chicago Teachers Union
A remarkable piece by George (who disagrees with so much of Obama's program) but talks about him as a man.
"I remember the numerous times he'd come by the union offices (before he was an intergalactic star) and thank us or just talk. He was also at just about every union event. After he was elected to the Senate, he came by the CTU to thank everyone on the staff."

And read why Michael Moore has just endorsed Obama.
UPDATE1: Clinton and Labor
from Counterpunch, Vol 15, no 7: April 1-15
"U.S. labor unions bitterly point out that Clinton (along with two of her own top staffers, Mark Penn and Howard Wolfson) has been lobbying for Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe, while the latter has consolidated his regime’s record as the most dangerous in the world for labor organizers. In the six years since Uribe took office, over 400 labor activists have been killed. In 2008, almost one unionist a week has been assassinated."

Bill Clinton was paid $800,000 by Columbia based Gold Star Int'l to promote the US-Columbia trade deal that Hillary is supposedly denouncing. Did she tell Bill to give the money back?

We all know where the UFT/AFT stands - four square for Hillary.

Ed Notes has been speculating what Randi et al. will do when Obama gets the official nomination.

So, when she was asked exactly this question at the Delegate Assembly on April 16 - will you be giving Obama the same level of support you are giving to Hillary, she smiled (sort of) and said, "We don't want McCain to win, do we?"

Well, do we?

How do Hillary and Randi benefit if Obama wins? Four and probably eight years in the wilderness. Basically, for Hillary, it's over.

But if Obama gets the nomination and loses, the bigger the better for the Clintons, then it's "I told you so" time and the "Hillary in '12" campaign begins.

Some pundits have speculated as to why with so little chance, the Clintons continue to cut up Obama. Her fighting spirit is what they attribute it to. Nah! It's all part of the cut-your-losses-today-plan-for tomorrow strategy. Sort of like what happened with their "support" for Gore and Kerry.

So Randi's follow up to the question was insightful. "We have reached out to Obama, but they don't respond," was what she said. Hmmm. You know, code for -- arrogant.

I've heard from chapter leaders about the not so subtle anti-Obama stuff at chapter leader training sessions. Videos of Obama coming out in favor of individual merit pay. Terrible. After all, Hillary and Randi are for their own versions of merit pay, so that's all right. And they were fed all the stuff about how Hillary wants to rid us of NCLB while Obama is ho-hum. Hmmm. Naturally the history of AFT/UFT/Randi/Clinton support for NCLB from day one is somehow left out.

Using chapter leader training to spread the anti-Obama message is a sign of the undercurrent of what things are all about.

There's a story in Kahlenberg's "Tough Liberal" Albert Shanker book about Bill and Hillary Clinton favoring testing of veteran teachers when he was governor of Arkansas in the 80's. Shanker was toying with the idea as part of his reform movement, saying in 1984, "there is ample evidence that states – through past hiring practices– have hired people who are illiterate."

Admittedly, these tests for vet teachers were supposedly for literacy. But if you were for testing vets, why not in subject areas and beyond? Were Shanker and the Clintons in favor of a literacy tests for, say, politicians? And how about having lawyers retake the Bar exam every 5 years? And doctors retake med boards? Oh, boy!

Shanker invited Hillary the 1985 AFT convention to debate Rand researcher Linda Darling-Hammond, who was apparently opposed to testing veteran teachers. Kahlenberg writes, "Politically, [Hillary] Clinton said, the weeding out of incompetent teachers helped create the political environment in which the public would support new taxes and further investments in education."[p. 290]

Linda Darling-Hammond is now one of Obama's chief education advisers, and a noted critic of Teach for America.

Ahhh! Hillary arguing the case for testing veteran teachers opposed by one of Obama's chief education advisers. Wish I had a video of that debate to show chapter leaders.

The Sort of Arrogance Black People Encounter...

....when white folks start schools in their neighborhoods with their values and try to dictate how black people should live...and these same white missionaries try to turn the tables and accuse their critics of being arrogant or racist.
UPDATE: Make sure to check out more on paternalistic white "saviors" of poor black kids:
"KIPP Schools-Brainwashing the Disenfranchised"
Written by A Voice in the Wilderness on April 20, 2008
Posted at The Chancellor's New Clothes.

What does it take to reach an inner city child? Teach them to nod on cue.

Are Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg, who have dictated to people in Harlem and other places how their schools should be run, also black? They have allowed so much parent input in Harlem.

Did I make a mistake. Is Eve Moskowitz black? Did the African-American parents get to choose her as the leader of the school? Or is she self-chosen?

I have an idea for Eva Moskowitz and her supporters.

Let's have an election. Let the 3600 black parents who turned out for the Harlem Success Schools elect a board of directors and turn the schools over to them to run. Think they'll choose Eva?

That's called community control, as opposed to mayoral control ... where people do get to do the dictating on how they want to live.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Evil Eva at it Again

Eva Moskowitz, former NYC Councilwoman and failed candidate for Manhattan Borough President (we can guarantee she would not have appointed an independent voice to the Panel for Educational Policy like Scott Stringer who defeated her) has used her down time between political campaigns to open a charter school in Harlem, squeezing her way into a public school space.

The NY Post has yet another oped on how great Joel Klein and charter schools are, again from Eva Moskowitz, nearly identical to her oped in the NY Sun.

In a piece worthy of any comedy routine, among the best lines are these.

"Suppose you ran a school and you had some good ideas you wanted to try. Then imagine that you couldn't try those ideas because dictating your policies were people hundreds of miles away who'd never visited your school and didn't have any experience running one."

Eva did have experience going to school, so that is why she feels she should run one. Even law makers in Albany went to schools once and have as many qualifications as Eva does. And poor Joel. He's never had the joy of running a school himself. Or a school system. But why not give him the largest school system in the nation as a playpen?

Now according to Eva, the public schools in Harlem suck. You know, all that red tape. But...but... Eva... Hasn't Joel Klein been running all these schools for 7 years? Isn't it his red tape? Here's a funnier line:

"Remarkably, Chancellor Joel Klein, despite these handicaps, has made meaningful improvements to the public schools over the last seven years. But he's being forced to fight with one hand tied behind his back."

Poor Joel, suffers with having to give teachers 50 minute lunch hours and some prep time. And health care. Now we know why all those schools in Harlem are failing. Bet those Catholic schools where teachers make half what public school teachers do are making out ok. Boy, if Joel could only get that hand untied we would really see improvements.

I’m going to Obama with a banjo on my knee

The Wave's Howie Schwach editorialized on how Obama’s refusal to wear a lapel pin that would demonstrate his patriotism will cost him votes. My guess is that Obama can wear a jacket made of lapel pins and he will not get those votes. No matter what polls show, when it comes time to pull the lever, a lot of people will not vote for a black man for president. I think it’s called “racism.”

Some comedian said that the only time you see a black man as president in movies and on TV is when some cataclysm is about to hit. What’s more likely? Obama as president or the earth getting hit by an asteroid? He has my vote anyway, but I’m writing this from under my dining room table.

Coming soon: What Randi said about supporting Obama at the Delegate Assembly on Apr. 16 and how she said it - I wish I had a picture of that crocodile smile when she said, "We don't want McCain to win, do we?"

Starting Now: Hillary in '12

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tweed G&T "Reform" - And the Winners Are?

More from BloomKlein, those great civil rights activists. They get more MLK-like every day.

Eduwonkette reports (Of course the Quick and the Ed won't believe these numbers, as they bow down to the God of BloomKlein, from some anonymous person who is not ready to throw her credentials on the table):

The Upper West Side Relief Act of 2008 (Or: More on Gifted Admissions in NYC)

Upper West Side kids face obstacles, folks - sometimes there are two Bugaboo strollers blocking their path to the Elephant Playground at 76rd and Riverside. Joel Klein recognized their struggle against adversity, and gently tweaked the gifted and talented admissions rules to open the door of opportunity for all (Manhattan) kids.
Make no mistake - NYC's poorer community school districts lost out under the new gifted and talented admissions process. Full report with maps here.

It's Never the Money, Honey

When Randi Weingarten tells us how much she could have made as a lawyer, it reminds me of how Joel Klein says the same thing about the high salaries of his corporate minions making ed policy and ruining the schools in NYC. Actually, I never believe RW does things for money, but still....

This ite
m appeared in Mike Antonucci's EIA Communique. People like Unity's Leo Casey and ICE's Sean Ahern get all frothy at the mouth whenever I cite Mike - we all know his mission - to report when a union leader takes $10 while ignoring corporate heads when they take 100 billion.
But other than a willingness to turn the other cheek at massive giveaways and theft of entire school systems, he is sometimes right on.

By the way, Stroock, has done very well with the business Randi has thrown their way over the years.

Randi Weingarten Makes Her AFT Accession Official.
Spilling what was arguably one of the worst-kept secrets in American labor history, United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten officially announced her candidacy for the presidency of the American Federation of Teachers.

She also made official her intention to continue as UFT president while holding national office. When the New York Daily News remarked that holding both positions would nearly double her annual salary to reach almost $600,000, Weingarten referred to her previous career as a Wall Street attorney and replied, "I took a huge cut in any kind of pay that I was ever going to make in my life to do this job. And so money has never been an issue with me other than to try to champion those causes for my members."

Weingarten spent three years as an associate for Stroock & Stroock & Lavan. While there is no way to know what career path she might have taken had she not been hired by UFT in 1986, it's pretty clear how much she would have made had she stayed at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan as an associate. She even mentioned it in a 2004 speech:

"If I were starting out today as a young new attorney in my old firm – Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, I would be starting at $125,000. After eight years as a teacher here in New York, I'd be making $60,700. After eight years in my old law firm, I'd be making a base salary of $215,000."

A more recent look at the firm's salary schedule shows a $280,000 level after eight years. Certainly we can generate scenarios in which Weingarten would have made more than $600,000 as an attorney, but in reality she made more money in her first eight years as UFT president than she would have had she spent those eight years as a Wall Street attorney.

The Education Intelligence Agency

COMMUNIQUÉ – April 14, 2008

On the Web at

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Broke Everything and Fixed Nothing...

...This comment about the BloomKlein tenure over the NYC school system came from Lisa Donlan, parent activist from the lower east side in Manhattan and a proponent of local community control as an alternative to mayoral control.

It is so totally true and is so ignored by BloomKlein adherents - the amazing level of incompetence, covered up by mucho PR. One thing we would have expected from the Bloomie technocrats, would at least be doing things with some level of efficiency, no matter how hare-brained the scheme.

We all know that there was a lot that needed to be changed. But instead of picking and choosing and doing it rigth, the broke it all. And they not only fixed nothing, they broke it worse.

Lisa wrote this on the NYC ed news listserve after reading about the Tisch family attempt to start the ball rolling towards a 3rd Bloomberg term in office:

I tell you- it sure makes one nostalgic for the old local school boards and all those opportuniites for local corruption, cronyism and nepotism.

In its place we have citywide, wholseale corruption and cronyism in the form of $300 million in no-bid contracts; top DoE officials with major equity holdings in for-profit vendors; legions of retired superintendents/administrators double dipping while in the employ of the market-driven SSO's and other DoE partnerships; networks of enlightened scions holding the purse strings to many facets of our parapublic education system; and untold backroom deals of the strangest of powerful bedfellows cutting up pieces of a growing pie.

As the French say- the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Give me local control and its small scale flaws that can be addressed in face-to-face community confrontations, over system wide policy-by-press release, kick-the-anthill-to-see-what-crawls-out management of a million students in 1400 plus schools, and sophisticated spin in place of transparency and accountability.

Audio of Jamaica HS protest at Monday's PEP

Thanks to Sol.

Click below.

Science teacher at Jamaica High School

Jamaica High School Chapter Leader James Eterno

Another Tweed Screwing of Public Schools...

...while favoring charters set up by rich people (Courtney Sales Ross, the trophy wife head of deceased Time-Warner head, Steve Ross, now turned savior of the poor and undeducated. (I mean Courtney, not Steve.) It looks like they're sick of having the Ross Global Charter School at Tweed, so let's dump them into a prime, overcrowded public school. Too bad. When I attend press conferences at Tweed and go to the bathroom, I get a glimpse of the school in action. And I love watching the kids at recess playing in the garden next to Tweed. Real children in proximity to the lawyers and MBA's. Ugh! But unless Klein is willing to give up his cubicle, I guess there's no more room for the much-needed expansion. So, shove them into some public school in one of the most crowded areas of Manhattan. What's the matter, no room in East New York? Maybe have them share space with the UFT Charter. Or with Green Dot in the Bronx.

Read the letter Ross Chater sent to the parents:

Expansion of charter school is ”necessary to ensure the continued financial sustainability of the school” here at Norm's Notes.

Leonie Haimson reports:

Parent Protest

What: parent meeting and protests about proposed move of Ross global charter school into a public school space– in one of the most overcrowded areas of District 2.

When: Wed., April 16 at 6 PM.

Where: 55 E. 25 between Madison and Park Ave South

For the DOE’s own highly negative assessments of the Ross school, see

For negative comments from former parents and teachers at the school, see

InsideSchools and the Great schools website.

Seniority Be Damned!

When you get on an airplane, peek in the cockpit. Do you feel better or worse if there's a gray-haired gent sitting in the pilot's seat? How would you feel if you saw, say, a 22 year old? How do you feel about seniority now?

NYC Educator today raises an interesting point in his "They Should be Shocked! Shocked!" piece (Claude Rains, where are you?)

It's funny to read in the UFT paper that they've filed a discrimination suit against the city. Apparently, the Absent Teacher Reserve is largely composed of senior teachers. Amazingly, principals, who now have to pay salaries out of their own school budgets, prefer to hire newer teachers for half the price.

Clearly no one in the UFT anticipated this when they agreed to Klein's third reorganization. This was the reorganization that made principals pay salary lines out of their own budgets. UFT bigshots are shocked that principals snap up newbies at half the price while senior teachers are left to rot in the ATR brigade.

Weingarten and Klein both gain from the attack on senior teachers. The more years people teach, the more they see how the UFT and the DOE operate and the better chance some of them will become resisters. Just look at the experienced core that is built around his blog. Many only became resisters in recent years.

A younger crowd without a memory of an active union helps Unity keep power. Unity talks the game on seniority - they've been finagling these law suits for years, for PR purposes. People who have been tracking them know just how they've made sure to file these things in a way that will take as long as possible - the idea is to shut people up and say - "See, we're doing something." Ignore what they say, but watch what they do.

Even Mike Mendel's attack on Klein's tenure manipulations bragged about how many ways principals have to deny tenure. The UFT unofficial position on the non-tenured is to say "wink, wink, do what you will." That was the basis of his outrage. "We are letting you do anything you want and you still want to make a political deal out of this?"

It works for Klein too in the same way - fearful and manipulated, new teachers will ignore even the union rules they have. Like a duty free lunch hour, one of the basic rights in the contract, is being ignored all over the place, especially in elementary schools where it is considered unpatriotic to refuse to attend "working" lunches.

The UFT has been part of the attack on senior teachers - underground by agreeing to gut the contractual protections, starting with going along with Klein not to allow seniority transfers. Klein used this as his opening salvo when he took over, claiming these people were all incompetent. I even saw Randi at a City Council meeting not defend these transfers but brag how we were cooperating. These were maybe 600 people a year and they were attacked like this was the cause of educational failure.

One of the ironies is that Klein also attacked these transfers because "they were removing needed experienced teachers from the ghetto schools that needed them." What bull, considering how the DOE turned this around. Klein said the same thing in the last reorganization, claiming the "white" schools got more money because of higher teacher salaries. That is how he sells his program to the black and Hispanic communities. Playing the race card.

I knew many excellent teachers who after 20 years got tired of battling with struggling students and wanted to end their careers working with a different population. Principals always resisted these transfers and for years managed to hide openings - just check all the young kids teaching in Staten Island for many years while teachers who were residents and working in Williamsburg waited years for a transfer.

But many of my friends found it so much easier to teach when they got to these schools because discipline was easy as pie. They were often looked at within a year or two as one of the best. Were there some rotten apples? Of course. But these were magnified by Klein and others who spread stories about them - check Sol Stern's book about the awful math teacher his kid at Stuyvesant ended up with after transferring from Seward Park. He built his rep with the right wing anti-teacher crowd on the back of that teacher.

The UFT, always not wanting to appear to be defending bad teachers, is willing to allow good and bad to go to slaughter, so they can claim "we are a union of professionals" that help remove poor teachers. This is not just a Weingarten thing, but comes directly from Al Shanker - some of his quotes will make your hair stand up. From merit pay to seniority to the use of a testing regime.

I just finished working on a review of the Kahlenberg book on Shanker and that has provided a deeper understanding of how and why the UFT has made the moves it has. They have not been outfoxed by Klein. Philosophically, they've been there before Klein ever set foot in Tweed.

In fact, there's a defense of seniority, with all the attending ills. I taught for 27 years in a school in a poor neighborhood and most people spent their careers there. New teachers were absorbed every year a few at a time and working next door to senior teachers always had people to rely on. Of course, the cushy positions were filled by seniority. In some ways that worked. After all, you spend 10 or 15 or 20 years in the all-day classroom, maybe it's better for the teacher and the kids for you to do a less intensive job.

Ok. I know the argument that new teachers shouldn't be throw into the fray right away. My first year and a half, I lucked out and was an ATR (they had them in '67 and '68 when they overhired) and I went through hell. But I learned without ruining a class, other than the day I had them. By my 2nd year I felt like a semi-pro and when I took over my first class midway through that year, I really knew what I was doing.

So my solution is to either set up an internship program and/or make the new teachers ATR's instead of the senior teachers, a massive waste of talent and money.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Average Citizen" Jessica Tisch Calls For Bloomberg 3rd Term

Today's Post includes an op-ed calling for voters to decide on term limits so Bloomberg can run again. The piece claims Bloomberg has outperformed, citing his record in improving the schools. It's written by a Jessica Tisch, identified as a "law and business student" in New York. Does anyone know who that is, if she went to public schools or how she otherwise arrived at her insight into our "improved "schools?

What the Post didn't tell you:
NY Times, Nov. 2006

Jessica Sarah Tisch, the daughter of Merryl and James S. Tisch of New York, was married last evening to Daniel Zachary Levine... The bride, 25, and bridegroom, 26, met at Harvard, from which they both graduated magna cum laude, and where she is now in the third year of a combined M.B.A. and law degree program and he is a second-year M.B.A. student.

Her father is the president and chief executive of the Loews Corporation in New York, which was founded by her late grandfather Laurence A. Tisch and late great-uncle Preston Robert Tisch. The bride's father is also the chairman of the board of the Educational Broadcasting Corporation, the parent organization of two New York-area public television stations, WNET and WLIW. Her mother is a member of the New York State Board of Regents and the chairwoman of the board of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.

Meryl Tisch, another useless NY State Board of Regent. Time to call for elections of these jokers.

A response from SK to the NYC Education News listserve:

You're simply not going to believe this -- I'm sitting here with my jaw resting on the floor. I'd say there's a 99%+ likelihood that Jessica Tisch is hardly a disinterested observer of the NYC political and school scene. She's one of "the Tisch's." Her mother is even a member of the NYS Board of Regents. See the NY Times wedding announcement below fro 11/2006. Young Ms. Tisch is apparently a "law and business student" at Harvard -- I'm sure the Tisch family name and money guaranteed that. What are the chances she's an NYC public school student? Does less than zero count? Hers is a family that would never do more than hold it's collective nose as it was chauffered past our public schools.

I guess Mike and Joel are now recruiting their rich friends' kids to shill for them semi-anonymously. I'm just astonished by the sheer brazenness of this, and the timorous little identifier of Ms.Tisch as a "law and business student." That would make Chelsea Clinton "a recent Stanford graduate." So much for full disclosure on behalf of the Post, as if we might have any reason for them to do this honestly. This is utterly outrageous, truly appalling in every way I can imagine. Sadly, it's nothing I wouldn't otherwise expect from the Post and its editorial board. How many other "law and business student" letter writers would get a guest editorial spot in a major NYC newspaper? No different than what doubtless got her into Harvard Business and Law Schools, I'm sure.

UFT's Michael Mendel Hammers Joel

Klein meets the press after the meeting.

One of my complaints about the UFT has been their inadequate response to the attacks on teachers. For years I've been urging Randi Weingarten to have the UFT present at PEP meetings to challenge Joel Klein's bull. Frankly, I was doing this on my own, though in the last few years some people from NYCTAG and some rubber people have joined in. The PEP is a useless body, but it is the only public forum in the entire world of Tweedom. And if the UFT were there, there would be more press coverage.

Last night the UFT, which stupidly holds its Exec. Bd meetings the same night as PEP, as they did last night (though they held it at Julia Richman Complex as a protest of more BloomKleun follies,) brought out many staffers and school psychologists. At the same time, James Eterno showed up with 50-100 parents, teachers and students from Jamaica HS. But more on all this later.

Chrisopher Cerf dreams of how he can parlay his Edison stock into buying the NY Department of Education and taking it public - after he takes it private, of course. (I just got an email calling him a "dick.")

David B. captured some great audio (and these pics) of the UFT's Michael Mendel hammering Klein on the tenure issue. He did a great job, though his speech reaffirms what we've been saying - the UFT offers little protection to the non-tenured. At least I didn't hear mention of any. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Listen to Klein's tepid response. We consider Michael one of the good guys at the UFT. And he's a NY Rangers fan (I used to sit behind him at Ranger games and heckle - about UFT policy.)

Plug in at David's blog.

or click below.

Don't Build It So They Won't Come

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (our hero for appointing Patrick Sullivan to the PEP - see the upcoming video of Patrick at last night's meeting in the posting after this) has released a report showing that with the building boom in Manhattan, there has been no provision made for schools. See the details over at Norm's Notes.

The one school they planned for fell through

What kind of income does it take for a family to buy an apartment in Manhattan today? Bloomberg assumes most will go to private school. Wouldn't it be cheaper to provide say a $10,000 subsidy for each family to help them pay for private schools? Oh, I forgot. That's a voucher system. The real BloomKlein plan was to use the proposed Jest Stadium on the west side as a 70,000 seat school during the day. It would have worked, though lunch duty would have been a bitch.

Here's a better idea. Don't build it so they won't come. No schools and we can make Manhattan a child free zone.

On a more serious note, I was speaking to a parent with a child at PS 3 in the West Village who is very happy with the education there. She says it has been a very diversified school with students from other areas of Manhattan. A number of people she knows like the diversity. But now the DOE is forcing them to limit to the neighborhood and the school is becoming segregated- meaning white. Another plank in Joel Klein's "Shame of the Nation" speeches to the black community.

Half the teaching staff is very experienced and excellent she says -- a great balance and giving lie to the attitude at the DOE that long-time teachers are to be hounded out of the system. But now won't these salaries count against the school's budget? More shame!

She says the parents have been raising enormous amounts of money (the "newer" people have been willing to bid $10,000 for a quilt) to cover art, music, etc. - something that poor schools can't do and something Klein should talk about in his "shame of the nation" speeches when he goes to poor areas selling his program. She is wondering whether they will now have to use this money to keep their experienced teachers.

Let's see: BloomKlein- those great civil rights activists in the tradition of Martin Luther King:
More segregated schools. A big drop in the number of black teachers. Less Gifted & Talented than before. Shame.

As parent activist Lisa Donlan from the lower east side commented to me last week -
They broke everything and fixed nothing.

Coming later: More breaking and not fixing - school psychologists protested at the PEP last night. Tales of horror and loathing. Of course, Klein said it was the first he heard of it. And I got pics of him running over to say hello to UFT's Michael Mendel, who introduced him to UFT Staff Director Leroy Barr. Aha! Collaboration. Michael was there to hammer them on the tenure issue but I had to leave before he spoke. Dave B (the real one) came in to pinch hit.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Back Issues- Angelet on Rampage

Here are some links to backdated articles that I just posted:

Ding Dong at Bayard Rustin Ed Complex - Principal John Angelet is leaving.
But even though he's a lame duck, he is hell bent on taking people with him. He is on a rampage and this wouldn't have happened if he had been removed when he was supposed to a few weeks ago. The UFT needs to make a big stink over this. Here's a bitter guy who was forced out but is exacting revenge. All his actions against teachers from the point he announced he is leaving should be declared null and void.

Race on the Table - Globally and Locally. Excerpt from my Wave column from April 4, 2008.
I address some of the Obama/race stuff and also a local issue at PS 106 in Rockaway where the PTA president wrote a piece in the Wave raising issues about white teacher attitudes towards kids of color. You can track the full PS 106 story by clicking on the link in the sidebar.

The Rising Costs of Health Care and NYC Union Contracts - forum April 22. Chapter Leader John Powers will be one of the speakers. John and his colleagues have been on the case of the GHI/HIP merger and has pressured the UFT to provide more info. ICE has joined in with John for support.

Gifted and Talented in NYC

They use the language of civil rights to win over people to their reform model that makes teacher quality and expectations and poor leadership in schools the main culprits of the ills of the school system. "See, there is no need to throw away money on schools because we need to save it for bailouts and wars."

Joel Klein uses the expression "Shame of the Nation" when he talks about achievement gaps.

The DOE's modification of the G&T program was supposed to create more opportunities. Andrea Peyser in the NY Post today is in a lather.

Eduwonkette takes a statistical look at the DOE G&T program as to which districts were winners and which were losers.

The DOE did not release socioeconomic or demographic breakdowns, but one way to get at the equity question is to look at which districts won and lost under the new system.

Did poor kids gain ground? The graph below, which plots the percent change in the number of students offered gifted seats in the entry grades against the percentage of students qualifying for free lunch in the district suggests that the answer is no. On average, districts with higher proportions of poor kids saw declines in gifted admissions.

In Washington Heights' District 6, 80 students are currently enrolled in kindergarten G&T classes, but only 50 have been offered seats next year. In Manhattan's more advantaged District 2, 174 students are enrolled in G&T kindergarten this year, but 371 have been offered seats for next year.

If we cut the data by the percentage of African-American students in the district, we also see that many districts with high proportions of black students lost ground.
The full piece is here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gates Foundation Supports Apartheid in Jamaica

....buzzards are us

The Gates Foundation and New Visions are certainly consistent. Like buzzards looking for entrails, they track large schools in trouble – trouble, by the way exacerbated by Tweed – and here conspiracy theorists and have a ball. After all, one of the basics of the phony ed reform movement is to close "failing" schools. But they don't talk about the no longer so secret part of the plan – close 'em to make room for the boutique schools that will serve a mere fraction of the population, and with kids that are not exactly the same.

Jamaica High School in Queens is a beautiful building that is way too nice for the kids who go there. Teachers knew they were in trouble when the buzzards showed up to measure the room while they are teaching. "Where are the outlets in here" the buzzards ask? "We have to put in new wiring for new computers." Only the best for the Gates kids. An application process for the kids. And lower class sizes. And non of those pesky ELA or special ed kids too. "These kids coming in do NOT look like our current kids," says a teacher.

They are calling it cultural apartheid.

Tonight, the parents, students and teachers at Jamaica are coming to the Panel for Educational Policy meeting at Frank Sinatra HS. They even got a bus. They will hold a demonstration outside before the meeting and then go in to speak to people with deaf ears – other than Manhattan borough rep Patrick Sullivan. (I will support MB Pres. Scott Stringer for any office he runs for because he had the guts to appoint Patrick.) Some ambitious reporter is missing a great story by not doing a profile of Patrick who has been the lone consistent voice on the PEP representing parents. (Oh, and QB Pres Helen Marshall has still NOT appointed anyone to the PEP.)

Raising Graduation Rates

Thanks to David Bellel

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Where Are All the Catholic School Teachers?

Catholic school teachers in New York engaged in some job actions over the last week or so. Their pay and benefits are abysmal compared to NYC teachers. And they work with high class sizes and few admnistrators.

It is a well-known fact amongst certain ed reform voucher freaks that they are vastly superior teachers to those in the DOE. Just check results of their grad rates and on test scores (do their kids take the same tests as NYC kids, such as regents?), clearly the most important factor in determining quality teaching.

So, where are they? Why does NYC have to resort to expensive Teaching Fellow Programs? Or recruit abroad? Isn't the theory if you give people merit pay, they will flock to work in schools in poor neighborhoods? Or if they can make a few extra bucks by getting their kids to score high, they will have the incentive to work harder?

So, instead of standing on picket lines, what's keeping Catholic school teachers away from jumping on the money they can make so easily by coming over to a public school? Haven't they heard about the vastly improved system under Bloomberg and Klein after 6 years of leadership? Maybe Tweed needs a public relations campaign to tell these teachers about the wonderful opportunites to teach in our schools. Maybe even hire a few more PR people.

Sunday - Call Uncle Joel on KISS-FM

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein Appears on 98.7 KISS-FM’s “Open Line”

Date: Sunday, April 13, 2008, Time: 10 a.m.

Tuesday: Forum for Teachers and Education Activists

Lois Weiner put together a wonderful presentation at the Education and Labor Conference a few weeks ago. Lois captured our attention when she pointed to a World Bank report stating that teachers and their unions were the major threat to global prosperity. See how events in your classroom are related to the global assault on teachers.


Tuesday, 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Making Schools Work for Poor People?: Joel Klein & the World Bank's Dedication to a Corporate Agenda

A Presentation by Lois Weiner, New Jersey City University, author of "The Global Assault on Teaching, Teachers, and their Unions: Stories for Resistance"

Discussion to follow.

Breathtakingly rapid changes are being made in the NYC schools in the name of equalizing opportunity for poor, minority communities. Services ranging from tutoring to curriculum development to professional development are being privatized; standardized tests have become the sole measure of student and teacher achievement and value; preparation of teachers and
principals is shifting to a fast track model; merit pay is being pushed on teachers, to replace salaries based on experience and education. What's been missing in the debate about these changes is how NYC's experience reflects the footprint of a global project advanced by world financial institutions to transform work and education with it.

Julia Richman Education Complex 317 E. 67th St. (betw. 1st and 2nd Ave.),
6th Floor "Penthouse"



No Teacher Left Behind

Designed by some people in the rubber room in their spare time, here is the revised "No Teacher Left Behind" t-shirt. Full range of designs at:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Misinterpretation (Deliberate?) on Tests and Tenure

Kevin Carey at the Quick and the Ed at the Education Sector, which is part of the Rotherham Empire, misses the point of our post on tenure and testing.

Ed Notes offers a justification for banning the use of student performance data in teacher tenure decisions: Using test scores to estimate teacher effectiveness is methodologically complicated. (This is true). Therefore, it should be outlawed. (This is absurd).

Yes teacher effectiveness is complicated and therefore test results should not be used, or misused. Why outlaw it? Because the practically criminal people running the NYC schools are not to be trusted. But read on, as Carey says:

Most important things, including teaching, are complicated. If we squelch every attempt to understand such things and act on that knowledge, we'll be left knowing very little about very little, which more or less describes the state of knowledge about teacher effectiveness today. Indeed, most teacher policy failures are a function of privileging easily measurable unimportant things, like master's degrees and state certification, over difficult-to-measure important things, like effectiveness in boosting test scores.

Do you understand any of this jargon? Let me translate: I think it means that we know little about teacher effectiveness but let's throw testing for tenure against the wall and see if it sticks. If there's a high body count of teachers who don't get tenure due to something we know very little about, so be it. Us policy wonks need data, data, data.

I do agree with Carey that MA's and state certification mean little in teacher effectiveness. But how come the wonks always use the term "like effectiveness in boosting test scores." I love the word "like." Like what else makes for teacher effectiveness? They always stop at boosting scores - how about, like Johnnie enters a class as a serial killer and leaves tame as a pussy cat but alas, the teacher is a failure and denied tenure because he didn't boost Johnnie's test score. Or the teacher did fabulous science projects with the class which turned many kids onto science but, darn, we just don't know how to measure a rise in enthusiasm.

Carey goes on:

Ed Notes also offers the "it hasn't been tested" argument, i.e. the chicken-and-egg theory of policy obstructionism: it can't be tried because it hasn't been proven; it can't be proven because it hasn't been tried.

I love being called a dreaded "policy obstructionist." The "teacher effectiveness" crowd seem to use the "it hasn't been tested" argument when it comes to class size reduction, i.e. the chicken-and-egg-theory of class size reduction obstructionism, preferring to focus on teacher effectiveness (which is guaranteed to improve with lower class sizes) despite the fact no one has come up with any way to judge other than observation - not a bad way if done objectively. (Here I will be accused of not wanting this method either because I always talk about vindictive principals, but offer the solution of teachers being allowed to call in an independent arbiter. And while I'm on this, I often tell teachers under attack to tape an observation, which seems to make some supervisors incredibly nervous.)

And of course the obligatory attack by Carey on Eduwonkette for calling all the hysteria over the tenure/testing law "union-bashing:"

Meanwhile, some unknown person who claims to be a social scientist but isn't willing to offer any credentials to prove it labels all critiques of the union's role in legally banning evidence of student learning from judgments of teacher effectiveness as "union bashing."
I'd always been under the impression that "science," and thus "social science," involved certain values of empiricism, evidence, and transparency of information..
But maybe "science" means something different wherever they hand out anonymous, theoretical social science degrees, I don't know.

Now, isn't it interesting how Carey on the one hand disparages official teaching credentials
most teacher policy failures are a function of privileging easily measurable unimportant things, like master's degrees and state certification, over difficult-to-measure important things, like effectiveness in boosting test scores."

....but attacks Eduwonette for not showing her credentials, without which we obviously can't trust what she says. The quality of what she (or he -wouldn't that be a kick) write is enough for me. Like take this one from Eduwonkette:

Joel Klein, in his op-ed, even blames unions for the existence of achievement gaps:

Protecting grownups rather than making sure students can read and do math is how our country has gotten into the educational mess it's in today. It's the reason we have shameful racial achievement gaps separating our white and Asian students from our African-American and Latino students.

That's why there are no achievement gaps in North Carolina and Texas!

And add Florida and Mississippi and probably a few other non-unionized states around the nation. Gotta love Wonkette, credentials or not.

And what if it turns out that Eduwonkette drives a school bus? Her credentials are what she has to say. Enough for me.

And note the consistent attack on Wonkette by the Rotherham crowd for being anonymous. Boy, will they all be surprised when she turns out to be 13 and in junior high school.

A future post will go into more detail the entire BloomKlein tenure/testing PR sham.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It's Capitalism, Stupid

David Leonhardt's column in today's business section of the Times discusses how so many people in the middle and at the bottom were left out of the boom years. We all know the gap between rich and the rest of us has grown astronomical since the early 70's, the first time in US history this has happened.

So what are reasons according to Leonhardt? I'll let you read his theories here. But one word is missing from the entire article, not surprising given the bias at the Times: UNIONS.

Could it be that the attack on unions spurred on by Ronald Reagan's firing the air traffic controllers 25 years ago has weakened them so much that they can no longer win fights for the higher wages needed to sustain our economy? Add the Democratic Party support for NAFTA and other anti-union breaking rules under Bush and we have the roots undermining the economy in the long run.

As Leonhardt searches for solutions, he neglects the basic rule of capitalism: maximize profits for your company, the rest of the nation and the world be damned. That means the lowest wages you can get away with. If you can get 8 year-olds for 50 cents a day abroad, then bye.

The economy will only be robust when there's a strong union movement to fight it out with the corporations.

Note: I still consider myself a capitalist – a laissez faire capitalist – where there are rules that force a balanced playing field for people to compete. That is NOT what we have. Instead, we have a government, the theoretical arbiter, clearly aligned with the big business interests. And the press, the 4th estate that should also be an arbiter, also pro-business and anti-union. The "paper of record," whether covering business or education, is a prime example.

The Sham of Tenure and Test Scores

Updated 2 pm

With the NY State legislature rejecting BloomKlein's attempt to tie tenure to test scores on the heels of turning down the congestion pricing plan, the attacks from Bloomberg and Klein are coming fast and furious. This is not really about tenure. Principals have the right to delay tenure for teachers and many are so vulnerable, they can pretty much be let go quite easily.

First of all, an enormous number of teachers are not even in the mix. Gym teachers? No tenure if the kid can't pole vault? Music? Kids can't play Bach or sing like Callas? OUT! Computer teachers? Typing teachers? 20 words a minute? or 30? or 5? OUT! So where's the equity?

But let's look at the kinds of classes that would be affected. High school regents would be the only ones at that level. Now we need a system to compare apples to apples. What rules are in effect to adjust for the differences in schools and between different classes in schools? What impact does attendance have? Should teachers of a first period class, where many more kids don't show up, be held to a different standard than other periods? What about teachers of non-regent classes? What tests are they to be judged on?

In elementary and middle school, the tests they are talking about are math and reading. So are only these teachers in the line of fire? Do social studies, science, gym, computer, etc. get off? What about reading with push-in programs? What if the teacher who comes in daily is tenured and incompetent while the classroom teacher is untenured? What about the literacy or math coach? In sports the coaches are the ones to get fired, not the players.

Of course, the pro BloomKlein press will express outrage while ignoring all these angles.

With all these questions left on the table - and I blame the UFT for not raising them publicly to point to the folly of the plan. Unity Caucus slugs will jump on this statement: "See you chronic complainer, give the union credit for using its political muscle to win this." Without battling it out over the ideology and relying solely on the political sphere, they will win some battles but will lose the war.

It is clear there is another purpose on the part of BloomKlein. They know full well the linking of test scores to tenure will have no impact on the kids. It is a political and ideological ploy so they can say they beat the union and were successful in modifying tenure. Kudos from the anti-union right will follow. It's about PR.

This is also about putting pressure on just those untenured teachers who can influence the only results BloomKlein care about - the ones that they can use to bolster their political case that they really, really did close the achievement gap. The message: DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO MAKE US LOOK GOOD OR YOU WILL NOT GET TENURE!

The next step is to hand out erasers that do not leave a trace.

Update from Leonie Haimson on NYC Education listserve:

I was just interviewed by Marcia Kramer on the teacher tenure/test score controversy – I said basically what I wrote in today’s news wrap-up:

1- standardized test scores alone are not sufficient to judge teachers’ competence, since they have to be examined in relation to a lot of other important factors, including class size and the type of students they have, as well as other evidence of the teacher’s skill and what else is going on in the classroom -- and that this administration cannot be trusted to use this data carefully, given their record on merit pay and school grades.

2- tying teacher tenure to test scores could have very destructive effects, discouraging teachers from taking on struggling or special ed students, and lead to a further loss of morale, with even more test prep replacing real learning.

3- Off camera, I said that a hiatus of two years was good since whatever is decided will be implemented by a new administration that will hopefully be more trustworthy with the use of such data.

Marcia Kramer’s Channel 2 story came out pretty good; except for last line, which is blatantly untrue. Video available here:

For more on this issue, see the blog here. Use test scores for tenure? Not a good idea, with these bumblers.