Monday, June 30, 2008

Guess What? "Bonuses Are Us" Tweed/UFT Plan Lead to Cheating

...DOE alchemists turn a 4 into a 1.

Elizabeth Green's piece in the NY Sun on how South Bronx principal John Hughes got great scores by urging teachers to give a little bit of help, is more prevalent than is imagined. That was the modus operendi in my school for 25 years. Just as in this article, teachers at the school we fed into used to laugh themselves silly when they saw the scores. That the school just happens to be a bonus/merit pay school is gravy, but the bonuses are a new thing and will only exacerbate a problem that has existed for a long time.

The covert and overt cheating - and I look at the artificial pump of test prep as part of this - goes a long way to explaining how kids' scores drop dramatically from the 4th to the 8th grade.

Hughes tried to solve the problem by moving up from the feeder to the fed school - IS 301, where he immediately alienated teachers, including a TFA who refused to "help" the kids in the way Hughes wanted and was driven from the system while TFA supported the principal - naturally. TFA apparently believes in closing the achievement gap by hook or crook.

The big problem facing all the Regressive Ed Reformers is to figure out a way to get the same level of cheating in the 8th grade, where kids will blab more freely than younger kids.

If you want a reality check, have teams go into randomly selected schools in mid-September to give tests. Assume a summer loss drop but I bet it will go way beyond that.

The perfect example, as Green wrote:

"These kids didn't know how to write, they didn't know how to add," a math teacher at M.S. 201 who is leaving the school, Elizabeth Cano, said. "How could they be getting level 4?" Ms. Cano said the discrepancy would be clearest when the teachers gave pre-tests in the first week of school. "They used to all get a level 1," she said.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

AFT Denies Press Credentials to the NY Teacher

Ed Notes News (ENN) is reporting that the AFT's Janet Blair, in charge of press credentials for the upcoming AFT convention in Chicago (July 9-14), has denied credentials to the UFT's house organ, the NY Teacher. Citing the fact that the paper slavishly parrots the policies of the UFT leadership and the Unity Caucus without allowing any dissent or opposing points of view, the AFT has classified the NY Teacher as illegitimate press.

The press pass on the right has been issued instead and the NY Teacher will be covering the convention from Algeria.

Tweedies Choose Leadership Academy in Competetive - ahem - Bidding

As the press releases from Tweed get more and more bizarre, this one announcing the Gestapo-inspired Leadership Academy as the winner of a $50 million 5 year contract to train principals is one of the best.

"The NYC Leadership Academy was selected from among multiple vendors through a competitive procurement process and will begin providing services to the Department of Education (DOE) on July 1, 2008."

The rejected bidders included the CIA - water boarding division and a consortium led by Osama bin Laden. "The didn't demonstrate the kinds of advanced techniques in the treatment of teachers we were looking for," said a Tweed spokesperson.

Leonie Haimson said:
This is perhaps the most absurd press release I've ever seen come out of the land of Tweed-- DOE's version of competitive bidding! Gary (Babad) are you sure you didn't take a job at Tweed after all?

Gary responds:
If you'll remember, GBN News has the sole distributorship rights to DOE
press releases. I don't know who these impostors are, but not to worry - if it doesn't say "GBN News" on the press release, it's not authentic.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Can School Administrators Be Accused of Murder...

....if a teacher dies and stress from harrassment can be shown to be a factor?

A guidance councellor who has been under severe attack by administrators at Bayard Rustin Educational Complex in Manhattan collapsed and died of a heart attack at the school's end term party. If you are going to go, what a way to go. Make some people think about rotting in hell.

A union with a bit of aggression would put together a portfolio of what has been done to her and charge adminstrators involved with homicide, if just to make a point.


Joel Klein Also Speaks Out of Both Sides...

On race: More segregation under Klein

On not treating teachers as "fungible" - survey says teachers feel more fungible* than ever.

On school choice: there's less

Dan Jacoby in The Daily Gotham.

*(esp. of goods) being of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like nature or kind.

Weingarten Gives Credence to the BloomKlein Testing Myth


Ed Notes has been pointing out for over 10 years that the UFT/AFT is for the testing craze and it extends back to Al Shanker's jumping on board the Nation At Risk Report in 1983. That is why they speak empty words about NCLB which they supported. Ed Notes brought resolutions to the Delegate Assembly and wrote extensively on this issue from 1996 on. At one DA I spoke about the evisceration of the curriculum in elementary schools, especially in science and social studies and the place broke into applause - and that was a year or more (my memory sucks) before BloomKlein came on the scene.

From the June 27 NY Times article on the teacher surveys:

Ms. Weingarten conceded that it had been “a good year in terms of academic success for kids.” Indeed, on Monday, she stood by the chancellor’s side to celebrate the striking gains the city’s students had posted on state math and reading exams. But on Thursday, Ms. Weingarten used the survey to suggest that climbing test scores were not enough. “Let’s focus on educating the whole child, not simply on test results,” she said.

Was Weingarten focused on educating the whole child when she supported and lobbied for a merit pay plan than does the exact opposite by funneling money to teachers based on test scores?

You do see the game she plays. Say one thing and do another. Stand next to Klein when he gets the bogus Broad prize or brags about phony test scores and try to claim some credit, but then turn around the next minute and say, "oh my, all those tests." Weingarten says one thing to teachers and parents - "too much testing, too much time practicing, it is the curriculum, "etc. but stands next to Klein to help legitimize the sham.

It's all about obfuscating the issues to confuse people.

Call this playing both sides against the middle - which is where the interests of teachers who see first hand the testing sham that is going on. Why didn't the UFT survey ask whether teachers believed the test scores were real? Did they think it was easy? Relaxed rubrics? Full-time practice that could pump up scores? How about giving a random sampling surprise test the 2nd week of September to check on what was retained?

Expect more of this obfuscation on the national level - she will use carefully parsed language to give the impression she agrees with you but then do something to totally contradict herself. Watch the role she plays and what she ultimately accepts when NCLB gets discussed again. As long-time Randi watchers, the Ed Notes crew can pretty much write the speech now.

What will never take place is a democratic discussion in any official body of the UFT as to what the position of the UFT/AFT should be.

Substance Response to AFT's Janet Bass

Previous posts on AFT censorship here and here.
Read Alexander Russo's take at the Chicago District299 blog.

Watch the sidebar where we will keep a running account of the story.

In a message dated 6/26/08 8:41:40 AM, writes:
AFT will not be able to give your organization press credentials. We only provide credentials to legitimate news organizations.



The American Federation of Teachers has not been authorized to determine in the United States today what does or does not constitute "legitimate news organizations."

It's been more than two days since you sent me the silly and unprofessional response to my request for Substance press credentials quoted above.

I asked you to tell me how you (or AFT) determines what constitutes a "legitimate news organization" and to date I have not received your response.

Until you provide me with that information, I can't even begin to know how to respond to those two Orwellian sentences you e-mailed to me on June 26 at 8:41 AM. Please do so immediately, so that we can provide you with any information necessary to assuage your prejudices and assure that our staff can cover the upcoming AFT convention in Chicago with the same rights as all other members of the press.

My preference will be to have this matter resolved quickly, so that I could send you the list of the names of the people we will have covering the convention. However, if you have chosen an alternate route (as seems to be the case), we will have to discuss this further, in any number of contexts.

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance

My school applauded itself last week

A Brooklyn elementary school teacher writes:

My school applauded itself last week when we got back the ela and math scores. I even felt somewhat proud of one of my 5th grade SETSS kids who has an extreme math disability. For the first time in her school testing career, she received a Level 2 on the math test. Maybe all of her (and my) hard work paid off. Hours of practicing counting by 2's and 5's. Great Leaps for math facts, manipulative's for number work, mnemonics to remember when to regroup and how to round numbers to the nearest 10's and 100's, etc.etc.

So I asked her to do some review work and gave her a few subtraction problems. Guess what. She forgot when to regroup.Then she did some number rounding. She could do it after I reminded her how.
I still am proud of my student because she tried very hard and has learned a lot this year. She knows the importance of doing what you believe is right and not falling prey to peer pressure when it will have a negative outcome. She is beginning to think about what it means to "grow-up" from a little girl to a 'teenager". Her taste in reading has widened and she enjoys spending time with books more then ever before.

But she still can't subtract with regrouping even if she got a Level 2.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Very Gneiss Blog

There's no blog out there that gives a better feel for how schools really function - the loves, the hatreds, the joys, the sorrows, the daily, hourly idiocies of the NYC school system than Have a Gneiss Day. A tough gal with a tender heart, Gneiss expresses all the frustrations and excitement of teaching. She's the kind of teacher most NYC principals look askance at because she sees through the bullshit. As a critic of BloomWeinKlein, she falls into the small camp of voices that see the world the way it really is. She would be called a status quoer by the Joel Kleins, Al Sharptons and their band of merry makers, but if I were going to start a school she would be at the top of my list. Actually, I would sit back, put my feet up and let her run it. No Ms. Wannabees here. Yesterday she said goodbye to her favorite kids.

Protest AFT Censorship: Tries to Exclude Substance

Is this how Randi Weingarten will allow her stewardship of the AFT to begin?
I'm betting she won't. But I'm not betting a large amount.

To Janet Bass, ( AFT:

I was informed of your attempt to keep Substance from covering the AFT convention, claiming it is not legitimate press. You seem to have shifting rules about what constitutes press coverage.

I find that ironic since I was issued press credentials in 2004 for my work for The Wave, a local paper in New York and Education Notes, which is similar to Substance. I sat next to Mike Antonucci from the Educational Intelligence Agency, which the AFT considers legitimate press.

Substance has covered education in Chicago - ask Mayor Daley and CTU chief Marilyn Stewart. Even the White House issued press credentials to Substance when George Bush came to Chicago.

How sad that the AFT is more restrictive than George Bush.

Substance will have a presence at the convention in some way and it will not serve the AFT in a positive manner if the question of how the AFT issues press credentials becomes an issue.

I am CC'ing Randi Weingarten, the next president of the AFT, who despite enormous disagreements with Education Notes, has always been open and supportive of my attempts to cover events in the UFT.

Norman Scott
Editor and Publisher
Education Notes

Education Editor
The Wave

If you agree that Substance should be given press credentials to the AFT convention, email Janet Bass ( and cc Randi Weingarten.

Read George Schmidt's full explanation and scads of examples on how Substance is legit press at Norms's Notes.

Here is George's email exchanges and more examples of the work Substance does.

Colleagues and Friends:

As I suspected, the bureaucracy of the American Federation of Teachers under president Ed McElroy is trying, again, to exclude Substance from the AFT convention. The last time they did this was at the New Orleans convention in 1999, when Sharon and I went to New Orleans only to be told by Mr. McElroy, personally, that we were not a "legitimate news organization." As I told you when we began working to get press credentials, I suspected they may try to exclude us again, and now they are doing so.

Below is my exchange with Janet Bass, who is handling media set up for the AFT convention (which convenes in Chicago in two weeks). Please protest yourself and utilize any contacts you have -- especially AFT members -- to protest on behalf of Substance as well.

By this morning, we had seven people who were going to be covering the AFT convention, and Danny was working so that we could provide daily Web updates on the convention during the convention. We will not let them get away with this (after all, I'm still carrying that "White House Press Pool" pass Joe, Jackson and I were issued in January; who is AFT to say what a "legitimate news organization" is?), but it would be useful if the outcry causes them to simply
correct this mistake before we have to go to court about it.

Those with a sense of humor might also contact CTU President Marilyn Stewart and ask her to confirm to AFT that we are a "legitimate news organization."

Thanks for taking your time to begin responding to this promptly. Please cc all materials you send to AFT (and any AFT responses) to me here at Substance.


George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance


In a message dated 6/26/08 8:41:40 AM, writes:


June 26, 2008

To: Janet Bass, American Federation of Teachers, Washington, D.C.

From: George N. Schmidt, Editor, Substance

Re: AFT attempt to censor coverage of the 2008 AFT convention in Chicago by excluding Substance reporters and videographers.

Dear Ms. Bass:

Before this goes any further, please inform me what a "legitimate news organization" is according -- to the AFT definition. I'm afraid we've been down this road before, and it's time that AFT stopped trying to censor Substance. Now.

Although I had once had a discussion of this matter with Mr. McElroy (years ago, in New Orleans), I thought AFT had matured since then. If you can quickly correct the misinformation under which you are currently laboring, this matter
can be resolved quickly.

Hopefully, the following information will help you in your pursuit of the facts so that your policy and praxis in this matter improves, although my staff and I resent even having to discuss it with you.

Please note the following:

1. Our staff has covered professional events involving members of the teaching profession for decades. During the past five years, we have covered conference and conventions of educators including the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the National Council for the Social Studies and others. We have also covered other major political events both for print and new media. For example, last summer I covered "Yearly Kos" here in Chicago and during that time we interviewed or questioned several of the (then) Democratic Party presidential candidates.

2. Locally here in Chicago, we regularly cover the news pertaining to education, including the monthly meetings of the Chicago Board of Education (one of which I covered yesterday). We have also covered labor union news on a regular
basis going back decades.

3. This summer, we will have reporters covering the major conventions, including the National Education Association. We intend to cover AFT in the same manner, albeit with more staff so that we can better serve our growing
readership, both in print and on line.

4. As I've noted to you, our publication appears in print monthly and has been publishing continuously for 33 years. You can locate PDFs of our back issues from 2002 onward at (or linked to

5. We regularly publish Web updates on the Web at We are currently updating and enhancing our web site so that we can provide daily updates from the NEA and AFT conventions. Any attempt by you or others in power at AFT will cause us to suffer loss to our business and will certainly qualify as a violation of our First Amendment rights.

6. Our staff regularly blogs at www.district

7. We have covered news in Chicago for more than 30 years (education primarily, also other) and all of our regular staff carry press passes issued by the Chicago Police Department, which issues such passes for those covering regular news and "spot news."

8. In January 2008, we were cleared to cover the White House visit of George W. Bush to celebrate the anniversary of "No Child Left Behind" here in Chicago. Although we were not part of the "Pool" (which only included the regular
traveling pool and four local reporters), we were part of the larger press corps that covered the activities of President George W. Bush during his Chicago visit. This included the landing of Air Force One at O'Hare Field, the external
coverage of the visit of the President to Chicago's Greeley Elementary School, and the President's speech on the economy at the Union League Club.

I could add to this list, but I hope this will suffice to clear up any ambiguity so that we don't have to discuss the misinformation that you are laboring under further. Please RSVP me satisfactorily on this matter so we can proceed
with the arrangements.

Since I have to continue making arrangements for both our coverage of AFT and for our Web presence at various events this summer, I will need to hear from you promptly once you have reconsidered this matter and resolved it to the satisfaction of the Bill of Rights and our mutual interests.

If you have further questions for me, please feel free to call me at 773-725-7502 so that we can resolve this before it goes much further. By your response you have forced me, as you can see, that I now have to take a few additional
steps in defense of our right to cover the news on our beat without censorship from the bureaucrats of AFT or any other entity. We have defended these rights in the past and, I promise you, we will continue to do so into the future.

Thanks for your kind consideration in this matter,

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance

Congrats to NYC Teachers....

... on completing the longest school year in the history of the universe.

The last day of school, is one of the glorious days and one of the things I miss about teaching - the sense of completion, the free feeling that lasts until you wake up the next morning and say, "Damn, 65 days and I have to go back."


The UFT Survey Says...

When Joel Klein was appointed as Chancellor and even though he had zero ed background, the UFT cheered instead of taking a stand and calling on the state Ed department not to grant a waiver (something ed notes, by the way, called on them to do.)

In the early years of BloomKlein, when it was clear these people had no clue about education, many of us called on the UFT to hold a vote of "no confidence" in Joel Klein as Chancellor. Nadaa!

The UFT wanted to continue to play nice. Now, with the sun about to set on BloomKlein, the UFT does a survey. Jeez!

The survey on Joel Klein and the Tweedles is out and guess what? Teachers are unhappy with the Klein administration.

I'm pretty disappointed about the only 80-something percent, as I thought it would be in the mid-90's, demonsrating that the CEO of the DOE has no support, a big would be a big no-no in the corporate world the Tweedles want to play in. Still. Klein's numbers rival George Bush's. How about Bush for next Chancellor? He was the "education" president?

The UFT took out a full-page ad in the Times (see below). But so what? Does the public really care if teachers are unhappy? They think it is a good thing and a sign Klein is doing a good job.

The UFT might as well dig a hole and throw the money in. The money wasted on PR. There will be a couple of short articles in the press for a day or two and it will all be forgotten. Jeez!

So is the survey just another public relations stunt with no real follow-up? The UFT dies at the chapter level as principals get stronger, using techniques they get from some kind of training. Their first priority is to make sure they do not have the "wrong" kind of chapter leader. Instead of organizing to defend their chapter leaders, the UFT worries more about having a Unity Caucus loyalist in these positions and uses its machinery to undermine chapter leaders who are critics.

Here is part of the UFT statement:
.....our attempt at 360-degree accountability that holds the DOE responsible for its role in student achievement and school improvement. An impressive 61,257 educators filled out the confidential evaluation. The key findings include:
  • 85 percent of members do not believe that Chancellor Klein provides the supports and resources they need for success in the classroom
  • 82 percent say that the chancellor and the Department of Education are not focused on educating the whole child and 85 percent say his emphasis on student testing has failed to improve education in their schools.
  • 80 percent say that the chancellor is not doing enough to promote order and discipline in schools.
  • 80 percent say the chancellor fails to prioritize the learning needs of all students, including English Language Learners and special needs students.

Go here to see the complete survey results.

Go here to read the full press release.

Go here to download the New York Times ad.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Michelle Bodden to Resign as UFT VP

Will run UFT Elementary Charter School

As reported in an ednotes online exclusive, Michelle Bodden, who many people were betting would be Randi Weingarten's successor as UFT President, will take over the UFT's troubled elementary charter school.

We raised the question as to whether a UFT VP for elementary schools could be in that position. Now we have been informed that she has sent a letter telling people she will be resigning her VP position. (Will she also be resigning from Unity Caucus?)

The signs have been there for a long time that Bodden was not in the running and I had to convince even people inside 52 Broadway that she would never head the UFT. Perhaps she was getting too popular. "She's really an educator," said one insider. "Not a politician like Randi. You can actually have a conversation with her about real things. Some people can't wait for Randi to be gone so we can start solving the real problems we face."

I won't go into the details, but long-time observers can tell a lot about the UFT by who stands where, what kinds of events people get to represent the UFT at, and other signs. The surprise appointment of Leroy Barr as UFT Staff Director in January made it clear that another African-American had superseded Michelle in the UFT hierarchy.

Aside from the UFT political mishegas, I think putting Michelle in charge of the school is a good move. I had some contact with her when Randi put me on a charter school committee headed by Michelle in the late 90's. We only met a few times until Randi abandoned the idea, but Michelle was very easy to work with.

Teacher Power
If I had to choose one principle that has driven Ed Notes, it is the empowerment of teachers, who have been viewed as just barely above the kids in terms of respect (in today's NYCDOE, it's probably even.) I was on the first UFT charter committee because at the time I was an advocate of charter schools and even had a resolution urging the UFT to set up an office of charter school support to enable teachers to begin running their own schools. My idea was not for the UFT to run a school, but to empower teachers who were sick of working for idiot supervisors. In my plan, teachers got to choose their supervisors, not the other way around. We would get the very best principals that way.

When I proposed the idea of the UFT helping teachers run schools, Randi's immediate reaction was some reluctance and it gave me an early insight into her wish to exercise control. It took me 3 or 4 years to get what she was really about.

But, though I am opposed to the very idea of a UFT charter school, I wish Michelle well in her new position.

As to who will replace her as elementary school VP, we can be sure of one thing. It will be the personal choice of Randi Weingarten and rubber stamped by the UFT Executive Board, not through any kind of democratic process.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Progressive Ed Reform: Why Have Grades?

The NY Times has an article (Holding Back Young Students: Is it a Gift or a Stigma?) that touches on the issue of holding kids back and then tracking the holdovers into a segregated class in order to close the gap. "Oh the stigma of tracking" say some parents and educators.

I spent my entire career in a tracked system and could make a case for it - if the classes in most need get lower class size and real services. Sometimes that happened, but not in a rational way that made a big difference.

On the other hand, the one somewhat heterogeneous class I taught did seem to push the bottom kids up, though they were just 1/4 of the class. If it were reversed, that wouldn't have happened.

The Times reports that in Spring Valley they are holding back first graders but keeping the holdovers together and giving them intensive services:

Iraida Hada, the principal of Hempstead Elementary, said that merely holding back students without a special program to address their needs would not have been as effective.“How are we going to make it work the second time around, if it didn’t work the first time?”

The numbers they report make is seem that it worked, though there's enough research to suggest that both tracking and holding kids over does not work.

What I have never understood pretty much since I started teaching was why the idea of putting kids in a grade is so important, especially in elementary school. I know all about the problems with abolishing this age-old system, but why not try it in some schools? Mix various grades together in a one room schoolhouse type system, but with multiple teachers and teaching assistants. In that way there's little consciousness of holdovers or tracking. Kids move on when they are ready.

Sorry, I forgot. This might cost some money and as we know the regressive ed reformers want to spend it all on merit pay (gee, how would you figure that out in this system?) and other phony reforms.

With total control of the school system, the kinds of reforms the BloomKlein team could have installed that would really impact in a positive way on kids and teachers, somehow fell through the crack.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hebrew Language charter School in Brooklyn

For the record, we are now opposed to the concept of all charter schools, no matter how well-intentioned, because they are part of the fabric of the undermining of public education. Fix what's wrong with the public schools without the bogus distractions of setting up phony competitive models. That the UFT chooses to join the chorus is beyond the pale.

Remember the attacks on Debbie Almontaser who tried to start the Khalil Gibran school which was branded a Madrassa and a Jihad school by the NY Sun and the NY Post and by groups like Militant Islam Monitor? Remember how the UFT's Randi Weingarten dropped Debbie like a hot potato after Debbie was ambushed by the Post?

"I write as a White, Jewish anti-racist educator who is heartsick over the role his union played in this sordid affair." - Steve's full letter is here.

How will the Sun and the Post cover the proposed Brooklyn Hebrew language charter school which will teach Hebrew and the Israeli culture to which it is tied and will cost the NYCDOE $200,000 in start-up costs and will be filled with what could be the best guess (no matter the disclaimers), a slightly homogeneous population?

It reminds me of the bi-lingual Yiddish schools in Williamnsburg that were set up by the District 14 school board as a sop to the Hassidic community, which held 3 out of 9 seats and the balance of power.

Brooklyn's District 22 is an area running from central Flatbush south to Sheepshead Bay. The central/south end of the district is generally white with the north-end and parts of Sheepshead Bay black. There's a high number of Orthodox Jews in the area who do not use the public schools. But there are also a number of secular Jews of Russian and Israeli background. The organizers of the school claim that they hope to attract all ethnic backgrounds, just as the organizers of the Khalil Gibran school did. There will be just a slight difference in coverage.

"[I]s a religion-free Hebrew-language school possible," Jewish Week asks?

The Forward says,
"In a sense, Hebrew charter schools reflect a very old model of religious groups educating their own... [They] have emerged as a new potential strategy for building Jewish identity, as they are both cheaper and less parochial than day schools. But some have argued that this strategy is, if not illegal, then at least inappropriate."

Neither the Forward (run by the same people who run The NY Sun) or the Jewish Week article mention the controversy over the Arab language school.

Will the Sun and the Post look for nefarious and hidden agendas?

Here is a report from a parent with links to the Forward and JW articles:

I attended the public hearing on the proposed Hebrew language charter school in district 22 tonight. It was an interesting experience. Although this has been in the works for months now, the district only recently learned of its plans via Internet recently and started asking questions. Although the turnout wasn't particularly good, considering this is the middle of graduations and many parents have too much going on, the people that were there did ask some very valid questions

Aside from my personal opinion that any type of school that insulates a group rather than causing them to become part of the diverse population and part of the "melting pot" that is America is the wrong way to go this in particular smacked of an attempt to create religious oriented schools albeit within the confines of the law with tax payer dollars. If I did not believe that to start with, the two attached websites with interviews with the sponsors of this school as much as come out and say that.

Jewish week: Steinhardt Seeks Hebrew Charter School Here

The Forward: Charter School Effort Opens Rift on Civic Values

However, our biggest objection is that the charter mandate is to go in and try to help at risk students that cannot obtain a proper education via their public schools. However, District 22 is one of the highest performing districts in the city and the at risk students we do have, would most likely not embrace a Hebrew language school. Therefore, why place this school in D-22 at all and how does the DOE accept that they are fulfilling their charter mandate? Also the startup costs for this school even with the private funding would cost over $200,000 from the DOE based on the actual paperwork the DOE gave out at the meeting and this at a time when other schools in the district are being forced to cut art/music, after school, etc. How can they justify this expense right now?

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin on Dumbing Down America

In honor of the great George Carlin, here's his take on education in America.
Show this to all kids who are thinking of boycotting a test.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

NYC Teacher Charged With Verbal Abuse - for Teaching Evolution

The cockroaches at the DOE go to all ends when they are after a teacher,including sending signals to the kids it is open season on their teacher. So when a kid who has just bullied another kid during a middle school science lesson walks out of class and feels comfortable enough to visit the assistant principal and charge the teacher with abuse for supposedly saying his ancestors cockroaches this is the result:

I have received a file letter in which Assistant Principal Z makes the following conclusion: "It is my professional judgment that you committed an act of verbal abuse when you made a statement in front of class 8C that made Steven Smith conclude that you called his ancestors and family cockroaches. Please be advised that any repetition of verbal abuse may result in further disciplinary action including a "U" rating and/or recommendation for termination."

Read the full story at Moriah's Untamed Teacher.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Special Ed Placement: ETTTTS Part 2

If you need a reminder of the meaning of ETTTTS: Everything Tweed Touches Turns To Shit
Today's lesson, kiddies, is on the placement of special ed middle students, or the lack thereof.
The great civil rights advocates (aka Klein, Sharpton, Rhee, etc.) talk about the shame of the nation, when they daily commit do shameful things. Oh, and good luck to the DOE's Sandy Ferguson, who is new to the job but stepped in the doo doo right away. Well, at least he's sad about it. And the buck stops at him - next year - if he's still there.

Report from Inside Schools:

Parents and special-ed committee members met with DOE <> officials tonight at in the far reaches of Brooklyn, to ask about two-week delays in middle-school admissions for students with special needs.

Parents spoke passionately of frustrations in getting information about the process; of second-rate attention for special-needs students; of questions long unanswered, from parents, guidance counselors and principals. Many protested the punishing rate of DOE change, and charged that a similar pace -- four major reorganizations in five years -- would likely have cost a CEO in the marketplace his or her job.

Sandy Ferguson, in his first year as executive director of middle-school enrollment, listened with equanimity and responded with welcome candor. "To be frank, we never expected this [process] would run as long as it did," he said. "We did not communicate with parents. This was a mistake and we will look to correct this for next year." According to Ellen Newman, executive director for special ed enrollment, letters went out to parents and to school guidance counselors today, Wednesday -- except for one set that were hand-delivered to The Children's School <> , which held graduation today (thanks to a coordinated email campaign spearheaded by parent coordinator Roxana Velandria).

One PS 295 <> parent noted a "general air of secrecy" regarding special-ed placements, and said that "when the general-ed kids got placed first, that hurt more than anything else." (The parent asked not to be quoted, out of concern that she might somehow threaten her child's still-unknown placement.)

Ferguson agreed, saying "It's the thing I'm saddest about. Frankly, we just ran out of time, and [the burden] came out on exactly the wrong folks. It's something I'm not proud of, and something we plan to correct next year."

Broad and deep issues persist -- space, crowding, access, and the practical fact that students with special needs are essentially excluded from a process ostensibly geared to inclusion, as they're not permitted to interview or audition for middle schools along with their gen-ed peers. Whether these issues can be effectively addressed for the coming year is unknown; for this year, it's moot.

But for those who ask, where does the buck stop? Sandy Ferguson answered, loud and clear, it stops at his desk. He's aware of the problems (although he was unaware of their historic dimensions, as special-ed results have been consistently delayed), and seems sincerely committed their resolution -- next year.

Read all about the rally to oppose privatization

.... last Thursday at the ICE blog - with more pics, thanks to Jeff Kaufman.

The power of these protests is the chance to mingle with other rank and file trade unionists from other municipal unions.

Right: Protest leaders Billy (left) and Marvin (with bullhorn)

UFT Chapter Leader John Powers who has led and informed teachers about this issue speaks below.

Transit Workers were there too.

Responding to David Brooks

Posted at:

Also see the ednotes' post on the Brooks column.

Dear Mr. David Brooks:
From Joseph Lucido, Educators and Parents Against Test Abuse/CalCARE
Submitted to New York Times but not published (06/18/2008)

Dear Mr. Brooks,

I read your column with regards to public schools and Obama's perspective of education. Over the last seven years, as a teacher, I have seen and experienced the tyrannical, abusive, and destructive side of standardized tests. I teach at a very high performing school, where at one time students came to school with passion for learning. That passion was instilled by their parents and myself. As time has progressed, what I have seen is the degeneration of critical thinking skills, an increase in impatience and discipline problems, and a loss in the internal desire to learn by many of my students. I am a VERY good teacher. I research, apply, and restructure lessons to best suit my pupils. However, they are so tired and beaten down by the myriad of tests that they are crushed by the end of the year. It is NOT MY CHOICE that allows this. It is the ridiculous NCLB law that has guaranteed nothing but misery for them. You stated, "Most importantly, accountability has to be rigorous and relentless.
No Child Left Behind has its problems, but it has ushered in a data revolution, and hard data is the prerequisite for change."

The "hard data" as it stands means very little, and the "relentless" beatings on children are unconscionable. The ultimate failure of your argument is that you believe TEST SCORES TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT WHAT CHILDREN KNOW AND ARE ABLE TO DO. You are wrong.

No evidence has ever been produced that shows using standardized tests increases learning. In fact, the opposite is true. Since the inception of NCLB, numerous studies out of the Univ. of Chicago, Rice University, and even the US Dept. of Education (Reading First debacle) have shown that the testing-mired NCLB has had ADVERSE effects on students. Katy Haycock, Roy Romer, and anyone else connected with the Ed in 08 campaign have designs, not on helping kids, but profiting from kids. The facade of defeating "the status quo" of unions for the "children's sake" is pure hogwash. Testing abuse is destroying our public school system, and Susan Neuman's latest comments about NCLB are only the tip of the iceberg of revelation about the profiteering that has resulted from it.

I find it obscene that you support "thorny" accountability practices from those whom you view as successful in a businessman's eyes, yet when it comes to business no doubt you support similar tycoons who have taken huge sums of money, yet have not "performed." In yesterday's AP story, CEO pay chugs up in '07 despite economy it states, "Last year was rocky for the economy and the stock market, making it a useful test of a concept called pay for performance--a term companies use to sell shareholders on the idea CEOs are being paid based on how well the company does...but the AP analysis found that CEO pay rose and fell regardless of the direction of a company's stock price or profits."

The concept of pay for performance is abused even in the business world! And that's just based on numerical figures of sales and such. How much more will children be corrosively affected by the continued use of numbers and percentiles to determine their value in our society? We need to come up with something better than this. Our creativity as a nation is being lost to useless deciles and meaningless "data."

I am all for the American Dream, but your ideas of how to get us there won't cut it. We need to look at other forms of evaluating teachers by IN CLASS observation. Students need science and engineering centered portfolios, emotional intelligence development, and group centered mastery evaluations that are judged by credentialed teaching experts, not politicians or businessmen (you know, you don't call a plumber to do a surgeon's job). It is in this way that students will truly be ready for society.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Civil Rights for Suburbs, Mayoral Dictatorship for Cities

Those great civil rights activists Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and Al Sharpton believe in the dual education system. White suburbs get to run their schools. Black and Hispanics in urban areas get no say in schools run by dicatorial mayors who put in chancellors with no experience in education (think it shows?)

The very idea of Joel Klein as Superintendent in towns like Scarsdale and Great neck would create howls of laughter.

Why have the scores at my elementary school all gone up so much?

.... a Brooklyn teacher writes.

The math scores especially have never been higher with only a few 1's, and, for the first time, we had a handful of 4's. The administrators at my school are celebrating this achievement but I am eager to see the citywide results. And I will not be surprised if all of the scores are higher.

Many factors could account for this. We have become better at teaching to the test. The test makers have become better at designing easier tests. And the scorers have become better at scoring the tests with help from the State Ed Department [ed. note - call it "relaxing the rubric."]

Everyone knows that test scores will rise dramatically in NYC as the politicians and a complicent state ed dept. have so much to gain from gaming the system and setting things up so teachers and administrators have too much to lose if they don't go along. That is what is behind merit pay schemes and attempts to tie teacher ratings and tenure to test scores. Make things high stakes enough to force teachers to give up any vestige of academic integrity, the very reason for tenure, which pre-dates the existence of teacher unions by many years.

By the way, is there tenure in high priced suburbs?
Are there calls for those teachers to be rated on test scores?
A hint of merit pay?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

G&T: Everything Tweed Touches Turns to Shit

Where are those great civli rights activists Joel Klein and Al Sharpton now?
Another example of non-educator ideologues who think they know it all. Jeez, we status quoers just have to stop being so negative.

Comment by Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters.

The NY Times has a front page story today describing how the G and T admissions process this year led to a much less diverse group of students being served, both economically and racially, a fact that was pointed out on our blog as well as Eduwonkette’s weeks ago.

Months before that, when the city first proposed to centralize the G and T admissions process and base the decision solely on uniform cut off scores on standardized exams, we pointed out that this would likely restrict diversity and benefit wealthier students at the expense of poor and minority kids. Apparently others warned the DOE directly, including Joseph Renzulli, who serves as a consultant to a city task force on the gifted.

Using standardized exams for high stakes decisions has a racially disparate impact, according to the National Academy of Sciences task force on the subject – and thus is racially discriminatory.

But Joel Klein’s notion of “equity,” as it is becoming more and more clear, is not to increase diversity and opportunity for all kids – but to base all decisions on an abstract, numerical formula that he and his minions devise without input from others– like the FSF formula and the formula for school grades -- no matter what the results or the real impact on kids.

Rumor Mill: Michelle Bodden Goes to UFT Elementary Charter School

There are rumors - even that Michelle will be the new principal - can a UFT VP also be a principal?

Many people at UFT HQ and in Unity Caucus looked at Michelle as the obvious choice to replace Randi Weingarten as UFT president. But we have been pointing out in in our articles on the Randi Succession Obsession that her star was descending. Beside, astute UFT watchers know full well Randi may try to break Al Shanker's 10 year record of holding both AFT and UFT presidencies. (I already have a bet that she is running in 2010 for UFT Pres.)

The speculation is who will be the strong man to ride herd - play the role Tom Pappas played for Feldman and Weingarten - and the guessing is it will be that fellow with the lean and hungy look, Mike Mulgrew.

UFT and Grievances: Daring Not to Win

UFT grievance procedure: Go in young, emerge ready to retire.

I attended the UFT Delegate Assembly yesterday (see James Eterno's full report at the ICE blog) and so many issues came up, I am going to tackle them one at a time in separate posts.

Randi Weingarten made a big deal about an arbitration decision based on a grievance filed by teacher Todd Friedman over getting a U-rating based on taking more than the 10 days as specified in the contract. He took 11. He had an illness and his dad died and he had to go to Florida and he took a few extra days beyond his bereavement time.

His arbitration victory means circumstances of the teacher like illness and death in the family must be taken into account by principals before they bestow a U-rating for excessive absence.

Now, we have heard that principals are will nilly deciding to give U-ratings based on whatever number of days they decide is too much. They want to show Tweed they are rooting out evil doers.

They are able to do this because of the enablers at the UFT.

Randi celebrated the fact that Todd had the guts to stand up and file a grievance and said the union can't do anything unless a teacher stands up. Huh? Don't get me started with this "blame the victim" attitude on the part of the union. There's plenty they could do but choose not to.

"You see, you have to fight City Hall," said Randi as she called Todd up to speak.

"I had to fight the union grievance department to get them to file the grievance the way I wanted," said Todd. "It was only after I appealed to Randi that I got them to change it."

Ooops! Fighting City Hall turns out to be the union grievance department itself.

Randi sort of stood there with egg on her face and repeated her statement about fighting City Hall, even if it's her own grievance department.

Later, I caught up with the special rep who handled Todd's case. "Nice job," I said. "But the people making these decisions that force a teacher to appeal to the union president should be punished," I said. We have to be careful not to risk lose cases that would hurt more people was the gist of her answer.

That attitude has been our complaint for 35 years - first allow incredible loopholes that allow administrators who know what they're doing (and the Leadership Academy has made sure to train principals to expose every loophole) to hammer teachers and then don't take a militant stand in the hope some principals don't know better.

But here's the real rub. Now that we have this "victory" let's say a principal ignores it and does the same thing. What recourse does the teacher have? Do they get an expedited "show them the arbitration and the U comes off immediately?"

I bet not. The union will tell them to, guess what, file a grievance and cite the arbitration.
Follow the bouncing ball:

Step 1: Principal says he/she doesn't accept the teacher's reasons.
Step 2 - oops! The UFT gave that up in the 2005 contract
Step 3 - the chancellor's level where the hearing officer works for, guess who? - Joel Klein. Automatic win for the principal, who is always right.

Now wait a year to go to an arbitrator who might rule in favor of the teacher (not a sure bet as the arbitrator could look at the circumstances and say the principal was right - these people have to split the wins between the union and DOE to stay employed, so if your turn comes up bad, too bad.)

In the meantime, the teacher's U-rating has prevented him from getting per session or maybe even taking a transfer.

Thus, the great union victory on grievances.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Play Bullshit Bingo at Staff Conferences

(Reprised from Ed. Notes, Jan. 2004)


Do you sometimes nod off in staff conferences and staff development?
What about those long and boring pre and post observation conferences?

Here’s a way to change all of that:

1. Before (or during) your next staff conference or staff development day, prepare your “Bullshit Bingo” card by drawing a square--I find that 5”x 5” is a good size.

Divide the card into columns--five across and five down. That will give you 25 one-inch blocks.

2. Write one of the following words/phrases in each block:

staff development, leveled libraries,UFT, professionalism, standardized test scores, revisit, blocked reading/math, genre, 25 books, standards, workshops, learning objective, innovative, observations, strategies and skills, result-driven, goals, knowledge base, supervisors, superintendent, chancellor, student-directed, learning centers, CEP, district goals, instructional plans, evaluation

(feel free to add your own.)

3. Check off the appropriate block when you hear a speaker use one of these words/phrases.

4. When you get five blocks checked off horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, stand up and shout “BULLSH_T!”

Testimonials from satisfied “Bullshit Bingo” players:

“I had been in a faculty meeting for only five minutes when I won.” Jack W., Staten Island

“My attention span at meetings has improved dramatically.” --David D., Brooklyn

“What a gas! Staff Development will never be the same for me after my first win.”
Bill R., New York City

“The atmosphere was tense in the last faculty meeting as 20 of us waited for the fifth box.”
Ben G., Queens

“We use the Superintendent’s name in our game and people ask questions to try to get the staff developers to invoke the name so they can get their card filled. Everyone is on edge as we wait for the name to be said.What excitement! "
A Brooklyn elementary school teacher.

“The principal was stunned as eight of us shouted ‘BULLSHIT!’ for the third time in 40 minutes. " --Kathleen L.., Bronx

Note: Can be adapted for UFT Delegate Assemblies

More NYC Students Boycotting Tests?

"My students refused to take the tests seriously for several reasons: the weather (so hot), the timing (last week of school) and the fact that they KNOW these are practice exams, despite me straight-up lying to them, saying that our school would use their grades to place them in their English class next year. The fact that these test scores may be used as data about the capabilities of NYC students is truly frightening; these tests do NOT reflect what my students are capable of." - a NYC teacher

This teacher was required to administer 2 days of standardized testing during the last week of classes (last week) during English class to 9th grade. 10th grade had 4 days of standardized testing last week. The teacher was told by admin that these tests were city-wide. Anyone know if that is true?

Some speculation:

Will kids be leading the way in boycotting tests in the future?
Will teachers be blamed as Doug Avella was?
(Note this teacher, unlike Doug, tried to lie to the kids -- I can see why, given possible repercussions, but in the long run the kids need to trust the teacher.)

Are they being used instead for the teacher evaluation study/ scheme/ to rate teachers on their annual gains in test scores – for the purposes of eventually using this for tenure decisions, contrary to the supposed restrictions in the contract?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Thursday, June 19th, 5:00 pm - Protest: "National Day of Protest

Join New Yorkers on Thursday June 19th for a day of protest against health insurance profiteering. We will speak-out against the proposed privatization of GHI and HIP and claim Health Care as a basic human right! We will mourn the countless victims of the health insurance industry while marking June nineteenth – a day commemorating the emancipation of slaves in North America. The NYC action is one 17 others nation-wide in solidarity with activists in San Francisco, CA who will be protesting the annual meeting of 38,000 health insurance executives. On June 19th join fellow New Yorkers in declaring our emancipation from for-profit healthcare and support for the single-payer national health insurance bill H. R. 676.

Bring friends & signs.

5:00 pm - Meet at Office of GHI, 441 9th Avenue (34th & 9th)
5:30 pm – March to United Health, One Penn Plaza, (34th St. btw. 7th & 8th)
(A/C/E or 1/2/3 to 34th Street)

For more info on the movement to oppose GHI/HIP privatization:

For more info on the movement for Single-Payer National Health Insurance:

March Organizers
Healthcare Now!, The Coalition Against Privatization, Private Health Insurance Must Go! & Physicians for a National Health Program (Metro Chapter)

Teachers for a Just Contract (UFT), Independent Community of Educators (UFT), the Take Back Our Union Coalition (TWU Local 100), The Hunger Action Network of NY State, Gangbox: The Construction Worker's News Service, UFT Retirees, D.C. 37 rank-and-file members, D.C. 37 retirees, Socialist Party USA (NYC), & Socialist Action.

More Info: (718) 869-2279, (request flyer)

Cartoon by graphic artist Gary Martin

Status Quoers Dare to Ask for a Piece of KBR's $20 Billion

With the NY Times report today on how an official was fired after refusing to pay $1 billion to corrupt food contracter KBR which has received a total of $20 billion, supporters of the status quo in education have requested a piece of the action to reduce class size, expand early childhood programs and provide services for at-risk teens.

Members of the secretly funded Educational Quality Project laughed at the idea, claiming comparing money funneled to corporations with heavy political contacts and educational funding is an apples and oranges comparison.

EQP founders Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Al Sharpton and Andrew Rotherham issued a joint statement claiming that no new funding was needed to solve educational problems. "Just get rid of teacher unions and turn public schools into charters and all will be well," the statement said. "However, we wish we could get a piece of that $20 billion to open 10,000 KIPP schools."

Henry Closes Eliza's Achievement Gap

Just watched "My Fair Lady" and it looks like Teach for America grad Henry Higgins managed to close the vast achievement gap of one Eliza Doolittle.

NYC Chancellor Joel Klein praised Higgins' work.

"When Doolittle had the cheek to ask 'What will become of me?' Henry blasted right back with, 'Who the devil cares what will become with you?' That's exactly the attitude we encourage our people to have. Look at the data only and ignore other factors. "

When it was pointed out that Higgins had a class size of one and took Doolittle in to live with him for 6 months, Klein responded:

Rubbish. These factors had no impact at all. We analyzed the data and the results are due to the differentiated instruction. And the word wall.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Edwize Tries Smoke and Mirrors - Update

Edwize commenter JW raises questions about the rush to judgement on the part of the UFT to endorse Hillary. Note the disingenuous answer from Leo Casey.

See Leo run.

See Leo try to convince JW that the UFT couldn't discuss or vote on the primary because the AFT endorsed Clinton. As if the UFT must follow AFT policy, not the other way around. [Check our previous post "The Unity Caucus Tail Wags the AFT Dog".]

See Leo ignore the fact that the Chicago Teachers Union did endorse Obama. Oh, yeah, the UFT has an excuse for that - "we gave them permission" said Randi at a meeting because of Obama's favorite son status. Hillary had plenty of roots in Chicago too.

JW asks for the by-law that proves Casey's contention.

Suddenly, the thread ends.

Was anyone out there polled by the AFT as Leo contends? Gee, it's hard to believe Leo would actually out and out lie, so there must be a poll lurking somewhere. Maybe in a vault. Or in Warsaw.

I never read the Edwize unless someone is inserting burning splinters under my fingernails. In the comments on this post, Unity slugs Bill Stamatis and Casey wax unpoetic in praise of Hillary Clinton on education. I mean, hey, just check out what she says for public consumption on her web site and ignore her entire history of ed "reform" from Arkansas through NCLB and beyond – Lock step with the UFT which has done so well by NYC teachers. Ahh let's forget the days when Hillary defended retesting of veteran teachers or the Clintons laid out the basis of a lot of today's phony ed reform movement.

So, why did the UFT rush to Hillary? Tell me again, I forgot. - JW

Stamatis points to Clinton’s web site - and blah, blah, blah

JW comes back with:
Whether Hillary or Obama had the better ed platform this primary season matters less to me than the UFT making an endorsement without polling the membership. I’ll vote for any Democrat in the general election, of course, and the UFT could have done the same: endorse the Democratic choice, whichever candidate the party would eventually put forward by the end of the primary season. I don’t think they had to endorse one of the two candidates specifically. So, my question still holds. Why did the UFT think it was necessary to jump in on Hillary, especially without asking members which way they were leaning?

Now watch Leo "Obfuscate" Casey in action:
Your information is incorrect. First, in a national election, the endorsement is made by the national union, the AFT. [Like somehow the AFT is not run by the UFT.]

The AFT endorsed Hillary Clinton, and the UFT’s participation in the primary elections was based on that national endorsement. That is how we have always done national endorsements.

Secondly, the AFT commissioned extensive, scientific polling of the membership, and the decision to endorse was taken with the results of those polls in hand. The national membership supported the endorsement of Hillary over Obama by better than 2 to 1 and over Edwards by better than 3 to 1. In New York, those numbers were even more in favor of Hillary.

JW comes back with:
If endorsement by the national union is the way it’s always been done, is this procedure codified in the by-laws that it has to be done that way? If so, I’d like to know where I can see this text. Failing codification, it’s a question of custom, which doesn’t mean it’s actually the right way, or the most democratic way to endorse a candidate, or even that it should be continued to be done this way. As to the “extensive, scientific polling of the membership” done by the AFT : Neither I nor anyone I know in the most recent primary season or in any other primary season as long as I’ve been a teacher has ever been polled by the AFT. How scientific or extensive could it be? And what does that mean anyway? I’ve read that the UFT and AFT had ties with Clintons as far back as the 80s. Obviously, Weingarten had every intention to honor that bond, and maybe even to gain from the endorsement personally. It was not in her interest or anyone else’s at the national level to find out who the members really wanted, whether Obama, Clinton, Edwards or any of the others. The UFT is the largest member of the AFT, and I can’t imagine the AFT acting contrary to the wishes of the UFT. What the UFT says is the way the AFT goes, it seems to me, and not the other way around. The “scientific” polls could well have been manufactured, for all we’ve been told about them. On ed issues, I’m not a rabid Obama fan. I just believe this is all political and who the membership wants to endorse has little do with anything. If you stand by those “scientific” polls, then I’d like to know I can get a hold of the questions, the names of the participating locals, the percentages of members polled, and similar kinds of information.

David Brooks and the Status Quo at the NY Times

I've been thinking about how to address David Brooks' ridiculous op ed in Friday's NY Times on education where if you don't agree with the likes of Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, Andrew Rotherham and, best of all, Al Sharpton (read all about his extortion racket,) you are labeled a status quoer. On first look, I thought it was a Tweed press release. Well, now that I think about it, it read a lot like Tweed PR chief David Cantor.

NYC Educator's brilliant piece today pretty much nails Brooks, who ought to visit the lovely trailer NYC teaches in, but I want to add a few points.

Brooks focuses on where Obama will go on ed policy. Brooks puts him between the regressive ed reformers and the progressive ed reformers whom the RER zombies are branding as "status quoers." NYC Educator focuses on the fact that none of the so-called regressive ed reforms seem to have worked, but Brooks wants to continue to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic anyway.

In his own fit of rhetorical gibberish, Brooks refers to the "patina of postpartisan rhetoric" as he writes about the competing vision of the Progressive Ed Reform Movement (PERM):

The status quo camp issued a statement organized by the Economic Policy Institute. This report argues that poverty and broad social factors drive high dropout rates and other bad outcomes. Schools alone can’t combat that, so more money should go to health care programs, anti-poverty initiatives and after-school and pre-K programs. When it comes to improving schools, the essential message is that we need to spend more on what we’re already doing: smaller class sizes, better instruction, better teacher training.

Does Brooks really believe we're spending more on smaller class size? Maybe in the private schools his friends attend. What does he think about the fact that the class sizes in NYC are 25%-35% higher than the rest of the state? Who really supports the status quo, people like Brooks or the PERMs? Brooks and the RER's are really about busting teacher unions. Lucky for them they have a compliant AFT/UFT that is frightened of being branded as SQ's to deal with.

Brooks says, "the crucial issues are: What do you do with teachers and administrators who are failing? How rigorously do you enforce accountability? Tough decisions have to be made about who belongs in the classroom and who doesn’t. Parents have to be given more control over education through public charter schools. Teacher contracts and state policies that keep ineffective teachers in the classroom need to be revised.

What irony. Has he seen how parents in NYC have less control over their schools than ever as regressive ed reformers use mayoral dictatorships to hand entire urban public school system over to Bill Gates and Eli Broad, while Brooks' friends in the suburbs actually get to elect school boards and vote on budgets?

What to do with reporters and editors who are failing?
Who belongs in the NY Times newsroom?

As NYC Educator points out, Brooks and the NY Times were vigorous war hawks and don't seem to worry about accountability and failures when it came to their own promotion of the weapons of mass destruction and general coverage of the Iraq war.

And then there's the issue of how a trillion dollars can appear out of nowhere, but those who call for even a fraction of that expenditure to lower class size are branded status quoers.

Let David Brooks take a look at the failure of the NY Times, not only in relation to Iraq, but in the biased coverage of education in NYC. True accountability starts at home.

Check out this review of Susan Ohanian's new book for some sanity.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Unity Caucus Tail Wags the AFT Dog

REVISED Monday, June 16 8AM

Some people find it hard to believe that a caucus of around 1500 people can control a 1.4 million member organization. But the UFT is firmly under the Unity Caucus thumb and the AFT is controlled by the UFT.

Actually, it's worse than that – it's more like one person – the president of the UFT, plus entourage – that controls the Unity machine, which itself is not a democratic organization.

Some people are confused. They think Randi Weingarten is getting a promotion when she becomes president of the AFT next month. Maybe a promotion in prestige. But in terms of power, the AFT president has significantly less power than the President of the UFT. The AFT president deals with other union leaders who control their own locals, so it is a powerless position in terms of the number of people under control, which is limited basically to the AFT bureaucracy. Unless of course the AFT president also controls the UFT, as has been the rule since Al Shanker took over in 1974 (other than McElroy's filling the slot between Feldman and Weingarten.) That is one reason why Randi will not give up the UFT presidency unless that base is totally secure, which without her choosing a clear successor (which she intentionally hasn't done), will not happen.

Randi is a pretty shrewd cookie and knows how to play this game. Thus, telling people there are 6 possible successors. Divide and conquer. (See links to our previous series "Randi Succession Obsession" in the sidebar.) Imagine a scenario where Randi goes to Washington, appoints a successor as did Shanker and Feldman before her, and finds the person she chooses has that ambitious lean and hungry look and starts purging her people, leaving her as a supplicant. Ain't gonna happen for a while.

The numbers tell the story: The UFT is the elephant in the room
The AFT has around 1.4 million members, with the UFT's share being 200,000 plus. But it goes beyond that when you look at New York State United Teachers' (NYSUT) 600,000 plus, which is controlled by the UFT. So, do the math and you see how the UFT tail wags the AFT dog. And why when I was recently asked whether Randi Weingarten will face opposition in the AFT election, I answered, "no more than token, at most a candidate from the left, since there is even less of an opposition caucus in the AFT, with the Unity-like Progressive Caucus in total control."

And one point about Randi's being crushed by Hillary's defeat because now she can't become Sect'y of Education: I do not believe for a minute that she had any intention in that direction. What real long term power does a cabinet position hold other than for a few years?

In fact, Randi would have served, and will serve, Hillary's purposes in a much better way as the head of a national union. And with the goal of making Hillary the president one day still alive, Randi is well positioned to use the national pulpit of AFT presidency to promote their goals, especially if she can pull off a merger of the 3.4 million member NEA and AFT and if she can convince the NEA people to make her president of the merged 5 million member union.

At that point she would have surpassed even Al Shanker, who could never have accomplished such a merger because NEA people despised his ruthless, authoritarian and undemocratic methods. Hmmm, on second thought, nothing's really changed in the UFT. Except that Randi is so much slicker than Al and will try to convince the NEA she is a democrat in addition to being a Democrat. Don't sell her short. As we've seen here with the UFT and Tweed parallel large PR machines, you can get people to believe anything.

If she does, who is to say she would not be in line to head the entire AFL/CIO? I know, some labor people say a teacher union head could never be in that position. But unions are on the run and Randi has figured out a way to "save" them. Just give away as many hard won rights as possible to convince management the unions are willing to work with them in a collaborationist way.

NYC teachers have seen the results of this "new unionism" strategy promoted by Leo Casey. They wish the rest of the labor movement luck.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Who's Funding the Education Quality Project?

Reformatted: Thread is in reverse order. Leonie in blue, Cantor in red.

GBN News discovers answer to secret funds for Educational Equity Project.

Sometimes all you need to do is put up a thread without comment. Do you need more to understand why just yesterday someone characterized Leonie as a true heroine of the education wars against the regressive ed reform zombies. Of course, Leonie would be characterized by the NY Times' David Brooks as a "status quoer."

From Leonie Haimson on nyceducationnews listserve:

See David Cantor's comments below -- on the fact that this Klein/ Sharpton alliance is being funded by an "anonymous donor" -- though apparently not by Bloomberg.

I would think that the kind of public campaign that the Chancellor is embarking upon, including staging "events at both political conventions” and attempting to influence the position of the next President should be obligated to reveal its source of financing.

David also questions my description of the press office as large and well-funded -- though I still maintain that is larger than the press office of any other city agency and much larger than under any previous Chancellor. I have an excel file from October with the names, salaries and positions of thirteen people employed in the Communications office, in case anyone would like to see it. Not that they don't earn their salaries, working overtime to cover the blunders and mistatements of their superiors.

David: two questions -- who is paying your salary when you write press releases for this Klein/ Sharpton effort and/or answer calls from reporters about it? Are you getting paid extra by this "anonymous" donor -- or does your official salary funded by taxpayer money cover your efforts?

Secondly, are you thinking of writing an expose a la Scott McLellan about your adventures in the land of Tweed when Klein's term in office is over? I myself would pay a pretty penny for such a book, and I bet many others would as well. Let me know if you'd like some contact information from publishers who would likely be interested. Unfortunately, I must turn down your offer to come fix your copying machine; I don't have any particular expertise in that area (not that ever stopped the Chancellor in his hiring decisions.)

Perhaps by cutting down on the high salaries of some of the top educrats at Tweed -- or eliminating one or two positions in the burgeoning Accountability office, you might be able to afford to pay a repairman.

thanks as always,

Leonie Haimson

From: david cantor []
Sent: Friday, June 13, 2008 11:20 PM
To: Leonie Haimson
Subject: Re: question for David Cantor: who is funding this project?

Leonie: The project is being funded anonymously. No public money will be spent. The mayor is not funding the project.

Re comments on your blog: If Class Size Matters ever wants to hold a press conference in Washington, the National Press Club room we used (Zenger Room) is available for $500. Also, I invite you to come over to the press office when next you're at Tweed and check out our "huge" communications "juggernaut" at work. I think you'll be surprised. If you're any good at fixing a copy machine we may put you to work.
David Cantor
Press Secretary
NYC Dept of Ed

On 6/13/08, Leonie Haimson wrote:

So tell us then, David, who is funding this, if not Gates and Broad?

I see that on the webpage of , you are one of the two contact people listed:

Contact: David Cantor - NYC Department of Education (212) 374-5141
Rachel Noerdlinger - NAN/Al Sharpton Media (212) 876-5444

USA today: "Neither Sharpton nor Klein offered details on the Education Equality Project, but said they sent letters to both presidential candidates Wednesday and plan to stage events at both political conventions."

So is this campaign coming out of our taxpayer money? In the midst of an economic slowdown so dire that Bloomberg says he is forced to cut all city agencies, including Education by $450 M? And/or is this project being subsidized by Bloomberg himself?

It's easy, though, to see how people including myself could assume that Gates and Broad were funding this. If you go to the Ed ''08; webpage it says:

Strong American Schools is a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, two of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world, have provided grant funding for Strong American Schools. Roy Romer, the former governor of Colorado and most recently superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, is our chairman and lead spokesman.
You click on Roy Romer's link and you get to:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bringing Equity to the Education System
Today I joined with New York City Schools' chancellor Joel Klein, the Rev. Al Sharpton and a host of other civil rights leaders, elected officials, and education reformers to announce the launch of the Education Equality Project. The new project will challenge politicians, public officials, educations, union leaders, and others to view fixing public schools as the foremost civil rights issue of the early 21st century.

Other quotations from press release:

"Our nation's economy and individual family income is tied to improving our skills through education," ED in '08 Chairman Roy Romer said. "Americans cannot afford to sit back and watch its schools fail our students. We need to raise expectations and opportunities for every single student, regardless of race, color, creed, or income. Most importantly, we need strong leaders to take initiative. Today, I am joining these influential leaders to call for change."

"Nationally, our public education system is failing to provide our students with the skills they need to compete for the best jobs in the global workforce," said former Congressman J.C. Watts, Jr., who serves as a spokesperson for ED in '08. "Too many of our students are not graduating from high school and too many who do graduate are not prepared to face the challenges of college, the workplace, or life. This crisis in education is destroying the foundation of our economic success and national prosperity. I am glad to join the bi-partisan coalition to sound the national alarm to improve our schools."

Bloomberg is well known for his generosity to many organizations through the Carnegie Corporation– see this today's news, about his latest contributions of $60 million: ( full list is here: )

All in all, very confusing and mysterious. Please enlighten us, David!

Leonie Haimson

Sent: Friday, June 13, 2008 12:16 AM
Subject: Re: [nyceducationnews] Klein, Sharpton Ally on Achievement Gap

No Gates or Broad money is going to this initiative. Zero.

David Cantor
Press Secretary
NYC Dept of ED

On 6/12/08, wrote:

as I predicted, this "new" coalition will focus on charter schools and union busting-- not a word about the need for the critical reforms that have actually been proven to work to narrow the achievement gap -- like class size reduction.
This strategic alliance, or "beautiful friendship" as Klein likes to put it, appears to be based instead upon the ideological biases of its funders -- the Gates and Broad foundations.

Klein, Sharpton Ally on Achievement Gap

, Staff Reporter of the Sun
June 11, 2008