Monday, June 18, 2018

Ed Deform Debunked: DC's public schools go from success story to cautionary tale

Critics view the problems, particularly the attendance issue, as an indictment of the entire data-driven evaluation system instituted a more than a decade ago when then-Mayor Adrian Fenty took over the school system and appointed Michelle Rhee as the first chancellor. Rhee's ambitious plan to clear out dead wood and focus on accountability for teachers and administrators landed her on the cover of Time magazine holding a broom. But now analysts question whether Rhee's emphasis on performance metrics has created a monster.... Top News
 Another find from Fiorillo:
Good to finally see, even if you have to go al the way to the very last paragraph to see the name Michele Rhee mentioned... Still, articles like this will be the coffin nails of test-based "reform" ---- Michael Fiorillo
From day 1 of the ed deform miracles  those experienced in working in schools knew they were bullshit.

From Associated Press
June 17, 2018 7:42 AM EST
WASHINGTON (AP) — As recently as a year ago, the public school system in the nation's capital was being hailed as a shining example of successful urban education reform and a template for districts across the country.

Now the situation in the District of Columbia could not be more different. After a series of rapid-fire scandals, including one about rigged graduation rates, Washington's school system has gone from a point of pride to perhaps the largest public embarrassment of Mayor Muriel Bowser's tenure.

This stunning reversal has left school administrators and city officials scrambling for answers and pledging to regain the public's trust.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Tale From the Bubble: Can The Left Talk to the Working Class? Does it Really Want to?

Hey! I'm a Normie.

The comments in the snapshot above that came to me from FB are interesting. I've seen a lot of the tendency described about within MORE -- some describe it as a bubble. I love the author's "cultural ghetto."

Some have said that is the reason MORE has not made much headway with the mass of rank and file teachers in the UFT after almost 7 years of existence. But MORE is evidence of certain tendencies on the left and many people on the left I know are not, nor ever have been, comfortable within the MORE environment. So the above comments did strike a note.

This year I finally came to the conclusion that MORE would aim its appeal to the left-leaning segment of the UFT and not grow much beyond that. There is definitely a left out there -- just as there was in the late 60s/early 70s when we tried to unite people under one banner but it all came apart in leftist sectarianism. So what else is new?

There is not even agreement on the left within the UFT - as recent internal disagreements point out. I mean if people like Mike Schirtzer, Arthur Goldstein and most of the people in ICE are not welcome in MORE we can't even say MORE can organize even the so-called "left" in the UFT.

The author talks about "the left" as not being able to talk to the working class because it does its main organizing in colleges. Many of the people active in MORE were organized in college rather than on the job, so they do bring that culture to organizing.

Bernie Sanders is the left yet he can talk to working class people. So my feeling is that the author is talking about a segment of the left.

"What is the left?" My Trump-supporting right wing friends call the NY Times the left. The left is hard to define.

Most of the people I know who call themselves "left" are socialists of some sort -- from Bernie Social Democrats (think of the socialist parties in Europe) to Marxist-Leninists who see a revolution as the only solution. And that category breaks down into the increasingly rare "Stalanist" vs the more numerous anti-Stalin Trotskyists - and Trots themselves break down unto multiple sectarian groups. Trots have an advantage when challenged that socialism didn't work by saying "that is not our version," which seems to have an appeal since it gives them hope.

While I think of myself as left I have not been able to pull the trigger on calling myself a socialist and an anti-capitalist - I believe in highly regulated capitalism -- though even that is being shaken by the realities of capitalism -- that the forces in control will gain more control - even over the press which can expose them.

Still, it is a mis-characterization to refer to "the left" without talking about the many variations, too complex an issue to delve into here.

I will say I've learned a hell of a lot about what constitutes the left from my work over the past almost 50 years in the UFT dissident movement - and recent events in the dispute between the leftists in ICEUFT and the leftists in MORE have given me further insights.

There will always be left sectarianism. (You can't herd cats). That is why my view of a big tent opposition with room for many political points of view has come crashing down. I never learn. Maybe this time.

MORE - or LESS - to come as I sort things out.

Friday, June 15, 2018

School Scope: The UFT and Janus: Better Service, YES, More Democracy, NO

To be published in The WAVE June 15, 2018,

School Scope: The UFT and Janus: Better Service, YES, More Democracy, NO
By Norm Scott

Recent columns have addressed the probable Supreme Court decision in the Janus case that will make the entire nation right-to-work (RTW), which means those who don’t join the union won’t have to pay dues, thus leading to weakened unions. (Background at: The UFT and Janus: and Is the UFT in Danger from Janus as Staff Layoffs and Retirements Loom? Unions must represent all people covered by contracts even if they choose not to join the union. In non-RTW states they must pay dues, known as agency fees, at a somewhat reduced rate. In the UFT there are reportedly over 3000 agency fee payers. They do not have the right to vote in general union or school elections and, theoretically, can be kept from attending school and citywide union meetings. Post Janus, expectations of members leaving the UFT run anywhere from 10-25%, which would be a damaging loss.

The UFT leadership has blitzed schools and membership with appeals to stay, even going so far as to visit members at home and organizing school-based teams to lobby colleagues. The UFT as the sole bargaining agent for all employees must continue to provide services to everyone, even those who leave the union, a serious and unfair drain on resources. Politicians recognize the threat to undermine strong unions like the UFT, which helps manage members’ expectations and militancy, is also a threat to the ability to run the schools if teachers were free agents unbound by union contracts. We saw this in the red state rebellions, all in RTW states where strikes are illegal (they are here too) where weakened unions were outflanked by a militant rank and file.

A recent state law pushed through by the UFT’s former enemy and now best friend, Governor Cuomo, would free unions from having to provide lawyers, possibly putting a scare into people thinking of leaving. I think the UFT needs to do more to offer positive reasons for staying, like better service and a more militant stance against the DOE and de Blasio. The UFT has not done enough to defend members from abusive principals. Untenured, who must wait at least four (or more) years for tenure, basically are without union protections. They can be discontinued at any time for practically any reasons. (Tenure forces administrators to provide some basis and guarantees a hearing.)

The anti-union forces have gone on a blitz to urge people to drop out and “give themselves a raise” by saving on dues, which in the UFT amounts to around $1400 a year. The salary structure is regressive as the gap between newer teachers and those at the top is so wide. Will new teachers opt in to join the union, especially if they intend to leave after a few years (over 50% do leave by the 5th year)?

Many of the deepest critics of the UFT/Unity Caucus leadership in the opposition to Unity Caucus are urging people to stay in the union and keep paying dues. In UFT elections they get about 25% of the vote and those who leave are more likely to be anti-Unity. But politics aside, Janus presents an existential threat to the lifeblood of all employees. Still, one of our major complaints has been the lack of democracy. While the UFT may offer better services, don’t expect democracy to be on their agenda. But does anyone really care about democracy in today’s world? More on this next time.

Norm runs his blog in a democratic manner – he makes all the decisions but argues with himself first.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Old News: UFT District Rep and DOE Supt - An Affair to Remember - Or Not

Now that I enticed you, I admit I have very little to report. But today we got together with some old pals - who were in Unity Caucus and in reminiscing one of them says to the other - remember the Supt who was having the affair with the UFT District Rep? Everyone in the District office and the UFT knew about it.

Now this was a long time ago but hearing this story today would you be surprised? We recently heard that a UFT District rep and an awful Supt vacationed together -- rumor only.... but.

By the way, the Unity guy asked how come Unity still was able to keep the opposition at bay given how bad things seem to be?

"Because the opposition has been inept," I said.

"Isn't that you," he said?

"Absolutely, I have been part of the ineptitude."

NY1 Reports on Abusive Port Richmond HS Principal Oneatha Swinton

See below for the June 13 NY1 report on the principal.

Ed Notes has covered the Port Richmond story. Here is a short video I shot at the PEP:
People from the school have been in touch through an intermediary. Swinton has a bad rep from her old school at the John Jay Campus in Brooklyn and supposedly has brought along a number of her cronies. One of the MORE people had been chapter leader at the Brooklyn school and said she was awful. Yet, she will probably get appointed, thus continuing the tradition of putting in DOE slugs.

I am urging people who are willing to take a stand against abusive principals publicly to show up and sign up to speak at PEP meetings directly to the chancellor. Tell your stories for public consumption. The next PEP is next Weds, June 20 at Prospect Hts campus.

I'm also working with James Eterno on a plan to gather people from various high schools together to come up with joint strategies and maybe joint actions, including how to get people in their own schools on board. This summer we will hold some behind the scenes meetings. At the June 22 ICE meeting we will talk about the feasibility.

New details have emerged about the interim acting principal at Staten Island's Port Richmond High School.

Oneatha Swinton was appointed to PRHS as interim acting principal last July. Now the city Education Department is considering making her temporary appointment permanent, despite multiple complaints made by parents and teachers.

Swinton previously was principal at John Jay high school in Brooklyn.

When she left the Education Department's Office of Special Investigation had been looking into complaints by parents, alleging on cronyism and transparency.

That inquiry continues and others have since launched, including one looking at allegations she drives a car registered to a Pennsylvania address also used by an Education Department contractor.

Other complaints allege spending more than $400,000 on unnecessary positions for her friends and inflating grades to boost graduation rates.
Parents and teachers say they also have filed complaints with the governor's office which referred them to the state Education Department. That agency declined to comment as did Swinton. 
City Councilwoman Debi Rose downplays the concerns, telling NY1, "How many people that are in positions of power that are under investigation have been under investigation? And I don't think it's fair until you know, all of that's been, gone through the process and been decided."
NY1 has learned that two other principals considered for the position were told they would not get the job back in April, leaving only Swinton as a potential candidate.
Still, despite the ongoing investigations the Department of Education insists that the selection process continues.

Acting Port Richmond principal likely to win post amid probes

By Amanda Farinacci  |  June 13, 2018 @11:59 AM
Video at

Acting Port Richmond principal likely to win post amid probes

By Amanda Farinacci  |  June 13, 2018 @11:59 AM

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

NYSUT Opposes Bill on Evals and Flanagan Sells Out Education to Yeshiva Interests

At first glance, this appears to repeal the teacher evaluation law APPR, increases charter school cap by 100, and appears to undercut Commissioner's authority over non-public (read Yeshiva) schools... Leonie Haimson

Aside from the awful stuff about raising the charter cap which would do a lot more to undermine union teacher jobs than the eval law repeal.

Here is the NYSUT response:

Sen. Flanagan must think we were born yesterday. The Republican State Senate majority leader showed again last night how little he and his GOP colleagues respect public school teachers.

Instead of passing S.8301, a clean bill with 55 sponsors in the Senate to reduce testing and fix the evaluation system, Sen. Flanagan introduced a bill that ties APPR to millions of dollars for the charter industry and his political donors and to loopholes for private schools. This is just another distraction and a stall tactic.

Our message has not changed. The Senate must pass S.8301, with NO STRINGS attached.

Reject Sen. Flanagan's gambit. Tell your senator to demand the majority leader allow a vote on S.8301 now.

The vast majority of Senate Republicans joined all the Democrats to co-sponsor S.8301, our bill to fix New York's flawed and unfair teacher performance review law, weeks ago. Yet for all their talk about supporting it, Senate Republicans failed to even allow an up or down vote. They could have done it, but they didn't.

Reject Sen. Flanagan's gambit. Tell your senator to demand the majority leader allow a vote on S.8301 now.

We have been working for years to return control over teacher evaluations to local school districts and teachers. Thanks to you, we are closer than ever to fixing New York's flawed and unfair teacher performance review law. Our bill passed the Assembly 133-1. Now the Senate needs to honor teachers by voting on S.8301 now, with no strings attached.

Let's get this done now!

In solidarity,

Andrew Pallotta
NYSUT President


Leonie has been on the case of the shameful response to the lack of education in yeshivas which get money to teacher certain subjects but don't.

See the video I shot of the YAFFED press conference: Video: YAFFED Press Conf - De Blasio, Farina, Felder Slammed

Here are Leonie Haimson's comments on her must read nyceducationnews listserve:

New Flanagan bill re yeshivas

Here is Yaffed’s ceo, Naftali Moser’s analysis of the Yeshiva portion of the Flanagan bill/

Retired Teacher Chapter Meeting Update - Unity Caucus Wins Chapter Election - DUHHH!

Wednesday, June 14, 8 AM

Today's Delegate Assembly has been postponed until next week pending the Janus decision (Lack of Decision as Yet on Janus Causes UFT to Post...).

I attended the final retired teacher chapter meeting yesterday for some crazy reason -- it was a gorgeous day.

I wanted to touch base with Lisa North, who opposed Tom Murphy for chapter leader, and Gloria Brandman who helped organize and coordinate the work we have been doing with New Action and Retiree Advocate people recently.

I also like Scott Stringer because he put Patrick Sullivan on the PEP and he was the guest speaker. Scott got a rousing reaction when he reminded us of the support the UFT gave him when he defeated Eva Moskowitz for Manhattan borough president before she began her charter career, partly I think to get revenge on the UFT. And in fact Eva and her non-unionized 50 charter schools has cost the UFT more members than Janus will.

Stringer compared the city and state pension systems. He has to consult with the unions in decision making on investments which he believes is a good thing -- compared to the state where the comptroller has sole decision making power. He said our pensions were 70% funded.

I got an important phone call related to Evil Eva and Success while Stringer was answering questions and had to go outside to take the call (more on this angle in a future post) and the meeting ended while I was on the phone.

Gloria, Lisa and I got to hang out after the meeting and talk about our own situation in ICE and MORE.

(A group of people in MORE sent a public email on the MORE Listserve asking the 3 of us to basically leave MORE or choose between ICE and MORE. As founders of ICE and MORE and having put 6 years of effort into MORE, we ignored them. Some of them have been in MORE for 10 minutes.)

One of the interesting aspects of RTC meetings is what they call "Good and Welfare" where anyone can get up and say something. Chapter leader Tom Murphy announced that G and W would be put up front of the meeting instead of the end when people are leaving. I've been asking for a feature like this for MORE Meetings but have been ignored. So it was interesting to see an RTC meeting run with more openness than the usual MORE Meetings. But more on MORE and democracy in future posts.

(A wise person who left MORE recently told me - if MORE is going to be like Unity at least Unity has the toys.)

The results of the recent UFT Retiree chapter election between the Unity slate and the Retiree Advocate/MORE/New Action slate went according to form. I wrote about the election here: VOTE Retiree Advocate: Current UFT Retiree Chapter...

19,084 - 30% - voted out of the over 60,000 ballots sent out.  Unity received 82- 83%, or 15,334 while our slate got 3405 votes -- 17-18%. This falls in line with the outcomes of general UFT elections and is a key point in why Unity will always win. There is no way to make a dent in the retiree vote.

Most important is that Unity gets to fill all 300 seats at the Delegate Assembly while we get none. In fact Unity has a lot of trouble getting 300 retirees to want to go to a DA every month and they only show in rare occassions when called out for a vote Unity is worried about.

In a proportional rep system we would get 18% of the delegates, which would be about 36 -- and our people would show. It would get me and Eterno and Gloria and Lisa and the New Action crew back in the DA -- which is why you will never see proportional rep in the UFT. Is it democratic to shut out even 17% of the voices? Those 3400 people who voted for us have their voices stilled.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Lack of Decision as Yet on Janus Causes UFT to Postpone this Week's Delegate Assembly?

Huh? Apparently, the UFT had expected a decision by now. I guess they are hoping there will be one by next week when the DA is now scheduled to meet. Some are speculating about the delay, but it is not unusual for the Supreme Court to release major decisions late in June.

Reports are that once the decision is out, the UFT will consider laying staff off and forcing some staff members into retirement to cut costs. A recent report by Mike Antonucci point to the NEA and the California Teachers Association making roughly 10% budget cuts, which might indicate they expect 10% of their membership to leave the union.

Some of us were speculating today at the delay in the decision. Is it possible the red state teacher revolts in right to work states had some influence in the deliberations? I don't expect the Court to go the other way than expected but they might offer states some wriggle room to protect local unions if they see fit.

Or not.

At any rate we may see a changed landscape as the UFT for the first time in a long time has to hustle to keep its membership. Improving services and responsiveness seems to be on the minds of some. (AMY ARUNDELL APOLOGIZES TO MEMBER PUT ON HOLD AND DISCONNECTED)

Of course, if the UFT reduces staff their ability to offer services may suffer. On the other hand if they get rid of the dead weight it may not make a difference.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Hillcrest HS Admin Engaged in Sexual Harassment - Another Queens HS Under Supt. Juan Mendez

The hits keep coming. Last week we reported on the principal of Forest Hills HS in Queens, ( Principal Ben Sherman: Forest Hills HS Teachers Issue Declaration of Independence).

The story below about another Queens HS, most likely under one of the worst Supt., Juan Mendez. was just published in the Daily News.

Look for that bastion of moral turpitude, the CSA, to defend these guys to the hilt. And the DOE to give them promotions.

Me Too, anyone?

Queens high school administrator slept with at least four teachers and one student and tormented subordinates: lawsuit

Hey, Cuomo, Leave Those Kids Alone - The Indypendent

Often derided as the “school deform movement” by its detractors, the corporate push for education reform has led to the closure of hundreds of public schools, the proliferation of privately-operated, publicly-funded charter schools and attacks on teachers’ unions, one of the last bastions of organized labor. Norm Scott, a longtime public school teacher who now runs the Ed Notes Online blog, describes the surfeit of corporate think tanks, political action committees, charter school chains and data analysis firms that have sprung up under the “reform” umbrella in recent years as the “Education Industrial Complex.” “It’s not going away any time soon,” says Scott. “There’s too much money in it.” .... The Indypendent 
The Indypendent's Peter Rugh takes a deep-dive on Cuomo's education policy. I'm quoted in it briefly. Peter and I had a great conversation about Cuomo, the UFT and the ed deform movement. I wish I could remember it.

One of the best articles I've read in a long time. And voices from some of our smartest folks.... Janine Sopp
“I’ll never forgive Gov. Cuomo,” says Carol Burris, a former principal of the year at South Side High School in Rockville Centre on Long Island, now executive director of the Network for Public Education Foundation. She describes the climate in which the “reform” movement first began to pick up steam. The Obama administration’s 2009 “Race to the Top” initiative gave states an incentive to focus on test scores as a way of securing federal grants at a time when the housing crisis had left schools strapped for revenue.
“Cuomo, he just took advantage of it politically,” Burris explains. “All of a sudden, teachers and principals were seen as villains. We were not doing our job. We had to perform. And if only we were better, poverty would disappear because all of the kids at school, no matter how difficult their circumstances, they would go off to college and poverty would disappear.”
Read it all:

Also -- John Tarleton who runs the Indypendent sent this:
Check out this petition on a campaign against the Goldman Sachs alum-turned-mayor of Jersey City who decided last week to get rid of all outdoor news boxes in his fair city

Friday, June 8, 2018

School Scope: Is the UFT in Danger from Janus as Staff Layoffs and Retirements Loom?

Published June 8, 2018 in The WAVE,

School Scope: Is the UFT in Danger from Janus as Staff Layoffs and Retirements Loom?
By Norm Scott

Last time I wrote about the upcoming threat to the UFT and unions in general: The Janus Right to Work Case - How Bad Will it Be For the UFT? ( I reviewed how the UFT became the sole bargaining agent for all teachers and other DOE personnel when it won a 3-day election in 1962. Connected to that victory was the right to collect dues even from those who chose not to join the union, known as agency shop fees. Now, this entire arrangement is threatened by an upcoming Supreme Court ruling in the Janus case which may turn the entire nation into right to work, which exists in many other states, many of which have the lowest performing schools and also the lowest paid teachers. The connection is not a coincidence.

Can we end up the same way here in New York? Probably not for a while, since NY politicians see the UFT as a partner in helping to control the members. They seem to get what happened in the right to work red state teacher revolts that union leaders can’t seem to contain because they do not have the money. Let me say that stronger unions are important, but when they are not, wildcat actions coming out of schools and classrooms, even when strikes are illegal, is not a bad phenomenon. Generally, states where unions are strong also have penalties on unions that take actions too far – especially dues check off where dues are taken out of the paychecks. Imagine the day, which may be coming soon, where dues have to be collected by the union from individual teachers. When this happens, unions are very damaged, but at the same time the threat to lose check off that has kept them in line also disappears.

There is no question that there is a deliberate attempt to weaken unions under the guise of freedom for people not to chose to belong to a union. But the underlying reason is to damage unions’ abilities to bargain effectively on salaries and working conditions, which also translate into better learning conditions for students. Organized advertising campaigns by groups funded by the Koch brothers and their ilk are urging teachers to “give themselves a raise” by quitting the union. That the right wing is so focused on destroying teacher unions is a sign that these unions have been a bulwark against some of the major attacks on public schools and that they are a roadblock to total privatization of the schools, which would shake free billions of dollars to continue feeding the educational industrial complex. Every dollar out of a teacher’s pocket from lowering salaries is up for grabs for profit.

When Justice Scalia died the unions had a reprieve. I think Trump claimed that Scalia may have been murdered (Randi Weingarten apparently has an alibi.) Word is that with Gorsuch on the Court, the unions expect to lose the Janus case and the UFT is planning layoffs and also a large number or staff retirements. Another less likely threat is that people who leave the union try to organize an alternative and challenge the UFT as the sole bargaining agent. As a union politics junkie, these are delicious areas to explore.

Norm does his blog in a right to work household, which means doing the right work his wife tells him to do.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Countering Charter School Narrative - Not All Poor Kids Are Equal - NY Times

The focus on low test scores runs counter to the city’s high-stakes testing culture, where admission to everything from gifted-and-talented kindergarten classes to the prestigious specialized high schools is gained by top scores.
another plan emerged that would first screen students by whether they qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and then give priority to those with low test scores and low grades....
.....a diversity initiative by the city Department of Education set aside between 10 percent and 62 percent of their seats for applicants who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches; one of the schools also considers “a diverse range of learners” in the admissions process.
-----The idea, proponents of the District 3 plan say, is to provide opportunities for more students, including those at the very bottom who are not only poor, but also failing, and may need the most help. 
----they say that it would prevent the top middle schools from simply siphoning off poor students who earn high test scores and grades, and would instead redistribute both high-performing and low-performing students among more schools.

Bingo --- read the last statement and you see exactly what charter schools are doing --- they are siphoning off poor students with high test scores and tossing those low-performing students who may slip through the lottery net. (The parents of poorer performing students are less likely to enter or even know about the lottery.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Class Size Matters & NYSAPE protest punitive regs to allow the Commissioner to intervene in schools with high opt out rates, withhold funds or even close them

I would love the hear this magic word: Boycott
That would begin to scare the shit out of these bullies.

This afternoon, Class Size Matters and NYS Allies for Public Education sent the below letter to the Commissioner Elia and the NYS Board of Regents, expressing our strong objections to the draft ESSA regulations that were released last month.  

These regulations violate assurances that were given parents that NYSED would continue to respect their rights to opt their children out of the state exams.  Instead the regs would allow the Commissioner to wrongly identify their children's schools in need of "Comprehensive Support," withhold Title One funds and even close these schools or turn them into charters if the opt out rates were judged too high.  NYSUT, the state teachers union, sent a similar letter of protest on May 29.

The Regents will be discussing these regs at their meeting on Monday, June 11.   Feel free to contact Elia at or your Regents member to make your voices heard.   You can also submit comments through July 9 to .

Read the letter at: