Wednesday, August 8, 2007

What Tweed Hath Wrought

Fleeing the coop

While critics of the BloomWeinKlein reforms of the schools in NYC often focus on the big picture, a snapshot of what happened in 1 school can offer a great insight.

I got such an insight last night when I had dinner with a group of colleagues from my old school where I spent 27 years as a teacher and 5 more in district tech support. I won't go into all the gory details, but you might have read in this space about the teacher of 22 years removed in handcuffs by 5 cops in front of the entire community on trumped up charges of a parent instigated by the principal.

Yes, the principal was the focus of my former colleagues' wrath. Leadership Academy and all that - following the Lead. Acad. Princ. (LAP - dogs) pattern to get rid of every person in the building who preceded her. Only about 7 people remain from when I was there. The departed are in no way poor teachers but the best and most experienced. I was glad to hear the person who I considered one of the best teachers I ever saw (I spent serious time in her classroom) has just flown the coup. She absolutely despised this LAP and was one of the few willing to demonstrate her disdain. Of course the LAP is probably very glad to see this great teacher, who was so beyond excellent that any attack on her would have been laughed at, be gone.

The irony is that even the people handpicked by the LAP are also leaving. I hear so many of these stories repeated from LAP schools. One teacher at another school told me 28 teachers have left in 3 years. In the old days the departure of so many experienced teachers was a warning sign of a principal out of control. In the world of Tweedledee these principals get a bonus.

But the really "fun" stuff were their descriptions of the willy-nilly ways teachers have been forced to teach. The TC model with rugs taking up half the room while kids at their desks were forced into such tight spaces that discipline became so much more of an issue. From a massive binder where all kids of "data" -- yes the big word - that will never be used - are kept. This principal, being in the empowerment zone was able to design her own assessment. So now teachers have to do 5 report cards and spend enormous time filling out useless paper work instead of teaching. Oh yes, there is an Aussie trainer in the building doing more spying than instruction.

One story is that another teacher who left the school and has since left teaching knows someone who was involved in the creation of the balanced literacy training videos Lucy Calkins made. Teachers have complained that there are too many kids that cannot function in this environment and that many more discipline problems result but have been told to shut up and that these problems are the result of their poor teaching. When these video were made, whenever there was a kid who could not focus, Calkins ordered he/she be replaced with a more docile, cooperative kid.

Well, the upshot is that there is not all that much difference in the school's results before the arrival of the LAP when the obvious easier rubrics, easier tests and questionable marking procedures - -the hallmark of the improvement of scores under BloomKlein and discipline is a mess. This LAP has managed to alienate teachers, parents and children with a heartless and arrogant treatment of all.

I could go on - and they did for a few hours last night. They told of teachers with 18-21 years being excessed when the LAP complained that special ed kids brought down the scores. They have avoided ATR status -- not through the Open Market System which failed them utterly - but through personal contacts at other schools. One teacher asked the union how he could be excessed since the contract says if you have 20 years this can't happen. He was told to file a grievance. He asked why he has to go through this since this is such an obvious violation of the contract and he is still left with having to look for jobs since the vicissitudes of the grievance procedure are well known. The union should be able to pick up a phone and get an instant response. They shrugged.

For decades we have called for penalties for administrators who engage in obvious violations -- cut into those bonuses -- but the UFT/Unity leadership just laughed at us.

The hiring halls were a joke as the excessed were separated from the new teachers. Excessed people were given a sheet telling them how to interview. New teachers were given shiny red folders (so it was obvious to the interviewer which group people were in) with maps of districts listing openings.

We ended the evening of ribs and beer with a toast all who have escaped, hopefully to better place, and a wish that the 55-25 retirement package (which we called bogus since it was not to cost the city anything) promised by the UFT/Unity leadership to sell the '05 contract will one day come to pass (probably at the expense of the teachers themselves who will be willing to pay just about anything) to free the rest to go to the promised land of retirement.

12 comments:

  1. Well written but the problem with focusing on just one school's situtation is that it appears that things are the fault of the LAP-Dog Principal:

    "This LAP has managed to alienate teachers, parents and children with a heartless and arrogant treatment of all."

    It seems that everyone who is "anyone" in the DOE possesses these lovely traits: ability to alienate, heartlessness, and arrogance. Haven't we seen Bloomberg himself act this way? Haven't we seen Klein?

    Are these simply personaliy traits that both the mayor and the chancellor possess and favor, or are these behaviors required indications of what the people heading the city and the DOE consider as effective management traits in the NYC DOE?

    No matter, ultimately the fault lies with value system of Bloomberg. It is clear that his top DOE lap dog, Klein, shares that horrid value system. It is the value system that ultimately causes the particular lapdog in that one school and every other lapdog throughout the system to have been hired. Once people who share the same value system are in place the absurd and illogical policies and practices are put into practice and things just spiral into misery, chaos and ineffectiveness. The official answer to the situation: Charterize and Privatize.


    At this point all we the teachers, the parents, and the citizens of NYC can say is "Thank God for term limits!" and all it seems we can do just wait patiently.

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  2. I disagree. The "wait patiently' argument has been the UFT/Unity propaganda/line. But I heard that when Koch was mayor, when Dinkins was mayor and when Giuliani was mayor. It never ends. If you think the departure of BloomKlein will end it you have missed the trend of history. Chicago under Daley, San Diego, now Wahington and Baltimore -- the takeover of urban school systems will not go away. Bloomberg is grooming Richard Parsons to take his role and even if not him the Democrats like the Clintons, Spitzers, et al have all signed on to the Broad program.

    The answer is to organize to fight now -- the cancelled May 9th rally would have been a good start. Because the UFT and AFT leadership have signed on to the program the focus of the fight for teachers must be in these arenas.

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  3. "The answer is to organize to fight now -- the cancelled May 9th rally would have been a good start. Because the UFT and AFT leadership have signed on to the program the focus of the fight for teachers must be in these arenas."

    Perhaps you misunderstand what patience is and what it can do. While we are being patient we do whatever we can: Think, read, speak, organize, act, fight, whatever.

    While I'd love to be as optimistic as you are as to the possibility and practicality of anything actually coming of these things, right now, in the current environment of Bloomberg-Klein-Weingarten, I am not. Why? Because right now the leadership and voices we are supposed to have, namely distunguished political leaders of the city as well as not just the UFT, have, as you say "signed on to the program." Why else? Because the overwhemling majority of the membership doesn't care enough to kick Unity out. Because the overwhelming majority of the city is content enough with Bloomberg's management of the city.

    In the end if you are right and our patient efforts don't work, then the prudent move for teachers and parents is to exit the DOE one way or another.

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  4. "Because the overwhemling majority of the membership doesn't care enough to kick Unity out."

    This is only partly true. Most people really don't know what is going on and there is precious little analysis. One of the things to do is create a new media since the mass media (and I include the UFT organs here) are under control.

    It also means supporting and encouraging people to get together as even small lobby groups in the UFT - they respond to even one person who looks capable of organizing in order to deflect them. There's lots of griping going on. Can that griping be directed in some organized way?

    Around 4500 working teachers voted for ICE/TJC. Where are they in terms of being active? There's been a failure to find a way to get them more involved. If there were even 200 activists (Unity has a cadre of activists that makes the machine go) things would change. I'm often appalled at the pathetic performance at the DA where even people in the opposition seem intimidated.

    But hope springs eternal so, yes as you say: Think, read, speak, organize, act, fight, whatever.

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  5. ed notes online said...
    "I'm often appalled at the pathetic performance at the DA where even people in the opposition seem intimidated."

    and

    "But hope springs eternal so, yes as you say: Think, read, speak, organize, act, fight, whatever."

    Don't you think it's a little hard to take someone at the DA seriously when they are wearing a t-shirt?

    Or when they are dressed like Batman villain Ra's al Ghul? See for yourself...

    http://img.youtube.com/vi/Qa8HR058eVc/default.jpg

    http://image.comicvine.com/uploads/item/41000/40816/66582-ras-al-ghul_150.jpg

    -Son Of Unity, the next generation
    I'll be back!

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  6. But you don't get it. There's no reason to take us or anyone seriously when you guys have turned the UFT into such a farce. That you even spend an iota of the union's time dealing with such inconsequential, foolish, incompetent people is the real joke. Ask Jeff Zahler why the staff director of the UFT doesn't have more important things to do than worry about these blogs or what people who are not to be taken seriously have to say. These posts more than anything validate that even as a joke there is enough fear created to bring Unity gusanos like you out of your cave.

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  7. This is on the Syracuse Forum of educators

    This is about a student that didnt pass, please read what each person said Things that make you go HUMMM especially the second one!!!


    And she got a 66 or something when she did take the final which was not enough to bring her average up to passing in the class as she had failed many quizes and tests and not turned in many assignments, but apparently the school passed her anyways reversing the grade that the teacher had put in
    __________________________________________________________________________
    this is all too common, happens everday in every school. Administrator overrides the grade of the teacher to make it passing. Even if the teacher had solid records,, it still will not matter. Now I am not saying administrators do not back up teachers, they do to a certain point. It's when the parent starts threatening litigation, raising holy hell or something.I agree, teacher was right, but what are you going to do, fight the administrator? Better be tenured.
    __________________________________________________________________________


    24 of personal and illness , nothing more specific except he'd be out after a disagreement with principal.The teacher missed 2 of 3 parent conferences, had 5 good out of 6 evaluations.I'd like to know the documentation with the parent, guidance, child that this kid was not making it.
    ___________________________________________________________________________
    afterall isnt this standard parctice in the scsd? Hide the truth at every turn, from REAL grades to REAL attendance to REAL behavior issues, so that the schools look good? Ever heard of grade inflation?I had no doubt whatsoever that you would defend this obviously slacker kid before you would side with the teacher.

    Classic scsd attitude. And the results prove it to

    ReplyDelete
  8. ed notes online said...
    "Ask Jeff Zahler why the staff director of the UFT doesn't have more important things to do than worry about these blogs or what people who are not to be taken seriously have to say."

    And that's why it's hard to take you and a lot of your colleagues seriously. You sound like somebody that spent way to much time watching "The X-Files" in the 90s. There is no conspiracy. Jeff Zahler is not "the smoking man". Instead, if you ever actually talked with him, maybe you'd see that he is an extremely hard working man with a genuine care for helping the teachers of New York City. Maybe then you wouldn't trivialize what he does. Maybe then you would realize that Jeff, Randi, and the rest of our elected officers are currently dealing with perhaps the toughest mayor and chancellor that we've ever faced. It's an uphill battle and it certainly isn't easy.

    It amazes me that time and time again people like you in ICE/TJC fail to acknowledge the amazing efforts and the incredible stress that our officers face. Maybe you should set your sights on the real enemies of labor instead of targeting our own.

    And just so there isn't any confusion, my decision to post here was not a task given to me, instead it was a deliberate choice to engage your "conscious ignorance".

    Well, I hope I've helped educate you. That's what a good teacher should do. That is, and will continue to be, my learning objective.

    -Son Of Unity, the next generation
    I'll be back!

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  9. "It amazes me that time and time again people like you in ICE/TJC fail to acknowledge the amazing efforts and the incredible stress that our officers face."

    I have an idea how to relieve the stress. Go back and teach.

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  10. How about sabbaticals for the union people. A full year off -- in the classroom!

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  11. the 25/55 was all b.s. It will never happen because the union and tweed both hate older teachers.

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  12. August 16, 2007

    New York Colleagues:

    This pattern in similar in Chicago. It's part of their management strategy, and is probably also taking place in the other school districts that have mayoral control and the Business Roundtable in command.

    They are trying to de-professionalize and deregulate management of public education, while forcing more and more rules and regulations and micromanagings
    on those of us in the classrooms. In Chicago, most of the top officials downtown now have no classroom experience, and many actually believe this is a virtue
    (thanks to their "leadership" training).

    Because Illinois deregulated management credentials for Chicago (only), we have a situation here where there are top administrators (including our "CEO" and several top people -- those at salaries of more than $100,000 per year)
    running Chicago's public schools who would not be allowed to substitute teach in any other school district in Illinois. They'd be arrested if they tried, but
    they are allowed to be the bosses at CPS under the mayoral control model of corporate "school reform."

    Deregulation and privatization are the two hydra heads of the same monster.

    And what is narrated above is, as you note, just the tip of the iceberg. It would already take an encyclopedia to document all of the nasty realities that have crashed on to veteran teachers thanks to the adoption of this version of "school reform."

    Classroom experience is viewed as a negative under these corporate models, and the result is that the undercompetent or completely incompetent are promoted, and ignorance rewarded, while experience is denigrated.

    We're very busy here, facing a possible strike. So I have to go. Our best to all,

    George N. Schmidt
    Substance

    ReplyDelete

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