Friday, October 12, 2007

Today's Quickies

October 12, 2007

Getting High on High Stakes

Initial report. I'll be posting updates and pics of the conference as more reports come in and we look at the video.

Despite the awful weather, about 60 people, mostly from the NYC school system, attended yesterday's HIGH STAKES: How the Testing Craze Leaves NYC Children Behind forum at Fordham.

Great work by Teachers Unite's Sally Lee in organizing this event and the events to follow. There will be 4 this year, plus possibly some other activities.

Many groups were there - Jane Hirshman from "Time Out From testing", Seth Rader from NYCORE and others I can't remember now. There's obviously lots of activity out there by a number of teachers active on all sorts of issues. It is interesting that to most of them, the UFT is not a factor. Leo Casey was there from the UFT scoping things out but did not speak.

Speakers Stan Karp (Rethinking Schools) and Ann Cook (The Urban Academy) focused on different aspects of the testing craze. Stan talked about the national impact of NCLB and what can be done to fight it. Ann focused on the NYC and NY State angle. I taped both talks and at some point we will make them available when we figure out how to do that effectively.

But the urgent message is to do something right now by contacting all political reps at all levels. Ann made the point that in NY State and NYC, they have gone way beyond what NCLB requires. At the state level the State ed dept and commissioner Richard Mills are the culprits. Mills is appointed by the state board of regents. They are basically chosen by the State Assembly where Shelly Silver has the basic power.

ICE's Lisa North presented a positive view of the work the UFT did last year in putting out a high stakes testing report and called on them to do more. I didn't say anything negative (for a change) as a courtesy to Ann Cook, who has a very good relationship with the UFT).

THE UFT and Testing

The UFT made a big show of putting together a pretty good testing report after a year of meetings and then does nothing in terms of getting some state ed reform by using some muscle with Silver. A perfect demonstration that the UFT refuses to spend any political capital for real reform. Was the entire testing committee and report (led by Aminda Gentile, who handled it all with style) just a show? "See, we're with you teachers when you complain about how testing has affected you in the classroom but we will do nothing to force change." Let me give them the benefit of the doubt at this point and watch to see if there's any action on pressing for massive reform of the state ed dept (like how about refusing to accredit a Chancellor with no ed background.)

Save the date for the next forum: Dec. 6 on privatization, location to be announced


ICE and the Forum
The forum organizing committee has reps from ICE, TJC, and others. These events are an opportunity for many progressive forces for change to work together. And a willingness to work with the UFT, as opposed to being just critical.

A core group of ICE'ers were involved from the beginning and it was a pleasure working on this, as opposed to spending our time on the details of caucus politics. ICE has always had a dual core of people interested in ed/politics and I have been in both wings. My feeling is that ICE shifted too far towards the internal UFT political infighting, maybe because of the activity of our reps on the UFT Executive Board. Now that there is no opposition on the Board, it allows some of us to focus on how the big issues affect teachers.

The political caucus wing of ICE will still be active in keeping the feet of the UFT leadership to the fire and I will remain active in that area. TJC will also be doing the same and we look forward to more cooperative endeavors with them.

Return to Evander High
The New York Sun - October 12, 2007
Wolfe echos the words of eduwonkette and Leo Casey on the Evander small school sham. These figures unearthed by eduwonkette sum it up:

"In August of 2005, the New York Times highlighted the "success" of one, Bronx Lab.
Eduwonkette took a closer look at Bronx Lab's data, noting that "46.6% of their kids were proficient in reading and 52.7% in math when they walked in the door, while Evander's entering students passed at rates of only 11.1% in reading and 12.8% in math."

This is an excellent story. While many people in the UFT knew about Randi's situation, gay teachers wondered why Randi was never public. It is a breakthrough even today when such a powerful labor leader, set to move to the national stage with the potential to run the entire labor movement in the USA, comes out publicly.

Teaching in NYC has always attracted a number of gay people. There were many openly gay teachers in my small elementary school and there was a great community of people working together, disproving the insane craziness of the right over the impact of gay teachers.

While Education Notes and others opposed to Randi have been extremely critical over many positions taken in the UFT, I am sure there is total support for her on this issue. Any attempt by the anti-Randi right wing in the UFT (yes, it's minuscule, but it does exist) will be met with resounding denunciations by all of us. She should know that we understand this was not an easy thing to do, even in these times, and we feel real good for her.

Of course I can't resist getting in one little dig. How can the UFT ever support vicious anti-gay candidates like Noach Dear? I'm sure the UFT PR machine will explain it. Discount that there is a factor involved that Randi did not want to allow her personal situation to influence UFT endorsements because the UFT under Sandy Feldman also supported right wing anti gay candidates.

UFT Endorsements
"They [right wing candidates] may want gays removed from the classroom, but were strong on the eyeglass plan," my buddy Gene Prisco always likes to say about the UFT's weird endorsement strategy. Gene should know. When he ran against right wing, anti-union Vito Fosella for Congress, the UFT didn't endorse Gene, who was associated with the opposition.

You know the UFT philosophy since Shanker times -- better in bed with right wing anti-union people than dead with lefty 100% pro-union people like Gene.

Former Teacher/Chapter Leader for Obama
Diane Smith has been in touch. Good luck if she thinks the UFT will not go for Hillary. I personally have not decided, but in the UFT world of fait accompli, it's worth a look at Obama.
Diane writes:

We are canvassing for change on Saturday in Long Beach-please do join us,let me know if you can make it-it would be great to see you, and of course bring friends.We need this guy and this guy needs US-- and really that's all we need is-each other!!!

Students for Barack Obama

Diane can be reached at:



Anonymous said...

Glad Randi felt comfortable to come out...I always felt it was disingenuous for her to stay in the closet, but hey, that was her decision. I think it would be evil to discredit her being an open lesbian. I salute her for her honesty and support her being out 100%, but I also wish she were more forthright in why she is really head of our union and what her true relationship is with the BloomKlein administration.

Anonymous said...

I'm also glad she came out of the closet. She's to be admired for that. I just wish she would refind the original hole she crawled out of and return to it with Joel and Mike

Geoffrey said...

where can we find info on the UFT testing task force?

ed notes online said...

I hear it was on the UFT web site. They may be hiding it since they don't seem to be trying to implement any of the suggestions.

I think I have a copy so email me directly if you can't find it.