Friday, October 31, 2008

This Can NEVER Happen in the UFT

WTU Board of Trustee Candi Peterson reports on The Washington Teacher blog:
Washington Teachers Union Executive Board members in a statement of disapproval passed a motion to censure the Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker yesterday. The motion passed overwhelmingly 9 to 4. Board members expressed their disapproval of President Parker's failure to adhere to regularly scheduled board and delegate assembly meetings, fails to hold membership meetings, fails to adhere to motions passed by the board, and does not respond to members request for information.

Unity Caucus in the UFT has assured that there will never be dissent on the Executive Board by controlling every position. Even when ICE/TJC controlled 6 out of the 89 seats from 2004-2007, that was too much. So they made sure to endorse the former opposition New Action Caucus to replace them. With a majority of UFT members not being working teachers and manipulating the election process, Unity has assured their control in perpetuity.

Does this mean there is no hope in getting the leadership to respond? The actions of adhoc special interest lobby groups like ATRs and rubber room members has created some force from the rank and file to get some movement. There is such fear in Unity of a revolt from underneath demanding change, they will respond to deflect militancy.

Read James Eterno's

Class Size Rises While ATRs Fester and Get Fired

So the NYCDOE "overhires" Teaching Fellows, leaving 130 waiting to be fired on Dec. 5 while failing to use $153 million in state funds to reduce class size. In one third of schools receiving class size reduction funds, class sizes actually increased.

And then there is that other batch of tenured ATRs being used as daily subs instead of using them to cut class size. Comptroller Bill Thompson says he will do an audit. But so what? BloomKlein just ignore the law.

From the Class Size Matter website:

What's in YOUR Wallet? Ask the Tweedies

One minute it was there. And the next it was gone. Meredith Kolodner's article in the Daily News about the wealth of top Tweed officials suddenly disappeared from the web site soon after it was posted when Tweed complained to the higher ups at the newspapers. The lost story was reported by Elizabeth Green at Gotham Schools.

My understanding is that the story was slated to run today both in the newspaper and online, but then got scrapped late last night. This appears to have happened because of an outside intervention, since the story had already been uploaded to the paper’s Web site, meaning it had gone all the way through the editing process. Word of the decision to kill the story — not postpone or delay or just put on the Web, but kill — came to both print and Web designers, who dutifully destroyed it, except for one thing: the Web headline, which was still visible this morning.

Leonie Haimson and the gang at the NYC Public School Parent blog used mouth to mouth resusication to bring the story back to life.

After a slew of negative revelations about the way Tweed botched the Gifted and talented admissions process so that it became much less diverse, schools have remained hugely overcrowded, they are paying through the nose for personal couriers and consultants, and the $80 million supercomputer ARIS that is a massive failure and waste of money, one wonders why the extreme sensitivity on this particular issue?

More from Leonie and the revived story at the NYCPSP blog.

Ed Note: When Meredith Kolodner was at The Chief her reporting on NYC education and other matters was always outstanding. And we hope the gig at the Daily News which seems so much under the Bloomberg heel will allow her the freedom to continue that work. Elizabeth Green is continuing her great work from the NY Sun at Gotham. While teachers generally mistrust members of the press, these 2 have always been reliable in getting a teacher point of view out there.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Special: Obama’s Pals Are S-c-a-r-y

The Wave: October 31, 2008

School Scope Column: Halloween Special: Obama’s Pals Are S-c-a-r-y by Norman Scott

Linda/Lisa Debate Educational policy
Before I get into politics, let’s talk education. I watched a webcast of a live debate that took place at Teachers College, Columbia University, between Linda Darling-Hammond, education adviser to Barack Obama, and Lisa Graham Keegan, education adviser to John McCain. I was ready to run up and strangle them both.

Keegan, who headed the Arizona Department of Education and would likely be Education Secretary under McCain, trumpeted the Klein/Sharpton/Michelle Rhee anti-teacher claptrap. It’s not lack of money to reduce class size, but the removal of the “obstacles” –read “teacher contracts” to reform. Unfortunately, Linda was fairly hapless in her responses, especially when she sidestepped Lisa's attempt to pull her into the "Teach for America is wonderful" trap. Linda has been one of the most vociferous critics of the program that parachutes teachers with 8 weeks of training into schools, where all too many TFA teachers stay for their 2-year term and then go off to other careers such as using their “vast” classroom experience to become educational policy makers.

Obama’s praise of Washington DC chancellor Michelle Rhee at one of the debates was disturbing. But Rhee in DC, who comes out of the wonderful world of Joel Klein, is the fair-haired darling of the right, with Democrats quick to jump on board too. Some people find significant differences between McCain and Obama on educational policy. I’m not so sure, but Obama at least has a clue, taking a long-range view of what would work – reaching kids at the earliest age possible and a more realistic use of testing to assess schools within a larger context. And the fact that Darling-Hammond is a key advisor, despite her political toe dance at her debate, is a good thing.

McCain of course wants to expand the privatization of public schools with vouchers and more imposition of the corporate model. How has that concept been working out? McCain signed on to the Klein/Sharpton Educational Equality Project, which at least Obama has refused to do. Why any teacher in NYC who views education as a major voting consideration would even contemplate a vote for McCain is beyond me.

Obama’s Pals
So, I’m reading last week’s Wave and come across an endorsement. For Barack Obama, no less. I’m ready to run down and rescue Editor Howie Schwach, who must be tied and gagged somewhere in the back room to allow this to occur. But not to disappoint. Howie pops up a few pages later with the Acorn/Bill Aires theory of Obama ties to terrorists, voting fraud manipulators and people who have sex with chickens.

Howie spurred me to do my own investigation to check some of the characters Obama has been hanging out with. It’s worse than Howie thought. Much worse. There’s that known war monger Colin Powell, a deserter from the Republican cause. And you know you can’t trust people who hang out with deserters. I even heard Powell disparage the attacks on Obama with the line that all tax policy distributes wealth. Preposterous. Let’s not pay taxes at all. The goal is to have 1% of the people own 99% of the wealth. Not all that long to wait.

Then that well-known socialist/terrorist Warren Buffet, the richest man in the world, is an Obama backer. And there are rumors that one of his best friends, Bill Gates, also supports Obama. Now how these supporters of someone who pals around with terrorists and socialists managed to become the two richest men in the world is beyond me. Don’t they know that Obama is a redistributor of wealth?

The Bank of Norm
Speaking of wealth, I’m getting to love those whacky Marxists at the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department. What next? Nationalize the real estate industry? Ooops. That’s already in McCain’s platform to have the Fed buy up all those toxic mortgages.

I want on the gravy train. I was checking my mattress for lumps the other day and found a few bucks. (My mattress is paying more interest than the bank.) I think I’m going to open the “Bank of Norm.” I just need one of those cash infusions they’re handing out in Washington. I think they want to get some preferred stock in exchange for the cash. I just happen to have 200 shares of Education Notes stock left over from the corporation I set up to publish Ed Notes. Now that it’s mostly online, I think I can spare a few shares. It will be fun having the government as a partner.

I’ll be looking for a place for my bank on 116th Street, which has 12 banks for every person in Rockaway - now that's personal banking. How long will it take for that WAMU/JP Morgan Chase merger to take place and that WAMU office to become available ? I’ll be ready to move right in once Paulson comes through with that cash injection.

I think I’ll be pretty easy giving out loans. If you come in wearing any clothes at all, that is enough collateral for me. And you can even keep the clothes. My plan is to use up that cash injection as fast as I can – maybe faster even than AIG – and head on over to ask for more. Paulson won’t want to see another bank default, so I’ll have no problem. Might even head on down south and hold me one of them junkets.

Don’t think I’m just giving out loans at the “Bank of Norm.” I’ll be taking deposits too. I can even save you the step of taking the money out of your mattress. Just bring the entire thing in and I’ll take care of you. You see, I have a side deal with Sleepys. And if things don’t work out? Why I’ll just open me a diner of sorts to replace my bank. Thinking of calling it the “Sunset Diner.”* Pretty catchy, don’t ya think?

The future Bank of Norm

Michael Bloomberg's Velvet Coup
Mugabe? OK, it's an outrageous comparison. Forgive me. Mike Bloomberg would never shut down newspapers or use brutal thugs against dissenters in order to hold onto power. He doesn't have to. He buys them. This is a must read by Tom Robbins in the October 22, 2008 Village Voice

Mucho kudos to Howie Greene for his powerful “Dear Bubby and Zaidy” column in last week’s Wave questioning some of the illogical resistance to Obama by Jews. I posted it on my blogs and on listserves. I hope it goes far and wide.

Look for Norm’s column “Politically Unstable,” commentary on non-educational matters, which will appear occasionally in these pages. Norm writes more of this drivel every day at his blog Email him at

Note: The Wave has been Rockaway Beach's (in Queens in NYC) community newspaper since 1893. And no, I haven't been writing the column since then.

* For non-Rockawayites, the long time Sunset Diner with spectacular views of the city and the sunsets - duh - was recently replaced by an HSBC bank.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

UFT Files Grievance for ATR Fellows Facing Firing Deadline

The UFT announced today they have filed a grievance to prevent the firing of 130 Teaching Fellows who face being terminated on Dec. 5. This is beyond a firing in that due to the special TF circumstances they will lose their provisional teaching certification and be tossed from their cohort's masters degree program even if they offer to pay. Upon joining the TF, they were required to sign a document that this would occur, but the over hiring by the DOE that led to this situation is inexcusable.

The UFT claims it "is aggressively pursuing the matter with the DOE." Right. They argue
that such a move by the DOE would constitute a layoff, which is not allowed under the UFT/DOE collective-bargaining agreement unless the city declares an official financial emergency, which it has not. The union further argues that the UFT/DOE contract supersedes the DOE hiring agreement that teaching fellows were required to sign when they agreed to join the program.
The Teaching Fellows working with the Ad Hoc ATR Committee commented:
They are starting to do what they must for us. They didn't consult with us, or even tell us they had done so. An email to them making today our deadline for action is certainly the motivation. They could have called to let us all know that they were filing (get input, etc.) but somehow they just can't do it. We might have told them that we weren't hired in September. We've been telling them all along that they haven't filed a grievance for for the last 2 classes of NYC Teaching Fellows. [Why not?]

Of course we look at it as UFT public relations to get them off their backs. They certainly didn't act when TF's were fired last year only because none of them were organizing. Thus, a good lesson for all interest groups in the UFT to get some level of organizing going. Remember the prime directive of Unity Caucus: Hold onto power at all costs. Only a perceived threat of people going over to the opposition will get them to move even if only in a way to make it look like they are dancing the moon walk.

To be clear this is only a grievance not a law suit asking for an injunction to stop it.
Questions to ask:
What is the timetable for the grievance?
Will this be expedited?
Does the grievance go directly to the last step?

Hearing officers for grievances are DOE hires.
After that it goes to arbitration which can take a year.
Remember that the UFT loses almost 95% of all grievances.

Dear Bubbe And Zaidy

This article appeared in The Wave

It's My Turn
By Howie Greene

Howie Greene is the consummate New Yorker. Born and raised in Brooklyn and at one time a resident of Beach 117 Street, Greene knows New York. He was part of the management team for The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, traveling the world with him.

He was also an executive Producer for Sirius Satellite Radio, working on their Talk & Comedy channels. Greene spent two years working on cruise ships and has literally "sailed the seven seas."

He's been involved in New York politics for decades and at one time had aspirations of being a professional bowler, actually obtaining his PBA card.

Greene lived in Rockaway Beach in the early 90s when he was the morning show host on the old WDRE-FM in Long Island.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my Uncle Milty. It usually happens this time of year around the High Holidays. He was the one who made sure I carried on the family tradition of going to shul, admitting my sins and asking for forgiveness before G-D. My father, being a Holocaust survivor, abandoned his religion way before I was born. So it was left to the uncle.

This year, however, my wife had to drag me to Yom Kippur services. Why? Well, maybe it's because I've seen the people I respected the most, all of the bubbes and zaidies who put up with bigotry, racism, religious zealotry and Nazis, abandon the basic tenets of what it means to be a Jew.

With all due respect to Sarah Silverman, I do not see this as a laughing matter. It is impossible for me to justify how "my people" will not vote for Barack Obama because he has a funny name, or, worse, to paraphrase Jackie Mason, is a "fancy schvartze."

Have you become so comfortable, Bubbe and Zaidy down in your South Florida condo communities, that you have completely forgotten from whence you came? Even though, on these, the holiest of holy days on the Jewish calendar we promise our redeemer that we will never forget? That we will be tolerant, and righteous and KIND?

My Uncle Milt was once turned down for a job at Con Edison, the New York area utility. It was the late 1930s, his father had just passed away, and it was up to him to support his immigrant mother and his younger brother and sister. He dropped out of high school. There were jobs at Con Ed. The interviewer asked him if his last name, Grosswirth, was German? Uncle Milty said, "It's Jewish." The interviewer insisted it was German … my uncle, however, did not relent. The interviewer told him that Con Ed would not hire Jews, so please say he was German. Well, my uncle never got the Con Ed gig. All of you, my dear Bubbes and Zaidies, have family stories like these. When did you forget? How did you forget?

Some of you won't vote for Barack because of his name. Okay. Did you know that Barack is the Muslim equivalent of Baruch … Hebrew for Blessed? The beginning of EVERY blessing to G-D we ever utter. Some of you have said you'd vote for him if he changed his name to Barry. WHAT? When did we forget as a people, our being persecuted for our names? How many times did your name exclude you from employment, club membership or staying at a hotel? Surely my family wasn't the only one asked to display our "horns" by ignorant Southerners back in the 1960s. Surely my family wasn't the only one that was told to go find a "jew hotel." At what moment did you forget this, Bubbe and Zaidy?

Not voting for Senator Obama because you are afraid is an insult. It's an insult to those who were murdered because of our names and our religion. It's an insult to those of us who came after you. To vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin simply because they are not Barack Obama is not only a shondeh, it is quite simply, ignorant.

McCain/Palin have come to South Florida to scare you. To drop the name of the Holocaust on your laps. They've intimated that Obama consorts with terrorists. That he is not a friend of Israel. But here is the record:

Gov. Palin belongs to a church that believes Jerusalem is the launching pad for the Rapture. Gov. Palin sat idly by in this church while leaders of Jews for Jesus proclaimed that Israel was getting what it deserved because they refused to acknowledge Jesus as the messiah. Gov. Palin is not a friend to our people.

Sen. McCain, for all of his "straight talk," has advisers on his campaign staff that have records as lobbyists for Saddam Hussein and Saudi Arabia.

And, the most heinous is that these two Americans who claim to put "Country First" have spent the past two weeks whipping up crowds into frenzy with hatred for Obama. Didn't those hate-filled rallies with cries to do harm to Obama remind you of anything, Bubbe and Zaidy? Have you finally forgotten the Nazi rallies in the 1930s that were used to whip up crowds into similar frenzies while blaming the Jews of Europe for all of its economic ills?

Surely, Bubbe and Zaidy, you recall the days of McCarthyism, where scores of Jews were blacklisted from ever working again in this nation because they went to a meeting or a party that happened to have a Socialist or Communist as a guest. And Jewish lives and livelihoods were wiped out because of our names or loose, quite loose, associations.

That is why your refusal to vote for Barack Obama because of his race and name is so perplexing and disturbing. When did we become the very people who threatened our existence?

Bubbe and Zaidy … listen to me. You owe this to us. You gave us eight years of George Bush. Okay, maybe it was an accident. But, you had your Franklin Delano Roosevelt whom you no doubt still revere. Barack Obama is OUR FDR! Let us have our chance to have the America I thought you always wanted for us.

I don't know how my Uncle Milty would have voted. He's gone now. But, I DO know he would not have dismissed Barack Obama because of his name, race or out of unsubstantiated fear!

Look, if you want to vote for McCain/ Palin because you think they would be a better team, then go vote. But, if you are voting for them because they are not a fancy schvartze with a scary name, then PLEASE, on Election Day, stay home, for us. Or better yet, find a good mah jongg or pinochle game and leave the future to your little bubbelehs.

Educational Malpractice at Tweed

Tweed's head of accountability James Liebman and his massive staff may just account for the entire $18 billion deficit about to hit New York State. But he slogs on. Data Mining? Another corporate imposition on the schools. Give experienced teachers 5 minutes with a kid and we'll do more mining than the failed $80 billion ARIS system.

Leonie Haimson sent these links:

From Information Week:
Click here to read Can Data Mining Save America's Schools?
For those who see education's rush to data analysis as a bad thing, as just a more individualized way to "teach to the test," Liebman has little patience. "This process is no more 'teaching to the test' than a doctor diagnosing and then treating a patient for a bacterial infection of the kidney is 'treating to the test,'" says Liebman, who's also a law professor at Columbia University. Teachers will consider the data along with everything else they observe and change their "treatment" if the student continues to struggle. "This is what professionals do," he says.


By Aaron Pallas and Jennifer L. Jennings
Skoolboy and Eduwonkette respond at The West Side Spirit.
Basing a treatment plan on one unreliable health indicator would be malpractice if a doctor did it. Why should we tolerate this from the Department of Education?
.... educational test can provide a perfectly accurate reading of a student’s performance. Changes in student performance within a particular school on a test from one year to the next may be due to random error, or “statistical noise,” rather than genuine change. It takes a lot more information—either about a larger number of students or about performance across more years—to sort out real gains from illusions.

The Department of Education has chosen to ignore this complexity.

This would not be so alarming if the progress reports were treated as just one of several forms of information about the well-being of particular public schools, such as the school’s status under the federal No Child Left Behind law, or the annual Quality Reviews that the department conducts for each school. But the progress reports—based primarily on a very inconsistent measure of how a school is performing—are the centerpiece of the department’s accountability system.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

ATRs Push Union on Rally: Teaching Fellows Firing Date Upcoming

Click to enlarge

Phew! Things are still rolling along on the ATR issue.

The firing date of Dec. 5 for the new Teaching Fellows who are still ATRs is coming up fast.

Lorri Giovinco-Hart at the NYC Education Examiner has an excellent post The Strange Mess of the NYC Teaching Fellows:

I have some serious doubts about alternative teacher certification programs like Teach for America and The New York City Teaching Fellows. I think it is a serious injustice to send teachers who have been given a few weeks of training to work with needy populations of students for a short period of time.
Despite my misgivings about such programs, I cannot help but feel compassion for the 100 or so Teaching Fellows who are being threatened with termination.

They are promised training and support and are often attracted by recruiting techniques which appeal to their desire to make a difference. They instead, often find themselves struggling to work in rough environments in which the promised support does not come.

Now, many of them are learning that what was promised to them has has not materialized and they may be unemployed in a very expensive city to which they have relocated.

...the situation has turned into a large mess, and The New Teacher Project may find themselves in the position of answering questions by a pretty angry group of people who have been organizing their efforts.

The entire piece is here.

The amendment calling for a rally at Tweed passed by the October Delegate Assembly in spite of the UFT leadership's attempt to subvert it has not resulted in a date being set for the rally yet. What a surprise. That hasn't stopped the ATR Ad Hoc Organizing Committee.

They're pretty hocked off at how the NY Teacher presented what happened at the DA. I'm reprinting their letter to the editor, which they published today on their blog:
To the New York Teacher:

New York Teacher Distorts ATR Citywide Rally Amendment

The latest issue of the New York Teacher asserts twice in its October 15th DA Report that our ATR amendment calls "to hold a citywide rally demanding the DOE reduce class size through assigning added positions to ATRs."


THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the UFT will organize a mass citywide rally to show our unity and strength, calling on the NYC Department of Education to reduce class size and give assigned positions to all teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve who want assignments before any new teachers are hired.

Your report misrepresents the amendment, as it fails to communicate to UFTers the grave importance of not allowing the DOE to hire new teachers until ATR teachers who wish to be are assigned. This is a crucial demand of the rally, not simply "added positions." It fails to recognize that many of our most talented and experienced colleagues yearn for permanent positions after being arbitrarily deprived of those positions by any number of circumstances including, class size reduction, school restructuring and the opening of new schools.

The next Delegate Assembly is scheduled for November 12.

How can you help?

Share the leaflet with your colleagues. You have the right use the mailboxes and UFT bulletin boards, as affirmed by the recent federal court ruling.

Join the other 103 schools by signing petitions of support.

The latter action is a major button to push to spur the leadership into action (believe me, if not for these petitions, Randi would have made sure the rally vote never lived). Imagine if it were 500 schools. The sidebar on the right has these ATR links.

Some ATRs at Lafayette HS are urging teachers to write the UFT directly:
Dear UFT Members:

On October 15, the Delegate Assembly of the UFT passed a resolution to hold a citywide rally to support the ATRs by demanding that the DOE freeze hiring of new teachers until they provide programs for the ATRs (highly qualified teachers, now 1400 +) and RTRs (newly enrolled Teaching Fellows (about 140). No date has yet been set for the rally.

If you are a union member, please email Leroy Barr of the Action Committee of the UFT and ask him to set a pre-Thanksgiving date for the citywide rally (presumably to held at Tweed). He can be reached at

Monday, October 27, 2008

Debating School Reform: George Schmidt on Bill Ayres and Mike Klonsky

NOTE: 2 versions of this article were posted accidentally and each elicited comments, which have been consolidated into one post while the other was deleted.

Small schools, and charters as well, have often been pushed by well-meaning people who were then overwhelmed by the tsunami of corporate and foundation money that used the force if its investments to put in place policies that are anti-student and anti-teacher. Anything short of open and active opposition to this is political log-rolling.
-------Michael Fiorillo

We sort of fell into the current Bill Ayres/Obama controversy by wondering where Ayres (and Obama) stood during these 13 years of Chicago mayoral control/education reform and its exportation to other cities like New York.

Education Notes has consistently lined up with people like Susan Ohanian and George Schmidt amongst many others to call the high stakes testing and standards movement a major instrument of school privatization and the bash the teacher and union as the cause of failures.

This is a long post but I didn't want to cut any of it. We may take George up on his suggestion to hold a conference on school reform next year and I will throw that idea out to ICE, Teachers Unite, NYCORE, Class Size Matters, ICOPE and other activists that may be interested.

Reading George (and Michael Fiorillo, a UFT HS chapter leader and member of ICE) will get at some of the core issues facing education reformers, so hang in there.

[Bill] Ayers and [Mike] Klonsky both were part of the union bashing "left" here in Chicago in those days. Their disciples in the "small schools" stuff exported those things elsewhere.

By the late 1990s, the same time I was being sued for a million dollars and Mayor Daley and his appointees were trying to drive Substance out of business, Mike and Bill were collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from the Chicago Board of Education directly as a "external partner" to a handful of "failing schools."

George Schmidt

I made charges (here and here) the other day about Bill Ayres and teacher unions based more on instinct than knowledge and received comments from both Fred and Mike Klonsky challenging my assertion that behind the Ayres' world view is a certain level of anti teacher (and union) bias. Klonsky urged me to read "Renaissance 2010 Meets the Ownership Society"* and "Private Management of Chicago Schools is a Long Way from Mecca,"** (Feb. 2006 - see abstracts at the end of this post.)

Mike Klonsky said that after reading these articles (I just read the abstracts) I should send a letter of apology to his brother and Bill Ayres.

Not so fast, Mike. Your articles were written in 2006. Where were you guys when Bloomberg and Klein instituted their assault on the NYC school system in 2002? Due to George Schmidt's warnings Ed Notes was able to be out there since 2001 when before Bloomberg took over, Randi Weingarten came out for mayoral control. Wouldst there have been more voices out there then. Besides, I've learned by watching Randi Weingarten, who can say good things but act directly opposite. Watch what they do, not what they say. But there's more.

George had direct experience with Ayers and Klonsky as his school was one of the closing schools:

One of those was the school (Bowen High School) where I taught and was union delegate until I was suspended (February 1999) by Paul Vallas, later to be fired (August 2000) by a vote of the Chicago Board of Education for publishing the CASE (Chicago Academic Standards Examinations) tests in Substance and consistently opposing the use of high-stakes secret multiple choice so-called "standardized" tests for "accountability."

Part of that "accountability" in Chicago was that if your school was "failing" (as measured by the test scores; nothing else mattered) you were forced to buy an "external partner" (in the case of Bowen, Small Schools Workshop; headed by Mike and Bill).

Instead of joining in the critique of the use of so-called "standardized" tests for the corporate accountability attacks on public schools (and unions) in Chicago, Bill and Mike (and most of their colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as others at other Chicago colleges and universities) got on the gravy train, soaked up hundreds of thousands of dollars of CPS money every year, and came into the schools to tell veteran teachers how to "reform" the schools we had worked in for years, decades, and in some cases, generations.

A familiar refrain to NYC teachers.

I want to make it clear. What Ayres did in the 70's has no relevance here. We're more concerned what he did in the 90's and early years of this century in relation to the Chicago model of mayoral control/ed reform that is entering its 14th year and served as a model of the Bloomberg/Klein shakeup of NYC schools, with the destruction of teachers union influence by attacking unions as being the major obstruction to ed reform (see the debate between Linda and Lisa last week.)

So where did Ayres stand through those years? As supporters of small schools (I hear Klonsky's new book is a must read) one must also think of the consequences of how this movement is implemented. In other words, if you get your small schools going in a manner that results in the undermining of public education and teacher unions then where did you really stand? If you acted in a way that contributed to tearing down teachers and teacher unionism, then it's a duck because you quacked. As Mike Fiorillo calls it: political log-rolling.

More from George Schmidt

I'm going to return to the details of the small schools activities in relation to corporate school reform in Chicago after November 4.

Suffice to say, a lot of people profited in the early days of "standards and accountability" here in Chicago and elsewhere, and among those were Chicago's small schools advocates. The fact that the process continued under George W. Bush and No Child Left Behind after 2001-2002 does not wipe out the history between 1995, when Chicago got mayoral control, and 2001, when the Republicans became dominant nationally.

The "ownership society" is in ways a distraction from the neoliberal project that was well on its way via "housing reform," "welfare reform", and "school reform" by the year that Bush defeated Al Gore for President. And the people who supported and profited from the teacher bashing, union busting, and other activities of corporate school reform in Chicago between 1995 and 2001 included Mike Klonsky and Bill Ayers.

I agree with Mike Klonsky about one thing. The stuff from 1968 to around 1976 is mostly irrelevant (except perhaps some of the origins of the myths of "small" as a solution to massively segregated urban school systems).

I'm still waiting to be invited to have at it at a public forum on these questions. Let's just say that certain people for a long time were given the high ground for their theories, while many of the facts that we've published over time in Substance were suppressed.

Finally, about "piling on" [Ayres.]

When Mayor Daley and his appointees at the Chicago Board of Education sued me and Substance for $1 million -- in January 1999 -- and set out to destroy me and Substance, Mike Klonsky was one of the people who assured "progressives" that I was the bad guy. He put it in writing and devoted some considerable energy to that project.

It hurt us dearly back in those days, because it cut off a large swath of potential support at a time when we were under unprecedented attack by the ruling class. Without attributing causation to Mike's behavior back then, let's just say it was a few years later that his projects became defunded by the Daley dynasty. While I might agree in the abstract that there is some general need not to allow the ruling class to pile on "progressives," there is no record of praxis in Chicago that the rule currently being invoked in defense of Bill Ayers was part of the culture of our official progressives. And I don't personally think anything's changed that much since.

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance

Mike Klonsky's original comment:

Sad to see leftists and progressive educators piling on Bill Ayers right at this opportune moment and pronouncing various educators at "anti-union." The Weatherman faction of SDS is pretty easy pickens from the right or the left. I ought to know, having led the fight against them in 1968. Problem is, that was 40 years ago and the Weather faction is not really the problem facing New York's teachers or their union at this moment.

And the charge that Ayers is "anti-union" today, or that he supports the current Chicago school reform initiative, Renaissance 2010, is pure bullshit and the people feeding you that crap know it. So if you are really interested in this question, read Bill and my Kappan (Feb. 2006) articles, "Renaissance 2010 Meets the Ownership Society" and "Private Management of Chicago Schools is a Long Way from Mecca," and then go back and tell my brother Fred that he was right all along, and send Bill a note of apology.

Michael Fiorillo's response

My original comment about Bill Ayers was not intended to address whether he has anti-union sentiments. I assume he would declare he does not, and I would believe him.

But that was not really the purpose of my posting, though I perhaps could have expressed it more clearly.

The point to be made about Weatherman was less its arrogance - which was ample - but rather its self-delusion, and there continues to be much self-delusion among so-called political progressives who've signed on to various ed reform programs, only to have them hijacked by the corporate drive to control and privatize public education, with its beach head being urban school systems. From what I've read, that drive has been underway longest and has achieved its greatest influence in Chicago, with DC quickly gaining ground.

Mr. Klonsky, please point out what Mr. Ayers has done to resist these attacks against public education, teachers unions and democracy, by Messrs. Daley, Duncan and others, and I will stand corrected.

Small schools, and charters as well, have often been pushed by well-meaning people who were then overwhelmed by the tsunami of corporate and foundation money that used the force if its investments to put in place policies that are anti-student and anti-teacher. Anything short of open and active opposition to this is political log-rolling.

Call me old-fashioned, but I don't think that activism that results in the neutralization and weakening of unions - even ones as incompetent and misguided as most AFT Locals - constitutes progressive politics.

And it's self-delusion to claim otherwise.

Michael Fiorillo

More follow-ups from George
As I note (and you can print) I look forward to the day when these historical realities can be debated in public and full frontally with equal time to me and Mike (and Billy). On the basis of the realities of Chicago's public schools, the history of what they've been part of, and the alternatives that were rejected when their theories became praxis.

[Bill] Ayers and [Mike] Klonsky both were part of the union bashing "left" here in Chicago in those days. Their disciples in the "small schools" stuff exported those things elsewhere. Oakland was one example I got some information about. But I think the toxic impact of their theories is as close as Bushwick, if I'm not mistaken.

If anyone wants to set that kind of thing up I'll debate any of them -- including Deb Meier -- provided that the structure is equitable. No weighting. Just because I was a classroom teacher and the three of them were honchos (Meier most interesting, let's not forget) doesn't erase the historical realities here.

It's been a very hectic time, but wondrous.


I can't wait until we can all get together, in about a year, for a day-long discussion of urban schools, unions, and "reform." Be sure to write Billy and Mikey and invite them to be on a panel about their projects – especially "small schools" -- and their relationships to corporate "school reform."

Remember, by the late 1990s, the same time I was being sued for a million dollars and Mayor Daley and his appointees were trying to drive Substance out of business, Mike and Bill were collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from the Chicago Board of Education directly as a "external partner" to a handful of "failing schools."

One of those was the school (Bowen High School) where I taught and was union delegate until I was suspended (February 1999) by Paul Vallas, later to be fired (August 2000) by a vote of the Chicago Board of Education for publishing the CASE (Chicago Academic Standards Examinations) tests in
Substance and consistently opposing the use of high-stakes secret multiple choice so-called "standardized" tests for "accountability."

Part of that "accountability" in Chicago was that if your school was "failing" (as measured by the test scores; nothing else mattered) you were forced to buy an "external partner" (in the case of Bowen, Small Schools Workshop; headed by Mike and Bill). Instead of joining in the critique of the use of so-called "standardized" tests for the corporate accountability attacks on public schools (and unions) in Chicago, Bill and Mike (and most of their colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as others at other Chicago colleges and universities) got on the gravy train, soaked up hundreds of thousands of dollars of CPS money every year, and came into the schools to tell veteran teachers how to "reform" the schools we had worked in for years, decades, and in some cases, generations.

In the case of the schools where I taught those years, the majority of the teachers were black (or other minorities) and we were under attack by university and college experts who were uniformly white and petit bourgeois and (in relation to our situations) privileged.


Let's do a decade long review of urban "school reform" and invite the proponents of "Small Schools" to the debate, before audiences of union teachers, veteran teachers, in the context of a real examination of their praxis, and not the flaccid articles they can publish, without real peer review, in publications like "Educational Leadership."

But, as I said, it will take a bit of time after November 4 for us to synthesize all the things we're been learning, both from this intense political experience and from the even more important economic situation.

So, let's talk and actually bring people together. But not among university theoreticians who pontificate about what veteran teachers ought to be doing in our overcrowded classrooms. Let's bring them to us and listen to them explain what they actually did during the years, as school reformers in places like Chicago, when their alliances with guys like Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley brought their organizations more than a million dollars in public money to engage in one part of the teacher bashing that was being sold to the USA (exported from Chicago to just about every other major town) as the "reform" urban (read; mostly minority children; mostly poor children; strongly unionized staffs) public school systems.

The facts of history are clear. They just have to well up from underneath the sludge heaps of lies that "progressives" have heaped over them.

*Would-be reformers need to beware of those who would co-opt the language of reform to undermine its ideals. Mr. Ayers and Mr. Klonsky examine how Chicago's Renaissance 2010 initiative has used the terms of the small schools movement to promote privatization and the erosion of public space.

**Arne Duncan, the brightest and most dedicated schools leader Chicago has had in memory, wants Chicago to be a Mecca where entrepreneurship can flourish. In this article, the authors contend that private management of Chicago schools is a long way from Mecca. There is no evidence or educational research whatsoever to show that privately run charters can produce better results. They urge a renaissance in schools based on expanding and not selling off the public space. This involves mobilizing communities and engaging and unleashing the talent and wisdom of teachers. At his best, Duncan has upheld this direction. In this contested space, this conflict over principles and fundamentals, they hope that Duncan finds a way to bring the resources and support of his business partners into play while preserving and transforming public schools and respecting the rights and the power of engagement of teachers and communities.

NOTE: Arne Duncan signed on to the Sharpton/Klein EEP project as well as the Broader, Bolder approach.

Teachers' Survey Finds that Policing and Excessive Suspensions Undermine Learning, and Teachers Support Human Rights Approaches to Discipline

Teachers Unite's Sally Lee has been working on a teacher survey on the impact of excessive policing and suspensions for some time which was released on October 22.

This can be a complex issue for teachers who work in schools that they perceive to being dangerous. I taught my entire career without police presence in the schools, but that was at the elementary level. We have had intensive discussions at ICE meetings over the years. There are other solutions at all levels and this report presents a comprehensive alternative. Thanks to the Ed Notes supporters and ICE teachers who assisted Teachers Unite in the survey.

Read the press release at Norms Notes and download the report

Politics and Schools Update: Tim Rehm Gets It

Even when it's not part of a lesson, there's apparently no law against teachers and other school employees wearing campaign buttons. Cornwall Superintendent Timothy Rehm agrees wholeheartedly that students have a right to wear buttons.

I knew Tim Rehm for years when he worked in District 14 (Williamsburg) and eventually became principal of PS 196 a few blocks up the road from my school, PS 147 on Bushwick Ave. His dad Bob was a high level official in the district office.

When I hear the attacks on the pre-mayoral control system, I think of the quality of people like Tim who received accolades as a principal and his school was very well run. He went on to be a deputy Superintendent on Long Island before becoming a Superintendent upstate. He is the kind of man who will never be looked at as a chancellor in the NYC system or any system under mayoral control, which will look everywhere but educators as the solution.

I'd bet my pension that Cornwall and 95% of the school districts in this country would laugh at the idea of handing their schools over to someone like Joel Klein.

From the Times Herald-Record
Political buttons OK for teachers in Hudson Valley
By Michael Randall

October 27, 2008

Ban the campaign buttons?

Parents will likely see a lot of political play in the region's schools between now and Nov. 4. And while a New York City judge has banned teachers there from wearing campaign buttons, local teachers are unrestricted.

Here campaign buttons and other political paraphernalia are generally welcomed, especially when they're part of a lesson, like the one taking place this week and next at the Tuxedo Park School.

Students are mounting a mock campaign with student-made signs for Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama; a debate in which eighth-grade students will play the roles of the major-party candidates; and a vote on Election Day. They'll see how their results compare to the real thing at an assembly on Nov. 7.

"I wanted the students to understand the significance of (the electoral process)," said Christine McDonald, coordinator of the history department.

Even when it's not part of a lesson, there's apparently no law against teachers and other school employees wearing campaign buttons.

Jonathan Burman, a lawyer with the state Education Department, noted state Education Commissioner Richard Mills backed a school board's decision allowing employees to wear buttons supporting candidates, saying they had a free-speech right to do so.

Burman did add that decision applied to a school election, not a political one.

Yet earlier this month, a judge upheld New York City's barring of teachers from wearing political campaign buttons.

While it's acceptable for teachers to post political material on union bulletin boards, or distribute it in their mailboxes, the judge said, the ban on campaign buttons reflects a judgment about the buttons' potential impact, not an attempt to stifle free speech. The union might appeal.

Can students wear buttons? A booklet issued jointly by the state's School Boards Association and Bar Association says students have a right to wear buttons as long as they don't "substantially interfere" with the educational process or the rights of others.

Local school officials said the issue seldom comes up.

Cornwall Superintendent
Timothy Rehm agrees wholeheartedly that students have a right to wear buttons.

As for teachers, Cornwall has no official policy for staff, and Rehm said it's left to building principals to deal with the matter as needed.

Rehm said teachers should not "bring political views into the classroom," although using buttons or signs in a lesson is OK.

At Newburgh Free Academy, Principal Peter Copeletti said complaints about buttons never arise, but the school tries to ensure students get a balanced message on politics in the classroom.

"In our social studies classes, and also our journalism classes, we make sure we portray both sides of the picture," he said.

New York State United Teachers spokesman Carl Korn teachers should be given credit for knowing when to politick and when not to politick.

"I think teachers know how to balance their roles," he said.

Eighth-grader Emma Zahren-Newman exercises free speech at Tuxedo Park School on Friday.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Paul Moore (and More) on Rhee in DC

Miami teacher Paul Moore lays one into Rhee in DC. But before you get to Paul, connect to this on the AFT - and I'll use the term very loosely - "support for the DC teachers union by providing counseling to teachers threatened with firing.

rom the Washington Post
The teachers union is gearing up to respond. In a letter to members earlier this month, WTU President George Parker said the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) will join the Washington local to "provide support and strategies" to instructors designated for the 90-day plan.

I posted the full article at Norms Notes

What? Legal strategies? That's it? The AFT should be ringing a permanent picket line around Rhee headquarters. But Randi Weingarten in charge will perpetuate the "carry a twig, squeak like a mouse" strategy which hands victory to the Joel Kleins and Michelle Rhees of this world.

Is it all about the AFT/UFT cutting their losses and grabbing whatever bucks are out there to grab? Or is there maybe a hint of underlying support for the neo-liberal agenda? [ie. Read our review - Ruthless Neoncon - of Kahlenberg's "Tough Liberal" - link in the sidebar.]

Globalization Spits Up Michelle Rhee

by Paul Moore

D.C. students, their parents, teachers and public school workers need only hold on. When you have Alan Greenspan disowning Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand in congressional testimony it is a sign great change is on the way. One of those changes will be the end of the tyranny of Bill Gates' and Eli Broad's attack dog Michelle Rhee.

Lacking any discernible qualifications, her shocking appointment, can be understood only when you realize that Rhee was brought in to inflict maximum damage on the district's public schools. And as a cultist (Teach For America, New Teacher Project) and true believer she came at a bargain basement salary. Real superintendents were courted (Fenty visited Miami with several members of the D.C. commission to interview Dr. Rudolph Crew) but those candidates could not be counted on to mindlessly take a club to D.C.'s public schools. The havoc and disruption that Rhee has caused was no accident. It was the plan!

But Michelle Rhee appeared in your lives because and when the "global economy" was riding herd on this planet. Globalization was at the very foundation of business model for schools, charters, vouchers, data driven instruction, merit pay, standardized testing, and most perversely of all, paying students to consume their version of education. It was the reason the Business Roundtable and Bill Gates were interested in public education at all. The CEO's wanted a profit
making private school system and Gates wanted visas for Indian and Taiwanese tech workers he could pay lower wages to.

An economic earthquake has now cracked the foundation of the model that spits up a Michelle Rhee. The superstructure will collapse in time. The global economy is history.

Soon it will be every private school and charter school investor for himself. Private school students are being moved to the public schools by their debt ridden parents in significant numbers already. In the scramble to survive the privatizers will throw their tool Ms. Rhee to the wolves. Stripped of her powerful patrons, Michelle Rhee will stand alone as a petty, vindictive, insecure bureaucrat who had no business pretending to care about children. And she will leave. Hold on!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Trickle, Trickle, Little Star

I've started writing a political column for The Wave ( in addition to my bi-weekly "School Scope" column focusing on education.

I'm calling the column "Politically Unstable" (naturally). Here is the column I submitted for this week and will run if space is available or if people need extra newsprint to wrap fish.

Trickle, Trickle, Little Star
by Norman Scott

After seeing the Rockaway Theater Company’s performance of “The Music Man,” I spent a good part of the summer humming the Harold Hill classic, “Ya Got Trouble.”

Well, either you're closing your eyes
To a situation you do now wish to acknowledge
Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
By the presence of govment in your community.
Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in the old US of A.
Why sure I'm a Wall Street player,
I'm always mighty proud to say it.
I consider that the hours I spend
With a sub prime mortgage in my hand are golden.
I say
You’ve got govment
With a capital "G,"
And that rhymes with "P" and that stands for POOR!
Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble...
We're in terrible, terrible trouble.

So let’s get this straight. John McCain proudly proclaims at the Republican convention the problem with this country is too much regulation. A month later when the financial meltdown occurs, he says we have to impose regulations to prevent this from happening in the future. Stuart Mirsky, The Wave’s conservative columnist wrote, “The conservative inclination for deregulation is blamed by angry populists without any recollection of who actually put the kibosh on regulating the two agencies at the core of this meltdown.”

Okay, I get it. The Democrats are just as much to blame. But if the “conservative inclination for deregulation, ” seemingly adopted by the Democrats in the Clinton years, got us into this mess, how are they justifying more deregulation? Or are they giving up the conservative anti-government mother ship?

You can’t blame me if I get confused. The mantra has been “big government is the problem.” Or any government. But they are for strong defense budgets. Guess what? BIG GOVERNMENT!!!

Big government gave us social security and regulation of the meat we eat. And the drugs we take. And the toys our kids play with. Under the Bush years, there were enormous cuts in inspectors in all the regulatory agencies as they were politicized. How are all those unregulated products from China working out? Ptomaine city.

Big government gave us the US highway system. If not for that we would still be driving on dirt roads when we sojourn down to Florida.

Big government responded to Sputnik in 1957 by ramping up federal funds to schools to create more mathematicians, scientists and engineers that help made the US space program work.

And big government through DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) was the instrumental force in creating the first iteration of the Internet.

Barack Obama wants to use government in the same way to spur the creation of new energy sources that will allow us to drive a nice quiet car without having to load our trunks with money to buy gas. And heat our homes without having some big oily, smelly truck block traffic on our streets while it spills oil all over our lawns.

I know, I know. Conservatives believe in trickle down. Sure, I see all those corporate executives who get millions by raising the value of the stock just itching to pour money into stuff that might be good for us.

Does your school have merit pay?


Does your school have merit pay?

Justice Not Just Tests is looking for educators who are at schools with merit pay.

To date, 35 of the 240 schools who were offered merit pay voted against having pay for performance in their schools because of the harmful effects that high-stakes testing has had on teachers and students.

-We are looking for stories and examples of discussions that teachers are having in schools that have implemented merit pay (whether you've earned it or not).

-These merit pay testimonials can include changes to your school's culture, language that your administrators have used, competition amongst teachers and how it promotes test prep.

-We plan to collect this information and use it to organize a campaign to remove merit pay from NYC schools.

Submissions may be publicized anonymously.

Please e-mail Justice Not Just Tests at if you would like to contribute a story.
For more information about merit pay and high-stakes testing, go to Justice Not Just Tests' webpage at

A full list of merit pay schools can be found here

Bloomie and Mugabe: Perfect Together

Michael Bloomberg's Velvet Coup

Is Mayor Mugabe an outrageous comparison?

By Tom Robbins
Village Voice
published: October 22, 2008

Mugabe? OK, it's an outrageous comparison. Forgive me. Mike Bloomberg would never shut down newspapers or use brutal thugs against dissenters in order to hold onto power. He doesn't have to. He buys them. MORE

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bill Ayres Follow-up


One of the first things I learned upon becoming an activist beginning in 1970 that the Weatherman movement functioned as a destroyer of the progressive movement and that people like Bill Ayres were anti-union leftists.

When I said this in the post previous to this, Fred Klonsky disputed me. I backed off. Then Michael Fiorillo followed up and nailed Ayres as an arrogant elitist supporter of the Chicago school model of "reform". I'll go with Mike.

Hello All,

Ayers was an arrogant fool back in the day, and he's an arrogant fool now.

In the '60's, Weatherman, of which Ayers was a founder, was roundly criticized for their dogmatism, arrogance and idiocy. As Kirkpatrick Sale wrote in his history of SDS, it was common among Weatherman's critics to turn the source of their name (from Bob Dylan's "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing,") against them by saying,"You don't need a rectal thermometer to know who the assholes are." True then and now.

Just as Weatherman represented the dissolution and demise of the New Left, Ayers work for small schools has shown an incredible naivete, having been hijacked by the corporate ed reform movement to destroy neighborhood schools and neutralize/weaken and ultimately destroy teacher unions. I met him at my school about 8 years ago and found that arrogance and sense of privilege - his father was the Chairman of Chicago's electric utility - intact. It seems to me that he has used his work in education to rehabilitate himself. However, no matter what the Right may think, the Left should disregard him.

Michael Fiorillo

Mike Klonsky has left a new comment on your post "Bill Ayres Follow-up":

Sad to see leftists and progressive educators piling on Bill Ayers right at this opportune moment and pronouncing various educators at "anti-union." The Weatherman faction of SDS is pretty easy pickens from the right or the left. I ought to know, having led the fight against them in 1968. Problem is, that was 40 years ago and the Weather faction is not really the problem facing New York's teachers or their union at this moment.

And the charge that Ayers is "anti-union" today, or that he supports the current Chicago school reform initiative, Renaissance 2010, is pure bullshit and the people feeding you that crap know it. So if you are really interested in this question, read Bill and my Kappan (Feb. 2006) articles, "Renaissance 2010 Meets the Ownership Society" and
"Private Management of Chicago Schools is a Long Way from Mecca," and then go back and tell my brother Fred that he was right all along, and send Bill a note of apology.

Mike Klonsky

The Next Education Secretary: Another Horror Story?

UPDATE: Buried in this post and the comments section is my comment that Bill Ayres was an anti-union leftist (based on the elitism of the weather underground). Fred Klonsky disputed that. I backed off. Then Michael Fiorillo followed up and nailed Ayres as an arrogant elitist supporter of the Chicago school model of "reform". I'm posting Michael's comment as a stand alone right above this.

Susan Ohanian posted this Cleveland Plain Dealer article dealing with the next Education secretary with this comment:

On education, attention is focused on who McCain, Obama would name education secretary. We know McCain's possibilities are scary and most of Obama's are too. Just enter the names in a 'search'.

Susan has been a major supporter of George Schmidt's struggle against the Chicago 14 years of the mayoral control/corporate model of educational reform. The very same basis of the Educational Equality Project being trumpeted by Al Sharpton, Joel Klein, Mike Bloomberg, and John McCain. Obama hasn't signed onto it but supports some of the thrust.

Remember, his connections with Bill Ayres* was due to serving on an educational commission that has supported this Chicago model.

Underlying much of these "reforms" is removing schools from union influence (closing schools, creating charters, forced school choice that destroys neighborhood schools, etc., etc.) The two Chicago Superintendents in all these years have been Paul Vallas (failure in Philly and now heading the New Orleans mess that resulted in firing just about every union teacher) and former pro basketball player Arne Duncan whose mom had influence.

So I'm scratching my head over these excerpts from the Plain Dealer:

In a city where so much works well, Chicago's public schools seem to have improved little since the days a decade ago when Obama headed a philanthropic drive here that spent $150 million but did little to improve the educational opportunities for the city's children.

And don't forget Chicago schools CEO Arne Duncan [for Ed Secty], a friend and adviser with whom Obama often plays basketball. Obama recently accompanied Duncan on a visit to Dodge Renaissance Academy...

You mean the same Obama's buddy Arne Duncan who has been in charge of a school system that is still failing under mayoral control after all these years?

In spite of the dismay people involved with education in NYC at all levels feel about the prospect of another 4 years of BloomKlein, one of the positives will be the loss of their legacy as having improved the schools as the number of better performing kids are wrung out of the system and into charter schools. What happens when most of the large large high schools are closed and there are few union rules left, if any and there's no one to blame? There's only so much manipulation of statistics and phony grad rates they can squeeze out. Kids who were in the 1st grade when they took over will supposedly be graduating from high school in 2013. If researchers explore this cohort they will discover the true horrors of the BloomKlein years when many of these high school "graduates" will find themselves in remedial college programs and the very same business community that supports Bloomberg with such fervor will find their potential hires with as few real skills as they had 12 years ago.

See Manhattan Panel for Educational Policy (Bloomberg's illegal renaming of the Board of Education) Patrick Sullivan, the only BloomKlein critic, outline what he sees for a Bloomberg 3rd term at the NYC Public School Parents blog.

Oh, there's one more nugget in the Plain Dealer article:

"Now you have an interesting array of people whom you can't really characterize," [Randi] Weingarten said. "You have to talk in shades of gray. Things never get implemented in education when you talk about litmus tests." That's why Weingarten is spending every weekend on the road campaigning for a guy who talks about performance pay.

Bill Ayres [probably one of those anti-teacher union lefties- I jumped the gun on this one - see Fred Klonsky comment and my reply. I took some license here based on some of the attacks I've seen on teachers by the so-called progressive left. I accept Fred's point of view.]

Lessons for Anti-Unity Caucus Oranizers in the UFT?

The organizing methods of the Obama campaign may have some lessons for anti-Unity organizers within the UFT. See related link from Under Assault.

The struggle to create a movement for change within the UFT has been a difficult one. Perhaps the caucus system is not as effective a tool. Maybe too top down. Though associated with ICE, my instinct has been to encourage people to form into decentralized groups rather than try to bring everyone into one big tent.

Let each group organize whatever constituency they serve and then try to get the groups to affiliate with each other. That is the bottom up aspect talked about in this article. The difficulty is in the coordination at the higher level. Right now there are lots of forces (ICE, TJC, NYCORE, Teachers Unite, various ad hoc groups - ATRs, rubber room, other special interest lobby groups within the UFT) floating around. They may come together at a point there is a feeling of need to take some action. People are going to watch how the UFT handles the ATR demonstration that was forced down their throats at the Delegate Assembly last week. The UFT business as usual approach of holding a narrow demo without a major attempt to organize may not work for the UFT - with over 100 schools signing petitions for the ATRs - and it's still growing. I ran into a guy I know who lives and teaches in Rockway. HE is anti-Unity. Getting him to come to anything the UFT does is impossible. "I'll come to an ATR demo," he told me. ATRs are a hot issue with many teachers who are in schools threatened with being closed - probably in the long run, the overwhelming majority.

The Obama organization from the Huffington Post

Inside the Obama campaign, almost without anyone noticing, an insurgent generation of organizers has built the Progressive movement a brand new and potentially durable people's organization, in a dozen states, rooted at the neighborhood level.

The "New Organizers" have succeeded in building what many netroots-oriented campaigners have been dreaming about for a decade. Other recent attempts have failed because they were either so "top-down" and/or poorly-managed that they choked volunteer leadership and enthusiasm; or because they were so dogmatically fixated on pure peer-to-peer or "bottom-up" organizing that they rejected basic management, accountability and planning. The architects and builders of the Obama field campaign, on the other hand, have undogmatically mixed timeless traditions and discipline of good organizing with new technologies of decentralization and self-organization.

Win or lose, "The New Organizers" have already transformed thousands of communities—and revolutionized the way organizing itself will be understood and practiced for at least the next generation.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hot Rumor: Stick a Fork in Richard Mills?

Richard Mills, a contender for the most awful state ed commissioner one can find and certainly a horror for NY State which has one of the worst testing policies in the nation, may be on the way out. His is noted for such things as giving Joel Klein a waiver to be chancellor since he has no qualifications and for looking the other way as BloomKlein ran rampant over just about every state ed regulation and over the entire law giving the mayor power but not dictatorial power.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Obama's Economic Advisors - Oh Vey!

Michael Fiorillo is one of the most respected voices in ICE. When he speaks (or writes) people always know something interesting is coming.

There was an interesting - and disquieting - article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal about Obama's economic team, having come across it on the "LBO Talk" section of Doug Henwood's Left Business Observer ( When you get to the section, type in "financial crisis" and you should find it.

The article describes Obama's reliance on the terrible threesome of Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers for his economic advice. Should these be the people he listens to, we can likely expect a harsh regime of structural readjustment, the punishing economic shock therapy that has been applied in recent decades in other nations undergoing credit crises, which includes large-scale privatization of public assets - highways, bridges, schools, water systems, etc. - and the decimation of the civil service. The NYT has already reported that NY governor David Patterson is already explorinjg the sale of state assets. We have also seen a hint of this with the news that Obama lobbied the Congressional Black caucus to approve the $700 B bankster bailout, without insisting on a nickel for distressed homeowners or changes allowing judges to
modify bankruptcy workouts for individuals.

Obama's official economic advisor is from the U of Chi Economics department, which ranges from center-right to Milton Friedmanite derangement. Also not encouraging. The advisor, Austin Goolsbee, is not among the most rabid from that department, but let's just say that you don't get tenure there by being insensitive to the feelings and interests of bankers.

The article should help people to cut through much of Obama's attractive persona and rhetoric, and reveals who will really be calling the shots. While the above-mentioned may suggest that my continuing intention to vote for Obama is irrational, given what I've stated, I'd say that it points out that we have go into the coming period without any illusions, and with the understanding that only a broad popular mobilization for economic democracy gives any hope whatsoever that the republic can be reclaimed and saved.

Michael Fiorillo

Commentary on the Keegan/Darling-Hammond Debate

I'm glad Sean Ahern joined me (two older guys in a sea of 20-somethings) at the Linda/Lisa Obama/McCain ed advisor debate webcast sponsored by NYCORE at NYU last night.

The actual debate was at Teachers College a few miles north. Glad it was as I was ready to run up and strangle them both. Lisa and her trumpeting of the Klein/Sharpton/Rhee EEP's was despicable. But Linda was fairly hapless in her responses, especially when she sidestepped Lisa's attempt to pull her into the "TFA is wo
nderful" trap. The host of the NYU session, Bree Picower, pointed to the NYCORE focus this year on making the Neo-liberal connections to the ed debate. Lois Weiner has written extensively on this and was the featured speaker at one of our Teachers Unite forums last year and she will be doing a session with Meghan Behrent (TJC and ISO) at an upcoming forum. Sean nails many of the points that were nagging at me during the debate. But first a few caveats. I am guessing the term "liberal" Sean uses more commonly refers to Democratic Party liberals, often misnamed as "the left," which is not the real left, who are just as disparaging of this group as Republicans. Neo-liberals in the classic European sense, so aptly dealt with by Naomi Klein in "The Shock Doctrine" are total free marketers and just off the edge of neo-conservatives. The neo-liberal world wide agenda with respect to education is not just esoteric stuff we're spouting but has a direct impact on what is going on in your classrooms. Understanding this stuff becomes increasingly important to explain the role unions like the AFT/UFT and NEA play in this scenario, all too often lining up on the wrong side.

Heeeeere's Sean

The achievement gap was trotted out early on as the games began. Which team would control the ball? True to form Lisa positioned herself behind NCLB and the "civil rights community" who supported uniform assessments. (Test score inequality is now the only form of inequality considered legitamate for media attention, that is unless poor Black and Latino homeowners are being blamed for the financial crisis)

Linda pooh poohed the notion of filling in bubble sheets. Lisa quickly turned the tables on the liberals. All those flaky alternative assessments are just liberal glosses over the gap, and it's the gap (stupid!) that needs to be reduced. Will the liberals be hoisted on their own petard? Pre-school education for all countered Linda bravely. Lisa countered, where's the evidence supporting the additional $ for pre-school? Where are the test scores! Show me the money. in neo liberal neo conservative America, test scores are equated as proof of value added or value lost. Finally, corporate cost accounting has landed on the head of the educrat nincompoops. Everyone can see how well corporate accounting has served the nation, why not extend it to education?

Linda countered but tepidly, pointing to the success of NJ which lead the way in school funding reform, granting equal state funding to all schools in the Garden State. She only stuck a toe in this big pond. Why not take a dive in?

My question, How can the 'achievement gap be reduced when the wealth gap and the race gap widens? Why are educators heeding, in effect, Cheney's favorite injunction to "stay in their lane" and not making connections? Linda Darling Hammond barely acknowledged the connection in her reference to NJ. Isn't making connections what educators are supposed to do ? And if the leaders of education won't make the connections, then who will?

Lisa lined up with Rhee in DC and NYC with thinly veiled union bashing, but no mention of Chicago's much longer 'reform 'effort? Why?

Could it be that Bill Ayers might come up as one of the proponents of Chicago's reform? Oops, that's not part of the script since McCain is using Ayers to bash Obama. But before all the liberals line up to defend Ayers supposed redemption through educational service, think twice. Ayers was wrong about the "Revolution" in 1968, and yes folks, he's wrong again about school "reform" in Chicago. Like Mr Magoo, Ayers makes a mess of everything wherever he goes but always comes out on top and always manages to be the center of media attention. Are we being played again by a media show that features false leaders, pushes them forward as the change agents, thereby discrediting change or even revolution in society and in education?


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Teachers to Be Rated on Chronic Absence - parody

The release of the Milano report finding that
... more than 20 percent of the city’s elementary school pupils were chronically absent during the 2007–08 school year—that is, they missed at least 20 days of the 185-day school year. In districts serving poor neighborhoods, the numbers are even higher. In the south and central Bronx, in central Harlem, and in several neighborhoods in central Brooklyn, 30 percent or more of the pupils were chronically absent, according to the analysis. In contrast, only 5.2 percent of pupils were chronically absent in District 26, which serves the middle class neighborhood of Bayside, Queens… Of the 725 public schools serving elementary grades (excluding charter schools and schools serving severely disabled children), 165 have chronic absentee rates of 30 percent or more… [MORE and NY Times article]

has led to a landmark agreement between the UFT and Tweed to rate teachers on their ability to prevent chronic absence of their students, Ed Notes News is reporting.

Joel Klein said, "These high absentee rates are clearly due to teachers who do not do lessons interesting enough to get their kids to want to come to school."

"No excuses," proclaimed his able assistant Christopher Cerf when asked about the vast differences in the numbers between the poorer and wealthier areas of the city. "Teachers have to figure out ways to get these kids into school. You do what you have to do. If mouth to mouth is necessary, then damnit do it. That is the way to show a spirit willing to close the achievement gap."

Surgical masks, rubber gloves and hazmat suits will be issued to teachers making visits to sick beds. "See, we're not as heartless as they make us out to be," said Cerf. Schools that do not improve will be closed and replaced by condos.

Randi Weingarten agreed to sign on to a plan to grade teachers based on their attendance figures as long as the results are not publicized. "This once and for all ends the public pillorying of teachers based on the attendance rates of their kids," said a UFT spokesperson. "The results will be used by teachers solely to improve by looking at what is wrong with their teaching to keep so many kids away from school for a month.

Ask but don't tell
The spokesperson said, "And the best part of this is our victory on the Klein-Cerf demand that teachers looking for a job have to show the results. Principals may ask but teachers don't have to tell."

Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis M. Walcott will speak at a forum addressing the impact of chronic absenteeism in New York City public schools, following the release of a report from The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs, Strengthening Schools by Strengthening Families. Deputy Mayor Walcott will talk about the importance of creating in all schools a culture that recognizes that failure for our students, regardless of their family or life circumstances, is not an option. He will also reinforce the Department of Education’s efforts to hold schools accountable for students’ academic achievement, and highlight efforts to combat chronic absenteeism and the role of community collaboration and partnerships in that work.
[Last paragraph NOT a parody.]

Monday, October 20, 2008

Big Dog

The Most Advanced Quadruped Robot on Earth
BigDog is the alpha male of the Boston Dynamics family of robots. It is a quadruped robot that walks, runs, and climbs on rough terrain and carries heavy loads. BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. BigDog's legs are articulated like an animal’s, and have compliant elements that absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next.

Pretty soon they'll be making robotic mayors and chancellors. Or do we already have that?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

There is no meeting with UFT today...

.... Here is Why

Here is a follow up from a first year Teaching Fellow who has helped organize TF's threatened with being fired on Dec. 5th. I printed an email to me from this TF in this post on the morning of Oct. 15 before the Delegate Assembly. The demo in front by both senior and first year teacher ATRs brought out reporters. And that naturally brought out UFT officials led by "sweet talking" Michael Mendel and a horde of PR people. Our post delegate assembly report is here. Our first year teacher/reporter is showing a lot of moxie and political savy. We hope this group doesn't go away soon and if they survive they will join the alternative movement to force change down the throats of the UFT/Unity Caucus misleadership.

There are emails from 2 TFs and they read in reverse order so follow carefully.

Thought you might be interested in reading how we didn't have a meeting with the UFT regarding our legal issues.

Best regards,
[TF Correspondent 1]

New York City Teaching Fellows
Date: Fri, 17 Oct 2008 06:46:43 -0400
Subject: There is no meeting with UFT today, here is why

The United Federation of Teachers ("UFT")'s Michael Mendel specifically asked me to email you and explain to you why I was not meeting with the UFT today.

In short, I am not meeting with them because Mr. Mendel promised to meet with us, and then less than 24 hours later broke that promise.

At the direct action we had in front of the UFT building on Wednesday when we were speaking directly to the delegates and the media, Mr. Mendel came out and spoke with us. He interrupted us in our work, a calculation designed to impede our communication.

He asked each of our members to fill out some form he had collecting their personal information. This was because he said that they wanted to contact us each individually.

Of course I explained that we were committed to speaking in one voice and didn't need individual communication with the UFT (however if you believe you would like to reach out to the UFT I have copied Mr. Mendel onto this email and his email address is:

He stated to me directly in his sweet voice that they were trying to have a meeting with us.

He promised one of the other Fellows directly a meeting with him.

Then after he had left and I was speaking with two reporters, one from The New York Post and one from The Chief about our situation I directly asked the UFT press representative Peter Kadushin (also copied on this email, at reachable at if ANYTHING I
said wasn't true.

All he could say, in front of these reporters, is that the UFT was interested in meeting with us. I asked him what meeting he was referring to. He said he only knew that Mr. Mendel had mentioned meeting with us. I asked when he had heard that, and he said it was just at the direct action.

If any of this is incorrect I am sure either Mr. Kadushin or Mr. Mendel will email me back to let me know (and I will forward along to you unedited).

So after the direct action we all went back to our normal lives.

The next day, yesterday, I received an email from the Fellow who directly received a promise to meet with Mr. Mendel.

This is the email, the only thing I removed is the name/email of the Fellow (I assume that I am the "David" to whom he refers-- the English teacher in me sees this as an unintended metaphor to our David versus Goliath actions against the UFT):

From: Peter Kadushin [UFT]
Date: Thu, Oct 16, 2008 at 10:36 AM
Subject: RE: Follow Up
To: [
TF Correspondent 2]

I was told that Carol Gerstl, our legal council, is setting up a meeting with David. Please let me know when you hear from her.
Peter Kadushin

-----Original Message-----
From: [
TF Correspondent 2]
Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2008 6:23 AM
To: Peter Kadushin
Subject: Follow Up
Dear Peter,

Yesterday, Michael Mandel told me he wants to meet with me and other Fellows threatened with dismissal on December 5th. Could you please email me his phone member? I would like to schedule a date with him.

Thank you again for your assistance. I appreciated talking with you before the delegates meeting and look forward to your help in covering our fight for our jobs.

TF Correspondent 2]

TF Correspondent 1
Notice the times posted.

So when I saw the email I called Mr. Mendel directly. He said that he was "unaware" that I had attempted to have a meeting (about which you have already received emails from me) with UFT legal.

As you know, I gave them a deadline of last Monday for that meeting. Any offer of a meeting was rejected by them.

The funny thing is that Mr. Mendel was copied by Ms. Gerstl on the emails that made clear they were not meeting with me by the deadline.

Mr. Mendel said the only meeting we would have is with Gerstl and her associate.

I told them it was not useful for me to meet with their legal team-- that was an offer I had made to help them understand the legal issue which they actually should be doing on their own and that I had given up on being allied with the UFT management and now only wished to have a meeting with someone who could commit the UFT to action.

He said that wasn't going to happen and that I was being rude because he said I told him that meeting with Ms. Gerstl was a "waste of my time".

He was yelling and me and threatened that I wouldn't meet with anyone if I didn't take the meeting.

He also requested that I let you know that I was declining this meeting. And here I am emailing you as he requested (by the way, the UFT has never done anything we have requested of them and we are the ones that pay them for their services, another $47.27 out of
yesterday's check!).

I did then say we would take the meeting.

He hurried off the phone.

I called Gerstl after I had thought about it, and realized that we were promised, in front of the press and in front of delegates, a meeting BY and WITH Mr. Mendel and taking a meeting without him was not acceptable.

I told her that the meeting was canceled. (I remind you that it is rare that anyone at the UFT actually answers their phones, so I told this to her voicemail).

Later the same Fellow who had emailed Peter Kadushin and I spoke. He said he would meet with their legal staff. He phoned them and had a productive conversation with Carol Gerstl but I understand she declined to meet with him.

So as Mr. Mendel requested, I am writing you (getting up early to do it) to let you know that I did decline to meet with the UFT at this time.

The meeting was not on the terms which were acceptable to me even before a direct promise from Mr. Mendel.

Simply put, we need the UFT to act on our behalf. We have a right to that action, we pay for that action.

If the UFT's leadership stalls and misleads us in our private conversations with them (see the previous emails) and even breaks promises they make in front of delegates and the press, we simply cannot take what they say as any indication of what they are doing for us. We must see concrete action before we are convinced they are helping us.

I look forward to meeting with you this weekend to discuss this, and other matters, in person.
Of course you are welcome, if you don't mind outing yourself, to email Mr. Mendel if you have anything you wish to clarify, he has invited this conversation.

Best regards,
TF Correspondent 2