Saturday, November 29, 2008

UFT Responds to Ed Notes Taping of ATR Info Session With Gag Order

This resolution is squarely aimed at trying to suppress some of the video I took of the embarrassing spectacle of the UFT leadership undermining the ATR rally on November 24.

Will delegates and chapter leaders no longer be allowed to give reports to their staffs?

Go to a UFT Executive Board meeting or a Delegate Assembly and look for
"free and open debate"? Democratic deliberations? They have to be kidding.

And whose
permission are they talking about? Will the NY Teacher ask each and every person at a meeting if it is ok to disseminate their information?

This resolution is no different from all the other resolutions at the DA. Just unenforceable words.

My taping parts of the gathering in the UFT ATR info session last Monday created absolute panic on the part of
Randi Weingarten. Weingarten has always attempted to paint opposition points of view as a 5th column when in fact the biggest leaker is Weingarten. In all of the years I have been around the UFT incidents of information leaving the union meetings via videotape have been few and far between. She pulled the same stuff at the October meeting by giving the impression that Elizabeth Green had infiltrated the meeting (a lie.)

Make no mistake about it. This resolution has noting to do with the chapter leaders, delegates and members but with the leadership attempt to keep their own "speaking out of 2 sides of their mouths" words from getting out to the members. The Unity mob is ready to pass any restriction on democracy. This is only the beginning. Still to come: Why not add that any union member who puts info out to media or blogs should be tossed from the union? In fact Randi even mentioned the blogs in her attack on me at that meeting and I challenged her by saying, "Next you'll tell us we can't write about what you say." She didn't respond.

In order to enforce this will they have security guards confiscate all cell phones at these meetings?

They know full well the contrast between the images of the wine and cheese guzzling Unity crowd and the people in the cold at Tweed will be very embarrassing. And so it will be.

Here is the resolution Unity Caucus will
present to Monday night's UFT Exec. Bd meeting.

Motion: To recommend to the executive board and delegate assembly the following resolution on the Confidentiality of Union Meetings:

WHEREAS, it is essential that UFT chapter leaders, delegates and members have the full confidence that they can speak honestly and frankly in union meetings without fear that their words and their images will be reproduced in the news media or on the Internet without their knowledge or permission; and

WHEREAS, without such meetings and the free and open debate among union members that they allow, the democratic deliberations of the UFT are diminished and the ability of the union to learn and represent the views of its school-based leadership and members is undermined; and

WHEREAS, in recent weeks UFT member meetings have been surreptitiously recorded and transmitted to the news media, reporters have been invited to attend union meetings without identifying themselves, and video cameras have been brought into such meetings for the purpose of recording the proceedings – all without the consent of those present at the meetings; and

WHEREAS, there are ample opportunities for those who wish to speak to the news media and make their views known publicly to do so outside of union meetings; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that this Delegate Assembly affirm the vital principle that our union be able to hold union meetings, without outside news media present and without the proceedings being recorded and disseminated in public forums, in order to encourage the widest possible freedom of communication and deliberation among union members and leaders; and be it further

RESOLVED, that this Delegate Assembly call upon all in its ranks to respect the right of their fellow members to meet and deliberate in union meetings, secure in the knowledge that their words and their images will not be transmitted or reproduced without their permission.

Teaching An Old Dog – Arf

by Norman Scott
From the Wave, Nov. 28, 2008, www.rockawave.cok

A clue that your brain is still functioning despite years of stuffing it full of unidentified flying objects is when you find yourself still learning lots of stuff, especially when it is from a range of people from the early 20’s to the 80’s. I’ve had to have my skull raised to hold all the incoming info, especially over the last few weeks. Here are just a few of the things I have learned recently.

I have been working with a group of retirees who produce a TV show for Manhattan Neighborhood Network, public access. Active Aging focuses on older people who have continued to work with a passion or have retired, only to take on tasks that are in many ways more challenging than their original jobs. We did a story on a tour bus guide in her late 70’s, an 80+ furrier in Greenpoint, and a 90-something woman still teaching yoga. So I suggested Howie Schwach, the esteemed managing editor of the Wave, for a story. Howie spent his career as a teacher and wrote the School Scope column and other features for the Wave. (I started buying the Wave just to read Howie’s stuff, a nice irony when I took over the column.) When the opportunity came, Howie leaped out of the Board of Ed and into the fire full-time. “I was told not all that much happens in Rockaway in June 2001,” Howie told us. Three months later – 9/11. And two months after that, the Wave was the epicenter of international coverage of the plane crash.

My partner in NorMark Productions, Mark Rosenhaft, and I shot an interview with Howie and showed it to the Active Aging people, who loved it. Many of the people involved are themselves retired from the industry, so we were working with real pros. Rita Satz, former Today Show/New Channel 4 producer (mostly for Consumer reporter Betty Furness) was very excited to be working on a Rockaway story because she used to come out here all the time as a child and met her future husband on the beach when she was 14. (She is now 84.) Rita looked at the footage and wrote a script for Mark and I to follow in editing. The skill with which she did this so clarified the entire process of creating a piece for TV, that I am going to try some of it on my own.

When the rest of the Active Aging crew saw the B-role footage (another expression I learned) of the beach, boardwalk, the open spaces, they said, “More. More Rockaway stories.” So I told them of my work as a videographer with the Rockaway Theatre Company and about retired teachers John Gilleece (Artistic Director) and Susan Jasper (Producer). A crew that included Rita and John S., a retired ABC director came out to do the story. Joan Arkin, who ran a Parisian fashion house in New York, joined them. Joan did the interviews and is producing the segment. (Both Joan and John are in their 70’s and seem busier than ever.)

It was dress rehearsal, the night before the opening of Rockaway Café ‘08, known in RTC lore as “Hell Night” and it was very kind of John and Susan to give us the time amidst the chaos of the band practicing and masses of kids and adults getting sound checks and making final adjustments. We watched and taped the dress rehearsal and these sophisticated Manhattanites were absolutely charmed. Joan proclaimed, “I want to move to Rockaway and get involved in this theater.” “Come on down,” John told her.

I don’t only learn from people senior to me. Last year I wrote about how much I learned in the improvisational acting class I took with RTC mainstay Frank Caiati, a 22-year-old college student. Frank, now 23, has graduated and is teaching a more structured acting class at the RTC. With much trepidation, since I can’t remember where I put my keys let alone memorize lines,
I decided to dip my toe in the water once again. “Why,” I ask myself, since I have no intention of doing any acting? I think it comes from a sense that parts of the personality I developed as a teacher for 35 years has been shrinking and I wanted to recapture it.

So far, in three weeks of class, I have had enormous insights into acting and the entire theater scene. Frank is not just a great actor but also a great director (he may be directing a play next season at the RTC.) Getting up on stage with the lights in your eyes and your fellow classmates in the audience is a very different experience than speaking in front of large audiences, which I often do at union meetings. “Think of a wall between you and the audience,” is one of the things he tells us. Frank has managed to make those of us who have not acted before (about half the class) feel extremely comfortable. We’ve learned how to work our way into a character as Frank prods us with questions that are beyond the script. After our first class I went to see the great English/French actress Kristen Scott Thomas in I’ve Loved You So Long (don’t miss it) and found myself applying the insights I learned from Frank into her amazing performance. So not only am I doing things I never thought I would but am also getting a richer experience as an audience due to Frank's coaching. How does someone so young know so much?

This week I learned something else at the RTC. An “all hands on deck” call went out to assist with replacing the covers on the 240 seats at the theater. An assembly line was set up with a crew removing the seats, another getting the old covers off and a third putting on the new covers. I was part of the middle crew. Have you seen under the cover of a 70 year old seat full of stuffing and horsehair? Cough, cough. I was working with Frank, RTC choreographer and actress Catherine Leib and Nancy Sturgis, who has starred in so many RTC productions. Nancy was joined by her husband and kids. Janna Sturgis recently starred in Annie. At the RTC, I learned, everyone is expected to pitch in. And they do.

I learned lots of other stuff recently. About how the UFT can try to dampen a rally for ATRs, the 1400 hundred teachers without assignments. And how Randi Weingarten gets very nervous when you try to videotape her. How there are people who try to tell us none of what’s happened is really George Bush’s fault. And how the people who were bashing Obama for his supposed terrorist connections are deciding whether they want their crow barbecued or broiled.

Read all about it daily at Norm’s blog:
Look for Norm’s political column, Politically Unstable, appearing occasionally in The Wave.
Norm’s email:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Back to School Week at The Howler

There is no one with a more sensible approach to education debate over "reform" than Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler. That's because Somerby started teaching 5th grade in Baltimore in 1969. I identify because I started teaching 4th grade in Brooklyn in Feb. 1969 (after a year and a half as an ATR - being used as a sub/handyman in the same school, not a bad way to learn the ropes.)

Elementary school teachers who spend all year and 6 hours a day with the same group of kids, getting so see most parents on a regular basis and being part of the community their kids live in, often have the most insightful perspective on ed reform. Somerby writes on a number of subjects, but his edcuation insights do not get enough attention. I wish he had direct links to the ed stuff.

This week he has a 4 part series (part 4 to come) that focuses on the gushing press about Michelle Rhee.

Jesus rose from the dead in three days—and under Rhee, “test scores soared.” This tale—of Rhee’s miracle cure—is told wherever her cult is sold. Plainly, Jay believes it’s true. At THE HOWLER, we pretty much don’t.

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
(This link will change to when it goes into the archives
Part 4: To come

One more example of how Howler looks at the ed world.

In a way, you can’t blame Hiatt for that sort of talk; it’s the type of chatter that’s routinely churned by “educational experts.” But Hiatt is being fatuous when he says that “every student can learn, write and do math” (whatever so vague an assurance might mean)—and he builds a straw man when he goes on to say that “their ability to do so should be measured.” (Few oppose sensible measurement.) Duh! The question isn’t whether “every student can learn;” the question is how much various students can learn, at what point in their public schooling. The larger question is what sorts of changes in instructional practice might help these students achieve these goals. Meanwhile, the desire to rush to the question of who’s “at fault” merely extends the problem. But Hiatt makes it clear, at the start of his piece, that fault and blame are driving his vision. He opens with an anecdote designed to show that Rhee is high-minded and good—while an unnamed principal is an uncaring villain. He then cranks out this standard text—although, within the Insider Press, churning such text is real easy:

HIATT: Rhee offers the ultimate in no-excuses leadership. She has taken on one of the worst public school systems in the nation and has pledged to turn it into one of the best within a decade. The usual excuses made for such schools—that they cannot possibly do better because their students are poor, or come from broken families, or haven't been read to, or are surrounded by crime—Rhee does not accept. She has seen such students learn, Rhee explains, in her own classroom in Baltimore in the early 1990s, and in many other schools since.

Just as he drives a framework of “fault” and blame, Hiatt builds a framework in which people are looking for “excuses.” (It can’t be that they’re offering “explanations,” or describing real problems and obstacles.) Of course, it’s easy for pundits to say that we shouldn’t “accept...the usual excuses” about the progress of deserving students who may enter kindergarten far behind their middle-class peers. But those students’ achievements won’t increase just because Hiatt enjoys talking tough—because he churns familiar bromides as a replacement for thought.

Aussie News: "Rubbish" To Klein School Reforms

The Melbourne newspaper, The Age, reports on Joel Klein's visit this week. Australia's Ed Minister Julia Gillard Agrees with Rupert Murdoch, who possibly wants to be the Aussie Bill Gates, who has criticised Australia's schools. The first stage of the corporate takeover of education is to undermine public confidence in the schools. A Nation At Risk started the ball rolling in the US 25 years ago. (UFT/AFT President Al Shanker's signing off on it also started the ball rolling on teacher union complicity in the corporate attack.)

This article punches some big holes in the entire scheme. Here's an excerpt:

The only qualification that Murdoch has to judge our schools is that he owns about 70 per cent of capital city daily newspaper circulation. When billionaire media magnates speak, the rest of us listen.

The same cannot be said for the other American citizen, New York schools chancellor Joel Klein, who Gillard has brought to Australia, "impressed" by his education reforms, especially school league tables, which had produced "remarkable outcomes".

Rubbish. Internet comments on the test results show the improvement in school performance measurement comes from manipulating the tests by prepping students. Klein also makes claims about the results that cannot be supported by any fair analysis. Statisticians [Eduwonkette] who have examined the results say they can be explained by random error.

Klein, a corporate lawyer and political apparatchik, is here to spruik the virtues of Gillard's wacky plan to publish a rating system for schools. Critics point out that the system, based on experience in Britain and the US, "names and shames" poorly performing schools whose output is predictable based on socio-economic background and lack of funding.

The scheme's great political virtue is that it allows governments without any real commitment to raising the standard of poorer schools to appear to be doing something.

The entire piece.

A NY Times City Room blog piece on Klein's visit is here.

Graphic by David

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Rally at Tweed Video: Part 2
(Thanks to David B.)

NEW: Lots of good photos by John Lawhead at the ICE web site:

It is clear that the UFT's actions around the rally created a level of anti-Unity caucus sentiment that almost matched the feelings against Tweed.

There's going to be more to come with some video I have from the UFT info meeting occurring at the same time, the meander up Broadway, mostly by the Unity hardcore, and the meeting of the two groups at Tweed.

On the way, Randi came over and suggested I turn over the tape to her because "people are upset" over my taping. She tried to make it seem the ATRs were upset over appearing on You-tube (in fact I had no intention of doing that and told her so). The extreme hostility of Unity (you will see that when I put up the video) was due to the fact that I was documenting their sell-out of the rally.

What was interesting was the level of arrogance Randi and Unity, which includes the entire UFT staff, have when they are in a room overwhelmingly dominated by them as it was at 52 Broadway (and is at Delegate Assemblies). Randi's open attack on me ("Norman, put down that camera") and the screams of outrage by the Unity throng was reminiscent of the same kind of attack she made on former NY Sun Reporter Elizabeth Green (now at Gotham Schools) at the October DA. But creating bogus enemies is a common tactic of dictators as a way of keeping their own supporters (there are enough honest Unity people who see the disaster the state of the union is in) pumped up with perceived threats from within.

It was a different ballgame when they got to Tweed, surrounded by demonstrators who had grown hostile by their absence and were particularly inflamed when they heard there were UFT staffers across the street directing people away from the rally over to the union. Some of them heckled Randi when she spoke, something she is clearly not used to.

Rather than put up my raw tape (a lot of shaky stuff due to the Unity harassment and attempt to block me from filming) David and I will edit both tapes into a 10-minute more watchable piece with excerpts from some of the speeches and a contrast to the wine and cheese munchers at 52 Broadway while the people at Tweed were out in the cold for hours.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

If It's Good For Obama's Kids....

A Place to Respond says:
[Obama] seems to see only dimly if at all how deceptively Orwellian the big-business driven standards and accountability movement is.

Do you think Obama's kids will be tested to death? Would Obama want Michelle Rhee, who he praised, as a Superintendent for his kids? Or Joel Klein?

She links to Gary Stager's superb piece.

The only times I've heard Obama speak about education, he has called for merit pay, increased accountability, praised D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee (check out this fine article about her) In other words, President-Elect Obama (unless I am proven wrong) believes the same BS that drove NCLB and many of the other bad ideas oppressing children and teachers.

Here is an idea for President-Elect Obama...

The $29,000 per year Sidwell Friends School is a fine learning environment and institution with a proud history of excellence. His daughters will be very happy there.

President and First Lady Obama should study everything done at Sidwell Friends School and copy it in every school across America. If it's good enough for his daughters, it's good enough for the children they are leaving behind.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Video of the Rally at Tweed, Part 1


"This is union-busting of the WORST kind. It came from union management."
- Under Assault (see more and links below)

The UFT didn't show at 4:30. Or at 5. Or at 5:30.

So they held a rally on their own. You know something? It looked like they were having a much better time than the people who went to the information session at 52 Broadway, which is where I was in an attempt to get some video. (I'll be putting up my commentary of my adventures in the world of Unity Caucusville in the next day or two.) John Powers was the MC and lots of real people got to speak. Most of the people who have been active in the critical wing of the UFT seem to have been there --- parteeee. When Randi and crew arrived around 6, she was heckled. The gang from Unity was practically out numbered. Some of us continued the party in a cafe up the block after the rally.

Twenty six minutes of raw footage, thanks to David B.

Also, see a brief slideshow of the rally with part of Marjorie's speech.

People who think the ATR agreement was a win for the UFT are missing a point about why many principals, especially those with little ed background, don't want to hire experienced teachers who can see through the bull of the ed jargon and just might tell the emperor he has no clothes. There is enough insecurity around to make them prefer a newbie who they know won't have the knowledge to look askance at some of the programs they are putting in.

I would bet a lot less ATRs get jobs than people think. After a year, watch the DOE and press go after those who didn't and the howl to drive them out of the system will resound. Thus, in some ways this is a long-term investment by the DOE and why I don't consider this a win for the UFT.

These thought are echoed by Pissed Off who confronted Unity Caucus suits at her school who were telling the teachers how good they had it.

I asked the union lackey about ATRs. He said, they just got a great deal from the DOE. Smart principals will hire them in a minute. I reminded him of the fact that principals do not like experienced teachers, that they don't like teachers that think and have minds of their owns. Years ago, principals hid vacancies whenever they could. No one wanted a veteran teacher who would not jump when told to. He said smart principals did not think like that. I said the smart ones were few and far between. He just kept talking about the one smart principal he used to work for.

Under Assault tells us about

Four kinds of tenure, but who's counting

For those who think Weingarten's ATR agreement with the DoE on the tenure issue has helped the profession much, think again.

UA goes on to talk about the rally.

Oh, yes. Did I tell you that Weingarten sabotaged her own rally yesterday? Well, it really wasn't her rally, because it's obvious she collaborated with Klein to diminish seniority rights. This rally was forced upon her when the Delegate Assembly voted for it some weeks ago. She must not have gotten her signals out to her Unity people quickly enough to stifle it, so it got voted in by accident and she had to go along with it.

She begged the organizers to call it off. Didn't work.

She scheduled an "informational" meeting for ATRs at the UFT HQ a half hour before the rally was supposed to start — two subway stops away, mind you.

She had people at the City Hall station telling people making their way to the rally to go down to the UFT instead.

And she served them wine and cheese down there, when — for solidarity's sake — they should have really been at Tweed.

And of course she kept the meeting running for a couple of hours, so there was no way anyone was going to get to Tweed to hear the enraged protests going on over there.

This is union-busting of the WORST kind. It came from union management.

Teacher Unions and the UAW

Why Teachers Have an Interest in the Survival of the US Auto Industry


By Michael Fiorillo, Chapter Leader, Newcomers High School

The fate of the US auto industry, and particularly General Motors, has been much in the news lately. The pitiful performance of auto executives appearing before Congress with their begging cups, the morality play of their flying in private corporate jets to Washington to plead for taxpayer assistance, has become a rallying cry for people who are appalled at the long lines of executives seeking corporate welfare. People are rightfully upset that incompetence and dishonesty in business are being tolerated, if not rewarded, by their tax dollars. Oddly, though, most of the anger and calls for discipline have been directed at Detroit, rather than the banking and securities industry. What are some of the deeper reasons and assumptions behind this, and what are the implications for teachers?

This may seem like a strange topic to bring up on a blog that mostly concerns itself with educational issues. But in fact the fate of unionized teachers is now closely intertwined with the fate of the UAW. The reason is that, just as anti-union forces are calling for letting GM go bankrupt – which would lead to the nullification of contracts between the Big Three and the UAW – emerging fiscal crises for states and localities will energize forces that have been calling for the elimination of tenure, work rules, defined benefit pensions and union representation altogether for educators. In this sense, the fate of unionized autoworkers and teachers are joined. The attacks on the unionized auto workforce – coded in statements by senators from right-to-work states and financial industry types – are a prelude to what educators will be facing shortly as states and localities grapple with collapsing tax revenues and financial crises. It’s a scenario right out of Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine: those with their hands on the levers of power will use crisis and disruption to implement policies that they could never have otherwise achieved.

First, a disclaimer: while the industrial base of the US must be preserved – and the auto industry is its core – that doesn’t mean that Detroit can continue with business as usual. Auto management must be replaced, and the industry must re-tool in order to produce reliable, fuel-efficient vehicles that people want to buy. The industry must also be reconfigured for production geared toward less reliance on cars and toward investment in mass transit. However, finance capital must not be allowed to fatten itself on the carcass of the auto industry, otherwise we will see investment bankers earning huge fees to dismantle auto plants and ship them to Mexico, China and elsewhere. Additionally, the federal government must resolve the health care crisis, which accounts for a large part of Detroit’s competitive disadvantage.

Much of the moralizing about letting the auto industry go under masks a deep-seated antagonism to union standards and worker rights. Critics of Detroit openly say that autoworker wages and benefits must immediately fall to the levels paid by Toyota, Honda, et. al. in their non-union plants in the South. This overlooks the fact that the wages workers enjoy in those plants are entirely dependent upon and follow from the wages established by years of struggle by the UAW. We could call it the Invisible Hand of labor economics. Non-union auto workers, and non-union factory workers in general, only get what they do because of the scales and standards established by the UAW. Here in NYC, non-union construction workers only get the wages they do because of the scales established by the organized trades. Likewise in education, the pay, benefits and working conditions in non-unionized schools track – at a lower rate – the scales established by the union. Take away the protections earned by unionized workers – whether they be teachers, electricians or auto workers – and you will quickly see a “race to the bottom” with employers going on the offensive to lower their cost structures and exert absolute control over the work lives of their employees.

People must question the fact that, while Wall Street and the banks have literally been given blank checks by the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Bank – money that has not been used to lend to the real economy but has instead been used to buy up competitors and strengthen balance sheets – Detroit, which has asked for a mere fraction of what the financial industry has had thrown at it, must jump through hoops to obtain a fraction of the needed funds. When you think about it, Congress seems to be saying that when an industry is run by criminals, parasites and predators (Wall St.) rather than idiots (Detroit), it is deserving of special consideration.

Ultimately, saving the auto industry is even in Wall Street’s interest, although their short term greed blinds them to that reality, for what will happen to the parasites and predators when they kill off the remaining hosts and prey? Who will continue to buy their junk and pay their mutual fund management fees?

So, teachers and other school workers, don’t fall into the trap of supporting attacks on “lazy” and “spoiled” auto workers, and how they must be subjected to the discipline of the market. Those arguments are being turned against us, and the screams will become louder.

Giving credence to the points Michael makes, Fred Klonsky posts this video of Congressman Mark Kirk urging the use of bankrupting GM to bust the UAW contracts.

With A Cast of Thousands

graphic by david b

Monday, November 24, 2008

Back in 1929 Financial Crash it was said...

....that some Wall Street Stockbrokers and Bankers JUMPED from their office windows and committed suicide when confronted with the news of their firms and clients financial ruin . . . Many people were said to almost feel a little sorry for them . . . . . .

In 2008 the attitude has changed somewhat:

Going Beyond Anecdotes

Guest column

This is a Great Blog! Thanks for all the work, it's amazing!!

A few comments from my tiny sector of the universe, along with a question and the suggestion of a research project.

I've been teaching Middle School Mathematics in a district that evidently is among the pioneering leaders in NYC in using "Workshop Model." As far as I can tell the school uses a packaged, commercial version. As interpreted in the school this essentially means that the teachers are mandated to rigidly adhere to formulaic teaching. The formulas are such things as specifically ordered and prominently displayed "Agendas," having student do "Group Work" - i. e. having students sit together in groups of three to six and to do problems together instead of working on problems individually, "Differentiated Instruction" which is to give different students different levels of work, doing work that can be displayed on "Bulletin Boards," etc.

We are given to understand that these things have been going on at this school since Klein became chancellor (or even under his predecessor). Therefore in any case, all the students we now see have been under the Klein administration's organizational structures and models virtually their entire educational lives: the eighth graders since the 2nd grade, the seven graders since the 1st grade, and the sixth graders since kindergarten - indeed their whole educational lives.

I and many of my Mathematics colleagues (newer teachers as much as, if not more than senior teachers) consistently say that they see that classroom performance in Mathematics is horrendous. (Some of the senior teachers say that they are seeing Mathematics performance as clearly worsening over the last decade (kids do the times tables or divide, can't remember procedure, can't solve word problems on their own.)

From conversations with colleagues who teach high school and college it is seems that NYC teachers universally think that Mathematics skill and knowledge is worse than it's ever been across the city. I've heard a CUNY Mathematics professor go so far as to declare that even the best NYC students who apply to major in Mathematics at CUNY are routinely no less than a year their out of town peers despite their high school grades.

Most of us have come to believe that scoring students at a Level 2 is simply the new method of doing social promotion. We heard that in Mathematics the old form of social promotion was straightforward: students were routinely promoted even if they were at a very low percentile (perhaps the 15th?). In any case it seems that the number of poorly performing students passing is great.

As Mathematics teachers we know that as compelling as anecdotal observations and "war stories" are, they in no way constitute any type of proof. So, it would be worthwhile to be able to have some relatively objective "proof" of what we think we are seeing. We have been relying simply on the reports of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for far too long now, which Tweed just denies and / or ignores. Unfortunately, the teachers currently in graduate school are reporting that the local college professors are taking a very fatalistic attitude to educational research as it appears that public schools administrations across the country and not just in NYC are now simply ignoring educational research.

Is anyone aware of a publicly available test akin to the National Assessment of Educational Progress that we can administer to the students? Perhaps, it might be a good idea to organize to do a serious study that would test the veracity of the beliefs we have formed based on our experience.

Children Who Live in Public Housing Suffer in School

Where's the accountability?

The NY Times reports today on a study showing that "children in public housing perform worse in school than students who live in other types of housing even if they go to the same schools."They are "more likely to drop out of high school and less likely to graduate in four years than those who do not live in public housing.... fifth graders living in public housing did worse on standardized math and reading tests than fifth graders who lived elsewhere. Researchers found this disparity in fifth-grade test scores even when comparing students at the same school who shared similar demographics, like race, gender and poverty status."

Hmmm. With the city of New York being the landlord, shouldn't the accountability freaks in the world of BloomKlein jump all over this and fire all the housing execs? You, know you just can't find enough quality people to run public housing, which in their world (no quality teachers, no lower class sizes) should mean we have to shutter all the housing until the quality of the people running them improves.

Well, I guess only teachers and schools are held accountable. Even when studies show otherwise.

Norm on ATRs and Today's Rally on WBAI

I was interviewed on WBAI's Sunday News Program on the ATR situation and today's rally. Thanks to David B for extracting the piece.

Note: They also asked me about Joel Klein and the Education Secretary situation but didn't use that segment.

Sunday, November 23, 2008



4:30 p.m. Monday ---Rally for the ATRs at Tweed

Look for an upcoming Ed Notes analysis on the ATR agreement.

The UFT/DOE ATR Agreement: The Not So Tender Trap

I and David B. will attempt to make a short film on the event to be posted on you-tube. Look for us and stop by and say a few words.

Joel Klein's School Trip to Australia

Save Our Schools media release welcoming Joel Klein to Australia.

It is also posted on the SOS website

Leonie, Patrick and crew have issued

A warning at the NYC Public School Parents blog to Australians:

Don't let your kids suffer, as have ours!

And if you'd like to read some of the propaganda Joel is putting out for Aussies to read check this at Norms Notes.

Click to enlarge.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Unmet Promise of Merit Pay

Somebody tell Randi and uncle Joel.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

by Bernadette Nakamura

Once again, merit pay is being considered as the magical ingredient needed to fix the schools, this time in Washington, where Schools Chancellor Michelle A. RheeJay Mathews devoted his Oct. 6 Metro column to a discussion of this plan. Lest we forget that wants to offer sizable cash incentives to teachers who relinquish tenure protection and raise student test scores. Post education reporter pay-for-performance schemes have failed wherever they have been tried, here is a first-hand account of my Fairfax County experience.

More at the Washington Post

Some teacher comments on headline:

Union Prez [good ole Randi]: Performance Pay Work


Is this really true: Has anyone done a study to compare similar schools without the merit/bonus program to see if their scores went up also? My school did not have the bonus/merit pay program and our test scores went up...WE went from a C to an A! - LN

What a terrible admission. Translation to parents: I am not working as hard as I can to do the right thing for your child - give me $3,000 extra dollars and I will do it right. - LP

Ed Notes' last post on Randi's statement.

Bill Cala on Class Size...and Bloomberg's Reps Too

Any one who claims that class size doesn’t make a difference has not been in a classroom in the past 20 years.

- Bill Cala, most recently interim Superintendent of the Rochester School District in New York and a long-time Superintendent of three school districts, now retired.

I met Bill Cala and his wife Joanne in March, 2003 at an ACT NOW conference at the WOO (World of Opportunity) in Birmingham, Al., hosted by the late, great Steve Orel. With a cast of Susan Ohanian, Juanita Doyon, John Lawhead, and twenty other education activists from around the nation, that was one hell of a two days of intensive discussion on NCLB, high stakes tests and general education issues. Quite a few bonds were formed, especially at the anti-war vigil in downtown Birmingham, followed by a communal dinner.

I was shocked when I discovered that Bill was a school Superintendent in Fairport in upstate New York, the third district he has run. How could I be on the same page on so many issues with someone who runs a school district? Besides, he was a hell of a lot of fun to hang out with. Nowhere near the Supes I had run across in NYC.

We kept in touch and on a visit to NYC, he invited me to a meeting at the Urban Academy at the Julia Richman Educational Complex. That was the first time I met Ann Cook (co-director of the school and one of the true heroes of education) and the amazing Jane Hirschman (Time Out From Testing).

Bill retired from the Fairport school district a few years ago and he and Joanne started Joining Hearts and Hands, which promotes improved educational, health and economic conditions for African orphans and their communities by building schools, sponsoring health clinics, providing secondary scholarships, and nurturing sustainable development initiatives – all to promote dignity, opportunity and hope.

While I was sure of where Bill stood on class size, it is one thing to be use rhetoric (see one Randi Weingarten) and another to deliver when you have the power in your hands to do so.

Here is Bill's own words on class size:

While superintendent of Fairport, I initiated a long-term plan to reduce all primary classes to no higher than 17. For the most part, we accomplished that goal, reducing class sizes to that level K-3. In fact, in order to put meat on the bone, I had the board adopt a policy to that effect. In the intermediate, middle and high school grades, I brought class size down to the lowest levels in the school district’s history.

Any one who claims that class size doesn’t make a difference has not been in a classroom in the past 20 years.

Why do I bring up Bill's views on class size now?

Because on Nov. 19, I attended a panel on mayoral control at the Wagner School at NYU with

  • Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters
  • Richard Kessler, Executive Director, The Center for Arts Education
  • Lesley Redwine, Director Of External Relations, Achievement First
  • Fatima Shama, Senior Education Policy Advisor, NYC Office of the Mayor

Shama was a last minute replacement for the Tweed rep, Emily Weiss, who pulled out after hearing Leonie would be on the panel. (Tweedies are not good at actually having to face people who have real data.)

Shama was pretty smooth with the usual claptrap coming from the mayor's office on education. You know how closing the achievement gap is an ethical issue and inequality must be blah, blah, blah, blah.

So I asked her how come it wasn' t an ethical and equality issue for NYC students to have 25% higher class sizes than the rest of the state? Why the poorest kids in urban areas, who just happened to be mostly people of color, don't deserve equality with the richer kids? Why isn't this the civil rights issue of our time?

Shama's response was - now hold your breaths kiddies - was that class size doesn't matter.

The ideal class size in Bloomberg land.

There was an audible gaps from the audience of mostly education students about to become teachers (but maybe not in NYC now that they know the official policy.) Redwine, was quick to jump in and agree with Shama.

Now there's a pair for you.

For my money, Leonie kicked their butts all over the place.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Come Hear a Union President who Does Organize the Teachers!

I was going to go to the Teachers Unite event tonight in Brooklyn and then to Leonie's mayoral control event at Judson Church until I was reminded of this event. Since this is right near the Judson Church I am checking them both out.

The situation in Puerto Rico is very important and I really need to write more about it. The FMPR disaffiliated from the AFT years ago, held a strike, had the governor declare them as no longer the bargaining agent, has SEUI come in and try to undermine them, beat them back, and there's lots more. I had a bunch of posts about them a few months ago with a lot of historical context using some of the stuff from Mike Antonucci's EIA which followed the FMPR/AFT story from its earliest stages. Just search this blog for FMPR to find them.

Tonight at 6:30- 9:30, the leader of the FMPR, Rafael Feliciano, will be speaking at NYU (Silver Bldg, 50 Washington Sq. Room 714. For those who have not heard Rafael Feliciano speak, I would encourage everyone to attend. He is the kind of union leader that builds support and activists from the bottom up. Here in the US we need to hear how that is possible since few of our union leaders follow this path. ICE's Lisa North, chapter leader at PS 3K will also be speaking.

Recently retired NYC teacher Angel Gonzalez has been spearheading the organizing effort here in NYC.

Excerpts selected from an article by Brian Cruz, a rank-and-file member of SEIU Local 1021 in the Bay Area. Oct 31, 2008

PUBLIC SCHOOL teachers in Puerto Rico overwhelmingly voted October 23 to reject representation by the Puerto Rico Teachers Union (SPM)--a union affiliated with the U.S.-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Those who voted "no" to the SPM weren't voting against having a union, however. In effect, they were voting in favor of their current union, the Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR), which was not allowed on the ballot. The 42-year-old FMPR previously had exclusive rights to represent the teachers. However, the FMPR was decertified by an anti-labor government in January 2008 for voting to go on strike. This created an opening for the SEIU to push its affiliate, the SPM.

The cards seemed stacked against the FMPR. Under Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vilá of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), the Puerto Rican government had been unwilling to agree to a collective bargaining agreement with the teachers. The FMPR sensed an impasse and decided strike for better wages, better conditions at schools for both teachers and students, and a halt to the privatization of the schools through the expansion of charter schools. However, the island's Law 45 prohibits public workers from striking, so the government decertified the FMPR even before the strike began in early February.

More than just a viciously anti-union government was at play here. In the New York Daily News, columnist Juan Gonzalez revealed that Vilá and Dennis Rivera, a top leader of SEIU, had arranged a deal in which SEIU would contribute to Vilá's campaign for re-election if Vilá would support SEIU's attempts to gain representation.

More about the victory at norms notes.

Pay for Performance Works? So Says Randi

Click to enlarge

There comes a point where Randi Weingarten becomes an embarrassment to working teachers everywhere. Her pronouncement that bonus pay works is an insult to teachers.

Even NYC parent activists at the NYC Public School Parent blog, where Weingarten doesn't get much attention, are disturbed.

Patrick Sullivan who represents Manhattan on the Panel for Educational Policy, put up this post.

Randi Weingarten’s recent speech, where she was introduced by Mike Bloomberg, includes a strong endorsement for teacher merit pay based on high-stakes standardized testing.

From an AP article entitled “Union Prez: Performance Pay Works”:
Weingarten described the teacher pay system in New York City , where school-wide bonuses are based on overall test scores in high-poverty schools. Weingarten, as head of the New York teachers union, negotiated the system last year with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The new system is working, she said: Teachers already are getting bonuses for improving student achievement in 128 of 200 eligible schools.

But it wasn’t so long ago we were hearing a different story from the Weingarten-led United Federation of Teachers. Last year, a more detailed analysis in the UFT newsletter was entitled: “Pay for performance not performing well: Places using such models have run into snags”.

The UFT article starts out this way:

“Guess what? New teacher pay-for-performance plans in Florida and Texas have run into big problems. Not surprised? Aha. You may be a teacher”.

It's not just teachers who should be concerned. The program here in NYC makes standardized testing even more high stakes which will lead to more cheating, test prep, teaching to the test and the narrowing of the curriculum. It's our kids who will suffer.

Weingarten’s new position is certainly disappointing. Is it a result of politics and ideology trumping research and actual experience?

If parents are disappointed, the emails coming in from angry NYC teachers is beyond the pale. I'll share some of these in a future post.

Serious teachers are concerned that bonus pay will not make teachers work harder, it will force many to shade their teaching in a narrow, standardized test driven direction and place those who resist in a terrible position.

A NY Times Op ed by Dan Ariely (What's Value of a Big Bonus?) on Nov. 20 blew some serious holes in the "pay for performance" case. Here are some excerpts:

By withholding bonuses from their top executives, Goldman Sachs and UBS may soften negative reaction from Congress and the public if their earnings reports in December are poor, as is expected. But will they also suffer because their executives, lacking the motivation that big bonuses are thought to provide, will not do their jobs well?

We presented 87 participants with an array of tasks that demanded attention, memory, concentration and creativity. We asked them, for instance, to fit pieces of metal puzzle into a plastic frame, to play a memory game that required them to reproduce a string of numbers and to throw tennis balls at a target. We promised them payment if they performed the tasks exceptionally well. About a third of the subjects were told they’d be given a small bonus, another third were promised a medium-level bonus, and the last third could earn a high bonus.

What would you expect the results to be? When we posed this question to a group of business students, they said they expected performance to improve with the amount of the reward. But this was not what we found. The people offered medium bonuses performed no better, or worse, than those offered low bonuses. But what was most interesting was that the group offered the biggest bonus did worse than the other two groups across all the tasks.

...the offer of a higher bonus led to poorer performance.
If our tests mimic the real world, then higher bonuses may not only cost employers more but also discourage executives from working to the best of their ability.

Read the full piece.

The DOE press release (98% of Eligible Schools Opt to Participate in Second Year of School-Wide Performance Bonus Program) is here.

Kelly Vaughan at Gotham Schools has a piece that indicates there is little difference between schools with and without performance pay. She put up this chart. Kelly has a link if you want to download a pdf listing all schools involved.

If you watched the CBS evening news last night you saw a story about the greatest shoe salesman (Walk a Mile in His Shoes) who worked without commission. "What was your motivation?" "Myself."

I urge teachers to join with those of us who will be starting a city-wide campaign to reverse a policy by our own union that gives credence to the anti-teacher community that teachers will work harder for more pay. Next JNJT Meeting Dec. 1 at 5:30 at CUNY - 34st and 5th ave. rm 5414 (see sidebar for updates.)

Message From Oz, Ready to Welcome Joel

Thank you for the nice run you gave SOS today. I hope we can deliver some uncomfortable moments for Joel. We have done a lot of work briefing several journalists who will attend his address to the National Press Club here in Canberra next Tuesday.

The right wing the Centre for Independent Studies (which is funded by major Australian and international corporations) published a report here yesterday supporting school reporting and league tables (see It is an appallingly slipshod report.

It is interesting how much publicity a large well-funded organisation like this can get for basically shoddy work while a substantive report like the SOS study of NYC results goes unreported. Yesterday, the Sydney Morning Herald gave the CIS report's author, Jennifer Buckingham, space for an opinion piece. Yet, SOS has been unsuccessful in its request to have an opinion piece published on NYC.

However, I did get a little run in the Melbourne Age yesterday in response to the CIS report
( ) and also in today's Canberra Times, but the article is not online.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Way They Were...

....and The Way They Are Today

Fidgetyteach blogs:

Before my reassignment, an ordinary teaching day was active and productive. Along with my colleagues, I yearned for the Pre-Kleinberg, Pre-"Robo-Principal " days when my school was like a second home. I knew the ins and outs of the school and I knew what to expect. When my principal was having a bad day, we too, had to be in a bad mood. When my principal was happy, in turn we had to act ecstatic. It may not have been perfect, but we knew how to survive. My principal wore her moods on her sleeve and we monitored them like the weather. When her mood changed, warning signals were transmitted throughout the building in a flash.

The arrival of Robo-Principal changed everything. There were no changing facial expressions or moods to read. There was only one stone face and one mood and no one knew what that was. Fear permeated throughout the building, almost as if someone had died. He didn't like laughter or noise and reminded us to keep it down. In discussion, he never made eye contact and wrote everything down. He responded only through email. Communication as we once knew it had died. Everyday we mourned the loss of human contact. Teachers walked around saying, "I don't know." We were in the dark about everything. That is why it came as such a surprise when I was 'served' my rubber room invitation. MORE

NY Times Shuts Out NYC Parents...

...while giving space to LA Parents.

Hey! When you have your news up Bloomberg's butt, why expect the Times to give space to NYC parents who are critical of BloomKlein?

Leonie Haimson sends them a message at the NYC Public School Parent Blog.

Nor, to my knowledge, has the Times covered a single one of the many hearings and debates on Mayoral control that have occurred over the course of recent months, sponsored by legislators and other independent groups, featuring the informed views of countless disillusioned parents, advocates and the elected officials themselves, who have openly decried not only the manner in which this administration unilaterally imposes its policies but have also offered substantive critiques of these policies.

Indeed, it is disappointing that the NY Times has never offered the same sort of platform to a NYC public school parent as they have to Ms. Lo, but consistently excludes our voices from the public debate.

Maybe the Times might should check out the mayoral control discussion Leonie is running at Judson Memorial Church tomorrow (Friday) night with guests from Chicago and Washington talking about the issue.

If you think that all that is wrong with Mayoral control is Michael Bloomberg or Joel Klein – guess what! I think you’ll find out otherwise.

Klein Took a Beating at the PEP, Heads Off to Australia to Heal

Have one on me, Joel

I reported on Monday's Panel for Educational Policy meeting the other day.

Read Patrick Sullivan's accounts on the budget cuts (Tweedies put them into buckets) and
Klein Stiffs Special Ed Parents on the NYC Public School Parent blog. Patick did his usual great job as the Manhattan PEP rep raising questions. Why is he the only borough rep, all of whom have to be parents, to do this while the other 4 sit there like statues? (Contact your borough President and ask that question.)

I was sitting a few feet away from Joel Klein while one person after another used their 2 minutes to hammer him. Special ed parents were so angry (and poignent) after Klein cancelled the special ed agenda item so Jim (Drone) Liebman could deliver his ARIS presentation. (Remind me if I am ever on death row not to hire Liebman.) Klein also had angry ATRs and rubber room people to deal with. And had to answer questions from people connected to Jeremy Garrett's rubber room movie, at one point saying something like, "Ok already, I know you're making a movie."

Well, did sit there an take it and was looking pretty pale. I had an interesting interchange with Klein which was illuminating (to me) but will report on that another time.

I told him to enjoy his trip to Canberra, Australia next week where the government seems to think Klein and Bloomberg have done a great job and are considering a similar system of school grade accountability. (I always ask this, but doesn't Klein have a massive school system to run instead of racing to every single opportunity to propagandize?)

One of our internet buddies, Trevor Cobbold and "Save Our Schools" are awaiting Klein with a 12-page report called New York is Not Working. Email me if for a copy or sign up at the SOS site.
Some of the headings are:
No improvement in average student achievement No reduction in achievement gaps Misleading and inaccurate data

An SOS press release states:

The Federal Education Minister is bringing Klein to Australia this month to tout education reforms which she wants in Australia, such as reporting individual school results, but which are clearly not working.

National tests in reading and mathematics show that student achievement in New York City schools has mostly stagnated under the reign of the City’s Schools Chancellor, Joel Klein. The less reliable state tests show a mixture of small increases and declines, a pattern which is similar to the four years preceding Klein.

Average scores have not improved and the large achievement gaps between different groups of students have not reduced.

Average scores in reading and mathematics in Grades 4 and 8 in New York City have mostly stagnated since 2003, with virtually no improvements for Black, Hispanic and low income students.

There has been little or no change in the difference in average scores between Black and White students, Hispanic and White students and low income and other students in New York City since 2003. The achievement gaps remain as large as they were when Klein took charge.

Mr Cobbold said that the Federal Education Minister and her advisors have been much too uncritical of Klein’s claims of success.

The SOS research reveals that the NYC Schools Chancellor resorts to several artifices to claim success for his reforms.

For example, he often uses the 2002 results as the comparison benchmark instead of 2003. The 2003 tests were conducted 6 months prior to the implementation of his reforms, so this is the appropriate comparison point. Using 2002 exaggerates the impact of the reforms because there were significant increases in student achievement from 2002 to 2003, but this was well before Klein’s changes were made.

He refuses to report the margins of statistical error on test results, which is vital information for interpreting changes in test results. He generally uses the less reliable state test data instead of the independent national results.

The main SOS site is here:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Burning The Wires With ATRs

Updated RALLY Action Alert

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

You may know by now that the UFT is holding a discussion session regarding the new ATR agreement at 52 Broadway (our union hall) on Monday, November 24th at 4pm. After Randi Weingarten explains the agreement, those in attendance will march to Tweed for the rally.

We have distributed 1,000's of leaflets to schools across NYC that indicate the union's original meeting time of 4:30pm at Tweed. We will adhere to this plan, but send a small delegation of UFTers to first attend the gathering at 52 Broadway.

This has not been an easy movement to build for and at this point it is difficult for us to create and distribute new fliers with the aforementioned update. If you can arrive in lower Manhattan as early as 4pm, by all means you should feel free to attend Randi Weingarten's talk. Otherwise, meet us as planned (SEE BELOW).

Last, at this late moment, our leadership has still not produced one flier or poster for this event. This is unfortunate!

Thank you to all who helped the ATR Ad Hoc Committee follow through on planning and building for our rally!!!

In Solidarity,

John Powers / Chapter Leader: Liberation HS
Marjorie Stamberg / ESL Teacher / GED PLUS / District 79

P.S. See the information that follows:

Here are some updates from the ad hoc committee to support the ATRs.

Stand up for the ATRs! We want to send the strongest message to the DOE that the victimization of teachers who have been thrown into the Absent Teacher Reserve has to stop now. No new hiring till all ATRs who want positions are placed! No termination of the teaching fellows! Stop union-busting and teacher-bashing!

We have fought for the union as a whole to demonstrate its support for the ATRS. But we cannot rely on the bureaucracy to make it real, we have to mobilize in the schools. By the way, after we objected to having a soggy "candlelight vigil," the Chapter Leader Update is now referring to it as a rally. Good!

So here are next steps: Do Now

Get fliers out to your school (If you need flyers, let us know, see below).

Get teachers at your school to come with you--make a sign-up list to get solid commitments (see sign-up sheet attached). This is important--don't rely on "I'll try."

Bring everybody -- school staff, parents, students. Ask your chapter leader to hold a meeting and get everybody on board.

"Adopt a school" -- find one more school besides yours to get the fliers out--call your colleagues and friends in other schools.

Make posters --
Some suggested posters "______________(Name of School) is here to support the ATRs!" "Let Teachers Teach!" "Hiring Freeze Until ATRs are Placed"


*Meet Us at the Rally and Come in Together:

Activists are meeting up outside the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall stop on the 4, 5, 6 train in the open space alongside Tweed and City Hall. We will form up and come into the rally chanting "Let Teachers Teach!" Come with us and make a strong presence. *

*Time: 4:30pm
Place: Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers St. (btw Bway and Park Place)
DIrections: Any train to Chambers Street, Brooklyn Bridge or City Hall

Remember: This is everyone's fight*

*When the UFT's gave up senority transfers in the 2005 contract, it opened the door for the DOE to drive a truck through! Now 1,400 teachers are in the ATR pool and we need to get them out! The way the Board is closing schools, if you're not ATR now, you could be tomorrow.

More info or need leaflets:,
Call 917-545-5671

*If you need leaflets, please give us your name, school and address where to drop off and how many.

Message from Sean Ahern on ICE-mail:
The priority for Bloomberg is pushing forward with his power grab. The pushout of the senior teachers and ATRs has been placed on the back burner until after his election, after Randi's election. So for now its a win win both for Bloomberg and Weingarten to push divisive issues to the side that may interfer with their collaboration going forward for the next year.

Shanker collaborated with the banker's coup in 1975. 20,000 teachers were laid off, The neo liberal crap spread outwards from NYC. Now once again the UFT is leading the way in collaborating with another toxic initiative from the oligarchy to pull the rug out from under popular outrage at his power grab. The UFT leadership sings a lullaby to the members , then the members get whacked. The leadership weathers some outrage for a bit, but the opposition fades, never making much sense of what happened, and the leadership gets back to feathering its nest, insulating itself from members, accumulating property and influence.

Marjorie adds:

Totally agree with you re: Randi's posture and why there was a partial amelioration of ATR crisis (without altering the basic framework of dictatorial mayoral and principal control). Both she and Bloomberg/Klein want to get this "pesky issue" (of outrageous villification of more than a thousand teachers) out of the way, especially since she's being battered from a grass-roots movement inside the union about it. Then they figure they can go ahead with merit pay, charter schools, straight-out union-busting, a la Michelle Rhee. Much of which is part of Obama's education program, by the way

We better make sure this oppositon ain't fading. That means all of us. And we have the program to make sense of what happened and why it happened. Because of all the reasons you state, it was an excellent moment to puruse this crucial struggle. The mobilization of union power AGAINST the labor bureaucracy, whom Daniel De Leon called the "labor lieutenants of capital, we started here needs to be continued to face the really daunting challenges in the coming period.


New Strategy for De-testing?

Old Fat Naked Women For Peace

Thanks to Juanita Doyon

ATR Update

Marjorie provides some preliminary analysis here. James Eterno and Jeff Kaufman will take a closer look and report on the ICE blog later. As she points out, the DOE and the union are feeling the heat. Marjorie and gang made powerful presentations at PEP on Monday. And they continue to go to UFT Exec Bd and Delegate Assemblies to put pressure on the union. Maybe the powerless in the UFT are finding ways to nudge the elephant in the room.

I don't see anything about the RTRs who are to be fired on Dec. 5th.

Marjorie Stamberg reports:

Today, the DOE and UFT signed off on a "side agreement" on the ATRs, which was presented to a special Executive Board tonight and approved. This is a complicated document, with various financial incentives for principals to give positions to ATRs, while maintaining the framework of the contract and budget structure which continually generate new ATRs. I'm attaching the agreement here, so everyone can read and discuss it. (See Norms Notes.)

Importantly, it was announced that the UFT rally to support the ATRs is still on for November 24th at 4:30 at Tweed. (This was despite some feelers earlier in the day about possibly changing the "venue" away from Tweed; we said no way.) The DOE is clearly feeling the heat for not placing teachers "as the city confronts the current fiscal crisis." So our organizing is having an effect. Let's redouble our efforts to mobilize in the schools and get everybody out!

The fact that the DOE signed off on language that says the ATRs are a "pool of available, qualified, experienced teachers" undercuts Klein's trash campaign in the media where he has tried to scapegoat teachers for a situation the DOE created. While the DOE agreed to "in good faith pursue hiring ATRs," we repeat our central demand that there be no new hiring until all ATRS who want positions are placed.

The side agreement provides for some formula of partial central funding and budgetary incentives that might encourage principals to place ATRs. However, the central principle that the principal has the sole right to hire whomever remains. The endless excessing due to reorganization of schools and programs will continue. And Joel Klein in the DOE press release says he's still pursuing his thwarted obsession to "terminate" ATRs.

There's also a paragraph that keeps the door wide open for "provisional" placements of ATRs who could then be excessed again at the end of the school year.

At the Executive Board, Roz Panepento, former Chapter Leader at ASHS (before we were re-organized into GED-Plus), spoke powerfully, saying the side agreement reminded her of what happened in D79 a year ago, when hundreds of teachers were excessed. The agreement just had too many loopholes, she said, and the union should be fighting for a moratorium on new hires until all ATRS who want positions, are placed.

We have struggled long and hard to defend ATRs. We know well --"If we're not ATR now, we could be soon." So the struggle continues, and we're having an effect. Let's keep the heat on.

Bring a delegation from your school, and see you November 24th.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

UPDATED: DOE Press Release on ATR Agreement With UFT



Look for follow-up posts from Marjorie Stamberg.

Department of Education AND United Federation of Teachers Reach Agreement on Absent Teacher Reserves (ATRs)


November 18, 2008

New Measures Create Financial Incentives To Hire ATRs

United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Randi Weingarten and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today finalized an agreement designed to improve the placement processes and procedures for teachers and other UFT personnel in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR). Teachers whose positions have been eliminated—for example, when a school closes—and who are not able to find regular positions are placed in the ATR pool and work as full-time substitutes. The agreement, which was approved unanimously by the UFT Executive Board on November 18, creates substantial financial incentives for schools to hire teachers, guidance counselors, social workers and attendance teachers from the ATR pool. In addition, Chancellor Klein will urge principals to fill vacancies with personnel from the ATR pool before considering other candidates. This agreement does not call for the forced placement of any personnel.

“This is a terrific agreement,” said UFT President Randi Weingarten. “These experienced and qualified people have essentially seen their careers put in a holding pattern due to student enrollment patterns or the closing of schools. They have been struggling to find permanent jobs in large part because schools have been opting for less experienced personnel at lower salaries. By eliminating the financial obstacles, we should see more ATRs being permanently placed, which will be good for children and save the school district money. This is an agreement worth trying, particularly with these troubling economic times.”

“Today’s agreement with the UFT creates incentives that encourage principals to voluntarily hire qualified teachers in the ATR pool to fill school vacancies, thereby reducing the cost to the City of maintaining excessed teachers on the payroll,” Chancellor Klein said. “This agreement is part of our very serious effort to minimize cuts to schools and classrooms during these hard economic times. At worst, if no additional teachers are hired from the ATR pool, it’s cost neutral. At best, if principals find qualified teachers in the ATR pool to fill vacancies in their schools, it could save us millions of dollars. And, importantly, it preserves principals’ right to choose the teachers in their schools. While we continue to believe that teachers in the ATR pool should not be permitted to stay on the payroll indefinitely, this agreement represents a needed step forward.”

Under the terms of the agreement, schools that hire one of the educators in the ATR pool after November 1 of each calendar year will receive two subsidies. The Department of Education (DOE) will pay the difference between the ATR’s actual salary and the salary of a starting teacher, and then, in subsequent years, will continue to pay the difference between the actual salary and the subsequent steps on the salary scale. This subsidy will terminate once the excessed employee has been in the position for eight years. The DOE will also give schools that hire an ATR an additional lump sum equal to half of a new hire’s salary.

Principals who are willing to hire ATRs but not permanently place them can instead hire ATRs on a provisional basis. In those cases, schools will pay the educators’ actual salaries. If a principal and ATR decide the ATR should be placed permanently, the school will receive the subsidies. If the ATR is not permanently placed, the ATR will return to the ATR pool at the end of the school year.

After one year, the DOE and UFT will evaluate whether this agreement is benefiting schools.

“I am pleased that the DOE and the UFT were able to work together and find common ground on this critical issue of reducing the number of unplaced excessed teachers,” Chancellor Klein said. “I expect principals will actively and in good faith first consider qualified candidates in the ATR pool when filling open positions.”

“I want to thank the ATRs who have continued to press this issue and all of the teachers who took part in the ‘Let Us Teach’ campaign,” said Weingarten. “By using the ATR pool to fill vacancies, millions of dollars can be saved and thousands of kids get the benefit of these great educators. This is a solution that works for everyone.”


NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson joined a lawsuit to prevent the city from re-opening the Brooklyn House of Detention, which prompted this from Miami teacher Paul Moore whose school is threatened with closure. He talks about life and death in the school zone, issues just slightly more important than insane accountability systems.

"Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind." --Plato, The Republic

A system of strict accountability for children reigns in Florida. They begin to answer to men with power under this system at the age of 9 or 10-years-old. No matter the circumstances of the child's life-poverty, racism, neglect, abuse, malnutrition, special needs, the constant threat of violence-no "excuse" is accepted. FCAT failure is always punished! And as they grow older, both the fortunate and the wounded, Florida's children never escape the pressures of accountability unless their parents are wealthy enough to afford private schooling.

The last regular session of the Florida Legislature slashed the state's education budget by $2.3 billion and appropriated $305 million to build three new prisons.


One teacher's testimony
Town Hall Meeting, Miami Carol City Senior High School Auditorium,
November 10, 2008.

My name is Paul Moore and I have been teaching social studies here at Carol City High for 26 years. The testimony I will give comes from my own experience at this great school. I do believe though that it reflects the experience of educators in great schools across the country.

It is wonderful to have our district's esteemed representative on the Miami-Dade School Board Mr. Wilbert "Tee" Holloway and the honorable Mayor of Miami Gardens Shirley Gibson here with us today--again. These two community leaders are an enduring part of the Chief's family.
Nothing needs be said to them. I would however like to address some remarks to our guest from the Florida Department of Education Mr. Jeffrey Hernandez.

Even though you come here not to praise us but rather to threaten us with state sanctions, welcome to our home Mr. Hernandez. You are here today because you have looked at scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and based on those scores alone, decided that Miami Carol City High is a failing school. I must tell you that I could not care less about changing your mind. You are just carrying water for much more powerful men. But I do want to tell you some things about us and ask you to relay a message to your bosses.

Three of our graduates have died in Iraq. When Donnie Dixon, Class of '88 was killed he left behind a wife and their four children. Joe Polo, Class of '95 was younger than Donnie when he died in combat. Joe didn't have any children but he was engaged to be married when he returned to this community after his second tour of duty in the war zone. Charles Sims, Class of '02 was the youngest of our fallen warriors. He was a fresh faced 19-year-old, less than six months out of this school's JROTC classes when he gave his life for you and me and this country. How many young men like Donnie, Joe, and Charles would a school have to produce to get off your list of failing schools?

A teacher was shot at Miami Carol City High last year. In fact we just observed the anniversary, Nov. 6, 2007, when Sergio Miranda and Maria Vives went across the street to smoke a cigarette during their lunch break. Someone came out of the public housing there and shot Mr. Miranda. The bullet lodged near his spine and, as you might imagine, the whole incident severely traumatized Ms. Vives. To this day our colleague undergoes difficult rehabilitation sessions several times a week. But when he is well again Mr. Miranda has pledged to return to this school! When he comes back he will be reunited with Ms. Vives who returned to her students in a matter of days. How much courage and dedication must teachers demonstrate to get off your list of failing schools?

Many of our students live in or near the 33054. A local newspaper recently analyzed crime statistics and made a startling announcement about the neighborhood adjacent to our school. The 33054 is the most dangerous place to be young in all of Florida. The Miami Herald found
that inside the boundaries of zip code 33054 the children and young people live under the most severe threat of violence to be found anywhere in this state. Are there any schools in those upscale suburban neighborhoods on your list of failing schools? (Note: 274 Florida schools are deemed failing by the federal Department of Education. The state Department of Education asked for a special dispensation for some schools and not others.)

Two of my brothers in the teaching fraternity here at Carol City, Mr. Hafter and Mr. Adler, joined me to teach two and three social studies classes at a time in this auditorium in recent years. All our senior students would pass through here during the week. Let me tell you about just five from the Class of 2006. A particularly quiet young man named Evan Page used to come in here for class. A few days after Thanksgiving 2005 Evan was shot to death outside the Checkers where he worked after school. Anthony Elias attended class in this auditorium. The other students called him "Yellowman" because of his light complexion. He was quite popular with the girls. I don't know, something about him being "fine". Anthony was killed with an assault rifle. Sherika Wilson Lynch took her social studies class in this auditorium. She was a student and the beautiful young mother of a baby she named Ahmani. Her baby was 16-months-old when she died. One day Sherika was coming out of a convenience store in the 33054. When she was gunned down a carton of milk for Ahmani fell to the sidewalk beside her. Brian Dupree was once a fun-loving jovial presence in this auditorium. His father is a security monitor in the school. Brian was shot and died just outside his father's home.

Then there was Jeffrey Johnson, Jr. No disrespect intended but he laughed at your FCAT. Jeffrey was a brilliant young man, one of our honor students, headed for a meaningful education at St. Thomas University on a full scholarship. An aspiring lawyer, he once wrote, "I have had a lot of exposure to the legal system and its ramifications. I do not agree with all of it. But I figure they need some good guys like me who do it from the heart, not for the money. I'm so passionate about my goals because I have a hunch that I can make a difference."

Jeffrey Johnson, Jr. perished violently three days before he was supposed to graduate from Carol City High. A street outside the school bears his name now. But as one of his teachers, there has been no consolation in the many tributes paid Jeffrey since his death, until something that happened last Tuesday Nov. 4, 2008 at 11:00 p.m. EST. For the first time it made me think of Jeffrey in a joyful way. A young man like Jeffrey who did graduate from high school, a young man like Jeffrey who did go to law school, a young man like Jeffrey who did get to live out his passion to make a difference, a young man like Jeffrey was elected President of the United States!

Mr. Hernandez, please take this message back to Florida's Commissioner of Education Eric J. Smith and Governor Crist. We are among the people who loved Jeffrey Johnson and who elected Barack Obama president. Any plans you may have had when George W. Bush was in the White House and pushing No Child Left Behind are canceled! Any plans that were drawn up under Jeb Bush's FCAT system are canceled! You will never close Miami Carol City Senior High School! You will never close Edison, Central, Holmes, Liberty City Elementary, Norland, North Miami or any of the other schools on your list! We won't let you!

Paul A. Moore
Teacher, Miami Carol City Senior High School
Home of the Chiefs since '63