Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Public Schools in District 14 under assault


Yesterday my daughter received a letter and an application soliciting her to apply to Williamsburg Charter HS. She is a sophomore at another high school. I have no idea how they got her address! She never applied there as a freshman. Then today letters were sent home to parents about the D14 CEC meeting. A charter school person is the slated guest. A new charter school is going into PS 297. These charters are desperate to recruit. There are small charter schools all over the district.

Don't forget to check the side panel for updates and other important information.

Fusing the Human Atom

Trying to both report on ed events in NYC and being part of them as an organizer surely gets confusing. I don't operate on any high-minded principals or with much of a plan, which is a good insight into the disorganized nature of my life. Instinct and the inability to say "NO" seem to be the driving force. I'm just as happy to sit in the backyard and read. Or make videos of just about anything that moves. Or doesn't move. (How about still life videos as an art form?)

I guess the one operative principal has been in the belief in releasing the latent energy inherent in not the splitting, but the uniting of the human atom. People fusion.

I was thinking about the enormous energy released when the atom is split and the analogy to the energy generated when masses of people become politically active. I have always believed if a mass movement of politically conscious teachers became active in alliances with parent and community groups and took this alliance beyond education into other unions (many parents are union members too, or would like to be) the energy released would be enormous, creating a sort of atomic social movement by bringing people together. Would the BloomKlein education deformers have gotten away with all their crap if such a movement existed?

A true union would be doing this but with the UFT AWOL, the only way for this to happen is to do it ourselves. This is where I part ways with some of my colleagues in ICE and other critical voices within the UFT. I think they spend too much time addressing the structures set up by the UFT/Unity Caucus leadership, time that would be better spend organizing in their own schools and beyond. But I seem to be in the minority. And there is a point to be made to use the union structures to pressure the leadership. My issue is I have no faith in the leadership to do anything but mislead.

This leads me to the "Save Public Education" conference we helped organize this past Saturday and the building of a coalition to fight back against the education deformers. We looked at it as a beginning of building a grass roots movement, not as a one-time event. The break-out sessions worked on future strategies and we're holding an organizing meeting (see side panel) tomorrow to follow up.

About 80 people came out on a rainy Saturday, mostly teachers, but some parents and representatives of community groups, like Time Out From Testing and students like Global Kids (two of them spoke and were extremely impressive.) Pretty interesting. Just as interesting was the organizing efforts behind it.

My experience as a teacher/activist certainly worked for me. In the 1970's I was part of a group that met almost every week and we were enormously active. While teaching was tiring, I walked out of these meetings energized for both my job and the other activities. So many teachers feel isolated in their schools, the boost they get from meeting with like-minded people has a positive effect on them on the job and in dealing with the political mind field school politics can so often turn out to be.

Now I know that things are very different today, as the DOE has turned schools into sweat shops and teachers are exhausted. But I've also seen the way teachers we've been meeting with feel as a result of these meetings. And it seems to be a good thing.

Over the long term, the number of people involved in active organizing, call it a core, is the key to creating change. I realized the importance of an active core after the last UFT general election in 2007 and was resolved not to do that again unless a core of committed activists emerged. it doesn't have to consist of an enormous number of people because the energy released in the human fusion process is enormous. But countering the massive Unity machine requires such a core. Thus, after that election, my attention shifted towards working to build a core. I knew we wouldn't get anywhere without tapping into the new teacher social activist group and trying to bring the older, union conscious people together with them.

With Teachers Unite aiming at reaching the newer teacher crowd and creating a higher level of union consciousness along with a social justice viewpoint (register for the 4 week course at the TU website) and the increasing interest of some members of NYCoRE in the union, there was a natural affinity to merge some of the work we were doing in ICE and Education Notes. Thus, for the first time, various scattered forces began to come together, like circling rocks in a pre-planet stage beginning to coalesce in a very loose manner. I would say it's still in the Saturn ring stage, but the conference was a sign that some rocks are sticking.

That the March 28 conference was well-organized and actually worked like we planned is somewhat astounding. I generally expect things to go wrong all the time, sort of like sitting on a cliff waiting to be pushed off. But having people like Angel Gonzalez and Sam Coleman pulling things together taught me a great deal about how to get things done. You know, that old dog thing was operating here.

I won't get into all the details of the conference at this time. I spoke on ATRs and seniority and being forced to organize my thoughts coherently into a 6 minute presentation was very valuable. I will post something soon. Sam did a great job on the high stakes testing issue and Michael Fiorillo nailed the grand unification theory of the attack on public ed in his usual brilliant way – hey Michael, how about a written account? TAGNYC and some rubber room people were also involved as well as other independents. (Read Pissed Off Teacher's report on the conference.)

As interesting as the event itself was the process behind it. Process over product is way more important I believe. Think of the way the ed deformers take the opposite, bottom line approach which is so ruinous to education. So let's look at the process.

We started with an ICE ATR committee in January focused on just that issue. I remember John Lawhead taking it beyond that at an ICE meeting, fusing the concept of high stakes testing and the emerging closing schools issue. John's points unlocked the narrow view I held and allowed a broadening concept to emerge. This group started to meet regularly and put out a few leaflets and we made contacts with people at closing schools, along with people active in the Ad-hoc ATR group that did such a good job organizing the November ATR rally (see the part 1 and 2 of the video I did showing the UFT selling out the rally The Video the UFT Doesn't Want You To See: The ATR Rally).

At the same time, we've been involved with the Justice Not Just Tests subgroup of NYCoRE and we've been passing around a petition to stop the use of teacher data reports and the misuse of tests. We've also been doing work on the merit pay issue. We got 200 signatures at the March UFT Delegate Assembly (see pics in the previous post to this), with even some Unity Caucus people signing it.

It seemed a natural step to merge the work of the ICE ATR committee, which renamed itself ASC-ICE (ATR/School Closing) and we started holding joint meetings.

Concurrently, Angel Gonzalez and I took a labor study course given through NYCoRE and we worked closely with the organizers of the study group, giving a presentation on the union at the culminating event a few weeks ago to a group of mostly young teachers. Since this was on a Friday night, a bunch of us went out to a bar afterwards, where fusion really works over a few beers. (I was over 2 times older than most of them, so I was pretty well fused.)

Some of the work of that group became incorporated into the committee planning the conference. A few teachers connected to ISO and TJC also became involved in the planning committee.

Beside being able to pull off a successful event, it is just as important for the core to keep coalescing and there's no better place to let gravity work than in a bar.

Thus, after a long day of conferencing, ten of us retired to a local bar Saturday to do some coalescing. That this is not a pre-planned group but anyone who felt like going makes things very open ended. No matter how many meetings you attend together, the socializing after is often more important in building bonds and trust. Unfortunately, this bar charged $7 a beer and food was expensive, so we did some quick bonding and trust building and headed off for the rest of the weekend, only to gather again tomorrow afternoon at CUNY to plan the next steps. Ahhh, there's nothing like some good old Core knowledge.

The only thing that bummed us out was that a bunch of our compadres in NYQueer held another conference the same day, which went pretty well I hear. (Organizing to Create Safer Schools for LGBTQ Youth)

Next time we will double check our calendars. So much organizing to do, so few troops.

Emerging coalition to defend public education: The Grass Has to Have Roots

The coalition of ICE and NYCORE had a very successful conference this past Saturday. The energy and turnout were great. To keep the momentum up we are having a followup meeting to continue planning events and actions around the issues of testing/school closings/ATRs and Charter schools.

This is a great chance to get involved, there will be lots of new people and lots of new energy. We are connecting to parent and community groups and hoping to get lots of teachers involved in the struggle.

The grass has to have roots!

WHAT: Emerging coalition to defend public education meeting!

WHERE: CUNY grad center, room 5409 (bring photo id)
N,Q,R,W,B,D, F,V to 34th street. Grad. Center is on 5th ave.
between 34th and 35th street.

WHEN: Wednesday, April 1st, 5:00-7:00

Who: Everyone interested in defending public education from the falsely labeled education "reformers" and their corporate, for profit, agenda!

Pics of Protest

Our High stakes testing petitioning at UFT DA last week
Have you circulated the Justice Not Just Tests petition in your school calling on the UFT to take a stand against teacher data reports and the testocracy?
(More photos)

Protest at PS 153 Washington Height, NYC (More photos)

Don't forget to check the side panel for updates and other important information.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Duncan Appoints 7-Year Old as Top Aid

The pendulum in the country has swung too far to adults – Arne Duncan

Ed Notes Foundation to Fund Microsoft Reform

The Ed Notes multi-billion dollar foundation has announced a software reform movement with the aim of getting Bill Gates' Microsoft corporation to produce software that won't cause your computer to want to pack its bags and head off to Australia.

"Since Microsoft resists the expansion of competitive operating systems, browsers and other software that would lead to higher quality products and Microsoft monopolists resist measuring and rewarding effectiveness, this is a long overdue reform effort," said Ed Notes spokes animal Pinky, the cat.

Ed Notes spokes animal, Pinky

"In fact evidence shows no connection between the quality of Microsoft software and most of the measures used to determine the pay of its employees, who appear to be compensated by the length of computer code they write, rather than how well it works. The quality and superiority of software from companies like Apple -- these all are mostly irrelevant to the market place, with Microsoft using ruthless tactics like sending blue screens of death that have been one of the leading causes of computer suicides."

New measures of measuring the effectiveness of Microsoft's software engineers will be implemented. One purpose of measurement would be to deploy the best software writers to the neediest departments of Microsoft, and pay them accordingly; another, to fire the worst. "But the main point," Pinky said, "is that effective software engineering can be taught: The biggest part is taking the people who want to be good -- and helping them."

See Norms Notes Bill Gates is as Ignorant as Bill Maher

Related: The Bill Gates Joke Page

Voices of Brownsville: The Rally at PS 150

Parents and teachers rallied at PS 150 in Brownsville Brooklyn on March 18, 2009 to protest the closing of the school and its replacement by two charter schools. Here are some of the people from the school community who spoke. There will be a follow-up edited version, A Tale of the Two Rallies - the scary Harlem Success event later that night and this home-grown event.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

"Shut Down Tweed" Says Charles Barron

Parents and teachers rallied at PS 150 in Brownsville Brooklyn on March 18, 2009 to protest the closing of the school and its replacement by two charter schools. NYC City Councilman Charles Barron spoke at the rally. The strategy of Tweed to divide the community is causing a push back. Later that evening we went up to the Harlem Success rally, a slick event I chronicled on my previous video. After I put up some more speeches from PS 150, I will do a short juxtaposition of the contrasting rallies, the PS 150 pro and slick Harlem Success anti-public education rally.

You want to build some charter schools, then go buy your own building.
Parental choice? Let me tell you, you don't choose the charter school, the charter school chooses you.
They're lucky we're rallying in Brownsville. The next rally, we should go down and take over the Tweed building and let them know we're not going to stay in the neighborhood.
They turned our schools into test taking mills.

Jay Mathews: KIPPer Minister of Information

UPDATED Graphic:
Photoshopped by David Bellel

Jim Horn at Schools Matter reports:

When he is not shilling for Kaplan's dominance in the child testing industry (Kaplan being that part of the Washington Post Company that pays more than half of the company's profits), Jay Mathews functions as the chief propagandist for the mind and body control camps of KIPP...

Mathews's recent book, Work Hard Be Nice, celebrates the excellent education adventures of KIPP's infantilized bully founders, Davey Levin and Mikey Feinberg, whose bare-knuckled pedagogy is presented as the innocent over-exuberance of two irrepressible young uber-educators. The moral lapses, ethical breaches, and illegal acts by the terrible twosome (at least the acts that have been publicly exposed) are given the Mathews treatment, which is to say a Cliff Notes version of reality done up in etherized prose.
More at:

KIPP Information Minister Continues to Ignore Abuses and Ethical Meltdown

Matt Taibbi on The Big Takeover

Select quotes from Taibbi's scathing piece in Rolling Stone
...this was a casino unique among all casinos, one where middle-class taxpayers cover the bets of billionaires.

People are pissed off about this financial crisis, and about this bailout, but they're not pissed off enough. The reality is that the worldwide economic meltdown and the bailout that followed were together a kind of revolution, a coup d'état. They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders, who used money to control elections, buy influence and systematically weaken financial regulations.

AIG is what happens when short, bald managers of otherwise boring financial bureaucracies start seeing Brad Pitt in the mirror.

The Democrats, tired of getting slaughtered in the fundraising arena by Republicans, decided to throw off their old reliance on unions and interest groups and become more "business-friendly."

Paulson used the bailout to transform the government into a giant bureaucracy of entitled assholedom, one that would socialize "toxic" risks but keep both the profits and the management of the bailed-out firms in private hands. Moreover, this whole process would be done in secret, away from the prying eyes of NASCAR dads, broke-ass liberals who read translations of French novels, subprime mortgage holders and other such financial losers.

the Wall Street crowd has turned the vast majority of Americans into non-participants in their own political future. There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power. In the age of the CDS and CDO, most of us are financial illiterates. By making an already too-complex economy even more complex, Wall Street has used the crisis to effect a historic, revolutionary change in our political system — transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged-in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below.

Illustration by Victor Juhasz


Related: Naomi Klein's Nov. 08 piece, The New Trough

Ravitch Savages BloomKlein - Again

Check out our NYC parent blog: video of the March 26 downtown forum on Demystifying Mayoral control; including

• Paul Hovitz on the incompetence of Tweed
Paul Hovitz on the incompetence of Tweed

• State and city laws routinely flouted by this administration.
State and city laws routinely flouted by this administration

• Demystifying Mayoral control: Diane Ravitch on mayoral autocracy...
Demystifying Mayoral control: Diane Ravitch on mayoral autocracy

And don’t miss:
• Announcing a new Mayoral control troll in town! Heeeere's Abby Sugrue of secretly funded pro Bloomberg Learn NY revealed Announcing the new Mayoral control troll in town!

All the above if you missed the individual links at:

thanks to David Bellel as always….

Leonie Haimson

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Credit Recovery and Drive-By Diplomas in NYC

Teachers have been screaming about credit recovery and the drive-by diplomas that result as a cheap BloomKlein tactic to pump grad rates. See Jamaica HS CL James Eterno testimony last week on the ICE blog. ICE Members Testify at State Assembly Education Committee Hearing in Brooklyn
This winter, Jamaica High School has followed other schools by starting something called “Credit Recovery.” A pupil who has failed a class can make up an entire course by showing up for three mornings for three hours during winter or spring break. The academic standards have fallen so much that teachers now joke that vehicles better roll up their windows when they pass by our school or they will have a “drive by diploma” thrown in their car. We understand why the SAT scores are down. Standards are virtually nonexistent. Kids are smart. They know this. We know we are not alone and that what is happening at Jamaica is occurring in many other buildings. We are told by administration that if the graduation and promotion numbers don’t improve, the DOE will shut down our school and get rid of us.

Below is a fascinating discussion between Leonie Haimson and David Bloomfield who heads the principals' academy at Brooklyn College, a NYC parent and major critic of BloomKlein, though he does support the concept of mayoral control.

Leonie Haimson writes:

Thanks so much, David; this is truly fascinating stuff.

I’m not sure who Mr. Marino means by “They have tried to stop this action but as I see it, it is still occurring. “ If this refers to DOE, I would doubt its veracity.

In extended questioning at the Brooklyn Assembly hearings last week, Eric Nadelstern passionately defended the current practice of credit recovery and also claimed this it was a long-standing policy of the NYC schools, even before the current administration came into office.

As he was seated with Marcia Lyles, Chris Cerf, Deputy Mayor Walcott, Jim Liebman, and the entire top brass of DOE except for Klein, and Michael Best was seated just behind him (the chief counsel of DOE) and none of them contradicted his remarks, one can only conclude that the DOE very much supports the current policy, whatever they may have stated to SED to the contrary.

Indeed, this comment from SED is reminiscent of their recent statement to the press about the class size increases in NYC schools this year:

"Although the New York City Department of Education made measurable progress in the first year of their Contract for Excellence, we required them to take corrective actions this year. Both the State and City are working together to fully understand this new class size information and decide what further actions are needed to address this situation."

Either the state is more naïve than one would think possible, or another interpretation is in order.

About the following statement in Marino’s email that you reproduce below: “NYC DOE did publish a statement from the Office of School Improvement that Credit Recovery was not acceptable for students to earn credit other than the way I mentioned.”

Could you possibly ask Mr. Marino if he could forward you a copy of this statement, and ask him where and how it was published by DOE?

I have not seen it in the Principals weekly or otherwise. I wonder how it was circulated.


Leonie Haimson

From David Bloomfield
To: nyceducationnews@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [nyceducationnews] credit recovery

I thought people might be interested in a post by a NYS Education Department official about credit recovery, posted on the Long Island School Leadership's listserv for aspiring administrators:

As an Education Associate for the New York State Education Department there is no such item in the Commissioner Regulations as 'CREDIT RECOVERY' and this is a misconception. The only way a student can earn credit for failed courses is that the student have the 180 seat time in the course and go to a summer session for 5-6 weeks and then take the appropriate test at the end of the summer course. Anything less, is a violation of the commissioner's regulations and a school can be sanctioned for this. Hope this is clear to you!

Sal Marino

Mr. Marino went on to state, in response to whether "component retesting" is possible to allow students to pass a course (i.e., if they flunk the course, could they would only then have to "pass" the parts of the course that they failed in order to receive credit):

The answer to your question is no! If the course let say is Integrated Algebra and the student fails different topics of the course and has a failing average of the course, then he has to repeat the course. I think your thinking of component retesting. That is totally different from course elements. If a student has the seat time in a course and fails the regents exam twice with a grade of between 48 and 55 then they can take the component retest in specific topics and if they get enough credit on this test the scale score is added to the regents grade to help them pass the regents, but not the course. They can pass the course without passing the regents exam. I hope I have made this clear. I also believe that this may be the last year for component retesting.

The good news (though don't hold your breath) is that Mr. Marino states, in response to my question about whether SED will make the DOE crack down on the practice and track credits obtained in this way, he stated:

At the present time the NYC DOE did publish a statement from the Office of School Improvement that Credit Recovery was not acceptable for students to earn credit other than the way I mentioned. They have tried to stop this action but as I see it, it is still occurring. At the present time the legal department of the state and city are working on something, for students to recover credits but it has not been published. Yes you may pass on the information I sent as a reply and I hope others will read this and see that there is no such item as credit recovery in the commissioner's regulations!!
Sal Marino


Friday, March 27, 2009


Conference/Strategy Session on fighting testing/school closings/ATR



Will charter schools and small elite schools drain away the highest performing students, leaving the public schools and the teachers in them to be branded as failures because they are working with the students who need the most help but are denied the resources to do an effective job? Have we seen the end of the zoned neighborhood schools in poor urban school systems? As school after school is closed, often for nefarious reasons, will we end up with a corps of teachers forced to move from school to school teaching in subject areas for which they were not trained in what is fast becoming a dead end career? And a corps of children and parents shut out of their own neighborhood schools?

We see this conference as a first step in building a coalition of teachers, parents and students to plan campaigns to take back public education from the privateers.

Angel Gonzalez, Sam Coleman and Norm Scott, three of the organizers of the "Stop the School Closings/Defend Public Education" Conference at John Jay College on March 28 appeared on WBAI radio Thurs. Mar 26. at around 7:40. Education At The Crossroads WBAI - 99.50 fm with Basir Mchawi http://archive.wbai.org/files/mp3/090326_190001eatcrossr.MP3

See the video ad produced by Education Notes for the March 28 conference to save public schools at John Jay College in NYC, is a prime example of the manipulation of the community by charter school advocates. Harlem Success, led by Eva Moskowitz has pushed its way into public school spaces with the support of the NYC Department of Education. The push by Bloomberg and Klein to support charter schools is a prime example of their failure to solve the problems that exist in public schools. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEp7rg_L5JI


Endorsers: ATRs-School Closings Committee of ICE/UFT, Justice Not Just Tests (JNJT), Federacion de Maestros de Puerto Rico – Support Committee of NY, Teachers for a Just Contract - TJC/UFT, Teacher Advocacy Group NYC – TAGNYC, Teachers Unite, People Power Coalition, Center for Immigrant Families

Norm Scott: normsco@gmail.com, norscot@aol.com, 917-992-3734
Angel Gonzalez: asc-ice@gmail.com, 718-601-4901
Sam Coleman: sam_p_coleman@yahoo.com

An ATR Writes

(Another reason to attend the Mar. 28 conference at John Jay College on closed schools, atrs, high stakes testing and other pressing issues.)


Why can't Article 17 be utilized. Also, why is it that special education teachers with no general ed background are being forced to teach general ed classes and the UFT is doing nothing about it. Special Ed Teachers and General Ed teachers are not the same. I am a special ed teacher and it is not fair to me that for ten years I taught in my license with 12 students. Now I am being forced to teach 20 - 30 students at a time as well as other content area subjects that I am not trained in like gym, science, music, drama etc. This is not what I signed up for and I agree the DOE will not stop what they are doing until we (Teachers) get this out to the media. We have to expose what is being done to us because the UFT is not going to do it.

Why is the UFT turning a deaf ear to teachers complaints. Guidance Counselors that were displaced are placed in their titles, ESL Teachers are placed in their titles as well as speech teachers but why not special ed teachers. I have addressed this before with the UFT with no response.

See Marjorie Stamberg's report of the Mar. 23 UFT Exec. Bd meeting is at Norms' Notes. Attempts have been made and are still being made to create pressure on Micahel Mendel who has been placed in charge of the atr issue.

ATR Issue Brought to UFT Executive Board

Derrick Townsend assistant principal at PS 154 in the Bronx has been reassigned

Report from an Ed Notes stringer at PS 154x
(Become a stringer for ed notes reporting on your school)

It has been learned that Derrick Townsend the assistant principal that assaulted a 9 year old last month and left bruises on her arm and leg has been reassigned to the Teacher Reassignment Center otherwise known as the "Rubber Room."

This action was taken immediately after a swarm of investigators descended upon PS 154 this week and were looking into Derrick Townsend for having allegedly dragged the girl up to 20 feet when she refused to stop crying and come with him.

The investigation is ongoing as is the investigation into Principal Linda Amill-Irizarry's alleged cover-up of the assault.

A criminal complaint against Derrick Townsend have been filed with the NYPD and the investigation is ongoing.

We have seen countless teachers sent to rubber rooms over trivialities. I heard from a friend today who was totally cleared after spending 6 months in the rubber room, sent there by an abusive principal on trumped up charges from a kid who said she made a racial slur. The principal left the system and gets off scot free (there are still teachers from the school in the rubber room after years).

Our reporter touches on an important point. The principal protected the AP and he was allowed to remain in the school despite the fact that people have been reporting the actions of the AP for many months. It was only after the story came out in the press that the incident was addressed by the DOE. Klein was sent letters about Townsend months ago. Leaving a supervisor accused of these acts in the building for months amounts to criminal behavior. I've often said Klein would one day be led out of Tweed with his coat over his head. Now's as good a time as any.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why We Need to Defend Public Education? The Harlem Success Pro-Charter School Rally

This ad produced by Education Notes for the March 28 conference to save public schools at John Jay College in NYC, is a prime example of the manipulation of the community by charter school advocates. The Harlem Success Schools led by Eva Moskowitz has pushed its way into public school spaces with the support of the NYC Department of Education. The push by Bloomberg and Klein to support charter schools is an admission of their failure to solve the problems that exist in public schools.


If we really want to improve teacher quality to the extent that one day - maybe in the 23rd century - we would be able to take a few billion off the corporate bailout packages to produce enough quality teachers to reduce class size, Buddhist chanting seems as good a way to accomplish this as any discovered so far. All we need is a value-added measurement as to the effectiveness of the chants.

NY Post

Organizing to Create Safer Schools for LGBTQ Youth

Ed Notes has been urging people to attend the conference to save public schools this Saturday at John Jay College.

I wanted to alert you to another conference on the same day. "Organizing to Create Safer Schools for LGBTQ Youth" is an important event that our colleagues at NYQueer (NYCoRE) have planned in conjunction with other groups. This event, the third in a series, was planned before ours, but with the pressure of closing schools and the vacation coming up, we had few dates available.

Check out the flyer. I posted the schedule on Norm's Notes

Organizing To Create Safer Schools for LGBTQ Youth Saturday, March 28th 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

ICE/NYCORE Conference Organizers on WBAI Thurs. Eve

Angel Gonzalez, Sam Coleman and Norm Scott, organizers of the "Stop the School Closings/Defend Public Education" Conference at John Jay College on March 28 will speak on WBAI radio Thurs. Mar 26. at around 7:15.

Education At The Crossroads (show starts at 7pm)
WBAI - 99.50 fm with Basir MChawi

Whither the UFT and a GEM of an Idea

Imagine if every school in the NYC turned into non-unionized charter schools? What would become of the UFT/Unity Caucus machine as it hemorrhaged dues? Well, they have a simple plan. Just organize charter schools into the union.

Not so simple kemosabe. From Gotham Schools - a suggestion that all New York teachers should be able to decertify the union. Of course, these are the two much talked about KIPP schools (KIPP Academy Charter School in the Bronx and the KIPP Infinity Charter School in Manhattan) as the KIPP empire strikes back for the UFT daring to try to organize a Brooklyn KIPP school, efforts that may be floundering.

On the surface, one would think the massive, dues soaked UFT holds all the cards. Many of us lined up as internal critics think not.

Any charter school teacher who takes a peek at the most sophisticated teacher blogs will see what's in store for them as the level of hostility directed at the UFT leaderships is barely a smidgen less than that aimed at BloomKlein. So why would they step into the muck of the UFT?

Many of the union missteps occur because of the fundamental lack of democracy, the complete top-down management and the gap between the leadership and the members. With an absolute almost 50 year lock on control, including the buying off of New Action, the former opposition party, there is no hope of reform. Some people may be fooled into believing changes are coming because they think Randi Weingarten is walking into the sunset of the AFT, but that is not a sure bet and whatever happens, there will be no loosening of the reigns because Unity has built such a tight, foolproof structure.

Over the years, I have heard many opposition voices raised in frustration calling for starting a de-certification campaign in the public schools to create a real threat to the UFT leadership and force them into reform. Imagine if another union did come in and try that? At one time in the 70's the NEA actually tried to put its foot in the door – they took about 20 opposition people out to eat at Gaylord's, a fancy Indian restaurant. We had a nice expensive meal at their expense and said, "No thanks!"

I've been against these efforts, taking the position that if UFT internal critics cannot grow enough to organize an effective force, then bringing in another union would replace the old boss with the new boss.

Thus, it was gratifying to see all sorts of groups and people involved in the UFT informally gather for lunch at the Labor Notes Troublemakers School this past Saturday.

Members of ICE (Independent Community of Educators,) NYCORE (NY Collective of Radical Educators,) TJC (Teachers for a Just Contract,) ISO (International Socialists,) Teachers Unite and independents joined Puerto Rico's teachers union president Rafael Feliciano in a conversation about democratic unions (the FMPR is one) educating members on the issues and organizing and mobilizing them into a force that can counter the collaboration of the UFT by building a grass roots movement that could not be stifled by the union institutions.

Thus, while the lock on power would remain in the hands of people at the top, the rank and file teachers in the schools they have abandoned could start to move in a more militant direction.

If such a movement actually occurs, it may transcend caucuses like ICE and TJC and pay less attention to the rigged institutions of UFT power like the Delegate Assembly and certainly the total Unity dominated Executive Board (81 members out of 89 with the other 8 handed to New Action through Unity endorsement.)

Meanwhile, today is the March Delegate Assembly and we will all still be there to do our thing.
We will be joining Justice Not Just Tests in getting petitions on high stakes testing – the root of all evil – signed.

A resolution on closing schools – the 3rd time the UFT will take a position calling for a moratorium on closing schools – had a provision calling for a mass meeting of teachers from every announced closing school. The UFT leadership took it out. They will take potshots at rallies at individual schools to allow teachers to vent, but will not take concerted action to stop them. Why? Because the UFT believes in the policy of closing schools even though it creates ATRs - over 1700 and counting.

We will be handing out our flyer for this Saturday's conference at John Jay College (starting at 12 pm) which we hope will turn out to be a first strike in building a Grassroots Educators Movement - GEM. (Angel Gonzalez came up with the idea this morning, not bad for one of us oldies but goodies.)

Consider attending or encouraging someone from your school to attend, in particular if you are in a closing or soon to be closed school. If the UFT won't get people together, we will.


This Saturday! Education Notes Joins the fightback to save public education -
  • Substance - News From Chicago


    More Blogs

    The ICE Platform in 2010

    Dave Barry End of Year Review -

    "The press is free to those who own them."

    Public School Shakedown (Our Fave Bloggers In One place)

    UFT Individual Election Results Including Non-Slate

    Paper(work)-thin: I Thought We Were Supposed to be *Teaching*

    A Personal Historical Perspective

    Why Karen Lewis Read Ed Notes

    "A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

    What media call "philanthropy" for the public schools are actually seed monies to establish a private "market" in publicly-financed education - an enterprise worth trillions if successfully penetrated by corporate America. Cory Booker, one of the "New Black Leaders" financed by the filthy rich, is key to creating a "nationwide corporate-managed schools network paid for by public funds but run by private managers.

    "Ed Reformers" want to cash in on public education and to control its content and outcome, not improve it. Provide great education? Baby boomers had as close as this country has ever gotten to it when we were growing up. The Ed Reform Movement has no interest in seeing such a well-educated, democratically astute population ever again.


    History of the UFT Pre-Weingarten Years

    This award-winning series of articles by Jack Schierenbeck originally appeared in the New York Teacher in 1996 and 1997.

    Naturally, from a certain point of view. But, despite certain biases, Schierenbeck, a great guy, was one of the best NY Teacher reporters so this is worth reading. Jack suffered a debilitating stroke many years ago (I used to get secret donations to ed notes from him through a 3rd source.)

    This chapter looks interesting:

    Class struggles: The UFT story, part 3

    “The schism in the union over radical politics [is] a major reason for stalling the growth of a teacher union for decades.” Revolutionary politics and ideology take center stage, as the original Teachers Union becomes a battlefield, pitting leftist against leftist and splitting the union.
    Clarence Taylor's "Reds at the Blackboard" focused on the old Teachers Union which disbanded in 1964 after suffering from anti-left attacks.

    Of course for another view, check out the review at New Politics of the Kahlenberg Bio on Shanker by Vera Pavone and me: Albert Shanker: Ruthless Neocon

    Effective Union Organizing

    A video series put together by Jason Mann from the British Columbia Federation of Teachers about social media and how to use it for effective union organizing.

    The first series was called New Media For Union Activists Roadmap and it's still available on-line at:
    I watched some of them and need to rewatch as they are loaded with information.

    The second series started last week and it's called "Online Campaigning for Union Activists"

    You can sign up for this free series at :

    Total Pageviews Since July 2009

    State of the Union

    See my article in depth:
    Reforming the UFT is the Prime Directive
    Visit the new SOTU blog http://sotuuft.blogspot.com

    Must read: The Case for Large High Schools

    Susan Crawford turns the parent choice argument on its ear at Schoolbook.

    Diane Ravitch: Great new site (warning: satire)

    A DC teacher's story:

    Why the DC Impact system Bloomberg wants NYC schools to emulate caused me to leave teaching -


    Oldie but goodie; Norm mentioned on FAIR Re; Education Nation

    You Don't Have A Choice - Join the Revolt

    The Best Among Us: Join the Revolt On Wall Street or Stand On The Wrong Side of History
    Chris Hedges


    Hedges says, There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the country or you stand on the wrong side of history.

    GEM Teachers and parents OCCUPY DOE- VIDEO FROM OCT 5, 2011

    Norm's Message from the Trenches: A Little Bit of Personal History on School Organizing - Part I

    GEM (Norm) Debates E4E (Sydney) on Teacher Seniority in Costco Mag

    Don't sneeze at this one: 8 million copies in print.

    MUST READ: How theCorporate Right Divided Blacks from Teachers Unions and Each Other

    Class Bias, Class Size and Online Learning

    Amazing piece by Leonie Haimson.

    Ex-Harlem Success Teacher Comments on Eva the Diva

    Ex-HSA Teacher has left a new comment on your post "Fear and Loathing at Evil's Harlem Success Empire ...":

    I am a former Harlem Success teacher. Not many people who work/worked for her like her very much. I once made the comment that she is very nice when I first was hired. Two of her closest colleague responded immediately almost in unison, "Eve is not nice!" Over time I realized that there was a lot of political games going on. Another colleague once said to me that he was tired of "being part of a political campaign." Sending out 15,000 applications for only 400 seats in a school is reprehensible. The money that paid for those mass mailings could have paid the yearly salary of another teacher not to mention the heartache of all those parents who applied but did not get a spot. She does good work trying to give disadvantaged students a quality public school education but at a great cost to staff AND the school's educational budget! school budget.

    GEM's Julie Cavanagh Debates E4E member on NY1 on LIFO and Seniority

    Davis Guggenheim Compared to Riefenstahl

    “Waiting for Superman" is the second most intellectually dishonest piece of documentary work I have seen. It is surpassed only by Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will," the pro-Hitler propaganda classic, in that regard. Uses personal narratives of adorable children to create narrative suspense that overrides public policy discussion with pure emotion in unscrupulous attack on teachers and their unions, among others

    Timothy Tyson
    Professor of African American Studies and History
    Duke University

    A Familiar Voice on Unions

    "We must close union offices, confiscate their money and put their leaders in prison. We must reduce workers salaries and take away their right to strike"
    - Adolf Hitler, May 2, 1933

    How Teaching Experience Makes a Difference

    Even as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Rhee and others around the nation are arguing for experienced teachers to be laid off regardless of seniority, every single study shows teaching experience matters. In fact, the only two observable factors that have been found consistently to lead to higher student achievement are class size and teacher experience, so that it’s ironic that these same individuals are trying to undermine both.
    - Leonie Haimson on Parents Across America web site

    Full article with charts here.

    Weingarten/Gates Foundation announce drone-driven teacher evaluation

    According to a press release issued by the Gates Foundation, the AFT and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, these three have entered a ground-breaking partnership to evaluate teachers utilizing the drone technology that has revolutionized warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. A bird-size device floats up to 400 feet above a classroom and instantly beams live video of teachers in action to agents at desks at Teacher Quality Inspection Stations established by the AFT and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

    When asked if the drones were authorized to drop bombs on teachers who exhibit inadequacy, Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, replied, "Don't be ridiculous. Gates money puts other methods at our disposal."

    Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.5-million-member American Federation of Teachers said the powerful union has signed on to the drone project...

    More at Substance

    Rare, undercover footage from a principals’ retreat in Omaha

    Teacher Value-Added Data Dumping by Norm Scott

    The Real Reason Behind Push for Standardized Tests: It's All About the Adults

    On standardized testing in our schools

    A must read article about the standardized test industry.
    Written by an insider who has worked as a test scorer, the article outlines a multinational industry based on an army of temporary workers paid by the piece at $0.30 to $0.70 per test, translated in the need to grade 40 tests per hour to make a $12 salary. The article goes on to show how the companies gauge the grading "results" based on the need to ensure new contracts to continue profiting off of our youth. The original article is from Monthly Review. Here it is on Schools Matter blog.


    Rockaway Theatre Company 2010 Highlights- See Norm Act (badly)

    Rabbit Hole, Cactus Flower, Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Rockaway Cafe (Halloween review), Odd Couple


    Notice the balding guy in Odd Couple. Not Laurence Olivier.

    Did You Attend One of Eva's Harlem Success Academy Soirees for the Rich?

    Moskowitz Aims Charters at Wealthy- So Much for Closing the Achievement Gap

    You know, let's close that gap for rich kids. Why should their parents pay 30 grand for a private school when the public can foot the bill?

    See Gotham Schools report

    From Sharon Higgins

    Something passed along to me by D. Ravitch.


    A must, must, must, must read.

    Parallels between America today and Germany in the 1920's and early 30's

    "Resentment and obstruction are all the right wing in America have to peddle. Their policies are utterly discredited. Their ideology - even by its own standards - is a sham. They are so bereft of leaders, their de facto leader is a former drug addicted, thrice-divorced radio talk show host. That is literally the best they can muster. But they have built a national franchise inciting the downwardly mobile to blame the government, not the right, for their problems, exactly as Hitler did in the 1920s."

    The US Is Facing a Weimar Moment

    Published on Sunday, March 15, 2009 by CommonDreams.org

    It's Class Size Stupid

    Pissed Off Teacher nails the ed deformers

    A Howl of a video as our friendly robots talk education

    Now playing at Seattle Education

    Thanks to Sharron Higgins

    So you Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities?

    If you have five minutes to spare, this short cartoon film, "So you Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities?" is both very funny and scary at the same time.


    Brian Jones on Education Nation Panel with Brill, Rhee, Weingarten, etc.

    "Charter Starter": a video spoof

    Sean Corcoran Findings on Value Added Measurement of Teachers Raises Doubts

    Wide margins of error, instability on city’s value-added reports

    Click above for Elizabeth Green report at Gotham Schools.

    Chicago View of Unity/UFT on Charters

    After many meetings and debates, the Chicago delegation succeeded in working with the New York United Federation of Teachers, Local 2 (UFT) to push the AFT to take stronger stands on charter school accountability and school closings — though many delegates from Chicago would have liked the language to have been even stronger.

    Generally speaking, the New York delegation represented organizing charters as the best model for handling their role in reshaping unions, despite the fact that according to many reports few charter schools in New York have been organized as is the case in Chicago. This logic is the same touted by the Progressive Caucus of the AFT. The few that have been organized are a part of the UFT local though they have separate contracts negotiated with the help of UFT. The Chicago delegation reflection the mindset that allowing new charters to continue to proliferate while attempting to organize existing charters is an end game in which public schools and the union lose.

    Jen Johnson, CTU, Local 1 in Substance

    Video of Chicago/CORE Deal with UFT/Unity on School Closings at the AFT Convention

    Ravitch: Why Public Schools Need Democratic Governance

    More Videos of HSA vs. Mosaic Prep

    Harlem Success Academy Vs. Mosiac Prep - Voices of Parents and Teachers

    Rose Annette Jiminez and other parents speak at the Harlem Success Academy attempt to expand in Mosaic Academy.

    Norm's Article on Seniority in The Indypendent

    FIRST PERSON: Teaching Under Assault: Two visions of education clash as Bloomberg prepares to lay off 6,400 teachers

    By Norm Scott, in the Jun 2, 2010 issue

    After teaching elementary education for 27 years at PS 147 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I was offered a technology job at the district level in 1998.

    Surprise: On AOL - Analysis of Closing of Metropolitan Corporate Academy in Brooklyn

    Ed Notes Greatest Hits: HSA Rally and Founding of GEM


    Angel Gonzalez and I attended that rally and used the footage to promote our conference on Mar. 28, 2009, which is where the concept of a group like GEM emerged. Until then we had basically been a committee of ICE working with the NYCORE high stakes testing group. The actions of Eva and crew helped spawn GEM. Mommie Dearest!!

    I have more video somewhere. I was hoping to get Leni Riefenstahl to edit it but she died. We would have called it "Triumph of the Hedge Fund Operators."

    Charter School Scandals - from Sharon Higgins

    Ravitch Debates Charter School Shill James Merriman

    Diana Senechal on Harlem Children's Zone

    Sorry Geoffrey Canada, but failure IS an option, a reality, and even a boon - Diana Senechal

    Washington Post Class Struggle

    The writer takes a look at the Harlem Children's Zone where failure is not an option but some grades are not mentioned.

    Source: Ohanian

    Parents Speak Out Against Mayoral Control of Schools at Tweed

    Inside Schools has the video scoop.

    An Oldie But Goodie: The Disparity Gap

    Video of Chicago's George Schmidt and CORE Shredding Arne Duncan and the Chicago Corporate Model

    Labor Beat video hosted at:
    The video is hosted on blip.tv: http://blip.tv/file/2428857

    Great Post on Teacher Quality at the Morton School

    I'm very tired of the myth that schools are bursting at the seams with apathetic, unskilled, surly, child-hating losers who can't get jobs doing anything else. I recently figured that, counting high school and college where one encounters many teachers in the course of a year, I had well over 100 teachers in my lifetime, and I can only say that one or two truly had no place being in a classroom.

    More at: http://themortonschool.blogspot.com/2009/07/its-teachers-stupidright.html


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